WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 02.19.2014
Posted In: News, Energy, Health, Pensions at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Local infant deaths remain high, pension fixes proposed, Seitz renews anti-efficiency efforts

Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s infant mortality rates dropped to record lows in 2013, but the city and county’s rates of infant deaths remain far above the national average. Over the past five years, the city’s infant mortality rate hit 12.4 deaths per 1,000 live births and the county’s rate reached 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. In comparison, the national average in 2011 was 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. Cradle Cincinnati, a collaborative initiative formed in 2013, pointed to three possible factors to explain the troubling rates: short time between pregnancies, maternal smoking during pregnancy and poor sleeping habits, including deaths that could be easily prevented by ensuring a baby sleeps alone, on his or her back and in a crib.Councilman Christopher Smitherman yesterday proposed fixes for Cincinnati’s ailing pension system, and the proposal includes a hit to city retirees’ benefits. Unique to Smitherman’s plan is a new $100 million commitment to help shore up the city’s unfunded liability of $870 million, but Smitherman could not say where council would get that much money. Otherwise, the proposal would freeze cost of living increases in the system for three years and reduce future cost of living increases from a 3 percent compounded rate to a 2 percent fixed rate, among other changes. Smitherman hopes to get up-or-down votes on his plan within the next two weeks, even if it requires splitting the plan into multiple parts.State Sen. Bill Seitz plans to renew his efforts in the Ohio legislature to dismantle the state’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates. Seitz says “devastating testimony” in support of his bill should invigorate a push for his plan. But the testimony will apparently be based off a flawed industry-financed report released yesterday. A separate study, based on an economic model from the Ohio State University, found Ohio’s energy standards will save Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014 and 2025.Cincinnati plans to begin marketing an 18-acre plot of land in Lower Price Hill to bring 400 jobs to the struggling neighborhood. After the city finishes environmental remediation this month, it hopes to put the property on the market. CityBeat previously covered some of Lower Price Hill’s struggles with poverty in further detail here.The gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald tightened from seven points in November to five points this month, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. But the survey did not include Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl as a choice — an omission that could work to Kasich’s favor in the polling results.Gay families are being excluded from Obamacare benefits in Ohio and other states in which same-sex marriage is not recognized. That means Ohio’s gay families can’t get financial benefits going to traditional families to help them get covered. President Barack Obama’s administration says it’s aware of the issue, but it doesn’t plan a fix until next year.Some Ohio lawmakers want an investigation into Kasich’s administration after documents showed his administration planning to work with oil and gas companies to promote fracking in state parks and forests. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. CityBeat covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.Bad news: A Chinese firm won’t bring an $80 million project to the Cincinnati area after all.An Ohio driver rescued a kitten found frozen on the road.A parasite commonly found in cats can now be found in arctic beluga whales. Scientists say melting ice barriers — a symptom of climate change — explains the pathogen’s increased migration.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to glopez@citybeat.com.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.06.2014
Posted In: News, Marijuana, MSD, 2014 election, Governor at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_weedunicorn

Morning News and Stuff

Medical marijuana effort underway, MSD battle continues, FitzGerald challenger questioned

The Ohio Rights Group could get medical marijuana legalization on the ballot this November, but the group first must gather enough petition signatures. Although the campaign has medical research and polling in its favor, it’s also struggled to raise a significant amount of cash to support a statewide campaign. At the same time, many entrepreneurs see the legalization of medical marijuana as inevitable; over the past weekend, Comfy Tree Cannabis Collective held a seminar to advise potential businesses on the inner workings of selling legalized marijuana.Commentary: “Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts.”Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel says the county is willing to go to court to fight Cincinnati’s “responsible bidder” rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. The county says the rules are illegal, burden businesses and favor unions. But city officials, particularly Councilman Chris Seelbach, says the rules help train workers and create local jobs. The rules impose stricter job training requirements on MSD contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that would help train new workers in different crafts.Larry Ealy, a Dayton-area man, could challenge gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald in a Democratic primary, but the chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party cautions that Ealy consistently fails to gather enough signatures for his election bids. In the past, Ealy attempted to run for various offices in Dayton.City officials and the Cincinnati Public Schools Board plan to announce a new collaboration today. The initiative intends to align and better implement the city and school district’s shared policy goals. “We want to establish the framework and make sure the right culture is there,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who announced the collaboration, previously told CityBeat. “Then people can do what elected officials are supposed to do: roll up your sleeves and come up with smart, viable policies.”Following the demolition of the University of Cincinnati’s Wilson Auditorium, it’s unclear what, if anything, will replace the building.The Ohio Supreme Court reminds state judges that the conditions for jailing people over unpaid fines are limited.As people turned up the heat to deal with the polar vortex, they also drove gas prices — and future bills — up.LED lights make cities look cooler on camera.A new mind-controlled robotic hand comes with a sense of touch.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to glopez@citybeat.com.
 
