by German Lopez
Another LGBT battle could reach court, Cranley crafts parking plan, fracking tax bill revised
A federal court in Cincinnati could soon decide whether
married same-sex parents should be recognized by Ohio on their
children’s birth certificates. Civil rights attorney Alphonse
Gerhardstein filed the lawsuit on behalf of four same-sex couples who
married outside the state and an adoption agency that helped one of the
couples adopt a child in Ohio. The lawsuit argues leaving one parent
unnamed perpetuates harmful social stigmas and potentially endangers a
child’s life by making it more difficult for a parent to get his child
help in case of emergencies. Although opponents of LGBT rights argue allowing gay couples to adopt hurts children, the research suggests widespread discrimination and same-sex parents’ limited rights are the real threats to gay couples’ sons and daughters.Mayor John Cranley is crafting a new plan to upgrade
Cincinnati’s parking system while retaining local control. Under the
drafted plan analyzed by The Business Courier, the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority would issue $25 million in bonds backed by
parking revenues. To pay for the new costs, parking meter rates in
neighborhoods — but not downtown — would increase by 25 cents per hour
to 75 cents per hour, and the city would hire more officers to increase
enforcement. The new parking meters would take credit card payments, but
smartphone payments currently aren’t in the plan.A revised version of the Ohio House’s fracking tax bill
increases the severance tax on oil and gas companies but cuts the income
tax more and directs funding to areas most affected by the state’s oil
and gas boom. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of
gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock
oil and gas reserves. Following its widespread adoption, the United
States, including Ohio, began pumping out natural gas at record levels.
But critics worry the technique could pollute and contaminate
surrounding air and water resources. CityBeat covered fracking in greater detail here.As a result of the harsh winter, Cincinnati’s winter
shelter for the homeless has been extra busy this year. Some City
Council members appear to be considering a more standardized funding
plan for the shelter, which traditionally relies largely on private
funding.The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parade will take a slight detour this year to avoid streetcar construction.No surprise here: Ohio is among the worst states for funding transit projects.Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland want to know what it
would take to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, which will
name the GOP’s presidential candidate.Fixing food deserts alone won’t make people eat healthier, a new study found.A Los Angeles newscaster mixed up Samuel L. Jackson with Laurence Fishburne.Astronomers say they found the oldest known star in the
universe. At more than 13 billion years old, the star is about three
times the age of the Sun.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
New parking deal soon, warden denies botched execution, fracking tax bill under works
Mayor John Cranley appears to be working on another
parking deal to upgrade Cincinnati’s parking meters, although the
mayor’s office says this plan won’t give up control of the city’s parking
meters to a private entity. At the same time, it seems the deal won’t
produce a large lump-sum like the defunct parking privatization plan
did. Cranley and other opponents of the old parking plan have long said
that, even without privatization, the city’s parking meters need to be
upgraded to accept credit card payments, among other modern features.The warden who oversaw Dennis McGuire’s 26-minute,
seemingly painful execution says it went “very well.” The execution, the
longest since Ohio restarted use of the death penalty in 1999, drew
international attention, particularly because many blamed the long time
to kill on the state’s use of a cocktail of drugs never tried before in
the United States. The warden’s statements essentially reject those
concerns. Still, state officials say they’re conducting a third review
of McGuire’s execution in particular, which is apparently uncommon. CityBeat covered the execution in further detail here.An Ohio House bill could boost funding to local
governments affected by the fracking boom by hiking the severance tax on
oil and gas companies. Fracking is a drilling technique in which
millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground
to unlock oil and gas reserves. Its widespread use has spurred an
economic boom across the country, including northeast Ohio. While it’s
boosted the overall economy, it’s also raised environmental and
displacement concerns, particularly in areas where the boom is most
active. CityBeat covered the fracking boom in further detail here.In response to complaints about slow snow plowing, the
city tweeted, “We’ve got 2,800+ lane miles to clear. It’s going to take
some time. Please, go slow & be patient today as our crews work
’round-the-clock.”In light of yesterday’s “debate” over evolution and biblical creationism, here are four things the anti-science crowd denies.An Ohio Senate bill would prohibit sales of e-cigarettes
to those younger than 18, but some anti-smoking activists worry the
bill’s classification of e-cigarettes as an “alternative nicotine
product” instead of a tobacco product could loosen regulations on the potentially
