How the new streetcar’s story will differ from the one that ended 60 years ago
1 Comment · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
After signing a utility relocation
agreement with Duke Energy on Feb. 1, Cincinnati City Manager Milton
Dohoney, Jr. declared, “The streetcar is happening.”
by German Lopez
Cranley calls for streetcar's end, SORTA obtains federal grant, casino gets state approval
John Cranley is calling for the city to halt progress on the streetcar after a report from The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed the city’s construction bids are $26 million to $43 million over budget.
City Manager Milton Dohoney says the city might throw out the bids and
start the bidding process again, but no final decision has been made yet. But
Cranley argues the city has no leverage over bidders because it already bought the
streetcars. In CityBeat’s in-depth look at the streetcar,
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, said the cars had to be bought early
so they can be built, tested and burned into the tracks while giving
staff enough time to get trained — a process that could take as long as
two and a half years. The city also cautions that sorting through the
bids will take a few more weeks.
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) landed a $2.5 million grant
to purchase seven new buses. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat,
yesterday announced SORTA had won the competitive grant from the U.S. Department
of Transportation. The new buses will replace old ones that
are no longer good for service.
The Horseshoe Casino got approval from the state yesterday despite fears of bankruptcy
surrounding the casino’s parent company. As a precaution, the Ohio
Casino Control Commission is requiring Caesar’s, the troubled company,
to undergo annual financial reviews and notify the commission of any
major financial plans, including any intent to file bankruptcy. Caesar’s
is currently $22 billion in debt.
Ohio legislators have a lot of questions
about Gov. John Kasich’s new school funding formula. Kasich claims his
formula levels the playing field between poor and wealthy schools, but Rep. Ryan Smith, a Republican, pointed out his
poor Appalachian district is getting no money under the formula, while
the suburban, well-off Olentangy Schools are getting a 300 percent
increase. In a previous glimpse at the numbers for Cincinnati Public
Schools (CPS), CityBeat found the funding increases aren’t enough to make up for past cuts — largely because of the phaseout of tangible personal property reimbursements.
Another report found low-performing schools could be forced to outsource teaching. The new policy has aggravated some local officials.
Kasich’s budget will apparently benefit
the state’s mentally ill and addicted. Mental health advocates said the
budget will expand treatment, housing and other services. Most of the
benefits will come from the Medicaid expansion.
CPS says it will not lose any funding over the state auditor’s attendance scrubbing report. The report, released Tuesday, found CPS had been scrubbing attendance data, but the school district claims errors were not intentional.
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel will give the State of the County address later today.
Ohio Third Frontier approved $3.6 million in new funds to support Ohio innovation. About $200,000 is going to Main Street Ventures, a Cincinnati-based startup accelerator.
Cincinnati Art Museum named an interim curator: Cynthia Amneus.
Covington is getting a new city hall.New evidence shows lab testing on mice may not be helpful for humans. Apparently, mice and human genes are too different for treatments to be comparable.
1 Comment · Wednesday, February 13, 2013
WEDNESDAY FEB. 6
Everyone knows that grocery shopping
sucks, but that if you eat out too many times in a row you start
wondering if your parents would call you a loser or feel bad for you if
by German Lopez
Kasich plan not so progressive, turnpike plan disappoints, WLWT attacks teacher salaries
Gov. John Kasich’s school funding plan may not be so progressive after all. In his initial announcement,
Kasich promised the program will be more progressive by raising
funding to poorer schools, but this
fact from StateImpact Ohio
seems to contradict that claim: “Under the projections released by the
state, a suburban district like Olentangy that has about $192,000 of
property value per student would get a more than three-fold increase in
state funding. Meanwhile, Noble Local, a small rural district with about
$164,000 of property wealth per student sees no increase in state
funding.” The Toledo Blade found Kasich’s education plan favors suburban schools. The Akron Beacon Journal pulled numbers that show rich, growing school districts will do fine under the plan. According to The Columbus Dispatch, 60 percent of Ohio schools will not see increases in funding from Kasich’s plan.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is now shying away
from statutory guarantees for northern Ohio in the Ohio Turnpike plan.
Originally, Kasich promised 90 percent of Ohio Turnpike funds will
remain in northern Ohio, albeit with a fairly vague definition of
northern Ohio. Now, even that vague 90 percent doesn’t seem to be
sticking around. But the plan would still be a massive job-creating
infrastructure initiative for the entire state. The Ohio Turnpike runs
along northern Ohio, so changes to fees and the road affect people living north the most.
WLWT published a thinly veiled criticism of local teacher
salaries. The article pointed out Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) pays
45 of its employees more than $100,000 a year.
