WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 09.30.2013
Posted In: Health care, News, Mayor at 12:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mark mallory

Mayor Touts Obamacare Outreach Efforts

Marketplace enrollment will remain open from October through March

Mayor Mark Mallory and other community officials today jumpstarted a six-month effort to enroll uninsured Cincinnatians into the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) online marketplaces, which open for enrollment on Oct. 1. “This is not politics,” Mallory said. “Obamacare is now the law of the land.” The goal is to reach out to the 21 percent of Hamilton County residents who currently lack health insurance and hopefully help enroll them through the marketplaces, which will allow anyone to go online and browse and compare different health insurance plans. Forty-six plans will open for enrollment in Cincinnati on Oct. 1, but coverage won’t begin until 2014. The three-month period is supposed to give consumers enough time to decide on a plan before insurance kicks in.“A new day is starting tomorrow for millions of Americans who have been shut out of the health insurance market,” said Kathleen Faulk, a director at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who will oversee the Cincinnati area’s marketplace. At the marketplaces, an Ohio 27-year-old making $25,000 a year will be able to buy a “silver,” or middle-of-the-pack, plan for as low as $145 a month after tax credits, while a family of four making $50,000 a year will be able to pay $282 a month for a similar plan, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers. Other options will range from catastrophic plans, which will cover the barest minimums for a low price, to “platinum” plans, which will provide the most expansive coverage at the highest price. Participants with an annual income between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals making between $11,490 and $45,960, will be eligible for tax subsidies, with the highest incomes getting the smallest subsidies and the lowest incomes getting the largest. Throughout the enrollment period, outreach campaigns will attempt to enroll as many Americans as possible. Some of those efforts have been made more difficult through new regulations passed by legislators who oppose Obamacare, including Ohio Republicans. The federal government estimates it will have to sign up 2.7 million young adults out of the 7 million Americans who are expected to enroll. Otherwise, older Americans, who are more prone to sickness and poor health, will flood the marketplaces, exhaust health services and drive up costs. Enrollment will remain open from October through March. Afterward, enrollment will open annually from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, just like Medicare. There will be exemptions for those who have life-changing events, such as losing a job or turning 26, to allow people to sign up for coverage during unexpected circumstances.Starting in 2014, most Americans — with exemptions for religious and economic reasons, the imprisoned and those living outside the country — will have to enroll for health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The penalty will start at $95 per uninsured adult in a household or 1 percent of household income, whichever is higher, and grow in 2016 to $695 per uninsured adult in a household or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher. Anyone interested in the marketplaces will be able to browse options and sign up online at www.healthcare.gov or www.mayormallory.com, by phone at 1-800-318-2596 or in person at various locations, including community health centers and the Freestore Foodbank.Update: Clarified metal-based classifications for different health care plans.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.26.2013
Posted In: News, Privacy, Streetcar, Parking at 09:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mikedewine

Morning News and Stuff

Police program raises privacy issues, parking plan explained, streetcar project continues

With the backing of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, law enforcement around the state have been secretly using facial recognition software for the past two months that scans driver’s licenses and mug shots to identify crime suspects. In emails and documents obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer, DeWine and other state officials apparently couldn’t agree whether the program is in beta testing or full launch and when they should tell the public about it. The program went live without the attorney general’s initial approval and many protocols that protect Ohioans’ security and privacy, raising concerns about whether law enforcement have been able to abuse the new tool. The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Friday acknowledged it will ramp up enforcement and tickets once it takes over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, but it claimed the move is meant to encourage people to pay up, not raise revenue that will make the parking lease more profitable for the Port or the private operators it’s hiring. The Port also said it had taken steps to make the parking lease a better deal for locals, including a reduction in operation hours in neighborhoods and some downtown areas. The city is leasing its parking assets to the Port for a one-time injection of revenue and annual installments that are supposed to go to development projects that will grow the city’s tax base. But opponents of the lease say it will take away too much control of the city’s parking services and hurt businesses and residents by raising parking rates and hours. Vacant buildings at the corner of Henry and Race streets will be demolished today to make room for a maintenance facility for Cincinnati’s streetcars — just the latest sign the project is moving forward. Mayor Mark Mallory, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and John Deatrick, streetcar project executive director, will attend the demolition and a press event preceding it, which will take place at 1 p.m. A new video from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) shows how bad traffic will get if the Brent Spence Bridge isn’t replaced. In the video, OKI claims the current state of the bridge is dangerous and damages the economy. The bridge project is currently estimated at $2.5 billion. At least part of that sum will be paid with tolling if state officials get their way. Qualls and Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan will today discuss a district-wide travel plan that intends to provide safe routes for students walking and biking to school. The plan, which would use Ohio Department of Transportation funds, makes improvements to crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals, among other changes. Qualls’ office says the plan is timely as CPS today begins its first week back to school. Cuts in all levels of government, which Republican state officials call “right-sizing,” might be hindering Ohio’s economic recovery. Only California, New York and Florida have cut more public jobs than Ohio. At the same time, Ohio’s job growth over the past year has stagnated at 0.7 percent. The state has cut local government funding by half since Kasich took office, as CityBeat covered in further detail here. Ohio gas prices once again increased this week, but they still remain below the national average. The USS Cincinnati, a Cold War era submarine, is coming to the city. Some locals have been working on getting the submarine’s sail installed along the riverfront as a memorial. NASA put up a video explaining how it would land on an asteroid.
 
