WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 08.22.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Transportation, Energy at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
metro plus bus

Morning News and Stuff

Metro moves forward with changes, bill to weaken energy standards, Berns criticizes media

As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Metro, Greater Cincinnati’s bus system, is moving forward with changes that seek to improve services that have dealt with funding shortfalls and cuts in the past few years. The biggest change is Metro*Plus, a new limited-stop weekday bus service that will be free through Aug. 23. Metro spokesperson Jill Dunne says Metro*Plus is a step toward bus rapid transit (BRT), an elaborate system that uses limited stops, traffic signal priority and bus-only lanes. Metro*Plus is mostly federally funded, and Metro says an expansion into BRT, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, would also be carried by federal grants. Besides Metro*Plus, Cincinnati’s bus system is also adding and cutting some routes. State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce legislation capping how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and scrapping requirements for in-state solar and wind power — two major moves that will weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy Law. But Seitz says the changes would keep mandates for utilities to provide one-fourth of their electricity through alternative sources and reduce consumer consumption by 22 percent by 2025. Environmentalists have been critical of Seitz’s review ever since he announced it in response to pressure from Akron-based FirstEnergy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. (Correction: This paragraph previously said utilities are required to provide one-fourth of their electricity through renewable sources; the requirement actually applies to “alternative sources.”) Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns yesterday declared his campaign dead and blamed local media, including CityBeat, for its demise. Berns said the media has done little to promote him over Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, who have similar views on every major issue except the streetcar and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. In response, Berns attached a picture of himself playing dead in front of a vehicle. The stunt was just the latest in the Libertarian’s campaign, which has included Berns quitting the race for one day before deciding to stay in, the candidate giving away tomato plants while claiming they’re marijuana and lots of free ice cream. Commentary: “Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy.” Cranley is airing a new advertisement attacking Qualls. The ad focuses largely on the streetcar and parking plan. As Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier points out, the ad “takes some factual liberties”: Parking meters are being leased, not sold, to the quasi-public Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, and it’s so far unclear how the money from the lease is going to be spent and if the resulting projects will really favor downtown over neighborhoods. Hamilton County commissioners approved the next phase of The Banks, which could include another hotel if developers can’t find office tenants to fill the currently planned space. The second phase of the project already includes a one-block complex with 305 apartments. State officials are reporting a 467-percent increase in the amount of seized meth labs this year. “We’re seeing a continuous spike,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “It is easier (for people to make the drug). We used to talk about ‘meth houses,’ or places people would make this. Well, today, you can make it in a pop bottle.” Ohio’s school report cards will be released today, allowing anyone to go online and see what a school is rated on an A-F scale. The U.S.  Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday announced more than $317,000 will be directed to Ohio to provide critical housing and clinical services for homeless veterans.  The grants are part of the $75 million appropriated this year to support housing needs for homeless veterans. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a new initiative called #RunTheCity, which will allow citizens to run or walk alongside local officials in an event that’s supposed to simultaneously encourage access and healthy living. The first event with City Solicitor John Curp, Cincinnati’s top lawyer, will be tonight at 6 p.m. at Wulsin Triangle, corner of Observatory Avenue and Madison Road in Hyde Park. Two Greater Cincinnati companies — U.S. Logistics and ODW Logistics & Transportation Services — made the Inc. 500 list for fastest-growing companies, and more than 50 others made the Inc. 5,000 list. Four landed on the Inc. 500 list last year and one got on the list in 2011. Another good local economic indicator: Greater Cincinnati home sales jumped 30 percent in July. Mouse skin cells were successfully transformed into eggs, sperm and babies, but a similar treatment for infertile humans is likely a few decades away.
 
 

Moving Forward

Metro celebrates 40 years, looks ahead to new possibilities

1 Comment · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
As it commemorates its 40th anniversary, Greater Cincinnati’s bus service is making changes it hopes will improve a system that has dealt with funding shortfalls and service cuts in the past few years.   

City Council Approves Streetcar Budget Fixes

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 3, 2013
City Council June 26 approved funding and accountability measures for the Cincinnati streetcar project, allowing the project to move forward.   

