by German Lopez
Another anti-abortion amendment, Kasich prevents JobsOhio audit, streetcar funds remain
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Also, take our texting while driving survey here.The Ohio Senate proposed a budget amendment
yesterday that would ban abortion providers from transferring
patients to public hospitals. The rule continues a series of
conservative pushes on social issues in the ongoing budget process that began in the Ohio House. The
Ohio House budget bill effectively defunded Planned Parenthood and funded anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, while the Ohio Senate accepted those measures and added another rule that potentially allows the health director to shut down abortion clinics.
Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a bill
that will prevent a full public audit of JobsOhio, the private
nonprofit entity established by Kasich and Republican legislators to
replace the Ohio Department of Development. The bill defines liquor
profits, which were public funds before JobsOhio, and private funds in a
way that bars the state auditor from looking into any funding sources
that aren’t owed to the state. Last week, Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Ed FitzGerald called on Kasich to veto the bill,
claiming, “The people’s money is the people’s business, and this bill,
which slams shut the door on accountability, is simply unacceptable.”
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) says the $4 million going to the streetcar is a done deal.
Republican county commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann tried to
get OKI to pull the funds, but there now seems to be a general
consensus that the money is contractually tied to the Southwest Ohio
Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and, therefore, the streetcar
project. City Council is likely to consider a plan to plug the streetcar project’s budget gap later this month.
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns is handing out marijuana plants
at a campaign event today, even though the event may run foul of state
law. Democratic candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls are generally
considered the top contenders in this year’s mayoral race, but Berns
has differentiated himself by putting marijuana legalization in his
platform. While drug prohibition policies are generally dictated at
state and federal levels, cities can decriminalize or legalize certain
drugs and force police departments to give prohibition enforcement lower priority.
Ohio State University President Gordon Gee is retiring July 1
following controversial remarks about “those damn Catholics,” the
University of Notre Dame and others. Gee, a Mormon, says he has regrets,
but the gaffes didn’t compel him to retire. In a statement, OSU
credited Gee with helping the school build an academic profile of a
“highly selective, top-tier public research institution.”
Local officials cut the ribbon yesterday for the Roebling Bridge, the latest piece of infrastructure to debut at The Banks.
Fort Hamilton Hospital has a new president.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank has loaned more than any other big bank in the country, according to a new study.
How do mosquitoes survive storms? Popular Science has the answer.
Researchers unveiled a drone that can be controlled by thoughts. Next stop: the Iron Man suit.
As city and county clash on “responsible bidder” law, $3.2 billion sewer project looms
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Cincinnati's biggest sewer project in history is being threatened by a city-county conflict over how contracts should be awarded and whether job training is part of the government's role.
by German Lopez
Democrats sue over Terhar, JobsOhio ignores lawsuit, Monzel to change county mission
Ohio Democrats are moving to sue
the state if it continues blocking access to texts from State Board of
Education President Debe Terhar, a Republican from Cincinnati. The school board leader has been facing criticism for making a Facebook post that compared President
Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. The post was a picture with the caption,
“Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm
its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” There is no historical evidence Hitler made that quote.
Despite ongoing litigation questioning its constitutionality, JobsOhio intends to move ahead
with plans to sell liquor-backed bonds. The Supreme Court agreed to
take up ProgressOhio’s challenge of JobsOhio last week. JobsOhio is a
nonprofit private agency set up by Gov. John Kasich to drive economic
growth, but bipartisan questions have surrounded its legality and
constitutionality since its conception.
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel wants to change the county’s mission statement.
His proposed changes would remove references to equity and add
conservative language about the county government living within its
means. The county is already required to balance its budget.
Ohio State University expects to save
nearly $1 million a year due to wind power. The university signed a
20-year agreement in October to buy 50 megawatts annually from Blue
Creek Wind Farm, the state’s largest commercial wind farm.
The city of Cincinnati is tearing down hundreds of blighted houses. The demolitions, which are being funded by a grant, are meant to make neighborhoods safer.
A Cleveland man was the first to benefit
from a law that expedites payouts to those who were wrongfully
imprisoned. After being imprisoned for 16 years, Darrell Houston will
receive a partial judgment of nearly $380,000.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is looking at removing
34 positions. One of the potentially affected jobs is a counselor position that helped
apprehend a man suspected of kidnapping two teenaged girls.
Ohio may soon require the replacement of old license plates.
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority is assisting eleven companies in investing more than $51 million across Ohio. In Hamilton County, Jedson Engineering will spend an additional $2.8 million to create 30 full-time jobs.
StateImpact Ohio has an in-depth look at Nate DeRolph, one of the leaders in school funding equality.