cancer-causing product.Meanwhile, CVS plans to stop selling tobacco products as it focuses more on health care.Ohio’s standardized tests for grades 3-8 could be delayed after winter storms forced so many school closings.The Cincinnati Fire Department is looking into the
possibility of using drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — in the future
through a partnership with the University of Cincinnati.A Salvadoran newspaper used a drone to cover a presidential election.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
Mayor targets joblessness, early voting might stay downtown, Kasich could veto fracking tax
Mayor John Cranley plans to address long-term unemployment
in Cincinnati with several new initiatives, some of which could get
support from the White House, he told CityBeat yesterday. According to Cranley, the idea is to end employer discrimination against the
long-term unemployed or land the long-term unemployed into jobs to end
the job-crippling gap in their resumes. Cranley’s push against long-term
unemployment comes in preparation of his visit today to the White
House, which is looking for different ways to tackle the sluggish
economy without going through a gridlocked Congress.
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said it would be “logical”
to keep an early voting location downtown even if the Hamilton County
Board of Elections moves its offices to Mount Airy. Husted’s comments
imply local Republicans are alone in their effort to move early
voting to a new Mount Airy location, where only one bus line runs.
Democrats oppose the move because it would limit voting access for
people who rely on public transportation. But local Republicans claim
free parking at the facility would outweigh the lack of bus access. As
the secretary of state, Husted could break the board’s
tie vote over the issue and make the final decision on where its
offices and early voting end up.Gov. John Kasich threatened to veto a “puny” oil and gas
tax, casting doubts on the current proposal in the Ohio legislature. The
debate has put Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the General
Assembly at odds as the state undergoes a bit of an oil and gas boom
because of fracking, a drilling technique that pumps millions of gallons
of water, sand and chemicals underground to unlock oil and gas reserves.
Kasich has been pushing to reform and increase the severance tax for
the state’s oil and gas producers. But Republican legislators have
largely resisted Kasich’s call to action, instead pushing a proposal
that increases the severance tax by much less than what the governor
proposed two years ago. In both Kasich and legislators’ proposals, the
raised revenue would be used for an income tax cut.
A Hamilton County judge should decide today whether a
local abortion clinic can remain open while it fights a state-ordered
shutdown.This year’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program will target
Walnut Hills and East Price Hill. The program aims to address a number
of issues, including the number of calls to police, building code
violations, vacant buildings, drug arrests, graffiti, junk cars, litter
and weeds.Cincinnati officials won an award for how the local budget
is presented and communicated, even though it’s still not structurally
balanced.The Ohio Statehouse welcomes weddings and receptions
except for gay couples, who can’t get the Ohio marriage
certificate required to hold a ceremony at the location.The Feb. 4 debate between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Creation
Museum Founder Ken Ham over evolution and biblical creationism will
stream live at The Cincinnati Enquirer. Evolution is taken as fact in the scientific world, but creationists deny its truth despite the clear, overwhelming evidence.A school bus driver might have saved two children by yelling at them to get out of the way during a crash.Scientists might have discovered a potential cure for peanut allergies.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: Budget
at 10:13 AM | Permalink
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
Posted In: News
at 10:03 AM | Permalink
Ohio must recognize gay marriages, governor calls for more tax cuts, citizens saved streetcar
A federal judge on Monday ordered Ohio authorities to
recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates. Although the ruling
was narrow, many advocates of gay marriage argue the merits of the
judge’s decision indicate a broader problem with Ohio’s marriage laws
following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling against a federal anti-gay marriage law. The judge’s ruling came just three
days after another federal court struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage
ban on similar constitutional grounds.Gov. John Kasich’s plan to get Ohio’s economy moving
again: more tax cuts. But the policy announcement — unsurprising, coming from a Republican — comes on the
same year Ohio’s economy slowed down even after Kasich and the
Republican legislature passed tax cuts that heavily favored the state’s
Believe in Cincinnati saved the streetcar, argues The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The group was formed shortly after Mayor John Cranley won the November election and
threatened to halt the $132.8 million streetcar project for good. But
the threats inspired a groundswell of streetcar supporters, ranging from concerned
businesses to residents. And before City Council
agreed to continue the streetcar project, Believe in Cincinnati in just eight days gathered 11,300 petition signatures for a charter amendment
restarting the project. CityBeat covered the group in its infancy here.