Of those people, 42 are administrators and three are teachers. In
comparison, the highest paid Cleveland school teacher makes $86,000. The
article also glances over the fact CPS is “the number one urban-rated
school district in the state” to point out the school district is still
lacking in a few categories. As CPS Board President Eileen Reed points
out, a school district needs to attract better educators with higher
salaries if it wants to improve. Paying teachers less because the school
district is performing worse would only put schools in a downward
spiral as hiring standards drop alongside the quality of education.
County commissioners seem supportive
of Kasich’s budget. Republican commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg
Hartmann said the budget could be “revolutionary” by changing how county
governments work. Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune highlighted the
Medicaid expansion in the budget. As “revolutionary” as the budget
could be, it’s not enough to make up for Ohio and Kasich’s troubled past.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was ranked the third best pediatric hospital in the United States by Parents magazine.
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments
is looking for comments on updating the region’s bike map. Anyone who
wants a say should leave a comment here.
The upcoming Horseshoe Casino is partnering up with local hotels to offer a free shuttle service that will seamlessly carry visitors around town.
One courageous grandma stood up
to an anti-gay pastor. During a sermon, the pastor outed a gay high
school student and told everyone they would "work together to address
this problem of homosexuality." At that point, the grandma snapped at
the pastor, “There are a lot of problems here, and him being gay is not
one of them.” She then apologized to the boy and walked out.
Music has a lot of effects on the brain. Here is an infographic that shows them.
Bonus science news: Earth-like planets could be closer than most people think.
by German Lopez
Cincinnati commuters spent an extra 37 hours on road due to traffic
Traffic can be awful — not just for drivers, but economies
and the environment as well. A study released Tuesday by the Texas A&M Institute
of Transportation found Cincinnati lost about $947 million in 2011 to delays on the road, coming in at No. 27 nationwide.The Annual Urban Mobility Report also ranked Cincinnati No. 37 nationwide for extra time stuck in traffic, with the average Cincinnati commuter
spending an extra 37 hours on the road in 2011.
In comparison, the average
Columbus commuter spent 40 extra hours in traffic in 2011, and the typical Cleveland commuter spent 31 extra hours. For all three cities, estimates were unchanged from 2010.Traffic jams also have a major impact on climate change. According to the report, congestion caused cars to produce an extra
56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide nationwide, with Cincinnati commuters producing 421
million pounds.The report shows why it’s important for governments to
reduce traffic congestion with transit projects like the Cincinnati streetcar. In general, public transportation leads to
less congestion by taking cars off the road as people use buses, streetcars and trains instead. But some cities have taken it even further. By adopting exclusive lanes for buses and
streetcars, cities like San Francisco have made public transportation more attractive, which makes people more likely to forsake
their own cars in favor of public alternatives.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 30, 2013
In line with the country’s increasing energy usage trends,
statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Agency found that China now
uses 47 percent of the world’s coal; its usage grew by 325 million tons
in 2011. WORLD -1
by German Lopez
Ohio unemployment standards, state approves projects, Cincinnati's transparent spending
A new analysis found Ohio has some of the toughest requirements
for unemployment benefits. The Policy Matters Ohio report shows
Ohio is the only state besides Michigan where a worker who makes minimum
wage for 29 hours a week would not qualify for unemployment compensation. Ohio’s
standards require workers to earn an average of at least $230 a week for at
least 20 weeks of work to qualify for benefits.
The state also does not allow unemployed workers seeking part-time work
to receive benefits, which is permissible in most other states. Every
state must set qualification standards for unemployment compensation,
which is supposed to hold people over while they search for work if
they’re laid off.
Ohio’s transportation projects council unanimously approved
32 different projects totaling more than $2 billion. The projects
approved by the Transportation Review Advisory Council come amidst
debate over Gov. John Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan, which leverages the
turnpike’s profits for renewed infrastructure spending. Ohio Department
of Transportation officials say they’re optimistic about the turnpike
plan and the bond revenue it will produce in the short term.
A new report from the Ohio Public Interest Research Group found Cincinnati is a lot more transparent about spending than Cleveland. Cincinnati got a B+ for spending transparency, while Cleveland got an F.
The city of Cincinnati and a union representing city workers are currently negotiating
an out-of-court settlement over a lawsuit involving the city's pension
program. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees (AFSCME) claimed in a 2011 lawsuit that the city is not
meeting funding requirements set by the Cincinnati Retirement System
Board of Trustees.
The local branch of the NAACP is facing increased tensions. Three former presidents
are calling for a national investigation to look into the local
branch’s relationship with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), a local conservative group. City Council Member Chris Smitherman, current president of the NAACP’s local branch, has close ties with COAST, but the three former presidents say partnering with COAST is the wrong direction for the NAACP.
Some Ohio schools need to do more
to protect students from concussions. Many schools are already
improving standards in anticipation of a state law that goes into effect
in April, but some large school districts are falling behind. The new
law requires school districts educate parents and families about
concussions, train coaches in recognizing symptoms of head injuries and
pull injured or symptomatic students from the field until a doctor
clears a return. CityBeat wrote about head injuries and how they relate to the NFL and Bengals here.