 

Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts

0 Comments · Wednesday, February 5, 2014
A new controversy seems to brewing in City Hall. As budget promises begin to pile up, local officials and media are starting to ask the big question: What is going to get cut?  

Cranley Opposes Double Dipping

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Mayor says incoming assistant city manager is only eligible to receive a salary and pension benefits because of policy set by City Council.  
by German Lopez 06.19.2013
Posted In: Budget, News, Taxes at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Report: Ohio Tax Code Increasingly Complicated

Reform may come later this year

Politicians and economists often talk favorably about simplifying the tax code, but a June 17 report from Policy Matters Ohio found Ohio’s tax code will remain complicated under the budget plan being discussed in the Ohio House and Senate.Meanwhile, a spokesperson for House Republicans says reform will come through separate bills later this year. The Policy Matters report, titled “Breaking Bad: Ohio tax breaks escape scrutiny,” found the state’s tax code will include 129 tax exemptions, deductions and credits if the Senate’s 2014-2015 budget is approved — one more tax break than the previous biennium. Altogether, the Ohio Department of Taxation estimates the tax breaks will cost Ohio nearly $8 billion in fiscal year 2015. The Senate budget repealed two tax breaks, but it simultaneously added or expanded a dozen, according to the report. Among the additions was a 50-percent income tax deduction for business owners worth up to $375,000 of annual income, which Policy Matters says will largely benefit passive investors, one-man firms and partnerships that will not add jobs. Policy Matters found 44 tax breaks have been eliminated since 2003 because of the elimination of corporate franchise and estate taxes. But in that time frame elected officials have added and expanded so many new tax breaks that there are now only nine less tax breaks than there were in 2003. The report claims many of the tax breaks are wasteful. One example: An almost $20 million a year exemption for pollution-control equipment purchased by utility companies. The report says most of the purchases are already mandated by the state government, which means the state is effectively paying companies to follow the law and regulations. The report ultimately calls for thorough, regular reviews of the state’s tax breaks. “It is time for the General Assembly to scrutinize spending through the tax code as it does other state expenditures,” said Zach Schiller, report author and research director at Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement. At the beginning of the 2014-2015 budget process, House Speaker William Batchelder (R-Medina) and Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) said one of their goals was to simplify the tax code. Mike Dittoe, spokesperson for Batchelder and Ohio House Republicans, says such reform will now be pursued in separate bills, probably later in the summer or fall. “The budget is obviously a very labor-intensive process and there’s lots of moving parts,” he says. “A lot of members of the House and Senate just want to make sure that things get done right.” Instead of simplifying the tax code in the budget, Republican legislators are focused on passing tax cuts. The House and Senate are currently working on reconciling their separate tax plans by merging and downsizing them. The joint plan is “likely to be unveiled in its entirety here over the next few days,” Dittoe says. The House approved a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut in its budget plan. But the Senate cut the House’s tax proposal and approved a tax deduction for business owners instead. Supporters say the tax cuts will spur the economy and create jobs, while opponents claim the plans are misguided and will fail to lift the lower and middle classes.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.14.2014
Posted In: News, Budget, City administration, City Council at 04:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Acting City Manager Shakes Up Leadership Positions