Streetcar Plan Moves Forward

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
City Council on June 24 approved increased funding along with additional accountability measures that will close a $17.4 million budget gap and keep the streetcar project on track.    
by German Lopez 06.19.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Development, Parking at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

Parking lease signed, council discusses highway project, Medicaid bills introduced in House

City Manager Milton Dohoney signed an agreement Monday to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but the mayor and City Council may still make changes to the controversial parking plan before it’s implemented. In the past week, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling, made the parking plan insusceptible to a referendum and refused to delay enforcement on the ruling, which allowed the city manager to sign the lease within days. Still, the city won’t spend the $92 million lump sum from the lease until there is legal certainty, meaning until appeals from opponents are exhausted. (Correction: The city signed the lease Monday, not Tuesday as originally reported in the story. The city made the announcement Tuesday, which caused confusion and miscommunication.) City Council is discussing whether it needs to set funds for the I-71/MLK Interchange project. The state is asking the city to contribute $20 million, but some council members are questioning whether the state would pursue the project without city support. The city administration says the state is insisting on the city’s participation. City Council originally planned to use funds from the parking lease to pick up the city’s share of the tab for the project, which officials estimate will produce thousands of jobs in the region. After introducing two competing Medicaid bills in the Ohio House, leaders said they’re unlikely to vote on the bipartisan measures before the General Assembly’s summer recess. One of the bills would create a Medicaid oversight committee and instruct the state Medicaid director to find cost savings without cutting benefits. The other bill would take up the federally funded Medicaid expansion while taking measures to diminish access to narcotics through the health care system and encourage cost sharing and private sector plans among Medicaid recipients. Gov. John Kasich is still pushing the General Assembly to pass the Medicaid expansion, whether it’s through the budget, these bills or other means. Ohio will end the current budget year with an unused surplus of $397 million, according to the state budget director. Kasich says the money should go toward tax cuts. The Ohio House and Senate are currently discussing merging their tax plans in the 2014-2015 budget, which could mean taking up smaller versions of the House’s 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut and the Senate’s 50-percent income tax reduction for business owners worth up to $375,000 of annual income. Sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, will cost Ohio $284 million in fiscal year 2013, according to a Policy Matters Ohio report. For the state, that means slower economic growth, furloughed defense workers, cuts to county funds for social services, public health service reductions and further downsizing of the Head Start program, which supports preschool. CityBeat covered the early impact of sequestration in Ohio here. The American Medical Association will soon decide if obesity is a disease. The U.S. House passed an anti-abortion bill that would restrict almost all abortions to the first 20 weeks since conception. The bill is unlikely to move past the House. Landlords are less likely to respond to rental inquiries from gay couples. The Congressional Budget Office says immigration reform would save money and boost economic growth. Researchers have apparently mastered the art of the bat and can now “hear” the size of a room. Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Submit your questions here and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue. CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or know anyone willing to participate, email glopez@citybeat.com.
 
 
by German Lopez 05.21.2013
at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
oklahoma-tornado

Morning News and Stuff

Tornado strikes Oklahoma suburbs, city holds budget hearing, U.S. driving boom is over

