Balanced budget, pension reform among tough tasks facing incoming council members hoping not to raise taxes
1 Comment · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
of newly elected council members say they’re committed to structurally
balancing Cincinnati’s operating budget — a promise repeated by
Mayor-elect John Cranley on the campaign trail and following the Nov. 5
by German Lopez
Abortion restrictions follow trend, more tax issues in state election, Luken to run for judge
Ohio and various other states passed more abortion
restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than they did in the previous decade,
according to the Guttmacher Institute. The findings indicate that the
latest Republican-backed abortion restrictions, which were passed
through Ohio’s two-year state budget last June, were part of a broader
trend that’s culminated across the nation since the tea party rose to
national prominence in 2010. The trend could play a pivotal political
role: Ohio Democrats have made their opposition to the abortion
restrictions a central part of their campaigns to unseat Republican
incumbents who hold top executive offices in the state.
One of the candidates expected to join the tea party
ticket in a Republican primary challenge against Gov. John Kasich
appears to have personal tax problems. Brenda Mack, tea party leader Ted
Stevenot’s expected running mate, is linked to nearly $60,000 in unpaid
state and federal taxes and penalties, according to government records
in Mahoning and Cuyahoga counties analyzed by The Columbus Dispatch.
Mack refuses to comment on the tax problems until a Tuesday press
conference in which she and Stevenot are expected to officially announce
their candidacies for the May 6 primary.Former Mayor Charlie Luken says he will run for Hamilton
County probate judge. The Democratic candidate will likely face off
against Republican Ted Winkler, a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court
judge. Luken recently garnered the public spotlight for his support for
Mayor John Cranley’s campaign.Cincinnati’s homicide rate for victims younger than 18
rose to 1 in 7 in 2013 and 2012, up from 1 in 10 from 2000 through 2011,
according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Four of the juvenile
victims were 1-year-old or younger, including a fetus who died after the
mother was strangled to death in April.Four seats on the 19-member Ohio Board of Education remain
unfilled, including two seats that have been vacant for months, long
past the 30-day deadline Gov. Kasich has under state law to name a
replacement. Administration officials said they’re aware of the
deadline, but they intend to find the best fit for the position before
moving forward with an appointment. “It’s far more important to us to
find the right person than putting warm bodies on the board,” Kasich
spokesperson Rob Nichols told The Columbus Dispatch.The amount of untested rape kits submitted to Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation exceeded 5,000.Fewer than 1,000 died last year in traffic crashes across
Ohio, the lowest number since the state began keeping track of the
fatalities in 1936.Bill Nye the Science Guy will debate evolution and
biblical creationism at northern Kentucky’s Creation Museum on Feb. 4.
Evolution is a scientific fact, but Creation Museum leader Ken Ham
denies its existence.Aaron Betsky announced yesterday he will step down as
director of the Cincinnati Art Museum. The news follows Betsky’s
controversial comments against the streetcar project in
ArchitectMagazine.com, which Betsky expanded on in a separate blog post.
CityBeat recently interviewed Betsky here.The Cincinnati Bengals received an extension until 4 p.m.
today to sell out tickets for Sunday’s game and avoid a television
blackout in the Cincinnati area.Strange lights sometimes precede earthquakes. Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
States passed more abortion restrictions in past three years than previous decade
Ohio was among various states in the nation that passed more
abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than the entire previous
decade, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Between 2011 and 2013, states passed 205 new restrictions
on abortion. Between 2001 and 2010, states passed only 189 new
The trend is unsurprising for Ohio, which the Guttmacher
Institute says has been “hostile to abortion” since 2000, but the
timeline shows a clear shift in state policies around the nation since
the tea party rose to national prominence in 2010.
Ohio’s latest restrictions were passed last June by Ohio Republicans through the two-year state budget.
Among other restrictions, one measure forces doctors to
perform an external ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and tell
her if a heartbeat is detected and the statistical probability of the
fetus making it to birth.
Ohio and Oklahoma were also the only states in 2013 to
pass restrictions on federal funding for family planning providers, the
Guttmacher Institute claims.
Abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, insist they don’t use
public funds for abortions, instead funding the procedure with
the help of private contributions.
But Ohio Republicans, who predominantly oppose abortion
rights, went through with the restrictions anyway, ultimately hitting
some family planning service providers that don’t even offer abortions.“Members of the House who have issues with Planned Parenthood have only issues with the abortion services,” Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, told CityBeat last June. “The rest of what Planned Parenthood provides, I imagine they have no issue with whatsoever.”
Ohio Democrats, particularly gubernatorial candidate Ed
FitzGerald, have made their opposition to the anti-abortion measures
part of their campaigns to unseat Gov. John Kasich and other Ohio
Republicans who hold top executive positions in the state. But given the Guttmacher Institute’s timeline, reversing
the trend could require a radical shift in the state government of the
past 14 years.
The people, budgets and controversies CityBeat covered while writing about the streetcar all year
0 Comments · Thursday, December 26, 2013
Just like it was a big year for Cincinnati and Ohio, it was a big year for the CityBeat news team.
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
Private backers support streetcar offer, city budget gap estimated, governor's race still close
More than a dozen business and philanthropic entities
support the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority’s (SORTA) plan to
develop a private-public partnership to pay for the streetcar’s
operating costs, according to Eric Avner, vice president of the
philanthropic Haile Foundation. If the people cited by Avner put money behind their support, they could get streetcar operating costs off
the city’s books and pave the clearest path forward for the $132.8
million streetcar project since the new mayor and City Council took
office earlier this month. Although Cranley called SORTA’s offer
“woefully insufficient” earlier in the day, Councilman Kevin Flynn, one
of two swing votes on council, said the idea could turn into a viable option if the business and philanthropic community
provided more assurances.
Other streetcar news:• City Council will hold public hearings on the streetcar
today at 1:30 p.m., with a vote to decide the project’s fate expected
tomorrow.• Speaking about the streetcar project, Vice Mayor David Mann told The Business Courier, “I’m awfully close to saying let’s go for it.” • The Federal Transit Administration might prefer to deal with SORTA over Mayor Cranley if the streetcar is completed.
Cincinnati’s projected operating budget gap for fiscal
year 2015 is $16 million, which means City Council will need to find new
revenue or cuts to balance the budget by July. Although a majority of
council members promise to structurally balance the budget in the next
few years, a minority say it will be more difficult than most expect without hiking
taxes or cutting police and firefighters.The 2014 gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. John
Kasich and Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald is within the margin of
error, according to a poll released Monday by Public Policy Polling (PPP). “Although
there’s been a fair amount of movement toward Republicans nationally
since (November), the state of this particular race has seen very little
movement and Democrats continue to have an excellent chance at a pick
up next year,” wrote Tom Jensen, director of PPP.
Meanwhile, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune could challenge FitzGerald for the Democratic nomination.A task force could undertake a comprehensive review of the city charter to modernize the city’s guiding legal document.Startup incubator SoMoLend is likely to liquidate before
the scheduled Jan. 23 state hearing about alleged securities fraud. The
liquidation would be an effective end to a once-promising company that partnered with the city of Cincinnati to foster startups
and small businesses.
This year could be the least deadly on Ohio’s roadways, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.A bill in the Ohio House could require hospitals to report
the number of newborns addicted to drugs. The grim number would provide
a much-needed measure for tackling Ohio’s so-called opioid epidemic.
Ohio is doing a poor job fighting infectious diseases,
according to a report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital obtained a grant to combat brain cancer.
Two won the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot.
Even the physics behind emperor penguin huddles are pretty complicated.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
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
Feds won't extend streetcar deadline, streetcar closer to ballot, study backs housing projects
The Federal Transit Administration told Mayor John Cranley
and streetcar supporters that it won’t extend its Dec. 20 deadline for
federal grants funding roughly one-third of the $132.8 million street
project. Without the federal grants, the project would likely die
because local officials say they are not willing to make up the loss with local
funds. That means the city has until Friday to decide whether to
continue the project — a decision that could come down to City
Council’s swing votes, Kevin Flynn and David Mann, and whether private
contributors agree to pay for the streetcar’s annual operating costs over the next three
decades.Meanwhile, streetcar supporters say they have enough
signatures to get the streetcar on the ballot. But without the federal
funds, a public vote might not be enough to save the project since the charter amendment only calls for using funds allocated as of Nov. 30, 2013.
While some City Council members might vote to rescind
support for state tax credits going to a supportive housing project in
Avondale, a study commissioned by the group in charge of the project
found similar facilities in Columbus don’t harm neighborhoods in which
they’re located. The study, conducted by two independent groups, found
crime continued to increase in most areas surrounding five supportive
housing facilities, but the increases were roughly the same as or less
than demographically similar areas in Columbus. Researchers
were also told in numerous interviews with Columbus residents that the
facilities had a positive effect or no impact on the area. CityBeat covered the controversy surrounding the Avondale facility in greater detail here.Hamilton County’s shrinking government might sell off
several downtown buildings to accommodate the size reduction. The
buildings could be converted to condominiums or hotels to appease high
demand for downtown residential space.
Despite previously criticizing tax breaks for Cincinnati
businesses, Chris Finney of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending
and Taxes (COAST) will receive tax credits to open his own law firm in
Clermont County on Jan. 1. Addressing the so-called heroin epidemic is a top priority
for Ky. officials in 2014. Drug overdose deaths in Kentucky have
quadrupled since 1999, putting Kentucky’s numbers above every state
except West Virginia and New Mexico, according to a study released in
November.Some Ohio wildlife officers wrongfully
hunted deer while on the job, according to the state’s inspector
general.Ohio gas prices dropped in the last work week before Christmas.The Mega Millions jackpot could break last year’s record $656 million prize.A video game might help diabetics control their blood sugar by putting them through a genuine workout.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Streetcar gets path forward, redistricting reform under works, federal budget deal approved
In what could be another chance of survival for the $132.8 million streetcar project, Mayor John Cranley on Thursday announced he's willing to continue the project if private contributors cover annual operating expenses that would hit an already-strained operating budget. Although Cranley gave private-sector leaders and streetcar supporters only one week to get a legally binding plan together, Eric Avner of the Haile Foundation said he is quite confident that private contributors could pull together some assurances for the 30 years in operating expenses in the short time span. The potential operating costs have long been a concern for opponents of the streetcar project, even though supporters insist that they would be more than made up by the economic development spurred by the streetcar.Commentary: "Cincinnati's Impoverished Continue to be Underserved and Undercovered."A constitutional review panel seems to agree on a few key points regarding redistricting reform, which could fix a system that's long been abused by politicians on all sides of the aisle to give their political parties an advantage during elections. The panel agreed to create a seven-member board that would redraw Ohio's congressional and legislative districts after the next census is taken in 2020, but it's undecided how much power the minority party should hold on the board. In the last round of redistricting, Republican leaders redrew Ohio's political maps to deemphasize demographics that typically support Democrats and provide stronger spreads for demographics that typically support Republicans. CityBeat covered the issue and its potential impacts in greater detail here.House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, was the only federal legislator from the Cincinnati area to approve a budget deal that will avoid the threat of future government shutdowns. The deal replaces some of the controversial, blunt budget cuts known as "sequestration" with revenue from hiked fees and savings from cuts elsewhere. Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, both Republicans from Cincinnati, voted against the deal because it makes cuts over a long period of time. But many economists agree long-term cuts are necessary to avoid the negative effects of budget cuts on today's already-weak economy. The Washington Post ran through the budget deal in further detail here.Weigh in on the Eastern Corridor project here.An Ohio House bill would eliminate the license requirement for carrying a concealed handgun in the state.Health Care Access Now, which helps low-income people in Ohio and Kentucky get health care, obtained a $600,000 grant that could reach 4,500 more patients in the Cincinnati area.Drug abusers might be intentionally injuring their pets to obtain painkillers.Expect more snow tonight, according to The Weather Channel.The University of Cincinnati filed a lawsuit against Crayola
that claims the toy company uses technology invented and patented by UC
without the university's permission.A former Miami University president is now warning of the potential issues caused by recruiting too many wealthy, out-of-state students.A public memorial will be held for William Mallory Sr., a prominent
local politician and ex-Mayor Mark Mallory's father, at the Cincinnati
Museum Center on Sunday. RSVP here.The Cincinnati Parks Foundation received a $1.5 million gift from the Anderson Foundation to underwrite the pavilion in Smale Riverfront Park.A climatologist argues nuclear power is the only way to curb global warming.Scientists created a pen that allows doctors to 3-D print bones right onto patients.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez