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
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:48 AM | Permalink
Advocates argue minimum wage increases spur economic growth
When Ohio’s minimum wage automatically increases by 10
cents to $7.95 per hour at the start of 2014, roughly 330,000 workers
will receive raises across the state, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
That could be good news for all of Ohio: EPI found the minimum wage increase will benefit the rest of the state through nearly $39 million in economic impact and 300 new full-time jobs.
“Ohio workers and the Ohio economy will both benefit from
this raise for our lowest-paid neighbors,” said Amy Hanauer, executive
director of left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement. “The employees who
benefit will turn around and spend money in our communities, stimulating
The automatic increase is a result of a constitutional amendment
approved by Ohio voters in 2006 that hiked the minimum wage to $6.85 per hour and pegged it to
rises in the cost of living.
Ohio isn’t alone in the increase, however. Policy Matters
estimates 10 other states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana,
Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and New Jersey —
automatically increase their minimum wages each year to keep up with
The nationwide minimum wage hikes “will generate over $619
million in new economic activity and support creation of 4,600 new
full-time jobs as businesses expand to meet increased consumer demand,”
according to Policy Matters.
The projections come at a time progressives are working on
the national stage to increase the federal minimum wage, which, at
$7.25 per hour, is becoming increasingly irrelevant as Congress fails to
keep up with many states’ minimum wage expansions.
President Barack Obama’s Fair Minimum Wage Law would raise
the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015 and — perhaps most
importantly — ensure the minimum wage increases each year to keep up
with the cost of living. The left-leaning National Employment Law
Project estimates the hike would help 30 million Americans and help grow the economy.
Opponents argue a minimum wage increase, especially one as
rapid as Obama’s proposal, would burden businesses with considerably
higher labor costs. They argue companies would drop
employees or raise prices to cope with higher expenses.
Advocates typically tout a minimum wage hike as a matter
of basic fairness. They claim the federal minimum wage would be
$10.55 per hour today if it kept up with inflation.
Meanwhile, the economics research on the effects of the minimum wage is fairly mixed. Some studies linked higher minimum wages to less employment, while other studies found no effects at all.
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
Only 11 streetcar workers to lose jobs, federal funds endangered, GOP reducing early voting
Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick yesterday said only 11 streetcar workers are expected to lose their jobs
following City Council’s pause of the $132.8 million project, far below
the original estimate of 200 city officials gave on Monday. The remaining workers will be moved by contractors to other jobs or
kept under ongoing utility work, which utility companies agreed to
continue despite no longer qualifying for reimbursements from the city,
according to Deatrick. He also said it’s “a wild guess” whether the
number of layoffs will grow in the future.
Cincinnati should expect to return up to $44.9 million in
federal grants funding nearly one-third of the streetcar project even
though the project is only on “pause” as local officials weigh the costs of cancellation and completion, according to transportation experts who
talked to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Without the federal grants, the project is effectively dead.
The two swing votes on council — David Mann and Kevin Flynn — say they
want to evaluate whether it would make financial sense to cancel the
project this far into construction. Deatrick previously estimated
the costs of cancellation could nearly reach the costs of completion after accounting for
$32.8 million in sunk costs through November, $30.6-$47.6 million in
close-out costs and $44.9 million in lost federal grants. But Mann and
Flynn voiced distrust over the projections and called for an independent
Democrats and voter advocates claim Republican legislators are slowly rebuilding “voter suppression” laws
that were the subject of referendum in 2012 before Republicans backed
down. Democrats called on Gov. John Kasich to veto the bills. Among
other measures, the bills would reduce the amount of in-person early voting days
and restrict elected officials’ ability to to mail out unsolicited
absentee ballot applications. Democrats claim the bills are meant to
suppress voters. Republicans argue the measures help
reduce “cheaters,” even though in-person voter fraud is very rare.
Chris Finney, a high-profile lawyer who is critical of local tax breaks for businesses, apologized for denying that he sought tax breaks for his law firm.
Finney sought the tax breaks shortly after criticizing Cincinnati for
granting a tax incentive package to convince Pure Romance to move from
Loveland, Ohio, to downtown Cincinnati. Finney is the top legal crusader
for the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group with a history of anti-gay causes.
Tea party group One Percent for Liberty nominated Mayor
John Cranley as a “Defender of Liberty for 2013” for his work against the
streetcar project and parking privatization plan. The group previously nominated various conservative politicians and activists from around the
region. The award will be presented at COAST’s Christmas party.
