WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 11.07.2013
Posted In: News, Election, Streetcar, Mayor at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Cranley sets agenda, streetcar cancellation costs still unknown, Kasich limits minor parties

Mayor-elect John Cranley laid out his plans and priorities for his first term at his first press conference yesterday. Cranley says two of his top priorities are undoing the $133 million streetcar project and parking plan, which would lease the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. He also spoke on some of his more positive ideas, including the interchange project at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Drive, 3CDC-style public-private partnerships to revitalize neighborhoods and development of the Wasson Way bike trail, old Swifton Commons and Westwood Square. It remains unclear how much it would cost to actually cancel the streetcar project. As of September’s monthly progress report, $94 million is tied to contractual obligations, $23 million is already spent and nearly $45 million in federal grants is still attached to the project. And if contractors, subcontractors and taxpayers sue the city to complete the project, it could impose litigation costs on the operating budget instead of the capital budget currently financing construction. Supporters of the streetcar also say cancellation could tarnish relationships with the federal government and contractors, which have a stake in the project’s completion. At his press conference yesterday, Cranley said he’d weigh the costs and benefits of cancellation and would continue the project if he deems it cheaper. Meanwhile, Cranley might travel to Washington, D.C., to discuss reprogramming nearly $45 million in federal grants from the streetcar project to the I-71/MLK interchange project. In a June 19 letter, the U.S. Department of Transportation claimed it would take back nearly $41 million of the grant money if the streetcar project were canceled. City officials say they’ve already spent $2 million from the grants on the streetcar project, and, according to city spokesperson Meg Olberding, that would need to be repaid through the operating budget if the project were terminated. Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature passed a bill that imposes new restrictions on minor political parties trying to get on the state ballot. The requirements force minor parties to meet higher petition signature and voting thresholds to get and remain on the ballot. Ohio Libertarians say they plan to sue to block the changes from becoming law in 90 days. Democrats and minor parties say the changes are meant to protect Kasich’s chances of re-election in 2014; they argue that, without the new requirements, tea party challengers upset with Kasich over his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion could take away enough votes and spoil the election in favor of a Democrat. CityBeat covered the Senate version of the bill in further detail here. Hamilton County commissioners yesterday unanimously approved the first budget in six years that didn’t require major cuts or revenue increases to achieve balance, but the budget also had very little in terms of new policies. Commissioners also approved a separate plan from the Port Authority, a city- and county-funded development agency, to expand its borders; the Port now needs to work out agreements with other jurisdictions before the expansion becomes official. Janitors in Cincinnati are striking against New York City-based ABM in a push for wage hikes and health benefits. In supporting the efforts, Councilman Chris Seelbach says the strike and media attention surrounding it should hopefully put pressure on Cincinnati’s Fortune 500 companies that hire ABM to clean their buildings. Commentary: “Republicans Continue Denying Social Progress.” After only 28.8 percent of registered Cincinnati voters participated in the mayoral and City Council elections, The Cincinnati Enquirer asked those who didn’t show up to vote to explain themselves. The answers ranged from total apathy toward the streetcar project to disdain and distrust for the city’s government and political system. Voters on Tuesday approved more than half of Ohio school levies. The University of Cincinnati yesterday signed an agreement that will increase collaboration with NASA. Blockbuster is closing down its remaining company-owned stores in the United States. Biking in traffic can have some complicated results as bikers breathe in traffic exhaust. Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 
by German Lopez 10.31.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Courts at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Supreme Court Expedites Medicaid Expansion Case

Groups contest Gov. John Kasich’s decision to bypass legislature

The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday expedited the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law’s challenge against the federally funded Medicaid expansion, which Republican Gov. John Kasich pushed through the Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel, despite resistance from the Ohio legislature. The case will decide whether Kasich was constitutionally allowed to bypass the legislature to expand Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Ohioans. The 1851 Center says the Controlling Board isn’t allowed to go against the will of the legislature. The Kasich administration argues the Controlling Board can unilaterally accept federal funds. With the case now expedited, both sides will submit their arguments on the merits of the case to the state’s highest court by Dec. 1. Kasich tried for most of 2013 to get the expansion approved by the Ohio House and Senate, but he couldn’t convince Republican legislators, who control both chambers, to approve the plan. But instead of accepting defeat, Kasich asked the Controlling Board to take up federal funds for the expansion. The board approved the funds on Oct. 21. The legal complaint was filed on Oct. 22 on behalf of Republican State Reps. Matt Lynch, Ron Young, Andy Thompson, Ron Maag, John Becker and Ron Hood, Cleveland Right to Life and Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. Kasich, in a rare alliance with Democrats, says the Medicaid expansion is necessary to insure more low-income Ohioans and obtain federal Obamacare dollars that would go to other states if Ohio declined the expansion. But Republican legislators say they’re concerned about the government’s involvement in the health care system and whether the federal government can afford to pay for the Medicaid expansion. Under Obamacare, states are asked to expand Medicaid eligibility to reach anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals with an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. If states accept, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion through fiscal year 2016 then gradually phase down its payments to 90 percent of the expansion. In comparison, the Kaiser Family Foundation found the federal government paid for nearly 64 percent of Ohio’s Medicaid program in fiscal year 2013. The expansion would fill a so-called “coverage gap” under Obamacare and Ohio law. Without it, parents with incomes between 90 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level and childless adults with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level won’t qualify for either Obamacare’s tax credits or Medicaid. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) previously found the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through fiscal year 2015. If the expansion is approved beyond that, HPIO says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade. If the Ohio Supreme Court upholds the Controlling Board’s decision, the Medicaid expansion will go into effect in 2014 and cost the federal government nearly $2.6 billion, according to the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
 
 

Covering Kasich?

Small political parties in Ohio say S.B. 193 will limit their influence over the 2014 governor’s race

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
S.B. 193 could make it too difficult for minor parties to get their candidates on the Ohio ballot.  

Holding out Hope

Greg Landsman puts empirically backed ideas at the front of his campaign for council

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
City Council candidate Greg Landsman acknowledges government can’t do everything, but that isn’t an excuse to quit. To him, it’s a reason to rethink the approach and instead leverage every resource, through public-private partnerships, to solve Cincinnati’s shortcomings.   

Beautiful Losers/We're a Winner

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Some of these folks have been around too long or they keep reappearing as council candidates/members because perhaps there is nothing else for them to do in the private sector. But what’s their platform?  
by German Lopez 08.30.2013
Posted In: News, Health care at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Medicaid Expansion Could Help Thousands in Hamilton County

Ohio Poverty Law Center releases county-by-county breakdown

The Medicaid expansion could provide health insurance to more than 42,000 people living in Hamilton County, according to a county-by-county breakdown released on Aug. 28 by the Ohio Poverty Law Center (OPLC). In Hamilton County, OPLC reports nearly 89,000 people are currently uninsured and roughly 155,000 use Medicaid.OPLC found Hamilton County also includes the two hospitals that spent the most on uncompensated care in Ohio last year: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and University Hospital. Much of that cost is incurred when low-income patients use services and can’t afford to pay for them — an issue that would be in part resolved if the same patients could pay for care through Medicaid. Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), states are asked to expand Medicaid eligibility so the public health insurance program covers anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or an annual income of about $15,856 for a single-person household. If states accept, the federal government will carry the entire cost of the expansion for the first three years then phase down its burden to indefinitely pay for 90 percent of the expansion’s cost. That’s much higher than the 73-percent share the federal government paid for Ohio’s Medicaid program in 2010. Earlier this year, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio released an analysis that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade. Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and Democratic legislators support the Medicaid expansion, but Republican lawmakers, who control the Ohio legislature, have so far resisted it. Republican legislators say they’re concerned the U.S. government won’t be able to afford its future Medicaid payments, even though the federal government has done so since the program was first established in 1965. Many tea party Republicans also oppose Medicaid and other public health programs from a philosophical perspective that calls for smaller government. Ohio Health Issues Poll results released in June found 63 percent of Ohioans support the Medicaid expansion, with a margin of error of 3.3 percent. Legislative leaders have said they will vote on a Medicaid overhaul bill and perhaps a separate bill including the Medicaid expansion when they reconvene in October.
 
 

Government Cuts Hurt Ohio’s Economic Recovery

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Over the weekend, The Columbus Dispatch ran a story asking if cutting government hurts the economy and job creation. Really, the only answer to that question is a resounding, “Duh.”   
by German Lopez 07.03.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, Police, Infrastructure at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Qualls asks for quick chief search, Ohio highway rank drops, Dems OKed abortion "gag"

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is calling for a quick police chief search following a bout of local violence during the past few weeks. In a memo to City Manager Milton Dohoney, Qualls argues a police chief replacement is necessary to clamp down on crime, particularly gun and gang-related violence. She asks the city manager to report to City Council on the hiring search in early August and have a full replacement ready by the end of the summer. Former Police Chief James Craig recently left Cincinnati to take the police chief job in Detroit, his hometown. Ohio dropped from No. 13 to No. 25 in a state-by-state ranking of highways. The report from the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, looked at highway conditions and cost effectiveness. Among the findings: About 22.73 percent of Ohio’s bridges were deemed deficient in 2009, down from 24.51 percent in 2007. Twenty states reported more than one in four bridges as deficient — a threshold Ohio barely missed. Despite Ohio being relatively worse off, the nation as a whole improved in major categories, according to the report: “Six of the seven key indicators of system condition showed improvement, including large gains in rural interstate and urban interstate condition, and a reduction in the fatality rate.” Ohio Democrats now criticizing the state budget’s rape counselor restriction voted for the measure in a separate House bill on June 16. The “gag,” as Democrats now call it, prevents publicly funded rape counselors from discussing abortion as a viable medical option for rape victims. “Democrats supported the bill to fund rape crisis centers and we were led to believe that this offensive language gagging rape counselors would be fixed in the budget,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern told the Associated Press through a spokesperson. “It was not.” Democrats voted against the state budget that actually encoded the measure into law. On July 11 at Fountain Square, anti-abortion group Created Equal plans to use a jumbo screen to show a graphic video containing footage of aborted fetuses and their separated limbs. Three more statewide online schools — known as “e-schools” — are coming to Ohio following approval from the Department of Education. Proponents of e-schools call them a “valuable alternative” to traditional schooling. But some education experts and studies have found e-schools often perform poorly. Mason is having some success using private-public partnerships to attract high-tech companies. The Ohio State Highway Patrol says “pilot error” caused the stunt airplane crash that killed two at last month’s Dayton Air Show. BBC explains why phones sometimes feel like they’re vibrating when they’re not. New contact lenses give telescopic vision. Fireworks would likely look boring in space.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.27.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Taxes at 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy

Top 1 percent to get $6,083 tax cut

An analysis released June 26 found Ohio’s top 1 percent would get the biggest breaks from the tax plan included in the final version of the two-year state budget, while the state’s poorest would pay more under the plan.The analysis, conducted by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy for public policy think tank Policy Matters Ohio, shows the tax plan’s slew of tax cuts and hikes balance out to disproportionately favor the wealthy in terms of dollars and percents.On average, the top 1 percent would see their taxes fall by $6,083, or 0.7 percent, under the plan. The next 4 percent would pay $983, or 0.5 percent, less in taxes. Meanwhile, the bottom 20 percent would pay about $12, or 0.1 percent, more in taxes. The second-lowest 20 percent would see their taxes go down by $5, rounded to 0 percent. The middle 20 percent would see a tax cut of $9, which is also rounded to 0 percent. Policy Matters criticizes the tax plan, claiming the revenue should go to other programs, not tax cuts. “Rather than approving a tax plan that will further shift Ohio’s tax load from the most affluent to low- and middle-income residents, we should direct those dollars into needed public services,” said Zach Schiller, Policy Matters Ohio research director, in a statement. “That includes restoring support for local governments and schools, and bolstering human services, from foodbanks to child care.” Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, says the tax plan is supposed to provide an economic boost to almost everyone, not any specific group. “The tax plan is going to provide an overall tax cut for nearly all Ohioans,” he says. “What this plan intends to do is not disproportionately favor the wealthy at all.” The broad tax cuts, Republicans claim, should provide a boost to Ohio’s economy that will spur further job growth. But Schiller argues the tax cut ultimately won’t create jobs: “A 21-percent cut that was approved in 2005 has not kept Ohio’s job market from underperforming that of the country as a whole during and after the last recession.”The tax plan cuts income taxes for all Ohioans and particularly business owners, but it balances the cuts by hiking sales and property taxes. Specifically, the budget cuts income taxes for all Ohioans by 10 percent over three years, gives business owners a 50-percent tax break on up to $250,000 of annual net income and creates a small earned income tax credit for low- and middle-income working Ohioans based on the federal credit. To balance the cuts, the plan raises the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent, increases future property taxes by 12.5 percent and graduates the homestead tax exemption to be based on need, meaning the lowest-income seniors, disabled and widowed Ohioans will get the most out of the exemption in the future. Most recently, the conference committee added two safeguards for low-income Ohioans: a credit that wipes out income-tax liability for Ohioans making $10,000 or less a year and another $20 credit for those making $30,000 or less a year. The Policy Matters analysis doesn’t take into account the two changes to property taxes and several other, smaller changes to income and sales taxes, but the rest of the changes, including the conference committee’s recent adjustments, are considered. The tax plan is part of the $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, which passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly today. It's expected Republican Gov. John Kasich will sign it into law this weekend.Update: Budget bill passed by General Assembly.Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:• State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding • State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion• State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion
 
 
by German Lopez 06.26.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, Courts at 12:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Local, State Leaders React to LGBT Rulings

U.S. Supreme Court strikes down federal ban on same-sex marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a ruling that effectively requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages for couples who reside in states where same-sex marriage is legal. The DOMA ruling also sets a powerful historical precedent by extending equal protection rights to gay and lesbian individuals.In another ruling, the Supreme Court vacated a case on California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in that state, and effectively sent the case back down to a lower court that deemed Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The ruling means California will likely begin giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the ruling’s effects will not go beyond California’s borders. For gay and lesbian Ohioans, the DOMA ruling adds yet another incentive to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. If FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on the ballot in 2014 are successful, Ohio’s gay couples will have their marriages recognized at all levels of government. (The group previously aimed for 2013, but it now says it needs more time.) So far, it remains unclear whether the ruling will extend to same-sex couples who get married in other states but live in Ohio. If so, Ohio gay couples could get married in Massachusetts, return to Ohio and be eligible for federal marriage benefits — but not state marriage benefits. Legal experts and federal officials will surely debate the issue in the coming months to develop a clearer answer. Still, there’s been a lot of cheering and jubilation about the historical rulings, which are widely seen as victories for LGBT rights. Below are some of those reactions from local and state leaders, gathered through interviews and statements.Also, make sure to check out CityBeat's Pride Issue for more coverage on LGBT issues. Councilman Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member: “It’s pretty amazing. Just as President Obama when he announced his support for marriage equality, this feels like just as much of a milestone, if not more because of the legal significance of the rulings. This is proof that the tides have turned and the laws are changing. We are realizing full equality for LGBT people across this entire country.” “The fact that they used the equal protection clause means this case will be used across the country for every type of law that has an impact on LGBT people. The Supreme Court just set a new precedent for the rights of any government to discriminate against gays and lesbians. It’s far broader than just the repeal of DOMA, which in itself is an incredible feat. But the precedent that it’s setting for scrutiny on the basis of sexual orientation will have an effect on laws throughout this country for decades to come.” Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio: “We are elated that the Supreme Court has repealed DOMA and in effect rejected Proposition 8. These decisions are proof that the tide of acceptance for all couples is turning in this country, and we have taken two more important steps toward true equality. “This important moment, however, does not change the reality that Ohio still has a constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage. Ohio voters can address the civil rights issue of our generation by voting for the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom amendment. We are elated and our resolve has been doubled to collect signatures. The journey continues. We will bring marriage equality to Ohio in November, 2014.” Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party:“I’m deeply thankful that the Defense of Marriage Act has finally been struck from our country’s books, and that millions across the nation and Ohio are one step closer to equal and fair treatment under the law. DOMA implemented discrimination into the highest law of the land, and it’s a great day that this ugly reminder of a different time is finally gone. “Ohio Democrats are honored to stand with our LGBT brothers and sisters in the fight to earn marriage equality for all, and continue our march to overcome the prejudice of the past. But despite our victories across the nation, Ohio Republicans in the Statehouse and Governor’s office remain committed to keeping prejudice enshrined in law.” John Boehner, U.S. Speaker of the House and Republican from West Chester, Ohio: “Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis and President (Bill) Clinton signed it into law. The House intervened in this case because the constitutionality of a law should be judged by the Court, not by the president unilaterally. While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical that we protect our system of checks and balances. A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.” German Lopez, gay staff writer at CityBeat: “Cool.”Danny Cross, CityBeat editor: “DOMA was a real horseshit piece of legislation, and we're happy those old bastards in the Supreme Court did the right thing.”Update (1:47 p.m.): Added more reactions.
 
 

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