by German Lopez
Officials push to keep early voting downtown, Portune flounders, Ohio joblessness rate falls
Mayor John Cranley yesterday offered free space to the
Hamilton County Board of Elections at the city-owned Shillito’s building
to keep the board’s offices and early voting downtown. The idea comes
in the middle of a debate between Democrats and Republicans on the
Board of Elections over whether they should move their offices — and early
voting — to a Mount Airy facility, where only one bus line runs, to
consolidate county services and avoid the cost
of rent. Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann said there
won’t be enough occupancy at the Mount Airy location if the Board of
Elections decides not to move there. For the county, a certain amount of
occupancy must be filled at Mount Airy to financially justify the move
and the renovations it would require. Without the move, the county will
need to find another location or means to build a new county crime lab.Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune yesterday
refused to announce whether he will actually run against gubernatorial
candidate Ed FitzGerald in a Democratic primary, even though he told The Cincinnati Enquirer
the day before that he already made a decision. At this point,
Portune’s lack of organization and name recognition means his chances of beating FitzGerald are slim to none.Ohio’s December unemployment rate dropped to 7.2
percent from 7.4 percent the month before. The amount of employed
and unemployed both increased compared to the previous year. The
state of the economy could decide this year’s statewide elections, even if state
officials aren’t to credit or blame for economic conditions, as CityBeat covered here.It is perfectly legal to forgive back taxes in Hamilton
County. Supporters argue the practice removes a tax burden that likely
wasn’t going to get paid anyway, but opponents worry it could be misused and take away
revenue from schools and other public services that rely on property
taxes.A Hamilton County court ruled against the legality of automated traffic cameras in Elmwood Place. Officials plan to appeal the ruling.More than 10,000 Ohioans lost food stamps this month after
Gov. John Kasich declined to request a federal waiver for work requirements.
Hamilton County officials estimate Kasich’s decision could affect 18,000
food stamp recipients across the county.A new Ohio House bill delays the transition from the Ohio
Graduation Test to new end-of-course exams. The delay aims to provide
more time to vet the tests and allow schools to better prepare for the
changes.Local home sales improved by nearly 21 percent during 2013, according to the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors.The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
reported 3 percent more passengers and 9 percent more cargo traffic in
2013.Ohioans spent 5.8 percent more on liquor in 2013 compared
to the year before, reaching a new record in yearly purchases of liquor
across the state.The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards return this Sunday.Telling people they slept better than they did improves their performance on math and word association tests.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Judge halts election law, unemployment benefits advance, city loses budget director
A federal judge halted a controversial election law that
limited minor political parties’ access to the ballot and ruled that the
state must allow minor parties to participate in the primary and
general elections in 2014. But by merely agreeing that only the
retroactive restrictions for 2014 are too burdensome for minor parties,
the judge left room to keep the law intact for elections in 2015 and
beyond. Still, the ruling comes as a major victory for the Libertarian
Party of Ohio and other minor parties who took to calling the
Republican-backed law the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act”
because it conveniently limited minor parties that are upset with Republican Gov.
John Kasich’s support for the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion.Ohio Sen. Rob Portman broke with most of his fellow
Republicans yesterday to help advance federal legislation that would extend
emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed. Still, he hinted that
he would not support the three-month extension if the $6.4 billion cost
isn’t covered by federal spending cuts elsewhere. Without the extension,
128,600 Ohioans could lose unemployment benefits through 2014 even as
the state economy shows signs of weakening.
