by German Lopez
Judge halts election law, unemployment benefits advance, city loses budget director
A federal judge halted a controversial election law that
limited minor political parties’ access to the ballot and ruled that the
state must allow minor parties to participate in the primary and
general elections in 2014. But by merely agreeing that only the
retroactive restrictions for 2014 are too burdensome for minor parties,
the judge left room to keep the law intact for elections in 2015 and
beyond. Still, the ruling comes as a major victory for the Libertarian
Party of Ohio and other minor parties who took to calling the
Republican-backed law the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act”
because it conveniently limited minor parties that are upset with Republican Gov.
John Kasich’s support for the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion.Ohio Sen. Rob Portman broke with most of his fellow
Republicans yesterday to help advance federal legislation that would extend
emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed. Still, he hinted that
he would not support the three-month extension if the $6.4 billion cost
isn’t covered by federal spending cuts elsewhere. Without the extension,
128,600 Ohioans could lose unemployment benefits through 2014 even as
the state economy shows signs of weakening.
Cincinnati Budget Director Lea Eriksen yesterday confirmed
she is leaving her high-level city job to take the same job in Long
Beach, Calif. Peggy Sandman will fill in for Eriksen while a
search for a permanent replacement is held. Eriksen’s announcement comes as a blow to the city but little surprise to political watchers. Shortly
before taking office, Mayor John Cranley called Eriksen and other
administration officials “incompetent” because of how they handled the
$132.8 million streetcar project, even though their estimates for
cancellation costs turned out to be mostly on point.Newsflash: Global warming didn’t stop just because we’re cold now.The worst of the deep freeze should be over for Ohio.Cincinnati’s 2013 homicide rate of 25 per 100,000
residents compares to Cleveland at 22, Indianapolis at 14.85, Columbus
at 11.24 and Louisville at 8.43.An Ohio appeals court ruled Cincinnati can change medical benefits for retirees after all.Construction for the uptown interchange could begin in July and finish in late 2016.The city announced yesterday that it’s extending its
Winter Holiday Trash Amnesty through Jan. 17, which means residents have
until then to set out extra trash next to their city-provided trash
Gov. Kasich is asking parents to tell their children about
the dangers of drug abuse, as the state works to combat problems with
prescription painkillers and heroin.A Fairfield, Ohio, teacher who was fired for allegedly
telling a black student, “We don’t need another black president,” will
fight for his job.Dozens of inmates at the Lebanon Correctional Honor Camp
endured frigid conditions Monday evening after one of three furnaces
broke, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction.A Cincinnati-area medical device firm is in a race with
some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world to get a
painless drug injector on the market.People are stealing English ferrets used to hunt rabbits.A survey of brown dwarfs found they’re racked by planet-sized storms of molten iron.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Ohio was one of two states to see economy worsen in three-month index
Despite Gov. John Kasich’s claims to the contrary, the
only miracle in Ohio’s economy might be how bad the state is doing compared to
the rest of the nation.
The proof: Ohio’s economy was among just two states in the
nation that actually worsened during September through November compared to August through October, according
to the research department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Beyond Ohio’s borders, Alaska also worsened, two states remained stable and the rest of the nation moved in a generally positive direction.
In other words, while 46 states’ economies moved in a generally positive direction, Ohio actually got worse.
The measures come from the State Coincident Index issued
by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia every month. The index
combines several economic indicators to gauge the condition of each
state’s economy. The research department then gauges whether the index
improved or worsened after the latest month’s data is taken into
account.With the gubernatorial election now less than one year
away, the sorry state of Ohio’s economy could prove a bad sign for Gov.
Kasich, a Republican, came into office as Ohio’s economy
began dashing out of the Great Recession stronger than most of the
nation — a trend Kasich took to calling the “Ohio miracle.”
Ed FitzGerald, Kasich’s likely Democratic challenger, has
criticized the claim in the past few months as Ohio’s economy showed
more signs of worsening despite Kasich’s promises that his policies
would keep the state in the right direction.
One of those policies was privatizing Ohio’s development
agency and effectively turning it into JobsOhio. In less than three years, the
agency has been riddled in multiple scandals following accusations from
Democrats that the JobsOhio board hosts various conflicts of interests
and lacks transparency when recommending who should get state tax
Kasich also pushed and approved an across-the-board income
tax cut earlier in 2013 through the two-year state budget. But because
the income tax cut came with a sales tax hike, left-leaning think tank
Policy Matters Ohio found Kasich’s tax cut heavily favors the wealthy, which
calls into question whether the tax cut will actually help Ohio’s middle
class or economy.
For FitzGerald and other Democrats, the challenge is
advocating a progressive agenda that stands in contrast to Kasich’s
policies. Although they have plenty of criticisms, it remains unclear
what Democrats could do if — as looks almost certain — Republicans
continue to hold Ohio’s legislative chambers.
Then there’s the question of whether state policies matter
much, if at all. Economists generally agree that state officials
tend to dramatize the economic impact of their policies when much
bigger factors are at play, particularly as globalization reshapes the
national and global economies.
For now, one thing is clear: Kasich’s policies
haven’t been enough to turn around Ohio’s sinking economy throughout the
past three months.
by German Lopez
Portune could run for governor, city could host GOP in 2016, laxer regulations draw critics
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune will announce today whether he'll run for governor. If he decides to run, Portune will face off against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald to decide which Democrat should face off against Republican Gov. John Kasich next November. Until now, it has been widely assumed that FitzGerald would take the gubernatorial nomination without a primary challenge. But if Portune enters the race, it could lead to a primary process that could hinder Democrats' chances in a pivotal state election.Hamilton County Republican Party officials are looking into hosting the 2016 national GOP convention in Cincinnati, but they acknowledge their bid might come in too late. The 2016 convention would put the national spotlight on Cincinnati during a presidential election year, when presumably two new presidential contenders will have been picked by Democrats and Republicans to replace President Barack Obama. Hamilton County Republican Chairman Alex Triantafilou said Cincinnati would be a great location for the convention, given the region's electoral importance to both parties, but he wants to make sure Cincinnati actually stands a chance before using time and resources to file a formal application.Entertainment districts allow some businesses in Walnut Hills and nine other Cincinnati neighborhoods to receive their state liquor licenses more quickly and inexpensively, but some — particularly businesses facing new competition — are worried the increasingly popular economic designation will lead to more alcohol-serving establishments than Cincinnati can sustain.Local startup incubator SoMoLend got state hearings over allegations of fraud pushed to February and March. The once-promising crowdfunding incubator previously partnered with Cincinnati, but the city cut ties with the business once allegations of fraud surfaced.The Ohio Department of Health warned on Friday that flu activity is increasing across the state and Ohioans should get vaccinated.The Ohio State Highway Patrol last week launched an enhanced registry of people who have been convicted of drunk driving at least five times.Starting Jan. 1, regulations meant to crack down on puppy mills will require licenses for dog breeders and clean cages. The legislation enforcing the new rules was approved more than a year ago to curtail Ohio's reputation of being soft on large dog breeding operations.Ohio gas prices spiked at the end of the year.With the year drawing to a close, check out CityBeat's top stories of 2013.The question you probably never asked has now been answered: Can a human fall in love with a computer?Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
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
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