New assistant city manager could "double dip" into pension and salary

Cincinnati’s city manager, law and budget offices will see major shakeups in the coming months, the city administration announced Tuesday, and one of the new hires is a former city retiree who might tap into his pension while receiving a salary from the city.Bill Moller is a city retiree who will be eligible to “double dip” into his pension and a city salary ($147,000 a year) when the city rehires him in February to fill an opening for assistant city manager, city spokesperson Meg Olberding confirmed in an email to CityBeat. Whether he does is entirely up to the interim city manager, Olberding wrote.The possibility could draw criticism from city officials looking to balance Cincinnati’s structurally imbalanced operating budget. Last year, City Council drew opposition for its decision to hire Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick and allow him to double dip on his pension and a city salary.Update: Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said on Twitter that City Council will discuss the personnel changes at Wednesday’s full council meeting, instead of a special session on Thursday as originally planned.Moller will eventually replace Assistant City Manager David Holmes, who helped oversee efforts for The Banks and 2012 World Choir Games and filed to retire on April 1, Interim City Manager Scott Stiles wrote in a memo to City Council and the mayor.“At this point in time, Cincinnati needs not only someone who is proficient in all aspects of municipal finance, but in the aspects of the city of Cincinnati’s finances in particular. Mr. Moller has that experience,” Stiles wrote, noting Moller’s budget and finance experience in Cincinnati, Hamilton and Covington.City Solicitor John Curp will also leave his current position to instead act as chief counsel for the city’s two utilities, the Metropolitan Sewer District and Water Works.“The utility has been undergoing a merger of back office functions to save ratepayers money, and also has been expanding services and service areas to decrease costs,” Stiles wrote. “John (Curp) has the private sector experience to assist the utilities with a market-oriented approach, and is uniquely positioned to understand both the particulars of MSD and GCWW as well as the areas in which they can expand.”The move should save ratepayers money by allowing both utilities to rely on Curp instead of outside legal counsel when legal issues arise, according to Stiles.Although widely praised by city officials, Curp’s move is unsurprising given the politics surrounding Mayor John Cranley’s election. Curp offered legal guidance for the parking privatization plan and streetcar project, both of which Cranley opposes.Terrence Nestor, currently the city’s chief litigator, will replace Curp as city solicitor until a permanent appointment is made.Stiles announced other changes as well:• Markiea Carter, currently a development officer, will move to the city manager’s office to act as assistant to the city manager.• Karen Alder, currently risk manager for the city, will begin assisting Finance Director Reginald Zeno as the city’s deputy finance director.Stiles is currently filling as interim city manager while the city conducts a nationwide search for a permanent replacement to former City Manager Milton Dohoney. Stiles could apply for the permanent role, but his application would need City Council support to win out over other potential candidates.The city expects the city manager search to last through June, at which point further administrative changes could be expected if the city hires a new permanent city manager.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.10.2014
Posted In: News, Pensions, Human trafficking, Budget, Prisons at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City looks at railroad sale, sex trafficking mapped, youth prisons combat sexual assault

Councilman Charlie Winburn, City Council’s new budget and finance chair, suggested selling the Cincinnati Southern Railroad to help pay for the city’s $870 million unfunded pension liability. But other city officials, including Mayor John Cranley, Councilman Chris Seelbach and Councilwoman Amy Murray, voiced doubts about the idea, saying it would cost the city annual revenue when there are other options for fixing the pension problem. Meanwhile, the city and state’s retirement boards appear to be looking into what it would take to merge Cincinnati’s pension system into the state system, although that solution could face political and legal hurdles. A new report from The Imagine Foundation found sex trafficking in the Cincinnati area follows the region’s spine on I-75 from Florency, Ky., to Sharonville, I-275 through Springfield and Fairfield and I-74 to Batesville, Ind. “This is real,” foundation Executive Director Jesse Bach told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “There are women and girls who are being bought and sold for sex in the Cincinnati area. The average person needs to take responsibility for what they might see. To use a sports adage, the average citizen has to be willing to say, ‘Not in our house.’ ” Gov. John Kasich and other state officials yesterday launched a public awareness campaign to combat human trafficking in Ohio at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov. “We may not want to admit it — it’s almost too horrific to imagine — but the fact is that human trafficking is real and is happening across Ohio. Over the past two years we’ve improved our laws to fight trafficking and begin getting victims the help they need, but we must do more,” Kasich said in a statement.In light of the public awareness campaign, some activists say human trafficking should be addressed by going after the source of demand: men.The head of the Ohio Department of Youth Services told a federal panel that his agency responded quickly and aggressively to reports of high sexual assault rates at the state’s juvenile-detention facilities. A June report found three of Ohio’s facilities had sexual assault rates of 19 percent or above, with the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility estimated at 30.3 percent — the second highest rate in the nation. Since the report, the agency increased training, hired a full-time employee devoted to the Prison Rape Elimination Act and installed a tip line for prisoners, their families and staffers, according to Director Harvey Reed.A northern Kentucky man was the first flu death of the season, prompting some tips from the Northern Kentucky Health Department.Some national Democrats see Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld as a potential congressional candidate in 2022, assuming the next round of redistricting makes the First Congressional District more competitive for Democrats. The district used to be fairly moderate, but state Republicans redrew it to include Republican stronghold Warren County in the last round of redistricting.Billions of health-care dollars helped sustain Cincinnati’s economy during the latest economic downturn, a new study found.Downtown traffic came to a crawl this morning after burst pipes sent water gushing out of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel. The U.S. economy added a measly 74,000 jobs in December in a particularly weak end to 2013. Dayton Daily News: “Five things you need to know about butt selfies.”If the law catches up, robot ships could soon become reality.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 

Ohio’s Latest Abortion Restrictions Follow Nationwide Trend

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Ohio was among various states in the nation that passed more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than the entire previous decade.  

State Cuts Contribute to Local Budget Gap

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Cincinnati might not be facing an operating budget gap in 2015 if it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments.  

Bengals Loss Reminds of County’s Terrible Stadium Deal

3 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Voters saddled Hamilton County with debt just to watch the Cincinnati Bengals lose year after year in a publicly funded stadium.  

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