Cincinnati ranked No. 2 for highest child poverty out of 76 major U.S. cities in 2012, according to the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Cleveland and Toledo also made the unfortunate top five, CDF found.Overtime pay at the Metropolitan Sewer District exceeded
$2 million for the third consecutive year in a row, but the number falls
below the accepted standard of less than 10 percent of total
payroll. MSD Director Tony Parrott says overtime allows the agency to
keep staffing numbers in check but still responsive to unexpected
situations. Still, the overtime estimate arrives at a time Hamilton County
commissioners are raising sewer and water rates to comply with federal
Cincinnati will tap into a state program for a major
demolition blitz in 2014. The city plans to knock down 240 blighted and
condemned buildings next year — far higher than the typical annual rate
Eight historic buildings in Cincinnati, including Memorial
Hall, on Dec. 20 received roughly $6 million in state tax credits for
projects totaling $71 million.
Rhinegeist Brewing plans to begin canning its craft beer in January.
Humans were getting the flu as far back as the year 1510,
but it’s completely unknown if dinosaurs suffered from similar
illnesses.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
3 Comments · Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Support for the uptown interchange project reveals the hypocrisy of streetcar opponents.
by German Lopez
Property taxes to remain at current rate as a result of project
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Monday
unanimously agreed to allocate $20 million in capital funding for the
$106 million interchange project at Martin Luther King Drive and
The funding will be backed through property taxes, which, according to the
city administration, will prevent the city from
lowering property taxes in the future as originally planned.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld argued the focus should be on the project’s economic potential, not its possible impact on property taxes.
“If the city stopped spending money and stopped investing
in things, indeed people’s taxes would go down, but I don’t think it’s a
very fair frame to think about making this very important investment,”
But Councilman Chris Seelbach said the public should know the full effects of the project.
“Believe me, I support this, and I support this through
the property tax, but I just don’t want us to be able to pass this
without saying what it is,” he said.
Council members said they support the interchange project because
of the positive economic impact it will have on the uptown area, which
includes the University of Cincinnati and surrounding hospitals.
According to a May 2012 study from the University of
Cincinnati’s Economics Center, the project will produce 5,900 to 7,300
permanent jobs. The same study found the economic impact of the project
will reach $133 million during construction and $750 million once the
interchange opens, which would lead to higher tax revenues.
The city is carrying roughly one-fifth of the cost for the
interchange project. The rest will be financed through the state and
Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments.
by German Lopez
Streetcar cancellation costs outlined, Ohio joblessness spikes, state to repay overpaid taxes
Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick yesterday revealed that the city might only keep $7.5-$24.5 million if it cancels the $132.8 million streetcar project,
after accounting for $32.8 million in sunk costs through November, a
potential range of $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and $44.9
million in lost federal grant money. But Mayor-elect John Cranley flatly
denied the numbers because he claims the current city administration
“is clearly biased toward the project and intent on defying the will of
the voters.” Meanwhile, at least two of the potential swing votes —
incoming council members David Mann and Kevin Flynn — showed skepticism
toward the estimates, although Mann said, “If they do hold up, that’s
fairly persuasive.” Three elected council members already support the
streetcar project, so only two of the three potential swing votes would
need to vote in favor of it to keep it going.
Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7.5 percent in October, up from 6.9 percent a year before. The state added only 27,200 jobs, which wasn’t enough to make up for the 31,000 newly unemployed throughout the past year. The numbers
paint a grim picture for a state economy that was once perceived as one of the
strongest coming out of the Great Recession. In comparison, the U.S.
unemployment rate actually decreased to 7.3 percent from 7.9 percent
between October 2012 and October 2013. (This paragraph was updated with the nonfarm numbers.)
The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) will repay $30 million plus interest to businesses
that overpaid taxes throughout the past three years. The announcement
came after Ohio Inspector General Randall Meyer found ODT had illegally
withheld $294 million in overpayments over the years. Meyer’s findings
were made through what was initially a probe into alleged theft at ODT.
Outgoing Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan could request an automatic recount
because she came tenth out of the nine elected council members, right
after Councilwoman-elect Amy Murray, by only 859 votes. But Quinlivan
and Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke agreed the
recount would be a long-shot. Still, Quinlivan noted that a flip in the
count could be a big deal because she supports the streetcar project and
Murray opposes it.
Cincinnati Public Schools are trying to expand their recycling efforts.
Here is an interactive infographic of meat production in 2050.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:08 AM | Permalink
Poverty skews school funding, "stand your ground" advances, tax-free weekend proposed
Urban schools spend less on basic education for a typical student
than previously assumed after accounting for the cost of poverty,
according to a Nov. 19 report from three school advocacy groups. After
weighing the extra cost of educating an impoverished student, the report
finds major urban school districts lose more than 39 percent in
per-pupil education spending and poor rural school districts lose nearly
24 percent, while wealthy suburban schools lose slightly more than 14
percent. In the report, Cincinnati Public Schools drop from a
pre-weighted rank of No. 17 most per-pupil education funding out of 605
school districts in the state to No. 55, while Indian Hills Schools
actually rise from No. 11 to No. 4.
An Ohio House committee approved sweeping gun legislation
that would enact “stand your ground” in the state and automatically
recognize concealed-carry licenses from other states. The “stand your
ground” portion of the bill would remove a duty to retreat before using
deadly force in self-defense in all areas in which a person is lawfully
allowed; current Ohio law only removes the duty to retreat in a person’s
home or vehicle. The proposal is particularly controversial following
Trayvon Martin’s death to George Zimmerman in Florida, where a “stand
your ground” law exists but supposedly played a minor role in the trial
that let Zimmerman go free. To become law, the proposal still needs to
make it through the full House, Senate and governor.A state senator is proposing a sales-tax-free weekend for back-to-school shopping
to encourage a shot of spending in a stagnant economy and lure shoppers
from outside the state. Eighteen states have similar policies, but none
border Ohio, according to University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.
Michael Jones of UC’s Economics Center says the idea is to use tax-free school supplies to lure out-of-state shoppers, who are then more likely to buy other items that aren’t tax exempt while they visit Ohio.
An Ohio Senate committee approved new limits on the Controlling Board,
a seven-member legislative panel that has grown controversial following its approval of the federally funded Medicaid expansion
despite disapproval from the Ohio legislature. Gov. John Kasich went through the Controlling Board
after he failed to persuade his fellow Republicans in the legislature
to back the expansion for much of the year. The proposal now must make
it through the full Senate, House and governor to become law.
Cincinnati’s Metro bus service plans to adopt more routes similar to bus rapid transit (BRT)
following the success of a new route established this year. Traditional
BRT lines involve bus-only lanes, but Metro’s downsized version only
makes less stops in a more straightforward route. CityBeat covered the lite BRT route in further detail here.
Cincinnati obtained a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 Municipal Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign, giving the city a 13-point bump compared to 2012’s mixed score.
A bill approved by U.S. Congress last week could direct millions in federal research dollars to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
A UC study found a higher minimum wage doesn’t lead to less crime.
Gov. Kasich will deliver UC’s commencement address this year.
The new owner of the Ingalls Building in downtown Cincinnati plans to convert some of the office space to condominiums.
Here are some images of the Cincinnati that never was.