A tornado ravaged Oklahoma City suburbs yesterday, leaving dozens dead and more injured. Two of the buildings destroyed in the tornado’s path, which was one mile wide and 20 miles long, were elementary schools — one of which had children that may be trapped under the rubble. Public safety officials are still on the scene. Parks and public safety once again dominated discussion in Cincinnati’s second public hearing for the fiscal 2014 year budget. The city’s plan would reduce funding for parks, but the park board ultimately decides what gets cut. Currently, the board is threatening closures at multiple parks, even though the city manager proposed cuts that would prevent such drastic measures. Meanwhile, public safety layoffs in the plan have been reduced to 25 cops and zero firefighters. A new report found the U.S. driving boom is over, and that could have implications for local transportation projects like the streetcar and MLK/I-71 Interchange project. The report shows Americans are driving less and less Americans are driving, while other means of transportation are being used more often. The findings support mass transit projects like the streetcar while calling for a review of highway projects like the MLK/I-71 Interchange project. The White House announced yesterday that Councilman Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member, won the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award, joining nine other winners who will attend a ceremony at the White House Wednesday for showing a commitment to equality and public service. Since Seelbach took office, Cincinnati has extended health benefits to all city employees, required anyone accepting city funds to sign the city’s non-discrimination agreement and established a LGBT liaison at the police and fire departments. The tea party is discussing the possibility of fielding a third-party candidate in the gubernatorial race, which could weaken Gov. John Kasich’s chances of re-election. Lori Viars, vice chair of the Warren County Republican Party, told Dayton Daily News that the tea party is considering a primary challenge, a third-party candidate or simply sitting out. Among other issues, the tea party recently criticized Kasich for his support of the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. The Ohio Senate is slowing down a measure that would have forced universities to decide between $370 million in tuition revenue and providing out-of-state students with documents required for voting. The provision will likely be removed from the budget bill, but it’s possible the issue will pop up in a standalone bill later on. CityBeat previously covered the measure, which was sneaked into the Ohio House budget bill, here. Republican state legislators may take away driver’s license rights from unauthorized immigrants who have been granted amnesty by the federal government. After being pressured by multiple advocacy groups, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles interpreted state law and an executive order from President Barack Obama to grant the driver’s licenses. CityBeat broke the story surrounding the issue here. Over-the-Rhine’s next generation of restaurants could be bigger. Microsoft is expected to announce the next generation of Xbox today. Scientists apparently have trouble replicating cancer studies, which could have implications for finding cures and treatments.
 
 
by German Lopez 05.20.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Transportation at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pirg report

Research Group: U.S. Driving Boom Is Over

As local officials struggle with streetcar and interchange, report demands new direction

Americans are driving less, and fewer Americans are driving, according to a May 14 report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), an advocacy organization. For Cincinnati, the trend might justify a recent shift in public policy that embraces more transportation options, including more bike lanes and a streetcar. “Americans drive fewer total miles today than we did eight years ago, and fewer per person than we did at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term,” the report reads. “The unique combina­tion of conditions that fueled the Driving Boom — from cheap gas prices to the rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation — no longer exists. Meanwhile, a new generation — the Mil­lennials — is demanding a new American Dream less dependent on driving.” The report also says U.S. transportation policy “remains stuck in the past” and needs to “hit the ‘reset’ button.” The report, which uses U.S. Department of Transportation data from 2012, found Americans were driving about 9,000 miles a year per person in 2012, down from a peak of nearly 10,000 in 2004. Until the peak, Americans had been driving more miles each year since the end of World War II. The report finds the driving trend at odds with other means of transportation: “On the other hand, Americans took nearly 10 percent more trips via public transportation in 2011 than we did in 2005. The nation also saw increases in commuting by bike and on foot.” The report attributes much of the shift to millennials, members of the generation born between 1983 and 2000, which the report says are more likely to demand public transportation and urban and walkable neighborhoods. The new expectations are largely driven by Internet-connected technologies, which are “rapidly spawning new transportation options and shifting the way young Americans relate to one another, creating new avenues for living connected, vibrant lives that are less reliant on driving,” according to the report. PIRG finds the trend will likely stick as gas prices continue to rise, fewer Americans participate in the labor force and Americans demands less time spent in travel. Even if millennials begin driving more in the future, the report’s findings show Americans are going to be driving much less in 2040 than federal agencies currently assume. “This raises the question of whether changing trends in driving are being adequately fac­tored into public policy,” the report reads. The report concludes local, state and federal governments should react to the new trend by planning for uncertainty, accommodating millennials’ demands, reviewing the need for more highway projects, adapting federal priorities, using transportation funds based on cost-benefit analyses and conducting more transportation research. For Cincinnati, the trend could have implications for two major transportation projects: the MLK/I-71 Interchange and the streetcar. The streetcar project uses capital funding sources — some uniquely tied to mass transit projects — that some opponents argue should be reallocated to support the MLK/I-71 Interchange project. But the report’s findings seem to support the city’s current plans to push forward with mass transit projects like the streetcar, even while local funding for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project remains uncertain. After making changes based on feedback from public meetings, the Ohio Department of Transportation priced the interchange project at $80 million to $102 million, or $10 million to $32 million higher than the previous estimate of $70 million. The higher price didn’t lead to the same outcry that resulted from the streetcar project’s $17.4 million cost overrun, likely because of the interchange project’s broader support, secure state funding and feedback-driven circumstances. Still, the city could share some of the higher cost burden for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project. Previously, the city planned to use funds raised by leasing its parking assets to the Port Authority for the interchange, but that plan is currently being held up in court. In 2012, the city adopted Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master plan since 1980. The plan advocates for more alternative methods of public transportation, particularly light rail and bike lanes. But the master plan does not establish means of funding, so City Council will have to approve funding over time to implement the plan.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.22.2013
Posted In: LGBT Issues, News, Budget, Economy at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio employment stagnates, transportation budget passed, governor opposes LGBT rights

