by German Lopez
23 days ago
Streetcar meeting today, Ohio Senate to modify energy law, state is no 'economic miracle'
City Hall will be hosting a meeting on the streetcar project at 6
p.m. today to figure out what the project’s options are now that it has a $17.4 million budget gap. The meeting was called by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls after City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. explained in a memo that the project has a budget gap because construction bids came in
$26 million to $43 million over budget.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the the Senate Public Utilities Committee, says he wants to “modify,” not repeal, Ohio’s Clean Energy Law
to have more clear-cut compliance standards. Environmentalists say
they’re concerned Seitz will use the review as a front to
water the law down, especially since electricity giant FirstEnergy is pushing
against the law’s energy efficiency standards. CityBeat wrote more about the conflict between environmentalists and FirstEnergy here.
It’s one issue Ohio’s leading liberal and conservative think tanks apparently agree on: Ohio is not the “economic miracle”
often touted by Gov. John Kasich. In the past year, job numbers for the
state have been particularly weak, with public sector losses nearly
making up for very weak private sector gains. The right-leaning Buckeye
Institute for Public Policy Solutions says a complicated tax system is
largely to blame for the stagnant job growth, while the left-leaning
Policy Matters Ohio is mostly focusing on governments’ budget austerity.
A student allegedly shot himself
in front of classmates at LaSalle High School today. Police say he is
currently at a hospital, and there are currently no reports of anyone
else being shot. As of 10:30 a.m., the situation was still developing.After misleading media reports sent the public into a furor, Mayor Mark Mallory agreed to rescind salary raises
that were part of his office’s deficit-reducing budget plan. The plan
gave the mayor’s top aides raises to make up for an increased workload following staff reductions. Even with the raises, the plan
reduced the deficit by $33,000 during the mayor’s remaining time in
office — a fact originally omitted by The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Music Hall’s facelift is not happening just yet,
even though approvals from City Council and the Music Hall
Revitalization Company have already paved the way for Cincinnati Center
City Development Corporation (3CDC) to begin renovations. As project
manager, 3CDC will take four to six months to develop a budget, review
designs and go over the legal and financial work necessary to start the
project.Hamilton County is currently tracking to be $1.5 million over budget this year — a budget hole the Board of Commissioners hopes to plug by using the rainy day fund.
One section of the Ohio House budget bill would allow charter schools to enroll out-of-state students and charge them tuition. The policy could involve online schools, which were previously found to have poor results in a CityBeat report.
The relaxed rules potentially add more controversy to a budget plan that’s
already mired in criticism for defunding Planned Parenthood and forgoing
the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.Ohio gas prices are starting 9 cents down this week.
Bad news: The largest HIV vaccine study was shut down after patients contracted the AIDS virus more often than those who didn’t take it.
by German Lopez
26 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:34 PM | Permalink
Liberal, conservative think tanks warn of bad signs in state’s economy
It’s one issue Ohio’s leading conservative and liberal
think tanks seemingly agree on: The “economic miracle” often touted by Gov. John Kasich is not really happening.
The bleak economic news has been highlighted by recent
reports from the right-leaning Buckeye Institute for Public Policy
Solutions, which supports little government intervention in the economy,
and the left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, which focuses on policies
that can benefit low- and middle-income Ohioans.
The March “Ohio by the Numbers” report from the Buckeye
Institute did acknowledge that Ohio has a lower unemployment rate than
the national average, but the report was particularly hard on Ohio’s
lacking private sector job growth. It pointed out the state lost 16,800
private sector jobs in February, ranks No. 27 in the nation for private
sector job growth since January 2010 and ranks No. 47 for private sector
job growth since January 1990.
Policy Matters’ March report was similarly harsh: “Since the end of the
recession, Ohio has added 133,700 jobs, growing at a rate of 2.7
percent. But that growth leveled off in the second half of 2012, and the
reported zigzag of the last two months means that Ohio has only added
2,700 jobs over the past year, growing at a very weak 0.1 percent.”
The news may come as a surprise to those who have been
reading seemingly positive job news in recent months. Policy Matters
places the problem on the inherent volatility in job reports, which are
based on household surveys: “This volatility should serve as an
important reminder: Monthly numbers are preliminary and will likely be
revised, so it is unwise to make too much over the month-to-month
changes. Longer-term trends provide a more accurate gauge of the state’s
While they agree on the problem, the two think tanks disagree on the causes and solutions.
Greg Lawson, policy analyst at the Buckeye Institute, says
the biggest problem is Ohio’s tax system. In this area, he points out
three major problems: higher income tax rates than other states, an
unusual amount of municipalities in Ohio with income taxes and
complicated filing for individuals and businesses.
“You find nowhere else in the entire country a situation
in which someone has to file multiple income tax forms ... for different
jurisdictions they work in,” he says, citing the different tax rates
and credits someone working in multiple municipalities might have to
deal with. “That creates a drag on the efficiency of being able to set
As far as tax cuts are concerned, another report
from Policy Matters found a series of tax cuts passed by the Ohio
General Assembly in 2005 had little impact on the state’s economic
growth. The report found Ohio experienced job losses while the rest of
the country grew, and not a single Ohio sector outpaced national
performance. The report concluded, “State economies are complicated and
there are many reasons why Ohio’s job growth is lagging. However, it is
clear that the 2005 tax cuts did not bring about the promised job
growth. There is no reason to think that further tax cuts will, either.”
Instead, Policy Matters has focused on austerity, which
led to the public sector job cuts outlined in Policy Matters’ March
report: “A private-sector gain of 16,900 jobs has been nearly erased by
the 14,200 jobs lost in the public sector. Most of those public job
losses happened at the local level.”
Indeed, federal sequestration has already caused some damage in Ohio, and local government funding cuts approved by Kasich have also forced local governments to cut back (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
by German Lopez
26 days ago
Ohio may allow open containers, Medicaid may be on ballot, pollution afflicts region
State Sen. Eric Kearney, a Cincinnati Democrat, introduced a bill
in the Ohio Senate yesterday that would allow opened alcoholic
beverages in “entertainment districts,” which must have populations of more than
50,000 within one-half mile by one-half mile. Kearney said Over-the-Rhine
would be an ideal benefactor of the new bill. “Senate Bill 116 will
promote tourism and business development across the state,” Kearney said
in a statement. “By modifying Ohio’s law, this will provide an
opportunity for developments such as the Over-the-Rhine Gateway in
Cincinnati and The Flats in Cleveland to create an entertainment
experience and attract more customers.”
Supporters of the Medicaid expansion say they may attempt to put the issue on the November ballot
if the Ohio General Assembly fails to take action by fall. Republicans
in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate have so far rejected Gov. John
Kasich’s pleas for an expansion, instead moving toward asking the federal government for a Medicaid waiver
that would allow the state to make broader
reforms. At least 90 percent of the expansion would be funded by the
federal government. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.
The Greater Cincinnati region and Hamilton County ranked among the worst in the nation
in the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report.
The report, which used 2009-2011 U.S. EPA data, found Greater Cincinnati
to be No. 10 worst for year-round particle pollution and No. 14 for
ozone pollution. Still, the report did find overall improvement around
the nation, with Greater Cincinnati making some advances in pollution
reduction in the past few decades.
A new Ohio law going into effect today will require school coaches to acquire additional concussion awareness training.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross says the
training will make it easier for coaches to identify symptoms of
concussions and get help for students.
A University of Cincinnati study found it could be cost-effective to screen at-risk populations for hepatitis C.
A vegetarian lifestyle may fit some of CityBeat’s most beautiful employees, but Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble says pets need a more expansive diet.
Not only do they have multiple cultural traditions, but humpback whales also learn new tricks by watching their friends.
by German Lopez
28 days ago
Day of fasting today, local joblessness drops in March, parking petition process questioned
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Cincinnatians to take
part in the Greater Cincinnati Day of Fasting today and put off lunch to help support the Freestore Foodbank. Sittenfeld’s office said in a press release that the event will allow
participants to “experience a small measure of the hunger that is a part
of many people’s daily lives.” There will be a ceremony for the event
at noon in Fountain Square, where participants will be able to donate to
the Freestore Foodbank.
March was another decent month for jobs in Cincinnati, with the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropping to 7.5 percent,
down from a revised 7.9 percent in February and 8 percent in March
2012. Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati
Economics Center, says most of the job growth is attributable to
Cincinnati’s growing health care services, but manufacturing has also
provided a local boon.