Cincinnati Budget Director Lea Eriksen yesterday confirmed
she is leaving her high-level city job to take the same job in Long
Beach, Calif. Peggy Sandman will fill in for Eriksen while a
search for a permanent replacement is held. Eriksen’s announcement comes as a blow to the city but little surprise to political watchers. Shortly
before taking office, Mayor John Cranley called Eriksen and other
administration officials “incompetent” because of how they handled the
$132.8 million streetcar project, even though their estimates for
cancellation costs turned out to be mostly on point.Newsflash: Global warming didn’t stop just because we’re cold now.The worst of the deep freeze should be over for Ohio.Cincinnati’s 2013 homicide rate of 25 per 100,000
residents compares to Cleveland at 22, Indianapolis at 14.85, Columbus
at 11.24 and Louisville at 8.43.An Ohio appeals court ruled Cincinnati can change medical benefits for retirees after all.Construction for the uptown interchange could begin in July and finish in late 2016.The city announced yesterday that it’s extending its
Winter Holiday Trash Amnesty through Jan. 17, which means residents have
until then to set out extra trash next to their city-provided trash
Gov. Kasich is asking parents to tell their children about
the dangers of drug abuse, as the state works to combat problems with
prescription painkillers and heroin.A Fairfield, Ohio, teacher who was fired for allegedly
telling a black student, “We don’t need another black president,” will
fight for his job.Dozens of inmates at the Lebanon Correctional Honor Camp
endured frigid conditions Monday evening after one of three furnaces
broke, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction.A Cincinnati-area medical device firm is in a race with
some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world to get a
painless drug injector on the market.People are stealing English ferrets used to hunt rabbits.A survey of brown dwarfs found they’re racked by planet-sized storms of molten iron.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:41 AM | Permalink
Streetcar construction restarts, minimum wage hike incoming, jobless benefits to expire
Construction on the $132.8 million streetcar project
restarted yesterday, marking an end to the nearly two-month drama
brought on by Mayor John Cranley’s election and his threats of
cancellation. City Council paused the project for a little more than
three weeks to conduct an audit on its costs, but the legislative body
agreed to restart construction last week after receiving a signed
agreement from the Haile Foundation that the philanthropic group will
provide $9 million over 10 years to help pay for $3.13-$3.54 million in annual operating costs.
An automatic increase on Ohio’s minimum wage at the start
of the new year will benefit 330,000 Ohioans, according to an analysis
from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The higher wages should
translate to a better economy for all Ohioans: EPI found the automatic
increase will generate nearly $39 million in economic impact and 300
full-time jobs. Since a voter-approved measure in 2006, Ohio has been
among several states who peg the minimum wage to increases in the cost
of living.More than 36,000 Ohioans will lose emergency unemployment
benefits for the long-term unemployed tomorrow following a lack of
congressional action, according to left-leaning think tank Policy
Matters Ohio. The emergency benefits were passed by Congress at the
start of the Great Recession to help those hit worse by the economic
downturn, but Congress failed to extend the benefits before it recessed
for the holidays despite lingering signs of a weakened economy. Without the
extension, Ohioans can tap into just 26 weeks of state-provided jobless
aid; federally funded emergency benefits give the unemployed another 37
weeks to find work before losing government assistance.Here are CityBeat’s top stories of 2013.The annual review of the two-year state budget could
include income tax cuts, said Ohio’s tax chief. The statement follows
Gov. John Kasich’s announced push for another income tax cut to help
spur Ohio’s slowing economy. The Republican governor signed a state
budget that reduced taxes — particularly for the wealthy — earlier in
the year, but Ohio’s economy still slowed down in the past few months as the
state unemployment rate surpassed the national rate for the first time
in years.With the Ohio Supreme Court’s rejection last week of a
challenge to the state’s federally funded Medicaid expansion,
conservatives are conceding the battle is “over with” for now. Gov.
Kasich pursued the federally funded expansion without approval from the
General Assembly by going through the seven-member Controlling Board,
but Republicans, who largely opposed the expansion of a government-run
health care program from the start, fought against the board’s approval in court.Gov. Kasich was “stingy” with his clemency powers during his third year in office, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Even though a review found Cintrifuse is a “Lead Applicant
with strong position within SW Ohio entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Ohio
Third Frontier denied state tax credits for the local startup incubator
because, according to the state review group, Cintrifuse maintains an unrealistic goal to scale to 60 tenants
in its first year and lacks strategy or process for the incubator services, graduation focus, an adequate staffing plan and a defined
tenant award process.
Delta briefly provided very low air fares following a technical error yesterday.
