0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Privatization schemes in Cincinnati and Ohio just went through a bad month.
by German Lopez
Port advances parking plan, board could expand Medicaid, county to gauge tourist revenues
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.
On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback
to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free
pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29
at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Saturday approved bond sales and contract agreements
for the controversial parking plan. The approval is the final major
step necessary for the Port Authority and its private partners to take
over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages after the city leased
the assets to the nonprofit development agency earlier in the year. The
deal is supposed to raise $85 million in upfront funds and at least $3
million in annual payments for the city, which the city administration previously planned to use for development projects and operating budget gaps. But opponents of the deal say the city is giving up far too
much control over its parking assets, which they argue could cause
parking rates to skyrocket as private operators attempt to maximize
Ohio’s Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel, is expected to decide
today whether it will use federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid
program to more low-income Ohioans. Gov. John Kasich opted to bypass the
legislature and put the decision to the Controlling Board after months
of failing to convince his fellow Republicans in the Ohio House and
Senate to take up the expansion. But critics of the expansion have
threatened to sue the Kasich administration if it bypasses the
legislature. Under Obamacare, the federal government will pay for the
full expansion for the two years being considered; if Ohio ends up
accepting the expansion beyond that, the federal government will pay for
the entire expansion through 2016 then phase down its payments to an
indefinite 90 percent of the expansion’s cost. The Health Policy
Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
Hamilton County commissioners could consider today whether to use excess tourist tax revenues
on more funding for tourism-related infrastructure projects. The tourist tax was previously
used to help build the Cincinnati and Sharonville convention centers and fund the Convention and Visitors Bureau, but the county administrator intends to lay out more options in his meeting with commissioners.
In the mayoral race between Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, black voters could make the big decision.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday warned about so-called sweetheart scams
in which a con artist develops a relationship with a victim, typically
through the Internet, before asking for money. The Attorney General’s
Consumer Protection Section has received about 70 complaints involving
the scams since October 2011, resulting in an average loss of more than
$14,000 with the highest reported loss coming in at $210,000, according
to the attorney general.
Ohio’s school chief ordered two Columbus charter schools to shut down for health and safety reasons and inadequate staffing.
Findlay Market is tapping into crowdsourcing to decide three new storefronts.
Ohio gas prices increased for the second week in a row.
A thermal wristband promises to keep the user’s body at the perfect temperature.
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0 Comments · Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The parking plan’s lump sum payment is
being reduced to $85 million, down from $92 million, and the city could
be on the hook for $14 million to $15 million to build a garage.
by German Lopez
Streetcar's cancellation unlikely, parking payment shrinks, Kasich could expand Medicaid
By the time a new mayor and City Council candidates take
office in December, the city will have laid out roughly half a mile of
track and spent or contractually obligated at least $117 million
for the streetcar project. The contractual obligations mean it could
cost more to cancel the project than to finish it, which will cost the
city an estimated total of $88 million after deducting $45 million in
federal grants. Still, mayoral candidate John Cranley and several
council candidates insist they will try to cancel the project upon
taking office. Check out CityBeat’s full in-depth story here.
The parking plan’s upfront payment has been reduced to $85 million,
down from $92 million, and the city, as opposed to the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority, could be on the hook for $14 million to $15
million to build a garage at Seventh and Sycamore streets, according to
an Oct. 9 memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney. The city manager claims
the lump sum payment dropped as a result of rising interest rates and
the Port Authority’s decision to relax parking meter hours outside
Over-the-Rhine and the Cincinnati Business District. The parking plan
leases Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Port
Authority, which plans to hire private companies to operate the assets. CityBeat covered the plan in greater detail here and the controversy surrounding it here.
Gov. John Kasich is considering using an executive order
to expand the state’s Medicaid program with federal funds. The
executive order would expand eligibility for the government-run health
insurance program so it includes anyone up to 138 percent of the federal
poverty level, or nearly $15,900 in annual income for an individual.
Kasich would then on Oct. 21 ask Ohio’s seven-member
legislative-spending oversight panel to approve federal funds for the
expansion. Kasich, a Republican, has aggressively pursued the Medicaid
expansion, which the federal government promises under Obamacare to
completely fund through 2016 then phase down and indefinitely hold its payments at 90
percent of the expansion’s total costs. But Republican legislators
claim the federal government might not be able sustain the payments,
even though the federal government has met its payments for the much
larger overall Medicaid program since it was created in 1965.