An anonymously posted video questions the legitimacy of some parking plan referendum petitions, but so far no formal challenges
have been filed against the referendum effort. Even if somebody were to
file a challenge, Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke
says it would required a lot — nearly 4,000 signatures — to halt a
referendum: “Because they are so far over, there’s going to have to be
more evidence by any petitioner that there are problems well beyond
those five or six sights shown in the video.”
There is now a local effort to embrace the Cincinnati Preschool Promise,
a private-public partnership that would get more local children in
preschool. The current goal is to get 25 to 50 children in preschool in a pilot
program this fall. Studies show preschool is one of the best investments
that can be made for the economy in the long term. Local preschool
services were recently cut as a consequence of federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts that began March 1.
UC President Santa Ono is recommending the school freeze in-state tuition for the next school year
— a measure the UC Board of Trustees will consider in June. Ono also
said he will not take a salary increase or bonus for the next two years,
and he is asking the school to sell the presidential condo and use the
money to pay for scholarships.
While testifying to legislators reviewing his two-year budget request, State Treasurer Josh Mandel said his office has been targeted by cyberattacks, and the technology currently available to his department is not good enough to hold off the attacks.
Humana will hire 60 people for its customer service center in downtown.
Brain cells will control the power plants of the future.In a press release, Mayor Mark Mallory proclaimed today
Zips’ Cafe Day because the restaurant is finally adding bacon to its
by German Lopez
29 days ago
Posted In: News
at 01:58 PM | Permalink
Cincinnati unemployment rate down to 7.5 percent
Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell sharply in March, according to data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).
Michael Jones, research director at the University of
Cincinnati Economics Center, says the numbers, while positive, were a
slowdown from previous months. “The punchline is that growth is
improving, but the rate of growth is slowing down,” he says. “But up is
Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate
dropped to 7.5 percent in March, down from a revised 7.9 percent in
February and 8 percent in March 2012. The lower unemployment rate coincided with other positive factors: a larger civilian labor force, more people employed and
less people unemployed.
Hamilton County’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate
also dropped from 7.2 percent to 6.9 percent, and Greater Cincinnati’s
rate dropped from 7.5 percent to 7.2 percent.
Jones attributes most of the drop to the region’s strong growth in health care services, but manufacturing has also played a role. “Our manufacturing has come
back stronger than the nation,” he says.
In Ohio, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell
from 7.8 percent in February to 7.3 percent in March. The U.S.
seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate also fell, from 8.1 percent to
7.6 percent. But seasonally adjusted numbers for Ohio and the nation were widely considered weak, particularly in comparison to previous months.
Job numbers at the state and national levels are typically adjusted for seasonal factors, but local numbers are not.Unemployment numbers are collected through a household survey. The unemployment rate measures the amount of people employed relative to the civilian labor force, which accounts for the amount of people looking for jobs and people employed. Since the numbers are obtained through surveys, they are often revised in later months.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Cincinnati, Hamilton County and Greater
Cincinnati experienced dramatic drops in the seasonally unadjusted
unemployment rate between January and February.
by German Lopez
51 days ago
Opening Day today, BMV to offer licenses to DACA recipients, Cranley suggests budget plan
It’s Opening Day today, which means it’s time for a
citywide celebration of the Cincinnati Reds and baseball. At the City Council meeting
last week, Mayor Mark Mallory declared today a local holiday, so if you
need an excuse to sneak in a few beers while watching the parade at
work, say the mayor made you do it.
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles will allow the children
of illegal immigrants who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals (DACA) to obtain driver’s licenses.
DACA was signed by President Barack Obama to give recipients the
opportunity to remain in the country legally without fear of
prosecution, but until Friday, the BMV wasn’t sure that qualified
recipients for driver’s licenses.
Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his budget plan
Thursday that he says will avoid layoffs and the city’s plan to lease
its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development
Authority, but critics say the plan is unworkable and some of its
revenue sources are “fantasy.” Cranley’s proposal calls for $21 million
in casino revenue that Horseshoe Casino General Manager Kevin Kline
previously said will be available to City Council, but Jon Harmon,
legislative director for Councilman Chris Seelbach, says the number is
using an outdated model and the city’s estimate of $10 million is more
in line with recent turn of events. The budget proposal also claims to
make its cuts and raise revenue without layoffs, but even Cranley was
uncertain about whether that’s possible.
