WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 09.17.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Qualls, Cranley Face Off in First Post-Primary Mayoral Debate

Candidates agree on much, disagree on streetcar and parking lease

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley today channeled much of their disagreement on the streetcar project and parking lease when they met for the first post-primary mayoral debate. For both the candidates, the issues are about where they want to see the city going. Cranley says the city government lacks transparency and openness as it prioritizes controversial ideas to support downtown over Cincinnati’s neighborhoods. Qualls says the investments are continuing Cincinnati’s nationally recognized momentum and bringing growth to both downtown and the neighborhoods. Whether the subject was the Metro bus system or bringing more flights to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Cranley repeatedly referenced his opposition to the streetcar project and his belief that it is siphoning city funds away from more important projects and forcing the city to raise property taxes to pay for debt. “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” Cranley said. “We have to re-prioritize.” Qualls argued the streetcar project will produce economic growth and grow the city’s tax base, which the city could then leverage for more development projects. That claim has been backed by studies from consulting firm HDR and the University of Cincinnati, which put the streetcar’s return on investment at three-to-one. Cranley argued Hop On Cincinnati, a trackless trolley system, is a better option. He said the project would cost considerably less and come with more flexibility since it wouldn’t run on set tracks. But in a 2007 letter citing swathes of data from cities around the nation, Charlie Hales, now mayor of Portland, Ore., found trackless trolleys consistently underperformed rail projects in terms of economic development and ridership.At this point, cancelling the streetcar project would also carry its own costs. As of May, city officials estimated they had already spent $20 million on the project and cancelling it would cost another $45 million in federal funding and $14 million in close-out costs.But expanding the streetcar project into a second phase, as Qualls advocated, would also carry its own set of unknown costs. On other issues, Qualls touted the city’s plans to lease its parking assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority as a potential avenue for economic development. Qualls and the current city administration originally supported leveraging the city’s parking meters, lots and garages through the lease to pay for budget gaps and economic development projects. But as the city managed to balance its budget without the lease, the focus has moved toward using the lump-sum and annual payments from the lease to only pay for more development projects. Cranley claimed, as he long has, that the deal will have a negative impact on a generation by shifting control of the city’s parking assets from the local government to the unelected Port Authority and private companies. He also criticized Qualls and the city administration for withholding a memo that criticized the lease’s financial details and hastily pursuing the lease with limited public input. Cranley also implied that the deal will actually lower long-term revenues by capping the city’s parking revenues at $3 million a year. “It’s almost hard to respond to such misinformation, quite frankly,” Qualls responded. On top of an estimated $92 million lump sum, the city projects that annual payments will start at $3 million a year but eventually grow much larger. Qualls claimed the yearly installments would reach $20 million by the end of the 30-year lease. Qualls also took issue with Cranley’s assertion that the Port Authority is withholding contract documents for the private companies it will hire to operate Cincinnati’s parking assets. She reminded Cranley that Port board members explicitly told him at a public meeting that those documents will be made public two weeks before they’re signed. The candidates also sparred on a number of issues typical of political campaigns: government transparency, negative campaign ads and rhetoric vs. facts. But the debate also highlighted the large amount of agreement between Qualls and Cranley. Both agree the city shouldn’t increase the earnings tax. Both claim Cincinnati needs to structurally balance its budget and stop using one-time sources for budget fixes. Both echoed the need to leverage federal support for the Brent Spence Bridge project. Both criticized the state for refusing to grant tax credits to Pure Romance, a local company that is now considering moving to Covington, Ky., because of the state’s refusal. Cranley and Qualls got the most votes in the Sept. 10 mayoral primary, allowing both to advance to the general election. Cranley received 55.9 percent of the vote, while Qualls obtained 37.2 percent. Their opponents each failed to break 5 percent. Voter turnout for the mayoral primary was only 5.68 percent. That was lower than the 15-percent turnout for the mayoral primary held on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and the 21-percent turnout for the 2005 mayoral primary. In the past two mayoral races with primaries, the primary winner went on to lose the general election. Voters will get to decide between Qualls and Cranley, along with City Council candidates and other ballot issues, on Nov. 5.
 
 
by German Lopez 09.10.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, Mayor, News at 09:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Defeats Qualls as Both Advance to General Election

