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
by German Lopez
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
at 09:10 AM | Permalink
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
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
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
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
by German Lopez
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
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.
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
3 Comments · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
City plans to create bike lanes on Spring
Grove Avenue from near Hopple Street to Bank Street are facing some
opposition from the Camp Washington Business Association.
2 Comments · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
I’ve been a longtime supporter of the
streetcar project, but I have to admit I’m a bit worried after finding
out the streetcar might be delayed once again because construction bids
for the project were way over budget.
How the new streetcar’s story will differ from the one that ended 60 years ago
1 Comment · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
After signing a utility relocation
agreement with Duke Energy on Feb. 1, Cincinnati City Manager Milton
Dohoney, Jr. declared, “The streetcar is happening.”
by German Lopez
Cranley calls for streetcar's end, SORTA obtains federal grant, casino gets state approval
John Cranley is calling for the city to halt progress on the streetcar after a report from The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed the city’s construction bids are $26 million to $43 million over budget.
City Manager Milton Dohoney says the city might throw out the bids and
start the bidding process again, but no final decision has been made yet. But
Cranley argues the city has no leverage over bidders because it already bought the
streetcars. In CityBeat’s in-depth look at the streetcar,
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, said the cars had to be bought early
so they can be built, tested and burned into the tracks while giving
staff enough time to get trained — a process that could take as long as
two and a half years. The city also cautions that sorting through the
bids will take a few more weeks.
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) landed a $2.5 million grant
to purchase seven new buses. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat,
yesterday announced SORTA had won the competitive grant from the U.S. Department
of Transportation. The new buses will replace old ones that
are no longer good for service.
The Horseshoe Casino got approval from the state yesterday despite fears of bankruptcy
surrounding the casino’s parent company. As a precaution, the Ohio
Casino Control Commission is requiring Caesar’s, the troubled company,
to undergo annual financial reviews and notify the commission of any
major financial plans, including any intent to file bankruptcy. Caesar’s
is currently $22 billion in debt.
Ohio legislators have a lot of questions
about Gov. John Kasich’s new school funding formula. Kasich claims his
formula levels the playing field between poor and wealthy schools, but Rep. Ryan Smith, a Republican, pointed out his
poor Appalachian district is getting no money under the formula, while
the suburban, well-off Olentangy Schools are getting a 300 percent
increase. In a previous glimpse at the numbers for Cincinnati Public
Schools (CPS), CityBeat found the funding increases aren’t enough to make up for past cuts — largely because of the phaseout of tangible personal property reimbursements.
Another report found low-performing schools could be forced to outsource teaching. The new policy has aggravated some local officials.
Kasich’s budget will apparently benefit
the state’s mentally ill and addicted. Mental health advocates said the
budget will expand treatment, housing and other services. Most of the
benefits will come from the Medicaid expansion.
CPS says it will not lose any funding over the state auditor’s attendance scrubbing report. The report, released Tuesday, found CPS had been scrubbing attendance data, but the school district claims errors were not intentional.
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel will give the State of the County address later today.
Ohio Third Frontier approved $3.6 million in new funds to support Ohio innovation. About $200,000 is going to Main Street Ventures, a Cincinnati-based startup accelerator.
Cincinnati Art Museum named an interim curator: Cynthia Amneus.
Covington is getting a new city hall.New evidence shows lab testing on mice may not be helpful for humans. Apparently, mice and human genes are too different for treatments to be comparable.