At its final full session before the November election, City Council approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits
for Pure Romance to bring the company to downtown Cincinnati for at
least 20 years. Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on
council, was the only one to vote against the tax incentives. The city
administration estimates the deal will lead to at least 126 new
high-paying jobs in downtown Cincinnati over three years and nearly $2.6
million in net tax revenue over two decades. Gov. John Kasich’s
administration was originally supposed to provide some tax incentives to
the company, but it ultimately reneged after supposedly deciding that
the company isn’t part of an industry the state typically supports.
Critics say Kasich’s administration is just too “prudish” to support a
company that includes sex toys in its product lineup.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio yesterday announced it’s suing Ohio
over anti-abortion restrictions passed in the 2014-2015 state budget.
The ACLU claims the restrictions are unrelated to the budget and
therefore violate the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject” rule, which
requires each individual law keep to a single subject to avoid
complexity and hidden language. CityBeat covered the state budget in further detail here.
Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says he’s monitoring the impact of the federal government shutdown
with some concerns. “I’m more concerned if this goes more than four
weeks or so, when we start talking about reimbursement programs for our
larger social programs such as food stamps and cash assistance to the
needy and those types of things. We just don’t have the money to front
that type of thing,” he said. CityBeat covered the shutdown in further detail here.
Hamilton County’s government shrunk by more than one-third in the past decade.
City Council yesterday passed a resolution condemning
State Sen. Bill Seitz’s attempts to weaken Ohio’s renewable energy and
efficiency mandates. A study from Ohio State University and Ohio
Advanced Energy Economy found Ohioans will spend $3.65 billion more on
their electricity bills over the next 12 years if the mandates are
repealed. CityBeat covered the attempts to repeal the mandates in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the calls to repeal here.
Early voting turnout is so far “anemic,” according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Ohio has the No. 12 worst tax environment among states, according to a report from the Tax Foundation. The rank is unchanged from the previous year’s report.
A central Ohio school might ban Halloween.
Bill Nye explains Jupiter’s big red spot:
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
by German Lopez
City to get $85 million lump sum, down from $92 million
The parking plan’s lump sum payment is being reduced to $85 million, down from $92 million, and the city could be on the hook for $14 million to $15 million to build a garage, according an Oct. 9 memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney to council members and the mayor. Dohoney wrote that the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which is leasing Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages under the 30-plus-year deal, reduced its lump sum payment because of rising interest rates and its decision to reduce parking meter enforcement hours outside of Over-the-Rhine and the Cincinnati Business District.Under the reviewed deal, the Port Authority also handed the responsibility of building a garage at Seventh and Sycamore streets to the city of Cincinnati. Dohoney recommends using the parking plan’s upfront payment to fund the garage, which will cost between $14 million and $15 million, according to city spokesperson Meg Olberding.If City Council approves the allocation, the upfront funds would be effectively left at $70 million to $71 million.The city still estimates it will get at least $3 million in annual installments from the lease. Supporters of the parking plan claim it’s necessary to fully leverage Cincinnati’s parking assets to fund development projects and help balance the operating budget. The plan also requires private operators, which will be hired by the Port Authority, to upgrade Cincinnati’s parking assets. The upgrades should allow parking meters to accept remote payments through smartphones, among other new features.Critics claim the plan gives up too much local control over the city’s parking assets. They say the city and Port Authority could easily be pressured by private operators to hike parking rates far beyond the 3-percent-a-year increase currently called for under the plan.The plan has also been mired in controversy, notably because the city administration withheld a consultant’s memo from the public and council members that claimed the plan is a bad deal for the city. The city administration says the memo was based on outdated information, but opponents still criticized the lack of transparency behind the deal.Dohoney wrote in the Oct. 9 memo that the Port Authority’s board plans to meet on Oct. 19 to finalize contracts with private operators. If all goes as planned, the Port Authority estimates the new parking system will be in place by April 2014.
by German Lopez
Bill restricts minor parties, parking contracts released, Pure Romance to get tax credits
A bill enacting new regulations on minor political party participation in state elections yesterday passed through the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate
despite objections from the Libertarian Party and other critics that
the bill will shut out minor parties in future elections. The bill now
needs approval from the Republican-controlled Ohio House and Republican Gov. John Kasich, who would
likely benefit from the bill because it would help stave off tea party
challengers in the gubernatorial election. The proposal was sponsored by
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority yesterday released drafts for contracts
with operators who will manage Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and
garages under the city’s parking plan, which leases the parking assets
to the Port Authority for at least 30 years. Xerox will be paid about
$4.5 million in its first year operating Cincinnati’s parking meters,
and it will be separately paid $4.7 million over 10 years to upgrade
meters to, among other features, allow customers to pay through a
smartphone. Xerox’s contract will last 10 years, but it can be renewed
for up to 30 years. The city administration says the parking plan will
raise millions in upfront money then annual installments that will help
finance development projects and balance the budget, but critics say the
plan gives up too much control of Cincinnati’s parking assets.
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee yesterday approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits over 10 years for Pure Romance
in return for the company coming to and remaining in Cincinnati for 20
years. The city administration estimates the deal will lead to at least
126 new high-paying jobs in downtown Cincinnati over three years and
nearly $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades. Pure Romance is
a $100 million-plus company that originally planned to move from
Loveland to Cincinnati with support from the state and city, but Gov.
John Kasich’s administration ultimately rejected state tax credits for
the company. Kasich’s administration says Pure Romance didn’t fit into
an industry traditionally supported by the state, but critics argue the
state government is just too “prudish” to support a company that includes sex
toys in its product lineup.
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST),
Cincinnati’s vitriolic tea party group, yesterday appeared to endorse John
Cranley, who’s running for mayor against Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls.Ohio conservatives are defending their proposal to weaken the state’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates,
which environmentalists and businesses credit with spurring a boom of clean
energy production in the state and billions in savings on Ohioans’
electricity bills. State Sen. Seitz compared the mandates to “central
planning” measures taken in “Soviet Russia.” A study from Ohio State
University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found Ohioans will spend
$3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the next 12 years if the
mandates are repealed. CityBeat covered the attempts to repeal the mandates in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the calls to repeal here.
Ohioans renewing their driver’s licenses or state ID cards will no longer be asked
whether they want to remain on the list of willing organ donors. The
move is supposed to increase the amount of participants in the state’s
organ donation registry by giving people less chances to opt out.
An Ohio Senate bill would ban red-light cameras.
Supporters of the traffic cameras say they deter reckless driving, but
opponents argue the cameras make it too easy to collect fines for the
most minor infractions.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine awarded $17 million in grants to crime victims services around Ohio, including more than $49,000 to the Salvation Army in Hamilton County.
President Barack Obama is likely to appoint Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve, which would make her the first woman to lead the nation’s central bank.
Lost in their smartphones and tablets, San Francisco train passengers didn’t notice a gunman until he pulled the trigger.
Scientists are bad at identifying important science, a new study found.
by German Lopez
War on drugs fails goals, housing complex raises concerns, courts deny parking challenges
With the war on drugs widely considered a failure after more than four decades, experts are suggesting legalization and decriminalization as viable alternatives.
One concern: Despite recent attempts at sentencing reform, Ohio’s
prison population is set to grow further and breach a capacity barrier
previously set by the U.S. Supreme Court in a ruling against California.
With costs rising and drug use rates seemingly unaffected by harsher
enforcement, groups of academics, former law enforcement officials and civil
libertarians say it’s time to look at states and countries that have
abandoned criminalization and harsh enforcement with great success. To read the full story, click here.
A planned supportive housing facility in Avondale is raising concerns for residents
who claim the complex could hurt a neighborhood already plagued by
poverty, crime, obesity, unemployment and homelessness. Particularly
worrying for Avondale 29, the group opposing the plans, is that the
facility is near a daycare and elementary school, which the group says
could have a negative impact on neighborhood children. Supporters of the
facility say the opposition is based on widespread misinformation. They
point to a similar similar supportive housing facility in Columbus,
which, according to the Columbus Police Department’s Gary Scott, had
a positive impact on the community surrounding it.