Ohio’s unemployment rate remained at 7 percent in February, unchanged from January but down from 7.5 percent in February 2012. The stagnant rate comes despite a generally positive national unemployment report in February — a sign that Ohio may be falling behind national growth rates. Both the amount of employed and unemployed grew, but growth in employment wasn’t enough to completely outweigh rises in unemployment. The job losses were mainly in construction, state government, trade, transportation and utilities, while professional and business services, educational and health services and financial activities had particularly strong growth. A state transportation budget that will raise rural speed limits to 70 mph and leverage the Ohio Turnpike for statewide transportation projects cleared the legislature. The bill received bipartisan support and opposition as it moved through the Ohio House and Senate. Supporters say the bill will create jobs and address the state’s infrastructure needs without raising taxes, but opponents are worried potential toll hikes at the Ohio Turnpike will hurt northern Ohio to subsidize projects for the rest of the state. Earlier in the day, Gov. John Kasich seemed to support same-sex civil unions, but his spokesperson walked back the comments to clarify the governor is still against changing the Ohio Constitution to support same-sex marriage and civil unions. The initial comments from Kasich sparked a response from Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, which is pushing an amendment that would legalize same-sex marriage in Ohio for 2013: “I hope Gov. Kasich understands civil unions are banned by the Ohio Constitution as well and they are a cruel substitute for legal marriage.” The Republican Party is currently undergoing some soul-searching on the gay marriage issue, with a Republican National Committee report recently pointing out a generational divide on the issue and Sen. Rob Portman coming out in favor of marriage equality last week. Tea party leaders are threatening the Republican Party for recent moves supporting LGBT rights, including Portman’s acceptance of same-sex marriage. The group also opposes the expected appointment of Matt Borges to chairman of the Ohio Republican Party because of a 2004 misdemeanor ethics conviction that was later expunged and Borges’ work as a lobbyist for Equality Ohio, an LGBT group. Cincinnati’s year-over-year home sales were up in February, but growth wasn’t as quick as January. There were 1,662 homes sold in February, up 11.9 percent from February 2012 and more than the 1,600 homes sold in January. But January year-over-year sales were up 27 percent from 2012. Kasich’s sales tax plan, which was criticized for raising taxes across the board, may be dead, but Ohio legislators are still planning to carry out changes to the income tax with the 2014-2015 budget. In the past week, Policy Matters Ohio has pushed for the earned income tax credit, which CityBeat found could be a progressive alternative to an across-the-board cut to the income tax. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here. The Ohio Development Services Agency says state tourism reaped $15 for every $1 put into marketing. In 2009 and 2010, the returns were $13. In 2011, the return was $14. Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Gmoser indicted Punxsutawney Phil, a famous groundhog, for the ongoing bout of cold weather. The groundhog predicted an early spring. The universe’s estimated age has been bumped up to 13.8 billion years.
 
 

Cincinnati vs. The World 03.13.2013

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Forests in China are suffering from huge surges in disposable wooden chopstick demand; the country produces 80 billion chopsticks per year — equivalent to the destruction of 20 million 20-year-old trees. WORLD -2   

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