 

Thwart Authority

How P.G. Sittenfeld found himself at the center of the city’s parking plan drama

2 Comments · Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld was one of the first to find out about a memo that’s spurred renewed calls to halt the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.  
by German Lopez 08.07.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Mayor at 05:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mark mallory

Council Approves Various Development Deals

Mayor Mark Mallory praises day's work as "huge day of progress for Cincinnati"

City Council met today for the first time since June and passed several development deals and projects spanning six Cincinnati neighborhoods.The approved deals include a 15-year tax abatement for the second phase of The Banks, which will produce 305 apartments and 21,000 square feet of retail space; several other apartment projects; new Over-the-Rhine headquarters for Cintrifuse, a small business and startup incubator; the redevelopment of Emanuel Community Center; and a new homeless shelter for women in Mt. Auburn.The projects are expected to lead to 575 new apartments around the city. That could prove particularly timely for downtown Cincinnati, which is currently struggling to meet high demand from a growing market of aspiring property renters, leasers and buyers."Today is a huge day of progress for Cincinnati," Mayor Mark Mallory said in the statement. "The momentum has been building in our city for a while. And now, developers and businesses are lining up to do projects in the city because they see all of the progress and they want to be a part of it. This is the vision — our success is leading to more success."Among the other items, Council passed a motion asking the city administration to look into a disparity study and a resolution condemning a ballot initiative that would change the city's pension program by pushing future public employees into a less generous 401K-style plan.Today's meeting was Council's only full session for July and August, which is why the agenda was so packed. That's irked some council members and critics, who argue Council should be in session for more of the summer."Council has no shortage of issues to consider and challenges to address — this should NOT be our only Council meeting of the summer," tweeted Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld during today's meeting.Council is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 11.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2013
Posted In: News, Pensions, 2013 Election, Media at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley outraises Qualls, city pension recommendations stalled, layoffs at 'The Enquirer'