Much to scientists’ frustration, 2014 could be a bad year for the flu after the adaptive virus evolves.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 18, 2013
More than 36,000 Ohioans could lose out on emergency unemployment benefits this month if Congress doesn't act.
by German Lopez
Big week for streetcar, council OKs interchange funds, emergency jobless aid to expire
Major events for Cincinnati’s streetcar project this week:
Today, supporters will turn in petitions to get the issue on the
ballot; late today or early tomorrow, KPMG will turn in audit of the
project’s completion, cancellation and operating costs; tomorrow,
council will take public comment on the project at 1:30 p.m.; and on
Thursday, council will debate and make the final decision on the streetcar. Other streetcar news:• Mayor John Cranley is asking streetcar opponents to speak up during the public comments section of Wednesday’s council meeting.• Supporters collected more than 9,000 signatures
to get the streetcar project on the ballot. Nearly 6,000 signatures need to be
verified to allow a vote in the coming months.
City Council’s budget committee yesterday advanced funding
for the $106 million uptown interchange project at Martin Luther King
Drive and Interstate 71. The capital funding set by council will be
backed through property taxes, which, according to the city
administration, will prevent the city from reducing property taxes in
the future as originally planned. Still, proponents of the project,
including a unanimous body of council, say the project is worth the investment; the
University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center found in a May 2012 study
that the interchange will generate 5,900 to 7,300 permanent jobs, $133
million in economic development during construction and another $750
million once the interchange opens.
Congress appears ready to pass a bipartisan budget deal
that will not extend emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed
through 2014, which could leave more than 36,000 unemployed Ohioans
behind in December and 128,600 Ohioans without aid through 2014. The
emergency benefits were originally adopted by Congress to provide a
safety net for those worst affected by the Great Recession.
Conservatives, touting the $25.2 billion annual cost, say the economy
has improved enough to let the costly benefits expire, but liberals,
pointing to the high numbers of long-term unemployed, say the benefits
are still needed and would help keep the economy on a stable recovery.The Cincinnati area’s economy could overtake the Cleveland area in 2015.Six men were taken into custody after a SWAT team
responded to a home and engaged in a gun battle that left a
three-year-old critically injured.A Union Township trustee says he can’t believe Chris Finney would
hurt his credibility for a $850-a-year tax break to open a law firm in Clermont County.
As a member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes,
Finney repeatedly spoke against tax breaks for businesses in the past.Medicaid expansion supporters announced yesterday that
they’re no longer pursuing a ballot initiative after actions from Gov.
John Kasich and the Ohio Controlling Board effectively enacted the
expansion, which taps into federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility
to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.The Kasich administration expects to hand out education
grants from the “Straight A” fund on Wednesday in an attempt to reward
innovation at the state’s schools. The grants will go to more than 150
of Ohio’s 614 school districts, according to state officials.Someone hacked The Cincinnati Enquirer’s online streetcar polls.
The Mega Millions jackpot hit $586 million yesterday.A new study finds “blind as a bat” isn’t blind at all.Watch giraffes clash in a surprising, epic one-on-one:Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:20 PM | Permalink
Congress will not extend emergency benefits through budget deal
Despite lingering signs of a weakened economy, a
bipartisan budget deal working through U.S. Congress will not
extend emergency benefits for the nation’s long-term unemployed past Dec. 28.
If the emergency benefits are allowed to expire, the cut
will hit more than 36,000 Ohioans in December and 128,600 through 2014,
according to left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio.Without the extension, Ohioans can tap into just 26 weeks of state-provided jobless aid. Federally funded emergency benefits give the unemployed another 37 weeks to find work before losing government assistance.
The emergency benefits were originally adopted by Congress
to help Americans hit hardest by the Great Recession. The economy has
improved since then, but some question whether it’s improved enough.
“There are 4.1 million workers who have been unemployed
for more than six months, which is well over three times the number of
long-term unemployed in 2007, before the Great Recession began,” write
Lawrence Mishel and Heidi Shierholz of the left-leaning
Economic Policy Institute (EPI).Supporters claim the benefits boost the
economy by allowing the long-term unemployed to continue buying goods
and services that effectively support jobs. EPI estimates the benefits would sustain 310,000 nationwide jobs in 2014.