President Barack Obama renominated
Richard Cordray, former Ohio attorney general, to head the Consumers
Financial Protection Bureau. The nomination could have repercussions for
the 2014 governor’s race; Cordray was seen as a potential Democratic candidate.
Lightning could be a source of headaches and migraines, according to a new University of Cincinnati study.
Catholic Health Partners and Mercy Health are looking to fill 80 positions.
The Ingalls Building, which was the world’s first
reinforced-concrete skyscraper when it was built in downtown Cincinnati
in 1903, was sold for $1.45 million.
A Catholic hospital chain killed a lawsuit by arguing a fetus is not a person.
IBM developed a warmth-activated gel that could kill superbugs and break up tough bacterial biofilms. Maybe humans won’t need panda blood after all.
by German Lopez
School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4
School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on
the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is
expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it
for it to become law. In an early simulation
of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools
dropped from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current
system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School
retaining its top mark with an A.
The governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary
to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there
will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in
2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge
The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.
Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected.
Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition.
With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in
2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its
legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here.
The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether
marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent
against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of
the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex
marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end.
Ohio gained approval
on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding
for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With
the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in
coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs.
But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February.
As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid
plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal
government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that,
federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020
and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives.
Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money
in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care.
Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today.
With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws.
Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways.
Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down
on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal
advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a
breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.
by Andy Brownfield
Comprehensive plan sets short-, long-term goals for development
Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday approved the first
comprehensive plan in the last 32 years to direct future city growth and
All eight present members of council voted in favor of the
plan, after a 10-minute “love-fest,” as Councilwoman Yvette Simpson put
it, praising one another and the team that created the plan. The
nine-member team worked on the comprehensive plan for the last three
Councilman Chris Smitherman was not present for the vote.
“I can’t use the term that Joe
Biden, our vice president used, but this is a big deal,” said Mayor Mark
Mallory, referencing an infamous gaffe where Biden uttered an expletive
into a hot microphone.
The 228-page plan emphasizes urban development over suburban, citing population movement back into city centers.
The plan focuses on key areas and offers proposals for the near-, middle- and long-terms.
These include proposals to stabilize residential and
business areas, improve quality of life, improve housing choices and
affordability and offer alternative means of transportation to
automobiles, including the controversial streetcar.
CityBeat previously covered the plan in depth.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:52 AM | Permalink
Transit company calls for public feedback
Metro is nearing completion of its new comprehensive transit plan.
Throughout the year, the nonprofit, tax-funded transit company
has worked on Way to Go, a plan with short-term and long-term goals
meant to revamp lines for faster, wider-ranging travel.
The plan, which is the first comprehensive plan since the
late 1990s and early 2000s, has a short-term part and a long-term
portion. Both parts came together with a lot of community feedback gathered through on-board surveys, stop-by-stop
analyses, online surveys, special event surveys and public meetings.
Sallie Hilvers, spokesperson for Metro, says the plan has a
lot of little changes to stops and lines, but she
emphasized some key parts. In the short term, the plan will establish
more crosstown connections, which will bring together
different parts of Cincinnati so traveling requires fewer downtown transfers.
Metro will also make a few changes to improve frequency of travel in major
corridors like Montgomery Road, Reading Road and Vine Street, while
shortening travel times all around.
For the short term, “We don’t have a lot of big changes,”
Hilvers says. “No routes are going away. There’s no fare increase
associated with this. It’s simply reallocating the resources.”
The long-term plan has bigger, more expansive changes. The
biggest part is probably the bus rapid transit system (BRT), which will
allow quicker travel in major corridors by using traffic signal
priority, fewer stops and special bus lanes. Stops will be getting a
makeover in some areas to be more comfortable for
passengers waiting for transfers. There will also be changes to improve
service at current stops, add more crosstown routes and add more routes
that go beyond downtown and into dense areas with lots of jobs. The long-term plan is currently unfunded, but public
opinion will help establish and reshape priorities before any money is
Hilvers says Metro will be doing a “demonstration project”
for BRT next year. In the demo, buses will “dart across” the
Montgomery Road corridor, Xavier University, the University of
Cincinnati and downtown. The plan will help gauge the popularity of the
idea, says Hilvers: “It gives us a test to see how people like this. If
they really like the concept, then we can maybe go for federal funding,
etc. to go for the full-blown BRT in the future.”
“You just have to have a vision of where you’re going,”
Hilvers says. “This is our vision of where we’re going. We have to know
from the community what it wants to ultimately support.”
Metro is still taking public feedback for the Way to Go until the end of the year.
More information on the plan and how to provide feedback can be found at