by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 09:04 AM | Permalink
Insurance minimums, trip logs and driver background checks among requirements
City Council yesterday voted to approve rules governing ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft, the first time since the companies came here in March that they’ve been regulated by the city.“I don’t know if it will ever be perfect, but in other cities, they’ve outright banned Uber and Lyft,” said Councilwoman Amy Murray, the transportation committee chair. “I think we’ve put together a perfect plan for this point in time, where we’re managing safety in Cincinnati without over-regulation. If we don’t have anything, there’s nothing on the books.”The new regulations classify the ridesharing companies as “transportation network companies” and require them to carry a license with the city costing $10,000 a year. License requirements include $100,000 in liability insurance, keeping trip records for six months, as cab companies must do, requirements for background checks on drivers and minimum requirements for vehicles. When rideshare companies first came to town, cab companies in the city cried foul at the lack of regulation the tech-savvy newcomers enjoyed. Representatives from cab companies protested outside City Hall and lobbied for rule changes. Some rules placed on cab companies, like regulations when drivers can wear shorts, are arcane and burdensome, companies say. Murray said the rules are due for an adjustment.“Certainly this brought out some things in our taxi regulations right now that have not been updated in a while,” she said. “We need to look at that, and our committee will be doing that.”Uber and Lyft have said they’re fundamentally different from taxi companies and shouldn’t be regulated the same way.Uber Ohio General Manager James Ondrey told CityBeat in July that Uber doesn’t oppose all regulations, since the company does some of the things required of cab companies anyway. But he also said the company isn’t the same as a taxi company.“Uber is a technology company,” Ondrey said. “We’ve built a mobile platform that connects users with drivers giving rides. They’re not employees. They’re independent contractors who pay a small fee to us to use our platform.”Many of the regulations Council passed yesterday are things the companies already do voluntarily. Vice Mayor David Mann had some reservations about the regulations and voted against them, saying they didn’t go far enough in terms of insurance and holding ride sharing companies accountable for the fares they’re charging.He said the $25,000 in insurance the companies will be required to carry for accidents where they’re not at fault is too low and could leave citizens under-covered if an uninsured driver hits a ride share car. He also said the companies aren’t transparent enough with the city about their rates.“We are letting them operate on our streets under the license we issue,” Mann said, “and we have no way to direct, easy way to make sure we’re comfortable with what they’re charging.”The companies generally show the rates on their apps, but the rates are variable due to peak pricing schemes, which some have found confusing.Overall, however, Council was supportive of the regulations, which have been in the works for five months and have gone through six versions in Council’s transportation committee. Mann was the only dissenting vote.“This is as close as we were going to get to perfect,” Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said. “I think it’s a show that Cincinnati is open to business and that we’re working to be the big, great city we already are.” Simpson pointed out that cabs still have cabstands and can be hailed. “Uber and Lyft don’t have that,” she said.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 09:47 AM | Permalink
Super-action-packed Budget Committee thrill ride; Jeff Ruby restaurant sails, err, sinks into the sunset; this porcupine is eating a pumpkin. Nuff said.
Morning y’all. Before we begin, I have to share something only tangentially related to the news. Last night I went and checked out a concert at Union Terminal, which has a 100-year-old organ in house and more than 4,000 pipes for that organ built into the walls. I don’t know a whole lot about baroque and classical music, but I do know a lot about loud music, and it was insanely loud. And awesome. Very recommended. To tie this into newsy stuff, I’ll just say go weigh in one way or the other on Issue 8 (the icon tax) at your local polling place. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee yesterday more or less tied up what the city will do with its $18 million budget surplus. The committee, which is composed of all nine council members basically adopted City Manager Harry Black’s recommendations outright. The decision came with controversy, however, as some on Council again questioned the process by which the recommendations were proposed. Council members Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and P.G. Sittenfeld pushed back on the process, accusing Budget Committee Chair Charlie Winburn of trying to push the proposals through quickly and asking why public input wasn’t sought on the proposals before they were brought before Council for a vote. The three abstained from voting for Black’s recommendations.• Council also wrangled again over funding for Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative at the committee meeting. Several council members had questions about why some established programs are being cut to fund the $2.3 million jobs initiative, especially when the city is running a large budget surplus. Councilman Chris Seelbach pushed for an amendment to the ordinance funding the program to try and restore some cuts to housing advocacy group Housing Opportunities Made Equal and People Working Cooperatively, which helps the elderly and low-income with home weatherization, maintenance and energy efficiency. Those programs lost federal dollars from Community Development Block Grants that have been diverted to the mayor’s new jobs program. The amendment was voted down, 5-4. “These programs employ people,” said Councilman Wendell Young, who, along with council members Seelbach, Sittenfeld and Simpson voted for the amendment. “When these programs take a hit, that impacts their employees. There’s a real paradox there. These programs leverage dollars. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s help everybody.” Others turned out to either support the mayor’s program or oppose the cuts. Many spoke on behalf of Cincinnati Cooks, which is a Hand Up partner. But some questioned the mayor’s program. Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless Director Josh Spring praised the organization's partnering with Hand Up, but said cutting other programs was counterproductive and unnecessary.“Are we really going to lower poverty by five percent in five years by serving just 4,000 people? What the mayor has accomplished is that he has forced groups that get along to come down here and fight each other,” Spring said. “We do have a surplus. There are other ways to do this. Things like lead abatement, things like home repair, things like upward mobility so that folks experiencing low incomes can move up economically — those aren’t handouts.”• One other skirmish broke out at the marathon meeting, which was still going when I stopped watching it on Citicable at about 6 p.m. (yes, I lead an exciting and enviable life). The tussle broke out over money that was once set aside for permanent supportive housing in the city. That money had been earmarked for a prospective 99-unit affordable housing development in Avondale for those recovering from addiction and other issues called Commons at Alaska. However, pushback from some community members there hamstrung that development. Now it will be used for other things.“Last June, we had money set aside in the budget for permanent supportive housing,” Seelbach said. “I know some people say Alaska Commons doesn’t have enough community buy-in. But permanent supportive housing is an essential part of the equation. We were told we were not going to be eliminating it. And now guess what? We’re eliminating permanent supportive housing. Well, I’m not going to do that.” Seelbach voted against moving the money, along with Simpson, Young and Sittenfeld. • That’s enough City Council action, at least until Wednesday. Let’s move on. Normally, the words “best” and “suburbs” in the same sentence cause heavy cognitive dissonance in my brain. But this is cool, I guess. Three Cincinnati suburbs have been ranked among the best in America by a new study. Madeira (3), Montgomery (21) and Wyoming (24) were tops in the region and among the best in the country, according to Business Insider. The rankings looked at nearly 300 ‘burbs across the country and took into account housing affordability, commute times, poverty, public school ratings and the number of stifling gated communities, GAP outlets and SUVs with stick figure family stickers on the back window per capita. Just kidding on those last ones, guys. Suburbs can be cool, too.• The end of a long, watery saga: Jeff Ruby’s Waterfront restaurant, a boat that has been basically sinking since August, is being demolished.• The Ohio Department of Transportation commissioned a study to determine future transit needs, and it found that the state will need to double its funding of transit over the next decade to more than $1 billion due to increasing demand. In 2000, the state spent $44 million for public transit. In 2013, it spent just $7.3 million. ODOT also gets money for transit from the federal government, however. Gov. John Kasich's administration has been especially cold to public transit, calling passenger rail supporters a "train cult" and turning down $400 million in federal funds for a commuter line between Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. He also, you know, withheld state funds for the streetcar. This is why we can't have nice things.• In Ohio and beyond, it’s looking more and more likely that Democrats are going to take a beating this midterm election. That’s especially true in Congress, where once-safely Democratic House seats suddenly seem to be up for grabs. If Dems lose enough of those seats, they may not have any chance of taking back a majority in the House until redistricting rolls around again. Many analysts and some in the party have blamed the potential slide in House seats on the unpopularity of the president.• Finally, if all this news is just too overwhelming for you (I know how you feel) check out this porcupine. He’s eating a pumpkin. It's adorable. You’re welcome.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 22, 2014
City Council voted Oct. 15 to spend
$300,000 to clean up Compost Cincy, a former Winton Hills composting
company created in 2012 with the help of the city’s Office of
Environment and Sustainability.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 22, 2014
The city budget ran an $18 million
surplus for the fiscal year ending June 2014, City Manager Harry Black
said last week.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 08:49 AM | Permalink
Music Hall renovations may get a $25 million boost; Area principal may be packing a gun soon; Dem women in the Senate rally around Grimes
Hello Cincy! Here’s what’s going on this morning.Though you won’t find a way to help shore up the building on the ballot in November, efforts to fund renovations of Music Hall may get a big boost soon. Advocates for the Cincinnati landmark have applied for $25 million through the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program offered by the state once every two years. Music Hall is competing for the tax credits with The Huntington Building and May Co. Department Store building in Cleveland and the former Goodyear headquarter building in Akron. The award would be in addition to another $25 million in other tax credits and $40 million in private donations, all of which go along way toward the building’s estimated $133 million renovation costs. The winner of the credits will be announced in December.• Lots of questions have been popping up in City Council and elsewhere recently about the way the city makes development loans, even as past loans to some of the city’s biggest developers continue to linger unpaid. Council members have expressed concerns that there isn’t enough of a process for deciding who gets the loans and on what terms, leaving a patchwork of deals that are of questionable value for the city. The city has a number of old loans it has made to big developers still hanging around, including almost $9 million worth from between 1991 and 2001. Those loans were used on big, now completed projects in and around downtown. The terms are fairly generous, and many of the borrowers have yet to repay much if any of the principles on those loans. • Err, so I went to school here for a few years. The Principal of Edgewood High School, which is up in Butler County between Hamilton and Middletown, has said he’ll be getting his concealed carry permit so he can start packing a gun on the job. State law allows individual districts to decide if staff should be armed, but Edgewood, based in the rural/exurban town of Trenton, is the only district in the Greater Cincinnati area that has moved to allow it. Principal Russ Fussnecker said he may start carrying the weapon before the school year is out. He says it’s a measure “to make the school safer” in case of a mass shooter. Other schools have taken milder safety measures. Kings High School in Mason has installed new barriers to keep someone from shooting their way through doors into the school. Lakota has added in-school police and training drills. •Law enforcement officials from Memphis, Tenn., and Detroit are meeting with officials from Ohio in Cleveland this week to discuss rape kit backlogs at a first-of-its-kind summit around the issue. Untested kits, which may contain genetic information that can convict rapists, have piled up here and in other states. The untested kits have become a big issue in this year's race for attorney general, as challenger Democrat David Pepper hits Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine over Ohio's backlog.• Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is getting more help from Democrats in her much-watched run against Kentucky Senator and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Many of the 16 female Democratic senators are rallying around Grimes with campaign plugs, strategy advice, money and other support. Powerful Senators like Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. and progressive firebrand Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. have all jumped on board, holding fundraisers, donating cash and giving shout outs to Grimes. Whether all that help will pay off remains to be seen. Various pundits and polls have recently declared Grimes dead in the water, while others say she’s still neck and neck with McConnell. • One of the big issues in the race is the state’s dependence on coal. Both McConnell and Grimes have promised to keep coal-friendly policies alive in Kentucky, which is dominated by the industry. McConnell has tied Grimes to Obama, who many Kentuckians blame for the industry’s decline. But how much does coal really matter to Kentucky? Turns out, there is as much myth flying around as fact.• Throw off thy long-sleeved chains of corporate oppression, my barista sisters and brothers, and put on the short-sleeve shirt or necktie of freedom. But please not both at the same time, because that just looks terrible. Starbucks is lifting its ban on visible body art, as well as “colored ties and neck scarves and black denim.” Really? You all couldn’t wear black jeans? If CityBeat outlawed black denim, I would have to go buy like, five new pairs of pants.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Cincinnati’s LGBT community on Oct. 2
celebrated another move toward legal equality when City Council
celebrated the launch of the city’s domestic partner registry during a
press conference on the steps of City Hall.
Cincinnati’s LGBT community can celebrate another move toward legal equality today — City Council kicked off its domestic partner registry this morning on the steps of City Hall.
The registry is designed to give couples in a domestic partnership a legal record of their relationship. This will make it easier for employers or hospitals to extend health care benefits to partners of employees.
The measure was unanimously passed by City Council back in June.Chris Seelbach, who spearheaded the project and is the city’s first openly gay councilman, called the registry “…one of the last pieces of the puzzle to bring full equality to the laws and the policies to the city.”
Many large companies already offer domestic partner benefits, but the registry will help small companies that don’t have the time or resources to verify a couple’s status.
“The city has taken on the legwork for proving what domestic partnerships are, so that small companies don’t have to come up with a whole variety of ways to determine that,” said John Boggess, board chair of Equality Ohio, an LGBT rights group.
Boggess noted that Cincinnati is the 10th city in Ohio to offer a registry; Toledo, Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland are a few that already do.
Ethan Fletcher, 30, and Andrew Hickam, 29, a couple from Walnut Hills, were the first to sign up on Thursday morning outside of City Hall. “We’re excited that this is actually going to be the first legal document affirming our commitment to each other,” Hickman said.
He and Fletcher are one of six couples suing the state of Ohio in federal court for the right to marry. “This is a great a step towards, eventually, full marriage recognition,” Hickman said.
The registration will run through the City Clerk’s office and cost $45, which is “budget neutral” for the city, Seelbach said. Still, officials were quick to note that the fight towards full equality for Ohio’s LGBT citizens isn’t over. Karen Morgan, steering committee co-chair on Greater Cincinnati’s Human Rights Campaign, said “Ohio remains one of the only states where citizens can be denied housing or employment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.” In addition, Ohio doesn’t allow same-sex couples to adopt children or transgender people to change their names on their birth certificates.
“We celebrate today with what has happened…but we also realize that there’s still a very long road to go before all Ohioans are valued,” Boggess said.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 1, 2014
After Thomas’ recriminalization ordinance, weed possession on
the first offense was a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30
days in jail and a $250 fine.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 24, 2014
City Council sent a message to Congress
Sept. 17 when it passed a resolution calling for a nationwide ban on the
non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock production.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Cincinnati City Council on Sept. 17 unanimously passed two ordinances to fight Cincinnati’s growing sex trafficking problem.