Voter turnout for first round of mayoral race historically low

Ex-Councilman John Cranley decisively defeated Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls today as both the Democratic mayoral candidates won the primary election and advanced to the general election. With all precincts reporting, Cranley got 55.9 percent of the vote and Qualls picked up 37.2 percent, according to unofficial results from the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The other two candidates — Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble — each failed to break 5 percent of the vote.The two victors come as little surprise to most election watchers, who have long been calling Cranley and Qualls the frontrunners. But Cranley’s strong lead has led to celebrations from Cranley’s supporters and downplaying from Qualls’ backers.The city has held only two primaries since it enacted its “strong mayor” rules in 1999, which call for a primary when there’s more than two eligible candidates. The two winners then go on to the general election for the final decision. Previously, the City Council candidate with the most votes was designated mayor.In both the primary elections held since 1999, the primary winner ended up losing the general election. In 2001, Courtis Fuller beat Charlie Luken in the primary in a 53.8-38.5 percent vote; Luken went on to win the general election 55.4-44.6 percent. In 2005, David Pepper narrowly beat Mark Mallory in the primary 31.2-30.7 percent; Mallory is currently mayor after winning the general election 51.8-48.2 percent in 2005 and getting re-elected in 2009.The results’ significance is even murkier because voter turnout was a dismal 5.68 percent. In comparison, the mayoral primary held on Sept. 11, 2001 — the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon — had 15 percent voter turnout. In 2005, 21 percent of voters participated in the mayoral primary. Still, Cranley’s victory is being heralded by his supporters tonight, particularly because it might show a shift from Qualls’ strong lead in early polls. For the two camps, the contentious race is about which vision Cincinnati should embrace as the city’s downtown revitalization gains national recognition and momentum. Qualls supports the streetcar project and parking lease, while Cranley opposes both.On other issues ranging from inclusion in city contracts to government transparency, the candidates are largely in agreement. Berns, who was officially removed from the mayoral race through today’s vote, spent much of his time on the campaign trail criticizing Cranley and Qualls for sharing a remarkably similar voting record on City Council. Cranley served on City Council from 2000 to 2009. Qualls has been on City Council since 2007 and previously served on City Council from 1991 to 1993 and as mayor from 1993 to 1999.Voters will make the final decision between Cranley and Qualls on Nov. 5. This story was updated with clearer election results and to correct Cranley’s full time on City Council, which the story previously said was from 2001 to 2009 instead of the accurate timespan of 2000 to 2009.
 
 
by German Lopez 09.11.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor, Health care at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
roxanne qualls

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley and Qualls win mayoral primary, state limits Obamacare, zoo levy renewal on ballot

Ex-Councilman John Cranley decisively defeated Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls as both Democratic mayoral candidates won the primary election and advanced to the general election. With all precincts reporting, Cranley got 55.9 percent of the vote and Qualls picked up 37.2 percent, according to unofficial results from the Hamilton County Board of Elections. But voter turnout for yesterday’s primary was especially low at 5.68 percent; in comparison, turnout was 15 percent during the primary held on Sept. 11, 2001 — the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon — and 21 percent in the 2005 mayoral primary. In the past two mayoral races with primaries, whoever won the primary election lost the general election. Voters will make the final choice for mayor between Qualls and Cranley on Nov. 5. Limitations imposed by Ohio lawmakers who oppose the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) have forced Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to give up a $124,419 federal grant that would have gone toward helping uninsured Ohioans navigate new online marketplaces for health insurance. State legislators say the regulations are supposed to clarify who qualifies as a “navigator” under Obamacare to avoid potential abuses and conflicts of interest, but Obamacare’s supporters say Republicans are just trying to make the law more difficult to implement. Under Obamacare, participating organizations are classified as navigators so they can help promote new online marketplaces and tax subsidies to meet the law’s enrollment goals. By losing its classification as a navigator, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital can no longer help in that outreach effort. After getting approval from county commissioners, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is asking voters to renew a levy that will appear as Issue 2 on the Nov. 5 ballot. The renewal wouldn’t increase taxes from today’s rates, but it would keep property taxes $10 higher for every $100,000 of home value. It will go to the care, feeding and maintenance of the zoo’s animals and botanical gardens. A study from the University of Cincinnati Economic Center found the zoo had a $143 million impact on the Cincinnati area in 2012 — representing nearly 3.9 times the zoo’s total spending — and produced 1,700 jobs and nearly $1.6 million in tax revenue for Cincinnati and Hamilton County. State Rep. John Carney announced yesterday that he will run for state auditor. Carney, a Democrat, will aim to replace Republican Dave Yost. He says his run will “bring much-needed bipartisanship and transparency back to our state government,” particularly by ending the one-party rule in many state offices. Carney also took aim at JobsOhio, the privatized development agency that has been mired in scandals in the past few months. Yost split with his fellow Republicans when he pursued a full audit of JobsOhio’s public and private funds, but Republican state legislators cut the debate short by passing a law that made the agency insusceptible to a full audit. Two Ohio prison guards are suspended with pay after the apparent suicide of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who was convicted to a life sentence for holding three women captive and beating and raping them. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is investigating whether proper protocols were followed to avoid Castro’s death. Campaign contributions to Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democratic opponent Ed FitzGerald came from people the gubernatorial candidates appointed to government positions. In the case of Kasich, the contributions are legal under state law. But the $1,000 contribution to FitzGerald was returned because it was deemed illegal under a county ethics law that FitzGerald helped establish as Cuyahoga County executive. Still, Kasich’s campaign has criticized FitzGerald for the illegal contribution, even though Kasich isn’t applying the same standard to his own campaign. The panel reviewing the state’s controversial facial recognition program will actually review the entire web-based, decade-old Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway for proper protection protocols. Gov. John Kasich and the American Civil Liberties Union are among two of many who criticized the facial recognition program for potential breaches of privacy. The facial recognition program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases. The program was online for two months without an independent review of its protocols and before the public was notified of its existence. President Barack Obama nominated former Gov. Ted Strickland to be one of five alternative representatives to the United Nations delegation. People can often remember events early in life better than more recent events, and that might explain why they usually enjoy their parents’ favorite music.
 