Someone invented a hand-cranked GIF player.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Bill weakens energy standards, groups rally against global warming, county could cut taxes
Cincinnati’s State Sen. Bill Seitz says he will introduce a “compromise” bill
that still weakens Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable standards but
allows some of the current requirements for in-state renewable sources
to remain for a few years. Environmental and business groups argue
Seitz’s original bill would effectively gut the state’s energy standards
and, according to a study from Ohio State University and the Ohio
Advanced Energy Economy, force Ohioans to pay an extra $3.65 billion in electricity bills over 12 years.
But some utility companies, particularly Akron-based FirstEnergy, claim
the current standards are too burdensome and impose extra costs on
Meanwhile, Ohioans on Nov. 16 rallied in front of the Ohio Statehouse
to call on U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to support federal
regulations that would attempt to curtail human-caused global warming.
The regulations are part of President Barack Obama’s second-term plan to
limit carbon emissions from power plants, which Environment Ohio says
are responsible for 41 percent of U.S. carbon emissions — a primary
contributor to global warming. Although some conservatives deny
human-caused global warming, scientists stated in the 2013 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that they are at least 95 percent certain that human actions contribute to global warming.
Hamilton County commissioners will vote on Wednesday on a plan that would increase the tax return received by property taxpayers.
Republican Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s proposal would increase the
rebate from $10 million to $12 million, or $35 for each $100,000 of
property value in 2013 to $42 in 2014. But Democratic Commissioner Todd
Portune, the lone Democrat in the three-member board, says he would
rather focus on increasing the sales tax to make the stadium fund
sustainable and not reliant on casino revenue, which could go to other
Commissioners also agreed to not place a property tax levy renewal for the Cincinnati Museum Center on the ballot
until there’s a plan to fix Union Terminal. The informal decision followed the
recommendations of the Hamilton County’s Tax Levy Review Committee,
which reported that it will only support the levy renewal if the city,
county and museum develop a plan to transfer ownership of Union Terminal
from the city to a new, to-be-formed entity and locate public and
private funds to renovate and upkeep the terminal in a sustainable
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced on Monday that he’s forming a heroin unit
to tackle what he describes as a drug epidemic sweeping across Ohio’s
communities. The effort, which is estimated at $1 million, will focus on
education, outreach and law enforcement. David Pepper, DeWine’s likely
Democratic opponent for the attorney general position in 2014, argues
DeWine, a Republican, moved too slowly on the issue; Pepper says the
problem began in 2011, more than two years before DeWine’s proposal.
Cincinnati council members Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman yesterday reiterated their opposition to the city’s responsible bidder policy,
which requires bidders for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) work to
follow specific standards for apprenticeship programs. The law has
caused an impasse between the county, which owns MSD, and the city,
which is in charge of management. The conflict comes in the middle of a
federal mandate asking MSD to retrofit Cincinnati’s sewer system — a
project that will cost $3.2 billion over 15 years. CityBeat covered the conflict in greater detail here.
Cincinnati’s Department of Public Services will expedite the delivery of bigger trash carts.
The deliveries are part of Mayor Mark Mallory’s controversial trash
policy, which limits each household to one trash cart that can be picked
up by automated trucks in an effort to save money and avoid workers’ injuries.
Mayor-elect John Cranley says the policy is too limiting and causing people to
dump trash in public areas.
Cincinnati’s Metro is the most efficient bus service
compared to 11 peer cities, but it ranks in the middle of the pack when
it comes to level of service, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati Economics Center.
Metro plans to announce today that it will balance its operational
budget without fare increases or service cuts for the fourth year in a
For Thanksgiving Day, Metro will run
on a holiday schedule. The sales office will also be closed for Thanksgiving
and the day after.
Ohio will receive nearly $717,000
in a multi-state settlement involving Google, which supposedly overrode
some browsers’ settings to plant cookies that collect information for advertisements.
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday disbarred Stan Chesley,
which means the local attorney can no longer practice law in front of
the nation’s highest court. The controversy surrounding Chesley began
more than a decade ago when he was accused of misconduct for his
involvement with a $200 million fen-phen diet-drug settlement.
Some organisms might evolve the ability to evolve.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez