by German Lopez
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
Posted In: News
, Health care
at 02:01 PM | Permalink
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.
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,
by German Lopez
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
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
Posted In: News
at 12:14 PM | Permalink
Top 1 percent to get $6,083 tax cut
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
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
“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
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.