Hundreds of schools and businesses in the Cincinnati area today closed in response to the developing winter storm.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare and TriHealth, two of the areas’ largest health systems, yesterday announced they’re teaming up to reduce costs, improve the patient experience and generate better health outcomes.
Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced he will crack down on electronic raffle operations.
Nelson Mandela, a South African icon of peace, died yesterday.
Mandela was a peaceful leader of the anti-apartheid movement who went
on to become South Africa’s first black president. His consistent
devotion to peace inspired similar peaceful protests around the world. The New York Times put together a great interactive featuring several correspondents who witnessed Mandela first-hand here.
U.S. unemployment fell to 7 percent in November, the lowest rate in five years.
Popular Science explains how to get rid of animal testing.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
ProgressOhio loses case against privatized development agency
The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously dismissed a request to compel JobsOhio to disclose various documents. The court argued the Republican-controlled General Assembly largely
exempted JobsOhio from public records law and therefore allowed the agency to keep most of its inner workings secret.The decision was a major loss
for advocacy group ProgressOhio, which claims the documents should be on the
The Republican-controlled legislature, with the support of
Republican Gov. John Kasich, in 2011 established JobsOhio, a privatized
development agency, to replace the Ohio Department of
Development. The JobsOhio Board of Directors is chaired by wealthy Ohio businessmen.
Republicans argue JobsOhio’s secretive, privatized nature
is necessary to quickly foster economic development deals across the
state. Democrats say the anti-transparency measures make it far too difficult to hold
JobsOhio accountable as it recommends how to spend taxpayer dollars.An Oct. 23 report criticized JobsOhio and other privatized development agencies around the country for consistently displaying conflicts of interest and other scandalous behavior. The report came from Good Jobs First, a
research center founded in 1998 that scrutinizes deals between
businesses and governments.
Kasich previously touted JobsOhio as one of the reasons
Ohio’s economy quickly recovered following the Great Recession, but
recent indicators show the state’s economy is now slowing down. Ohio is one of five states whose economy worsened in the past three months,
according to an index from the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia that
combines four economic indicators to gauge states’ economic health.
Others have more directly questioned the Kasich administration’s claims to success. An Oct. 29 investigation from The Toledo Blade found
jobs numbers from the Ohio Development Services Agency are vastly inflated,
indicating that the state government isn’t producing nearly as many
jobs as it claims.
by German Lopez
Drop Inn Center to move, sewer and water rates set to rise, CVG's losses cost region
The Drop Inn Center and 3CDC (Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation) on Friday announced a deal
to move the region’s largest homeless shelter from its current location
in Over-the-Rhine to Queensgate. The Drop Inn Center says the new
location represents “most of the things on our wish list, which is
fantastic.” And 3CDC has been pushing the shelter to move since it began
its efforts to revitalize the Over-the-Rhine and downtown area, which
some label gentrification. Josh Spring, executive director of the
Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said in a statement that
government officials and developers should be helping maintain
affordable housing in all parts of the city instead of moving poor
people to other neighborhoods.
Local sewer rates could rise by 6 percent
and local water rates will skyrocket by 22.6 percent following proposed
price hikes from the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD). The higher
sewer rates are needed to help pay for a federally mandated sewer upgrade
that will cost $3.2 billion over 15 years, according to MSD officials.
MSD says the spike in water bills is necessary because water use is
declining and treatment costs are increasing.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) has lost more flights and seats since 2005
than any other major airport across the country, which effectively cost
the Cincinnati area 33,000 jobs and nearly $1 billion in annual
economic activity in the same time span, according to an analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The 78-percent drop in flights — far higher than the national average
of 19 percent — comes even as CVG’s average fares increased by 26 percent,
which were also above the national average of 4 percent.
Commentary from The Business Courier: “(Mayor-elect John) Cranley doubles down on streetcar cancellation.”
Supporters of Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project
will meet tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Cincinnati Hyatt Regency Ballroom
to discuss their options to prevent Cranley from stopping the streetcar
project. Supporters were recently reinvigorated by the current city
administration’s projections that canceling the streetcar project could cost nearly as much as completing it.
As Ohio’s Republican legislators move to adopt a stand-your-ground law, the research shows the controversial self-defense laws might increase homicides and racial disparities in the U.S. justice system.
Economists generally agree that state officials don’t play
a big role in changing the economy in the short term, but political
scientists say the economy will still play a major role in deciding Ohio’s 2014 gubernatorial elections.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald argues Republican Gov.
John Kasich deserves the blame for Ohio’s economy, given that Kasich
initially credited his policies for Ohio’s brief economic turnaround
early on in his term. But now that the economy is beginning to stagnate,
Kasich refuses to take the blame and points to congressional gridlock at the federal level
as the reason for Ohio’s slowdown.
Ohio paid nearly $1.2 million
for a string of charter schools that closed weeks after they opened.
The schools, which all operated under the name Olympus High School, are
now facing an audit and have been ordered to pay back some of the money.
A state job program for disabled Ohioans could lose millions in federal funds
after the U.S. Department of Education warned the state it is
improperly spending the money on case management and other
administrative activities. But the head of Opportunities for Ohioans
with Disabilities insists the state program is under compliance.
Ohio’s number of uninsured children is below the national average, according to a Georgetown University Center for Children and Families report.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is fast tracking business permits to outpace neighboring states.
With Thanksgiving looming, Ohio gas prices rose in the past week.
Migraine sufferers who also deal with allergies and hay fever might suffer from more severe headaches, according to a study from three medical centers that include the University of Cincinnati.Would you ride the world’s tallest water slide?Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:08 AM | Permalink
Poverty skews school funding, "stand your ground" advances, tax-free weekend proposed
Urban schools spend less on basic education for a typical student
than previously assumed after accounting for the cost of poverty,
according to a Nov. 19 report from three school advocacy groups. After
weighing the extra cost of educating an impoverished student, the report
finds major urban school districts lose more than 39 percent in
per-pupil education spending and poor rural school districts lose nearly
24 percent, while wealthy suburban schools lose slightly more than 14
percent. In the report, Cincinnati Public Schools drop from a
pre-weighted rank of No. 17 most per-pupil education funding out of 605
school districts in the state to No. 55, while Indian Hills Schools
actually rise from No. 11 to No. 4.
An Ohio House committee approved sweeping gun legislation
that would enact “stand your ground” in the state and automatically
recognize concealed-carry licenses from other states. The “stand your
ground” portion of the bill would remove a duty to retreat before using
deadly force in self-defense in all areas in which a person is lawfully
allowed; current Ohio law only removes the duty to retreat in a person’s
home or vehicle. The proposal is particularly controversial following
Trayvon Martin’s death to George Zimmerman in Florida, where a “stand
your ground” law exists but supposedly played a minor role in the trial
that let Zimmerman go free. To become law, the proposal still needs to
make it through the full House, Senate and governor.A state senator is proposing a sales-tax-free weekend for back-to-school shopping
to encourage a shot of spending in a stagnant economy and lure shoppers
from outside the state. Eighteen states have similar policies, but none
border Ohio, according to University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.
Michael Jones of UC’s Economics Center says the idea is to use tax-free school supplies to lure out-of-state shoppers, who are then more likely to buy other items that aren’t tax exempt while they visit Ohio.
An Ohio Senate committee approved new limits on the Controlling Board,
a seven-member legislative panel that has grown controversial following its approval of the federally funded Medicaid expansion
despite disapproval from the Ohio legislature. Gov. John Kasich went through the Controlling Board
after he failed to persuade his fellow Republicans in the legislature
to back the expansion for much of the year. The proposal now must make
it through the full Senate, House and governor to become law.
Cincinnati’s Metro bus service plans to adopt more routes similar to bus rapid transit (BRT)
following the success of a new route established this year. Traditional
BRT lines involve bus-only lanes, but Metro’s downsized version only
makes less stops in a more straightforward route. CityBeat covered the lite BRT route in further detail here.
Cincinnati obtained a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 Municipal Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign, giving the city a 13-point bump compared to 2012’s mixed score.
A bill approved by U.S. Congress last week could direct millions in federal research dollars to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
A UC study found a higher minimum wage doesn’t lead to less crime.
Gov. Kasich will deliver UC’s commencement address this year.
The new owner of the Ingalls Building in downtown Cincinnati plans to convert some of the office space to condominiums.
Here are some images of the Cincinnati that never was.
Someone invented a hand-cranked GIF player.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
Over-the-Rhine businesses and residents fight back as newly elected city government threatens to cancel streetcar project
1 Comment · Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Over-the-Rhine businesses and residents
are organizing with supporters of the $133 million streetcar project in a
last-stand effort to keep the project on track.