But at $25.2 billion a year, the emergency benefits come at
a hefty price tag for conservatives who are trying to rein in federal spending.
EPI claims the “sticker price” overestimates the net cost of the benefits.
“The 310,000 jobs created or saved by the economic
activity this spending generates will in turn generate greater federal
revenues from the taxes paid on the wages earned by those who otherwise
would not have jobs,” write Mishel and Shierholz. “They will also save
the government money on safety net spending related to unemployment (for
example, Medicaid and food stamps).”U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, last week joined 31 other Democratic senators in support of extending the benefits.“We must do everything we can to support those who are
still struggling following the worst economic crisis since the Great
Depression,” Brown said in a statement. “These are hardworking Americans
— many with children — who have fallen on tough times.”White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters
on Thursday the administration “absolutely expects” Congress to extend emergency benefits, but the extension could come after Congress reconvenes from a winter recess in January.
The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bipartisan budget deal without an extension for the long-term unemployed. The Senate expects to take up the same budget bill sometime this week.
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 01:07 PM | Permalink
Employment down from June but up compared to last year
The Cincinnati area lost 4,000 jobs from June to July, but
it gained 14,000 between July 2012 and July this year, far above the 3,000 necessary to keep up with annual population growth, according to
data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was at 7.1
percent in July, down from 7.3 percent in June and 7.4 percent in July
2012. The labor force
shrunk in comparison to the previous month and year, which means the unemployment rate fell partly because many
people stopped looking for jobs.
The unemployment rate gauges the amount of unemployed
people looking for work in comparison to the total civilian labor force,
which means a decrease in the labor force can bring down the unemployment
rate even if employment also drops.
Economists generally prefer looking at year-over-year
numbers to control for seasonal factors, such as teachers leaving the work force at the end of the school year.
July’s job gains were largest in professional and business
services, leisure and hospitality and educational and health services,
but the city lost jobs in mining, logging and construction,
manufacturing and all levels of government.
Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July. The U.S. rate was 7.4 percent.
Since the job numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in later months.
by German Lopez
Ohio’s jobless rate unchanged, Port patches parking lease, anti-abortion bill returns
Ohio’s unemployment rate remained at 7.2 percent in July, unchanged from June, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The amount of employed Ohioans went up by 5,300 from month-to-month and
37,700 year-over-year, showing stronger signs of job growth than earlier in the year. But the amount of jobless Ohioans still looking for jobs went up by
3,000 between June and July. In the past year, the private
service-providing sector, education and health services and leisure and
hospitality have gained the most jobs, while local government and
construction jobs have plummeted.
The Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati proposed keeping neighborhood parking meter hours the same under a lease agreement with Cincinnati in which the city is handing over control of its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port and the agency is tasking private companies with operating the assets. Keeping the meter hours
the same as today, instead of expanding them as previously suggested,
would lower Cincinnati’s upfront lease revenue from $92 million
to $88.3 million and reduce annual payments, which were originally
projected at $3 million but estimated to go up over the life of the
lease. Still, the move would satisfy neighborhood residents and businesses who were worried the expanded hours would quickly become a financial hassle. CityBeat covered the parking lease and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
Republican legislators are reintroducing a bill that would ban abortions in Ohio as early as six weeks after conception,
even though questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality.
The bill has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill” because it prohibits
abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. A federal judge on July
22 blocked a similar law in North Dakota after deeming it
unconstitutional. “The United States Supreme Court has unequivocally
said that no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her
pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” wrote U.S. District Judge
Daniel Hovland, who was appointed to the District of North Dakota seat
by former President George W. Bush in 2002. Health experts generally
agree viability is not reached until 24 weeks into the pregnancy.
Part of the Cincinnati streetcar route could be operational in late 2015, much earlier than the Sept. 15, 2016 date the city previously announced for the entire track.
The Ohio Ethics Commission won’t investigate Gov. John Kasich’s relationship with a company
that received $619,000 in tax credits from JobsOhio because Kasich
supposedly made a clean break from the company upon taking office.