Opponents of Cincinnati’s parking lease were dealt two major blows in court yesterday: The Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear their first legal challenge and effectively upheld the city’s referendum-immune emergency powers, and the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court refused to place a temporary restraining order
on the lease despite claims that the city manager made “significant and
material” changes to the deal without City Council approval. Both the
challenges come from the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST), which claims parking rates and enforcement
hours will rise because the city is ceding too much power over its
services by leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority. Supporters of the parking lease argue the
plan is necessary to leverage the city’s parking assets to finance
development projects that will grow the city’s tax base.
Commentary: “Secrecy Plagues Potentially Good Programs.”
The city is fighting to have a document removed
from its legal battle over the streetcar with Duke Energy. City officials says the document is “nothing scandalous” and the city just
made a mistake by accidentally disclosing it, but a Duke attorney says
the document is a source of “embarrassment” for the city and important
to the case. As part of an agreement, Cincinnati and Duke are arguing in
court to settle who has to pay an estimated $15 million to move utility
lines to accommodate for the streetcar route.
Advocates of the federally funded Medicaid expansion yesterday filed petitions to the state attorney general’s office
to get the issue on the 2014 ballot. As part of Obamacare, states are
asked to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone up to 138
percent of the federal poverty level. If they accept, the federal
government would pay for 100 percent of the expansion’s cost for three
years then indefinitely phase down to 90 percent. The Health Policy
Institute of Ohio found the expansion would save Ohio $1.8 billion and insure half a million Ohioans. Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and state Democrats support the expansion, but Republican legislators are resisting it.
More than two-thirds of Ohioans support laws that protect gays and lesbians against job discrimination, but more than four in five mistakenly think such laws are already in place at the state and federal levels, according to the 2013 Ohio Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.
The survey also found a slim majority of Ohioans oppose amending the
state constitution to allow same-sex marriage, which somewhat
contradicts earlier polls from The Washington Post and Quinnipiac University that found a plurality of Ohioans now support same-sex marriage.
State agencies are probing the second high-profile suicide in an Ohio prison
in the past month. Ariel Castro, a Cleveland man who was sentenced to
life for kidnapping three women and beating and raping them as he held
them for a decade, was found hanging on Tuesday after an apparent
suicide. His death was the seventh suicide in an Ohio prison this year
and the 35th since 2008. “As horrifying as Mr. Castro’s crimes may be,
the state has a responsibility to ensure his safety from himself and
others,” said Christine Link, executive director of the American Civil
Liberties Union of Ohio, in a statement. “Questions remain whether Mr.
Castro was properly screened for suicide risk and mental illness.”
The Ohio Development Services Agency is offering $30 million in loans and grants
to employers who train their workforce. “Building a strong economy is
about ensuring Ohio’s workforce has the tools it needs for success,”
said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, in
a statement. “We want our workforce to be ready for the competitive
jobs of tomorrow.”
Ohio legislators are asking the federal government to pursue a balanced-budget amendment.
Although the amendment might sound like a good idea in campaign
platitudes, many economists agree it’s a bad idea because it limits the
federal government’s flexibility in reacting to economic downturns that
typically cause deficits by lowering tax revenues and increasing the
amount of people on government services.
A Fairfield, Ohio, woman is being forced by the Fairfield Board of Zoning Appeals to get rid of five of her seven dogs.
The woman, who says she suffers from depression, Parkinson’s disease and
multiple sclerosis, says she needs the dogs to cope. The zoning board
said it had heard anonymous complaints from neighbors, which apparently
convinced the board to not provide an exemption for Fairfield’s two-pet limit.Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is considering dropping some products and offering low-price alternatives for others in response to growing concerns about lacking performance.For the second time in a year, an Ohio judge is publicly shaming a convicted idiot.
A new implant allows doctors look into people’s brains.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:53 AM | Permalink
Decision also keeps city’s emergency powers intact
The Ohio Supreme Court today rejected an appeal for a legal challenge
that threatened Cincinnati’s parking plan and the city’s emergency
The lawsuit, which was backed by the conservative
Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), claimed the
city could not bypass a referendum on its plans to lease its parking
meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority by
invoking an emergency clause.
City Council regularly uses emergency clauses on passed
legislation to bypass a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws. The clauses also
make legislation immune to a referendum.
COAST, which opposes the city’s parking lease, argued the
City Charter doesn’t clearly define emergency clauses to deny a
Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler sided with COAST in
the first round, but the ruling was appealed and the Hamilton County
Court of Appeals ultimately ruled in favor of the city.