 
by German Lopez 09.10.2013
Posted In: News, Privatization, 2013 Election, LGBT at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Mayoral primary today, groups to push same-sex marriage, JobsOhio likely to remain

Today is the mayoral primary election between Democrat Roxanne Qualls, Democrat John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble. Qualls and Cranley are widely seen as the frontrunners. The big difference between the two candidates: Qualls supports and Cranley opposes the streetcar project and parking lease. Polls will be open until 7:30 p.m. tonight. To find out more information and where to vote, visit the Hamilton County Board of Elections website here. LGBT groups, civil libertarians and legislators came together in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus yesterday to announce Why Marriage Matters Ohio, a new statewide effort to educate and persuade Ohioans to support legalizing same-sex marriage. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Equality Ohio, Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign are all involved. The efforts have also been endorsed by faith and business community leaders, according to the groups. The groups say the campaign is partly in response to public polling. The 2013 Ohio Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found Ohioans evenly divided on same-sex marriage: 47 percent supported it and 47 opposed it. But the survey went against earlier polls from The Washington Post and Quinnipiac University, which found a plurality of Ohioans now support same-sex marriage. If he’s elected governor, Democrat Ed FitzGerald says he would make changes to JobsOhio to make it more transparent and open to a public audit, but he says he wouldn’t dismantle the privatized development agency altogether. FitzGerald acknowledges he would prefer a public agency to land the state’s development deals, but he says it’s unrealistic to expect the Republican-controlled General Assembly to repeal JobsOhio. The agency was established by Gov. John Kasich and fellow Republicans in 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development. Democrats have criticized JobsOhio for a lack of transparency that has mired it in several scandals and potential conflicts of interest lately, while Republicans insist the agency’s privatized, secretive nature help it establish job-creating development deals more quickly. In a letter to the city manager, Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is calling on the city to host town hall meetings with the four final candidates for Cincinnati Police chief. Sittenfeld says the meetings would help assess how the next police chief responds to the community and takes feedback. City Manager Milton Dohoney announced on Sept. 5 that city officials had narrowed down its pool of candidates to four: acting Chief Paul Humphries; Jeffrey Blackwell, deputy chief of the Columbus, Ohio, Police Department; Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department; and Jerry Speziale, deputy superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police. Hamilton County commissioners are likely to keep property taxes higher to pay for the stadium fund, which is running in the positive for the next five years after years of shortfalls. Last year, commissioners agreed to reduce the property tax rollback by half, effectively raising property taxes by $35 for every $100,000 in a home’s value. With yesterday’s news, it’s looking like the property tax hike will remain permanent. Even without the full rollback in place, the stadium fund is expected to start producing shortfalls again in 2019. The rollback disproportionately benefits the wealthy, who end up getting much more money back than low- and middle-income residents. Meanwhile, county commissioners might take up an insurance policy with PNC Bank to meet debt obligations on the stadium fund for the next three years. Commissioner Greg Hartmann says the plan would give the county enough time to refinance, which could help reduce the fund’s problems. City Council committees moved forward with two major pieces of legislation yesterday: • Qualls’ plan would enforce stricter regulations on the city’s lobbyists and expand disclosure requirements for city officials to make the political process more transparent.• Councilman Chris Seelbach’s proposal would help address cellphone theft by making it more difficult to sell the stolen devices. As it stands, the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund needs more money to stay solvent. Still, officials say the fund needs time for newly implemented changes to start making an impact. Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino now stands as the top earner among Ohio casinos, according to the latest state data. New hybrid engines could lead to a new era of more affordable spaceplanes.
 
 
by German Lopez 09.09.2013
Posted In: News, Privacy, 2013 Election, Energy at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mikedewine

Morning News and Stuff

Facial recognition program insecure, mayoral primary tomorrow, startup innovates cooking

Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office is taking steps to secure Ohio’s facial recognition program against hackers after potential problems were found. The program allows law enforcement and other public officials to use a simple photo to search driver’s license and mugshot databases to get contact information. In the past, officials needed a name or address to search such databases. But the program apparently wasn’t following proper security protocols and lacked typical requirements for passwords, including a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Previously, Gov. John Kasich compared the program’s potential for abuse to breaches of privacy made through federal surveillance programs such as the National Security Agency and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Tomorrow is the day of the mayoral primary, in which voters will decide between Democrat Roxanne Qualls, Democrat John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble. The two winners will move on to a head-to-head face-off on Nov. 5. Currently, Qualls and Cranley are widely seen as the frontrunners. It’s difficult to predict how many people will turn out to vote, but only 21 percent of Cincinnati voters participated in the mayoral primary in 2005. A Cincinnati entrepreneur is aiming to innovate solar energy through his GoSun solar cooker, which will use solar collectors traditionally seen on solar panels to cook food. Patrick Sherwin launched a Kickstarter campaign for the project on Sept. 5. He says his original interest in solar energy came from a desire to move away from harmful fossil fuels that are warming the planet, and this project gives him a chance to inspire a small cultural shift.Councilman Chris Seelbach will today introduce new legislation that will help crack down on cellphone theft by making it more difficult to sell stolen devices. The initiative will require the hundreds of dealers who currently buy cellphones second-hand to get licensed with the city and keep full records of the transaction, including a serial number of the device, a photocopy of the seller’s ID and other contact information. Seelbach has likened the requirements to existing regulations for pawn shops. The hope is that cracking down on dealers will make stolen cellphones more difficult to sell and less lucrative to potential thieves. Four finalists remain in the search for Cincinnati’s new police chief: acting Chief Paul Humphries; Jeffrey Blackwell, deputy chief of the Columbus, Ohio, Police Department; Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department; and Jerry Speziale, deputy superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police. Butler County turns away more veterans seeking aid than any county in Ohio. In 2012, veterans asked for help 432 times; they were turned away nearly 40 percent of the time. Although tax receipts are up, they’re coming in below estimate for the first two months of the new fiscal year. The lower-than-expected revenue could cause deficits in the state budget. Ohio gas prices are rising toward the national average. Human babies are apparently hardwired to pay attention to lemurs. If you’re job searching, remember that a job interview can almost always go much worse:
 
 
by German Lopez 08.22.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Transportation, Energy at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
metro plus bus

Morning News and Stuff

Metro moves forward with changes, bill to weaken energy standards, Berns criticizes media