JobsOhio, the privatized development agency established by Kasich and
Republican legislators, has been mired in controversy in the past few
weeks for providing state aid to companies that have direct financial
ties to JobsOhio board members and the governor.
Meanwhile, Kasich is fueling speculation that he will run for president in 2016.
Cincinnati mayoral candidate and ex-Councilman John Cranley on Thursday unveiled an innovation plan
that he says will boost government transparency and help foster
Cincinnati’s newly gained reputation as a tech startup hub. The plan
would take $5 million in capital funds over four years and ask local
startup incubators Cintrifuse, The Brandery and CincyTech where they
would like to see the money going. It would also call for hiring a chief
innovation officer (CIO) and creating “CincyData,” a transparency
initiative that would gather and publish city data to create “a more
efficient, effective and user-friendly City government.” Under the plan,
both the CIO position and CincyData would be leveraged to find new ways
to carry out city services in the hopes of running the local government
Cincinnati Public Schools’ ratings are likely to dip
as the school district transitions into Common Core standards and a
new state report card system. Superintendent Mary Ronan says the
district is doing well but needs to work on getting kids’ reading scores
up to grade level. CityBeat originally covered the ratings drop here and some of the hurdles faced by CPS in the past few years here.
New data show the growth of health care costs is slowing down in the Cincinnati area.
Ohio will come up with a new plan to execute condemned inmates
no later than Oct. 4 to deal with the state’s expiring supply of drugs
used to carry out capital punishments. Specifics were not detailed in
Procter & Gamble is recalling dog and cat food because some of the product may be contaminated with Salmonella.
Science confirmed pulling out is a bad way to avoid pregnancy.
by German Lopez
DOMA struck down, more anti-abortion measures added to budget, local employment rises
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act
today in a broad ruling that requires the federal government to
recognize same-sex marriages for couples who reside in a state where
same-sex marriage is already legal. The ruling effectively extends equal
protection rights to same-sex couples. For gay and
lesbian Ohioans, that means same-sex marriage must be legalized in Ohio
before the federal government is required to recognize it. FreedomOhio
is already aiming to legalize same-sex marriage in the state with an
amendment that could be on the ballot this year, which CityBeat covered in an in-depth report here.
Republican state legislators added another anti-abortion measure
to the state budget yesterday, which will require doctors to perform an
external ultrasound for a heartbeat then inform the patient if one is detected. The provision is in addition to other anti-abortion
measures already in the budget, including less funding for Planned
Parenthood, funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and regulations that will allow the state health director to shut down abortion
clinics. CityBeat covered those measures in further detail here. “This is continuing to go way overboard by a majority obsessed with abortion,” said Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland).
Cincinnati-area employment dramatically increased in May,
up 6,400 from April and 5,400 from the year before, according to new
data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Although the
unemployment rate went up between April and May, it went down year over
year — the measure economists prefer to look at to control for seasonal
factors, such as hiring picking up during the summer because of outdoors
work.StateImpact Ohio says the new tax plan in the proposed 2014-2015 budget could make it more difficult
to pass future school levies. The plan cuts income taxes for all
Ohioans and particularly business owners, but it raises sales and
property taxes to balance the cuts. CityBeat covered the tax plan in further detail here.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
is giving Cincinnati a $37 million loan guarantee for economic and
housing development projects that aim to benefit the region’s neediest.
In a statement, HUD estimated some of the economic development projects
will create at least 350 new jobs.
Cincinnati is continuing efforts to obtain the Wasson Way line, which the city plans to develop into a bike and hike trail.
The other side of the river is getting some love, too: More luxury apartments are coming to Newport.
Cincinnati was ranked No. 9 smartest city in a recent Movoto blog list.
Ohioans may be souring on President Barack Obama. A Quinnipiac University poll found his approval ratings at 40 percent, his lowest grade ever in the state.
Obama proposed an extensive plan to combat climate change yesterday. The plan will not require congressional approval.
The cure for cancer could be found in space. Apparently, microgravity environments are optimal for cancer research.