A new gun shoots criminals with DNA tags,
which lets cops return to a suspect during less confrontational times.
The guns will be particularly useful during riots, when attempting an
arrest can result in injuries.
by German Lopez
State budget will reform taxes, Monzel takes charge of county, freestanding restroom vote
Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,”
according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new
plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax
structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some
are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education.
Chris Monzel is now in charge
of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as
president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice
president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost
$130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but
Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility
for about $40,000.
Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy
regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been
looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad
for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures
job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and
Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges.
King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions.
Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality.
Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not
require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea.
An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring.
Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president.
Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world,
say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes
it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne
Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world.
Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.
by Andy Brownfield
Two-to-one vote cuts rollback in half for two years to make up stadium fund deficit
Hamilton County homeowners can expect a larger bill come
tax time. The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners on
Wednesday voted to halve the property tax rollback promised to voters as part
of the package to build the two downtown sports stadiums.
The rollback saves property owners $70 in taxes for every
$100,000 of valuation. For the next two years they will be paying an
extra $35 per $100,000 of their home’s value.
The money will be used to balance the stadium fund, which
faces a $7 million deficit. The rollback reduction is expected to raise
about $10 million. The board voted 2-1 for the proposal, with sole Democrat Todd Portune dissenting.
“The property tax rollback measure that has been advanced
so far buys us only one year, and next year we will be doing the same
thing we are doing today,” Portune said.
Portune favored raising the sales tax by 0.25 cents — to
6.75 — per dollar, which would have raised more than $30 million over 10
years. His proposal, which failed to receive any support, would have
expired after the 10 years and gone up for review annually after the
Portune said his proposal was more equitable. He said
reducing the property tax rollback was going to affect only Hamilton
County residential property owners, whereas a sales tax increase would
affect everyone who spends money in the county, including visitors from
neighboring Kentucky and Indiana.
Portune billed the tax increase as a long-term solution
that would raise more than was needed currently but would keep the fund
stable in years to come.
Board President Greg Hartmann, who authored the rollback
reduction proposal, called Portune’s plan “a bridge too far.” He said
it was too large of a tax increase and not a targeted approach to solve
the deficit problem. He said he didn’t trust future commissions to allow
the tax increase to expire.
Hartmann called the property tax rollback reduction flexible, scalable, clean, immediate and certain.
Commissioner Chris Monzel, who provided the deciding vote, said he didn’t like either and had to go against his principles with
“No way I walk out of this without breaking a promise. No way I walk out of this winning,” he said.
Monzel said he hopes that savings from the Affordable Care Act
would allow the county to lower its property tax rates to make up for
the rollback reduction.
Monzel also introduced a successful proposal that will include an annual
review of the tax budget to make sure property taxes don’t change,
a provision requiring parking revenue from The Banks to be used to
develop The Banks and a directive for the county administrator to work
with Cincinnati’s professional sports teams on concessions they can make
to help out with the stadium funding burden.
by German Lopez
Board president still unsure of how he'll vote; Portune's sales tax increase still on the table
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners held a public
meeting today to discuss options for balancing the stadium fund. Commissioner
Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the board, on Nov. 28 proposed a 0.25-percent sales tax hike. At the meeting, Board President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, suggested reducing the property tax rollback by 50 percent for two years, but he said he was unsure which way he would vote. Portune also gave ideas for possible adjustments to his sales tax proposal. He said commissioners could “sunset” the sales tax hike, essentially putting an expiration date on the tax increase. He also would like to see the sales tax hike reviewed on a regular basis to ensure taxpayers aren't being burdened longer than necessary. The idea behind possible time limits for both proposals is new revenues, perhaps from an improving economy or Cincinnati's new casino, could make changes unnecessary in the long term.If anything came from the meeting, it’s that none of the
commissioners like the position they’re in. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican,
said he had been placed “between a rock and a hard place.” Hartmann
echoed Monzel, saying it was an “unenviable position.” Despite being the
one to propose the hike, Portune said, “We’re left with two
options that none of us like at all.”
repeated previous arguments during most of the meeting. Hartmann continued saying he was unsure how
he would vote, but he said the two options presented are the only
options left. He called Portune's plan “bold.”
Portune claimed the sales tax hike was more equitable
because it spreads out the tax burden to anyone who spends money in Hamilton
County, including visitors from around the Tristate area. In contrast,
eliminating or reducing the property tax rollback would place the burden
of the stadium fund exclusively on residential property owners in
Hamilton County.The property tax rebate and sales taxes are both regressive, meaning they favor the wealthy more than the
poor. In simple terms, as income goes down, spending on goods and
services take bigger bites out of a person’s income. A sales tax makes
that disproportionate burden even larger.
One analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer found
the wealthy made more money from the property tax rebate than
they were taxed by the half-cent sales tax raise that was originally
meant to support the stadium fund. For a previous story covering the stadium fund, Neil DeMause, a journalist who
chronicled his 15-year investigation of stadium deals in his book Field of Schemes, told CityBeat
the stadium fund’s problems stem from the county government making a
“terrible deal” with the Reds and Bengals.
Monzel said he will continue to try to find alternatives to raising taxes. On Nov. 28, Monzel told CityBeat
he would rather keep the stadium fund balanced for one year with
short-term cuts, including a cut on further investments in The Banks
development, before raising taxes. In the long term, Monzel says
commissioners could see if revenue from the new Horseshoe Casino and a
possible deal involving the University of Cincinnati using Paul Brown
Stadium would be enough to sustain the stadium fund.
The commissioners will vote on the proposals on Dec. 5.
by German Lopez
Lone Democrat dissents on $14.4 million in cuts
For the sixth year in a row, Hamilton County’s budget will
be getting some cuts. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners
today approved $14.4 million in across-the-board cuts in a 2-1 vote, with Democrat
Todd Portune voting no and Republicans Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voting yes.
The budget’s cuts will affect every county department, but
they will not raise taxes. The plan will likely result in layoffs,
according to the county budget office. The sheriff’s office is the least
affected by cuts.
With a few revisions and tweaks, the plan is basically
what Board President Hartmann originally proposed. Previously, Hartmann touted the
budget plan by praising its “austerity” — a word that has lost popularity in Europe as budget cuts and tax hikes have thrown the continent into a double-dip recession.
Portune suggested an alternative plan that made fewer cuts and instead borrowed money against delinquent taxes.
By law, the county is required to balance its budget.
by Andy Brownfield
Posted In: 2012 Election
, County Commission
, Financial Crisis
, Mitt Romney
at 03:53 PM | Permalink
"Austerity budget" rejects tax increases
The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board
outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an
austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some
Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said
his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30
percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to
approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said.
He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.
Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000 or
0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3
percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5
percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the
Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.
Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public
safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic
development is not possible without it.
Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.
Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.
Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he
supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own
budget proposal as well.
“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.
The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is
working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the
Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by
the following week.
He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.
“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the
budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for
county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different
visions in terms of solutions.”
Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is
running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major
Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s
waiting for the election results.
“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the
economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking
that’s what you were going to go with.”
by Kevin Osborne
Longtime City Hall staffer joins Heritage Action
A local conservative activist has found another job in politics.Brad Beckett recently was appointed as Heritage Action for America’s first regional coordinator for the Cincinnati area. Beckett served for years as chief of staff for City Councilman Chris Monzel, until Monzel left that group in January 2011 to become a Hamilton County commissioner.In his new role, Beckett will be responsible for growing Heritage Action’s grassroots infrastructure in Cincinnati and nearby areas in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.“Brad brings a wealth of experience in and knowledge of Cincinnati politics,” said Michael Needham, Heritage Action’s CEO, in a prepared statement.“His knowledge of Cincinnati and the surrounding region will be essential to ensuring that the American people’s voices cut through the big-government noise in Washington as we fight to save the America dream,” Needham added.Prior to his latest gig, Beckett almost had the top job in Butler County government. When Monzel was elected to the Hamilton County commission, Beckett discreetly lined up another job as Butler County administrator. Two commissioners there hatched the plan privately but one abruptly changed his mind a day before Beckett’s employment was to have begun, leaving him without a job.More recently Beckett has been working at the Apple Store in Kenwood Towne Center and launched The Political Daily Download, a right-leaning blog. Also, he assisted in Tom Brinkman’s unsuccessful campaign to win the Republican nomination to run for the Ohio House 27th District seat.Founded in 2010, Heritage Action for America is the sister organization to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The newer group’s motto is “we hold Congress accountable to conservative principles,” and it was formed mostly because the foundation isn’t allowed to back pieces of legislation due to its tax-exempt status.One of Heritage Action’s first projects was to organize opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health-care reform law pushed by President Obama.Among Heritage Foundation’s primary donors is Charles Koch, one half of the infamous Koch Brothers duo. They’re the industrialists who helped form the Tea Party movement, which advocates for corporate interests that benefit the brothers and harm the working class.Also, the Kochs led the push to abolish collective bargaining rights for public-sector labor unions in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere.
3 Comments · Wednesday, December 7, 2011
If you’re like most people, you would jump
at the chance to buy something that you wanted if it was offered at
just one-third of its normal price. That’s exactly what happened last week when two of the three Hamilton County commissioners offered to sell the county-owned Drake Center to
the University of Cincinnati at a rock-bottom price.