As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Metro, Greater Cincinnati’s bus system, is moving forward with changes that seek to improve services that have dealt with funding shortfalls and cuts in the past few years. The biggest change is Metro*Plus, a new limited-stop weekday bus service that will be free through Aug. 23. Metro spokesperson Jill Dunne says Metro*Plus is a step toward bus rapid transit (BRT), an elaborate system that uses limited stops, traffic signal priority and bus-only lanes. Metro*Plus is mostly federally funded, and Metro says an expansion into BRT, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, would also be carried by federal grants. Besides Metro*Plus, Cincinnati’s bus system is also adding and cutting some routes. State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce legislation capping how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and scrapping requirements for in-state solar and wind power — two major moves that will weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy Law. But Seitz says the changes would keep mandates for utilities to provide one-fourth of their electricity through alternative sources and reduce consumer consumption by 22 percent by 2025. Environmentalists have been critical of Seitz’s review ever since he announced it in response to pressure from Akron-based FirstEnergy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. (Correction: This paragraph previously said utilities are required to provide one-fourth of their electricity through renewable sources; the requirement actually applies to “alternative sources.”) Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns yesterday declared his campaign dead and blamed local media, including CityBeat, for its demise. Berns said the media has done little to promote him over Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, who have similar views on every major issue except the streetcar and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. In response, Berns attached a picture of himself playing dead in front of a vehicle. The stunt was just the latest in the Libertarian’s campaign, which has included Berns quitting the race for one day before deciding to stay in, the candidate giving away tomato plants while claiming they’re marijuana and lots of free ice cream. Commentary: “Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy.” Cranley is airing a new advertisement attacking Qualls. The ad focuses largely on the streetcar and parking plan. As Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier points out, the ad “takes some factual liberties”: Parking meters are being leased, not sold, to the quasi-public Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, and it’s so far unclear how the money from the lease is going to be spent and if the resulting projects will really favor downtown over neighborhoods. Hamilton County commissioners approved the next phase of The Banks, which could include another hotel if developers can’t find office tenants to fill the currently planned space. The second phase of the project already includes a one-block complex with 305 apartments. State officials are reporting a 467-percent increase in the amount of seized meth labs this year. “We’re seeing a continuous spike,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “It is easier (for people to make the drug). We used to talk about ‘meth houses,’ or places people would make this. Well, today, you can make it in a pop bottle.” Ohio’s school report cards will be released today, allowing anyone to go online and see what a school is rated on an A-F scale. The U.S.  Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday announced more than $317,000 will be directed to Ohio to provide critical housing and clinical services for homeless veterans.  The grants are part of the $75 million appropriated this year to support housing needs for homeless veterans. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a new initiative called #RunTheCity, which will allow citizens to run or walk alongside local officials in an event that’s supposed to simultaneously encourage access and healthy living. The first event with City Solicitor John Curp, Cincinnati’s top lawyer, will be tonight at 6 p.m. at Wulsin Triangle, corner of Observatory Avenue and Madison Road in Hyde Park. Two Greater Cincinnati companies — U.S. Logistics and ODW Logistics & Transportation Services — made the Inc. 500 list for fastest-growing companies, and more than 50 others made the Inc. 5,000 list. Four landed on the Inc. 500 list last year and one got on the list in 2011. Another good local economic indicator: Greater Cincinnati home sales jumped 30 percent in July. Mouse skin cells were successfully transformed into eggs, sperm and babies, but a similar treatment for infertile humans is likely a few decades away.
 
 
by German Lopez 09.03.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Pensions at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Pension Amendment to Appear on November Ballot

City Council reluctantly allows ballot initiative to move forward

Despite unanimous opposition, City Council fulfilled duties dictated by the City Charter and voted to allow a controversial pension amendment to appear on the ballot this November. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls explained that all council members oppose the amendment, but it’s part of City Council’s ministerial duties to allow ballot initiatives if petitioners gather enough signatures to put the issue to a public vote. The Hamilton County Board of Elections announced on Aug. 12 that petitioners had gathered enough signatures to clear the 7,443 requirement. The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city employees — excluding police and fire personnel, who are under a separate system — contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts. Currently, the city pools pension contributions and manages the investments through an independent board. City officials oppose the amendment. They say it will cost the city more and hurt retirement gains for city employees. One new concern: As written, the amendment could force the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to revoke tax-exempt status for city employees’ retirement plans. Paula Tilsley, executive director of the Cincinnati Retirement System, says the new tax burden would force someone in a lower tax bracket with $100,000 in retirement savings to immediately pay $15,000 in taxes. Supporters of the amendment, including out-of-state tea party groups, argue it’s necessary to address Cincinnati’s present and future pension liabilities, which currently stand at $862 million. The current liability is a result of two issues: City Council has underfunded the pension system by varying degrees since at least 2003, and economic downturns have hurt investments in the city’s pension system. That outstanding liability was one of the factors that led Moody’s, a credit ratings agency, to downgrade Cincinnati’s bond rating on July 15. City officials say they’ve already taken steps to resolve future costs and the only remaining concern is how to pay for the current liability. In 2011, City Council raised the retirement age and reduced pension benefits for city employees and retirees. “This council adopted some of the most sweeping changes to any public pension system in the country for current and future employees,” Qualls said. Councilman Chris Smitherman clarified he doesn’t support the proposed amendment, but he says City Council has done a poor job with the current pension system. “My recommendation to this council is to put forth a solution to solve the problem,” Smitherman said. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t say, ‘This is bad,’ and then underfund the pension.” Tilsley says the pension board will make recommendations to City Council within a month to address the current pension liability. The board estimates the changes would keep the system 100 percent funded after 30 years. CityBeat covered the amendment and the groups that might be behind it in further detail here.Updated (2:17 p.m.): Updated to reflect the full City Council vote.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.29.2013
Posted In: Airport, 2013 Election, News, Health care at 08:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

Medicaid expansion vote stalls, Lunken Airport mismanaged, streetcar spurs campaigns

Republican lawmakers say they won’t hold any votes on the Medicaid expansion until October or later, even though state officials say the expansion must be approved by October to have it in place by 2014. Implementing the expansion at the start of 2014 would coincide with the implementation of other major programs in Obamacare. Gov. John Kasich supports the expansion, but he’s had trouble convincing his fellow Republicans to join him. The expansion would be mostly funded by the federal government, which would pay for the entire policy for the first three years then phase down to indefinitely paying for 90 percent of the cost. 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. Michigan, which is also dominated by Republicans, on Tuesday approved its own Medicaid expansion. An internal audit found the city of Cincinnati has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have gone toward improving the city-owned Lunken Airport through poor management and technology problems. In response, Councilman Chris Seelbach wrote on Twitter, “Lunken oversights completely unacceptable. Meeting w/ City & Lunken Mngr to work on detailed correction plan later this week.” The city is planning on making changes that should avoid losing revenue in the future. Streetcar supporters plan to hold a fundraiser today for mayoral candidate Roxanne Qualls and City Council candidate Wendell Young. The fundraiser shows the extra steps now being taken by streetcar supporters, who have been proudly flaunting their support every month through “streetcar socials,” the latest of which Mayor Mark Mallory attended. Ever since its inception, the streetcar has been mired in controversy and misrepresentations, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. A central Ohio lawmaker is renewing a legislative push for attaching drug tests to welfare benefits. The measure is meant to lower costs and ensure welfare money isn’t going to drug dealers. As CityBeat previously covered, the testing requirement can actually increase the cost of welfare programs: In Florida, the state government’s program had a net loss of $45,780 after it reimbursed all falsely accused welfare recipients of their drug tests. Only 108 people out of the 4,086 accused, or 2.9 percent, tested positive, and most tested positive for marijuana, according to The Miami Herald. Heavy construction and improvements that will modernize and widen Interstate 75 are expected to continue for the next decade. Much of the work is being funded by Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan, which sells bonds that will be repaid with excess Turnpike polls. Jeff Ruby yesterday responded to a lawsuit filed on Monday against his restaurant chain. Ruby says his servers “are highly compensated — averaging $65,000 a year, with shifts that average seven hours a day.” The lawsuit alleges that management at Ruby’s restaurants took tips from three employees, which supposedly left them earning less than minimum wage. United Way of Greater Cincinnati plans to raise $62.8 million with its campaign this year. The organization supports Cincinnati’s human services, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. Google Glass could be used to improve surgeries in the future.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.28.2013
Posted In: News, Campaign Finance, Health care, 2013 Election at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
josh_mandel headshot

Morning News and Stuff

Mandel may have broken campaign law, Medicaid overhaul coming, endorsements roll out