Ex-Councilman John Cranley is outraising Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race by $124,000, but the history and research of money in politics suggest the lead might not matter much, if at all. Mayor Mark Mallory was outspent more than three-to-one in the 2005 mayoral race by David Pepper, but Mallory won the vote 52-48 percent. Political scientists argue fundraising and campaigns generally have a marginal impact, while economic growth, the direction of the city, state and country, incumbency or successorship, name likability and recognition, and political affiliation have much bigger effects. [Correction: This originally said $134,000 when the correct number is $124,000.] The board that manages Cincinnati employees’ struggling pension system won’t make a recommendation to City Council Monday, as originally planned, because it can’t decide how much taxpayers and employees should suffer to help fix the $862 million unfunded liability. Board members couldn’t agree on the proper balance between benefit cuts and increased funding from the city. Credit rating agency Moody’s on July 15 downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating from Aa1 to Aa2 and revised the bonds’ outlook to “negative.” Moody’s stated one of the biggest causes of concern for Cincinnati’s debt outlook is its pension fund. There were massive layoffs at The Cincinnati Enquirer and its parent company Gannett yesterday, including the reported closing of the newspaper’s Kentucky office. As of the latest update from Gannett Blog, more than 200 people were laid off nationwide and 11 lost their jobs at the Cincinnati offices. The news comes just two weeks after Gannett CEO Gracia Martore proudly claimed on July 22, “We are accelerating our transformation into the ‘New Gannett’ every day.” Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who held and raped three women at his house for years, yesterday was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years. A few dozen residents organized by a conservative group asked the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to kill Cincinnati’s parking lease at a meeting Thursday. The Port is taking control over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages as part of a controversial deal that will net the city $92 million up front and $3 million or more a year afterward. CityBeat covered the lease in further detail here. While the Port Authority meeting apparently warranted live tweeting and various articles from several outlets, other local media outlets never covered a streetcar social that involved roughly 200 supporters of the Cincinnati streetcar and Mayor Mallory. State officials claim average costs for health insurance will soar by 41 percent for Ohioans who buy coverage online under Obamacare, but experts say the state’s claims are misleading. “These are sticker prices, and very few people will pay these prices,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Many will qualify for subsidies.” The Republican officials touting the claims of higher costs, including Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, have opposed Obamacare from the start. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is once again asking for an ethics probe of Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio, the privatized development agency established by Republicans to replace the Ohio Department of Development. Republicans claim JobsOhio is creating thousands of job in the state, but Democrats argue the agency’s secretive nature makes it difficult to verify whether taxpayer dollars are being effectively used. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced a statewide Internet cafe investigation spanning to an establishment in Middletown. “We are still in the beginning stages of what we expect to be a very lengthy investigation,” DeWine said in a statement.  “While it is too early in the investigation to go into specifics, we do believe the alleged criminal activity at these locations goes beyond illegal gambling.” Earlier in the year, Gov. John Kasich and the state legislature effectively banned Internet cafes, which they claimed were hubs for online gambling and illegal activity. The Ohio crime lab received about 3,300 untested rape kits from law enforcement around the state and found nearly 400 DNA matches after testing more than 1,300 of the kits. DeWine says the extensive tests are helping solve sexual assault crimes. The Cincinnati Zoo has a region-wide economic impact of $143 million, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center. Just one day after announcing he’s quitting the mayoral race, Libertarian Jim Berns is asking to rejoin. Berns withdrew from the race Wednesday in protest of the mayoral primary election and debate schedule. In a statement, he said he had changed his mind because staying in the race supposedly allows him to shed light on important issues. Keeping Cincinnati Beautiful is offering a one-day free recycling event Saturday for hard-to-recycle items. Evolution punishes selfish people, according to a game theory study.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.01.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Outraises Qualls in Mayoral Race

History suggests fundraising is not necessarily an indicator of strength

Ex-Councilman John Cranley is outraising Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the 2013 mayoral race by roughly $124,000. Some are calling the fundraising lead an important indicator of strength, but the history and research of money in politics show the lead might not matter much, if at all. The numbers came in yesterday as political candidates from around the state filed their finance reports. So far, Cranley has raised about $472,000, compared to Qualls’ $348,000. Of that money, Cranley has about $264,000 still in hand, and Qualls has nearly $193,000. The disparity is unsurprising to the campaigns. The Cranley campaign has always said it needs $1 million to win. Qualls, who’s been polled as the slight favorite, has a tamer goal of $750,000. The City Council races are similarly sprawled with cash. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading the pack with nearly $279,000, while newcomer Greg Landsman topped challengers and even some council members with a total raised of $165,000. Given all the cash pouring into the campaigns, many people assume it plays a pivotal role. But a look at the history and research shows fundraising might not matter all that much. Money clearly didn’t matter in the 2005 mayoral race. During that campaign, former State Sen. Mark Mallory spent nearly $380,000. Ex-Councilman David Pepper spent $1.2 million — more than three times his opponent. Mallory still won the vote 52-48 percent. In contrast, money might have boosted Sittenfeld to second place in the 2011 Council races, putting the relatively new challenger only behind the widely known Qualls. Sittenfeld raised $306,000 for that campaign, the most out of anyone in the race. Still, most political science points to money having a marginal, if any, electoral impact. Jennifer Victor, a political science professor at George Mason University, explains the research in her blog: “Campaigning may help voters focus their attention (see this), be persuasive in some cases (see this), and help deliver successful message (see this). Frequently, macro-economic trends are the best predictors of presidential elections. History tells us that all that money spent by outsiders may not affect the outcome of the election — because campaigns (generally) don’t matter (see political science research here, here, and here, for example).” Instead, political scientists cite other factors as much more important indicators: economic growth, the direction of the city, state and country, incumbency or successorship, name likability and recognition, and political affiliation.The mayoral primary election is Sept. 10, followed by the final election on Nov. 5. The next finance reports are due Oct. 24.[Correction: This story originally said $134,000 when the correct number is $124,000.]
 
 

City to Reduce Some Budget Cuts

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 31, 2013
A motion proposed by a majority of City Council on July 30 would use leftover revenue from the previous budget year to undo cuts to various programs, including human services, parks and the Health Department.   
by German Lopez 07.31.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Development, Stadiums at 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

More JobsOhio controversy, Council undoing cuts, stadium improvements to cost millions

Six of nine JobsOhio board members have direct financial ties to companies that have received tax credits and other help from the agency and state government, an investigation from Dayton Daily News discovered. The members are connected in various ways: Some are employed by the companies, others sit on their boards and a few just own stocks. The conflicts of interest that could undermine JobsOhio’s goals. The privatized development agency was established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators to replace the Ohio Department of Development. Republicans claim JobsOhio’s privatized nature allows it to move at “the speed of business” when luring companies to the state. But Democrats argue that the agency is unaccountable and draining state funds without any clear indication of where the money is going. Meanwhile, JobsOhio gave financial aid to a company that simply shifted jobs from one city to another. The agency gave Timbertech a 50-percent credit to create 85 jobs in Wilmington, Ohio. The company is abiding, but it’s simultaneously closing down a Columbus factory at the loss of 58 jobs. Cincinnati will end up not laying off any city employees after City Council undoes $4 million in budget cuts with leftover revenue from the previous budget year. The restorations will reverse some or all of this year’s cuts to human services, parks, the Health Department and other city programs. Council members called the higher-than-projected revenue evidence that Cincinnati’s economic strategy is working. But the reversals also raise questions about the city administration’s original claims: When the 2014 budget was first being considered, Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration said the city would have to lay off 344 workers, including many cops and firefighters, to balance the budget without the parking lease. But without any of the parking money allocated, the city managed to avert all layoffs and undo a bulk of cuts, largely by using better-than-expected revenues from the past budget year. Fixing up the Great American Ball Park for the All-Star Game could cost county taxpayers $5 million. The All-Star costs are just one part of the $27 million taxpayers will pay to improve stadiums in Hamilton County over the next five years. Stadiums are often touted by local officials as a way to boost the economy, but economists and urban planners have found that publicly funded sports arenas don’t lead to sizable economic growth. Ohio’s job growth is so slow that it will take nearly five years to recover all the jobs lost during the Great Recession. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading fundraising for this year’s Council campaigns. The Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce is hosting two mayoral debates. This year’s candidates are Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, ex-Councilman John Cranley, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble. Qualls and Cranley are considered the two frontrunners. The Cincinnati Art Museum is calling on community contributions to finish the second half of its renovations. The museum has raised $2.7 million out of the $6 million it needs. Red Squirrel, a local restaurant chain, is closing down three of five eateries. Internet-based psychotherapy apparently works.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.16.2013
Posted In: News, Budget at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