With the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal, the appeal court’s ruling stands.
City Solicitor John Curp applauded the decision in an email to various media outlets.
“I believe that politics belong in the legislative branch
of government and not in our courts. This decision reaffirms that
politics should stay on the Council floor and short-term political
interests not be dragged through the judiciary where the consequences
can have a long-standing impact on the public safety and economic
interests of the City,” Curp wrote. “Consistency in interpreting
long-standing legal rules is important in promoting a vibrant business
climate in the City. The Courts have reaffirmed that the City of
Cincinnati is free to operate at the speed of business.”
COAST is now trying another legal challenge against the
city’s parking lease. This time, the conservative group is claiming that
the city manager made “significant and material” changes to the lease
without City Council approval.
Curp declined to take up the second legal challenge
after concluding that the changes made to the lease were ministerial and a
result of delays caused by COAST’s first legal challenge. But by having
its proposed challenge denied, COAST gained the legal rights to sue the
city over the issue.
Supporters of the parking lease argue the plan is necessary to
leverage the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to finance
development projects that will grow the city’s tax base.
Opponents claim the lease gives up too much control over
the city’s parking assets and will hurt businesses by causing parking
rates and enforcement hours to rise.
CityBeat covered the controversy surrounding the parking lease in further detail here.
by German Lopez
Council allows pension amendment, parking lease in court again, county to evict squatters
Despite unanimous opposition, City Council yesterday fulfilled duties dictated by the City Charter and reluctantly voted to allow the controversial pension amendment on the November ballot. The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
so future city employees — excluding police and fire personnel, who are
under a separate system — contribute to and manage individual
401k-style accounts. Currently, the city pools pension contributions and
manages the investments through an independent board. City officials,
including all council members, oppose the amendment because they say it
will cost the city more and hurt benefits for city employees. Supporters of the amendment, who are backed by out-of-state tea party
groups, claim it’s necessary to address Cincinnati’s rising pension
costs. CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.
The conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) is once again taking the parking lease to court. The legal pursuit comes after City Solicitor John Curp denied COAST’s challenge.
COAST claims that the city manager made “significant and material”
changes to the parking lease, but Curp said the changes were
ministerial and only made as a result of delays caused by COAST’s first
legal challenge against the parking lease. If the latest legal tactic is
successful, City Council could be forced to vote on the changes made to
the parking lease, which could endanger the entire lease because a
majority of council members now say they oppose the plan. A hearing is
scheduled for the challenge today at 11:30 a.m.
Hamilton County is evicting homeless squatters from its courthouse,
but it plans to carry out the evictions by connecting the homeless with
existing services. “We don’t want to get mired down in too much
political debate,” Hamilton County Sheriff’s Major Charmaine McGuffey
told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s a public health hazard.”
About 750 people in Hamilton County are homeless throughout any typical
night; of those, 700 spend the night in shelters and the rest, who are mostly downtown, sleep
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against
ex-Councilman John Cranley, yesterday unveiled two TV advertisements: “Neighborhoods” and “Wheelbarrow.”
The first ad touts Qualls’ supports for neighborhood
investments. The second ad is particularly aggressive and claims Cranley
was forced to resign from City Council because of ethics issues regarding his personal
The number of Ohioans on welfare dropped over the past few years
as Gov. John Kasich’s administration enforced federal work
requirements. Ben Johnson, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Job
and Family Services, says the efforts have brought the state’s welfare
program into federal compliance.
Ariel Castro, the man convicted for the decade-long
kidnapping, beating and raping of three Cleveland women he held captive,
was found hanging in his prison cell on Tuesday after an apparent suicide.
Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday released an update
on the state’s sexual assault kit testing initiative: So far, the
attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation has received 3,530
previously untested rape kits from 105 law enforcement agencies in Ohio.
The agency has tested 1,488 kits, leading to to 460 hits in the
Combined DNA Index System.
Internet cafe owners submitted petitions yesterday to put a law that effectively banned their businesses on the ballot. State officials claim the cafes were hubs for criminal and illegal gambling activity, but cafe owners say the ban is unfair.
This frog listens with its mouth.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 28, 2013
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on
Aug. 23 acknowledged that it will increase enforcement when it takes
over Cincinnati’s parking meters.