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel was involved in two car crashes and reported neither, and one of the crashes may have violated federal campaign finance law. During a March accident, Mandel, a Republican, was riding in a vehicle owned by his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign months after he lost to Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. Federal law states Senate campaign property can't be used for personal use or to campaign for a different office, such as state treasurer. Mandel’s state treasurer campaign says it rented out the car from the Senate campaign, but The Associated Press found the check didn’t clear out until June 30 — seven months after the Senate campaign and four months after the crash — and the rent wasn’t fully paid for until reporters started asking questions. Republican state legislators are drafting a bill that would overhaul Ohio’s Medicaid program. The legislation isn’t the Medicaid expansion, which Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder now says isn’t a good idea. Instead, the upcoming bill would make changes to attempt to control Medicaid’s rising costs, which have put an increasing strain on the state budget in the past few years. Batchelder says the bill will be introduced in the fall and likely voted out of the House by the end of the year. Mayoral candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls are rolling out their latest endorsements. Yesterday, State Rep. Alicia Reece said she’s backing Cranley. On Friday, Qualls touted support from Equality Ohio, the Miami Group of the Sierra Club, the National Organization of Women Cincinnati, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 392 and the Ohio-Kentucky Administrative District Council of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers. Endorsements rarely influence the outcome of elections. The Ohio Parole Board rejected a killer’s plea for mercy. Harry Mitts Jr. is scheduled to die by injection on Sept. 25 for killing two men, including a police officer, at an apartment. Court records claim Mitts uttered racial slurs before killing his first victim, who was black. Mitts’ defense says he was blacked out from alcohol the night of the slayings and didn’t know what he was doing. With the board’s rejection, Mitts’ fate is now up to Gov. John Kasich, who could commute the sentence to life in prison. Susan Castellini, wife of the Cincinnati Reds CEO, will join the Cincinnati Parks Board after being appointed earlier in August by Mayor Mark Mallory and City Council. Hospice of Cincinnati obtained a $2.3 million grant from from Bethesda Inc. and Catholic Health Initiatives to launch an initiative that will encourage doctors, terminally ill patients and their families to discuss end-of-life planning. Three former employees are suing Cincinnati-based Jeff Ruby eateries for allegedly taking tips from staff, which supposedly caused employees to earn less than minimum wage. Between Sept. 19 and Sept. 30, Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino will become the first venue in Ohio to host a World Series of Poker circuit event. Popular Science claims it met the world’s smartest dog.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.26.2013
Posted In: News, Privacy, Streetcar, Parking at 09:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mikedewine

Morning News and Stuff

Police program raises privacy issues, parking plan explained, streetcar project continues

With the backing of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, law enforcement around the state have been secretly using facial recognition software for the past two months that scans driver’s licenses and mug shots to identify crime suspects. In emails and documents obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer, DeWine and other state officials apparently couldn’t agree whether the program is in beta testing or full launch and when they should tell the public about it. The program went live without the attorney general’s initial approval and many protocols that protect Ohioans’ security and privacy, raising concerns about whether law enforcement have been able to abuse the new tool. The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Friday acknowledged it will ramp up enforcement and tickets once it takes over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, but it claimed the move is meant to encourage people to pay up, not raise revenue that will make the parking lease more profitable for the Port or the private operators it’s hiring. The Port also said it had taken steps to make the parking lease a better deal for locals, including a reduction in operation hours in neighborhoods and some downtown areas. The city is leasing its parking assets to the Port for a one-time injection of revenue and annual installments that are supposed to go to development projects that will grow the city’s tax base. But opponents of the lease say it will take away too much control of the city’s parking services and hurt businesses and residents by raising parking rates and hours. Vacant buildings at the corner of Henry and Race streets will be demolished today to make room for a maintenance facility for Cincinnati’s streetcars — just the latest sign the project is moving forward. Mayor Mark Mallory, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and John Deatrick, streetcar project executive director, will attend the demolition and a press event preceding it, which will take place at 1 p.m. A new video from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) shows how bad traffic will get if the Brent Spence Bridge isn’t replaced. In the video, OKI claims the current state of the bridge is dangerous and damages the economy. The bridge project is currently estimated at $2.5 billion. At least part of that sum will be paid with tolling if state officials get their way. Qualls and Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan will today discuss a district-wide travel plan that intends to provide safe routes for students walking and biking to school. The plan, which would use Ohio Department of Transportation funds, makes improvements to crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals, among other changes. Qualls’ office says the plan is timely as CPS today begins its first week back to school. Cuts in all levels of government, which Republican state officials call “right-sizing,” might be hindering Ohio’s economic recovery. Only California, New York and Florida have cut more public jobs than Ohio. At the same time, Ohio’s job growth over the past year has stagnated at 0.7 percent. The state has cut local government funding by half since Kasich took office, as CityBeat covered in further detail here. Ohio gas prices once again increased this week, but they still remain below the national average. The USS Cincinnati, a Cold War era submarine, is coming to the city. Some locals have been working on getting the submarine’s sail installed along the riverfront as a memorial. NASA put up a video explaining how it would land on an asteroid.
 
 

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