City Debt Outlook Worsens

Officials blame Moody’s downgrade on methodology changes, state policy

It might cost Cincinnati more to issue debt following a credit rating downgrade by Moody’s. In a report released on July 15, the credit ratings agency downgraded the city’s general bonds from Aa1 to Aa2 and revised the bonds’ outlook to “negative.”“The negative outlook reflects the expectation that the city will continue to face challenges in attaining structurally balanced operations, stemming from its unfunded pension liabilities and reliance on a number of one-time budgetary solutions in recent years,” the report reads.In a memo to the mayor and City Council, City Manager Milton Dohoney put the blame on Moody’s methodological changes that now account for state pension funds that Cincinnati has no direct control over. Specifically, Moody’s now looks at the state-managed Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) and Ohio Police and Fire Retirement System (OP&F) when scoring Cincinnati, instead of just the Cincinnati Retirement System (CRS), which the city directly operates.“It is important to note the Ohio Revised Code provides the percentage each employer pays into OPERS and OP&F as its contribution. The City has paid 100 (percent) of this contribution each year as required. The City has no ability to impact the unfunded liability of OPERS or OP&F,” Dohoney wrote in the memo.Still, some of the blame lies on the city’s pension fund, which is lacking a long-term strategy for sustainability, according to Moody’s. The CRS board is currently looking at scenarios to address the city’s long-term liabilities. Its next meeting is on Aug. 1, and it could produce changes that would be presented to City Council, according to the city manager’s memo.The report also takes issue with the city’s repeated use of one-time sources to fix budget gaps. Since 2001, the city’s annual operating budgets have used one-time sources instead of achieving structural balance with long-term cuts and sources of revenue.Critics argue the one-time sources only delay fiscal woes instead of permanently fixing the budget shortfalls. Supporters claim the one-time methods allow the city to balance its budget without taking austere measures that would lead to city layoffs and hurt growth while the economy is in recovery.Moody’s also claims the city has relatively weak socioeconomic indicators, particularly resident income levels and historical unemployment rates. The report from Moody’s does give Cincinnati some good credit, citing a “pressured but still satisfactory financial position,” the recent stabilization of earnings taxes, financial flexibility provided by an available but untapped levy authority, the city’s economically diverse population and an above-average debt position. Bonds are typically issued when the city needs a temporary infusion of funds for capital projects, such as the Cincinnati streetcar.Updated with more context.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.18.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Streetcar, Courts at 09:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking lease facing legal dispute, critical memo dismissed, mayor to attend streetcar social

In a letter to the city solicitor, a conservative organization is threatening more legal action to stop the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) claims the city manager exceeded his authority when he made two “significant and material” changes to the lease agreement after City Council approved the deal in March. If the city solicitor doesn’t take up the legal challenge, COAST could sue the city by itself. Supporters of the parking lease argue it’s necessary to fund development projects in the city and modernize the city’s parking services, but opponents say it gives up too much control over the city’s parking meters, lots and garages and will hurt businesses downtown. The Business Courier reports that a critical parking memo was supposed to provide a “strike point” for negotiations between the Port Authority and Xerox, which will manage the city’s parking meters under a lease agreement. But the city administration didn’t begin sharing the June 20 memo with anyone else, including the Port Authority, until July 12, after council members and media outlets began asking the city administration about it. The memo suggested the city is getting a bad deal from the parking lease agreement and overpaying Xerox. Port and city officials argue the memo relied on outdated information and made technical errors. Mayor Mark Mallory will today join fellow streetcar supporters at Rhinegeist Brewery to discuss the streetcar project’s latest news and future. The city on July 15 set an opening date of Sept. 15, 2016 after finalizing a construction contract with Messer Construction, Prus Construction and Delta Railroad, which was made possible after City Council closed a $17.4 million budget gap in June. CityBeat recently debunked some of the misrepresentations surrounding the streetcar project here. Commentary: “Zimmerman Reactions Overlook Broader Racial Issues in America.” Public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting down following city and state funding cuts. The organization’s demise is a great loss to producers like Rufus Johnson, who used its resources for years. The city picked up Media Bridges’ funding after the state eliminated a fund that was provided by Time Warner Cable, but even the local funding was fully cut in the budget passed in May. City officials have justified the cuts by pointing to citizen surveys that ranked Media Bridges poorly in terms of budgetary importance, but a CityBeat analysis found the surveys were skewed against the low-income Cincinnatians that benefit the most from public access programs like Media Bridges. State Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing multiple felony charges related to securities fraud. A lawsuit filed in Hamilton County by investors alleges that money invested at the request of Beck and others was used for personal gain — specifically, Beck’s campaign — instead of a business investment as originally intended. Beck has been in power since 2009, and his current term is set to expire in 2014. A former poll worker was sentenced to five years for voter fraud after she voted twice for herself and three times for her sister, who’s been in a coma since 2003. The driver who last August accidentally hit and killed a local cyclist is awaiting his sentence. Local bike advocacy groups are asking courts to give the maximum penalty to the driver, who’s facing at most six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The local housing market is rapidly recovering in a continuing good sign for the economy, with single-family home permits up 48 percent in June compared to the year before, according to the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati. Cincinnati Reds games are No. 3 for local TV ratings in all of Major League Baseball, behind only the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals. Xavier University is laying off 31 employees and cutting 20 currently vacant positions. A Miami University student is getting an astronaut scholarship, making him one of 28 students nationwide to receive the honor. Entrepreneur says Cincinnati is an “unexpected hub for tech startups.” A new self-aiming rifle would outshoot human snipers. Popular Science has a guide for arguing against anti-vaccine crazies here.
 
 

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