Opponents of the city’s parking plan say they’ve gathered more than 10,000 signatures
— more than the 8,500 required — but the signatures still need to be
verified before the plan is placed on the ballot. Last week, the
mayor told Cincinnati residents
to not sign the petition because he says it will force the city to make
budget cuts and layoffs. A ruling from Hamilton County Judge Robert
Winkler opened the parking plan to referendum by essentially striking
down the city’s use of emergency clauses.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is backing a wider religious exemption
for contraceptive coverage in health plans. As part of Obamacare,
health insurance plans are required to provide contraceptive coverage — a
measure that may save insurance companies money by preventing expensive pregnancies,
according to some estimates. But DeWine and 12 other Republican state attorney generals argue the mandate infringes on religious liberty.
It’s not just charter schools that do poorly under the state’s new report card system; most urban schools would flunk too.
An analysis by StateImpact Ohio found urban schools actually perform
worse in some areas, supporting arguments from charter school advocates
that the report cards’ harsh grades show a demographic problem in urban areas, not a
lack of quality in education. An analysis of old data by CityBeat in 2012 found Cincinnati Public Schools would fall under the new system.
A new study found bedbugs are afflicting less Cincinnati residents
— suggesting the reversal of a trend that has haunted local homeowners
for years. In the past few years, Cincinnati was marked as one of the
worst cities for bedbugs around the country.
The last two generations are falling behind their parent’s wealth. The trend shows a generational divide behind rising income inequality in the United States.
Ohio gas prices are starting to go down this week.
Scientists still don’t know what’s killing up to half of America’s bees.
by German Lopez
55 days ago
Youth Jobs Fair today, groups clash over energy law, GOP considering election reform
Cincinnati’s Youth Jobs Fair will be held today at the
Duke Energy Convention Center between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The fair
provides an opportunity for young people, typically aged between 16 and
24, to look for work from a variety of participating employers. Mayor
Mark Mallory says attendees should “dress for success,” as if they were
going to their first day on the job.
State environmental groups and an Akron-based energy company are at odds over a 2008 law
that tasks the state and utility companies with meeting stringent
requirements for renewable energy and energy efficiency. State Sen. Bill
Seitz, the Cincinnati Republican who heads the Senate Public Utilities
Committee, has agreed to review Ohio’s Clean Energy Law, while
FirstEnergy, an Akron-based energy company, protests the requirements as
too expensive for the company and consumers around the state. But
Seitz’s decision has alarmed environmental groups who largely see the
law as effective three years later.
Republicans in the General Assembly are considering an incremental approach to elections reform
after their comprehensive efforts in 2011 and 2012 were received with widespread
accusations of voter suppression. The details aren’t worked out yet, but Seitz is planning on
introducing bills that he says will cut down on provisional ballot
voting and provide clearer rules for poll workers collecting provisional
ballots, and other Republicans are looking to set uniform statewide
early voting hours. Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner says she wants to
see a more comprehensive approach to elections reform, including a more
relaxed approach to provisional ballots.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners are considering raises for county employees,
but they first have to find a way to pay for the increases. Board
President Chris Monzel, a Republican, says he would like to wait to see
how Gov. John Kasich’s budget turns out to institute a merit-based raise
system. Commissioner Todd Portune, a Democrat, says he wants to
guarantee all employees a 1-percent increase.
City Council held a special meeting last night to discuss the city’s pension system,
which many are worried is costing the city too much in the long term.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says the city needs to take more steps
to stabilize the system: “More money in, figuring out where that more
money will come from, looking at the current picture of the benefits
themselves, and some way of financing it short of putting lump sums of
The U.S. Supreme Court showed doubts
over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which
effectively banned same-sex marriage at a federal level, at hearings
President Barack Obama’s administration released a proposal that will help deal with the effects of global warming on wildlife, including arctic foxes.
Watch a nine-year-old discuss the meaning of life and the universe:
by German Lopez
56 days ago
LGBT hearings continue, local unemployment falls, tax plan may remain in state budget
The U.S. Supreme Court is heading into its second day of hearings on same-sex marriage
today. Yesterday, the Supreme Court held hearings for Proposition 8, a ballot initiative in California that overturned the legalization of gay marriage. Today, the court will hold hearings on the Defense of
Marriage Act, the law that banned same-sex marriage at a federal level. The Washington Post posted more in-depth information about the legal arguments here.
Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell sharply
in February, from 8.6 percent in January to 7.5 percent. Unemployment
in Hamilton County also fell from from 7.9 percent in January to 7.1
percent in February, and Greater Cincinnati’s rate fell from 8 percent
to 7.4 percent. The dropping unemployment rates were matched with
more people employed and less people unemployed.
Ohio’s budget director says he thinks the state’s across-the-board income tax cuts will remain
in the 2014-2015 budget, even as lawmakers take out other proposals put
forward by Gov. John Kasich. The plan originally suggested by Kasich
was widely criticized for disproportionately benefiting the wealthy,
which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Cincinnati is moving toward semi-automated trash collection, which the city has outlined in full detail here.
This spring and summer, approximately 90,000 households will receive a
65-gallon trash cart that will be assigned to each address. As part of
the broader policy, the lids on the trash carts will have to be fully
closed to be collected, and residents will have to call the city to
request a pickup for bulky items. The city says semi-automation will
save money, improve worker safety, free employees for other services,
increase recycling and help keep neighborhoods cleaner and pests out.
In response to USquare development workers not being paid prevailing wage, council members Laure Quinlivan, Cecil
Thomas and Wendell Young are planning to pass a legislation that will
require any construction project using at least 30 percent in city funds
to pay all its workers prevailing wage. “These men were being pressured
to sign documents stating they were paid prevailing wage when it was
closer to minimum wage,” Quinlivan said in a statement. “These workers
lost their jobs when they blew the whistle, and on their behalf, we
intend to end worker exploitation on projects with significant city
UC Health, the University of Cincinnati’s medical wing, says it wants to run ambulances in northern Kentucky.
It recently submitted applications for permission through Kentucky’s
Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which requires providers prove the need for some facilities and services before they can be
Mercy Health will open a downtown clinic on April 1.
The prosecutor has dismissed charges against Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog who predicted an early spring.
Here is a shark with two heads.
by German Lopez
57 days ago
Posted In: News
at 11:20 AM | Permalink
February jobs report shows dramatic drop in joblessness
Cincinnati, Hamilton County and Greater Cincinnati experienced
dramatic drops in the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate between
January and February, according to new data released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).
In Cincinnati, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate
dropped to 7.5 percent in February, down from 8.6 percent in January.
The civilian labor force, which measures the amount of people working
and seeking jobs, also dropped from 139,400 to 138,900, which means less people were looking for work. The amount
of people employed rose from 127,400 to 128,600 and the amount of people
unemployed dropped from 12,000 to 10,300.
At the county level, the civilian labor force remained
steady, while the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped from
7.9 percent in January to 7.1 percent in February. Across all of Greater
Cincinnati, the unemployment rate dropped from 8 percent to 7.4
percent, even as the civilian labor force grew by 1,300 — a sign that
more people in the region are looking for work.Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, says the report was encouraging and consistent with the past few years’ trends: “We’ve seen a lot of activity in the Cincinnati area. We know a few companies have been actively growing their businesses.”
The gains were also improvements in a year-over-year comparison. In February 2012,
Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 8.4 percent,
Hamilton County’s rate was 7.8 percent and Greater Cincinnati’s rate was
8.2 percent. The civilian labor force was also larger in
Cincinnati, Hamilton County and Greater Cincinnati in February 2012, but less people were employed across-the-board.Jones says looking at employment numbers is a much better way to gauge economic health than looking at the size of the civilian labor force. While employment purely measures job growth, the civilian labor force can be driven by demographic changes — including an aging, retiring population — and people going back to school full-time, according to Jones.
In February, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment
rate was 7.6 percent, and the U.S. seasonally unadjusted
unemployment rate was 8.1 percent.Jones says Cincinnati and Ohio are poised to continue strong growth: “We have a strong health care sector. As health care continues to be an important component of our economy, … Cincinnati is very well positioned to capture that growth.”
State and federal numbers are typically adjusted to account for seasonal employment patterns, while local numbers are not.
Unemployment numbers are calculated through a household
survey. The unemployment rate gauges the amount of unemployed people
looking for work in contrast to the total civilian labor force. Since
the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in later
months.Update (3:54 p.m.): This story was updated with comments from Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center.