by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:16 AM | Permalink
Ohioans overwhelmingly support medical marijuana, plurality backs same-sex marriage
Ohioans are moving left on marijuana and same-sex marriage, according to a poll released Monday by Quinnipiac University.The poll found an overwhelming majority — 87 percent — of
Ohioans support legalizing marijuana for medical uses. About 51 percent support allowing adults to legally possess a small amount of the drug. And 83 percent agree
marijuana is equally or less dangerous than alcohol.At the same time, 50 percent of Ohio voters now support same-sex marriage, compared to 44 percent who do not.A plurality of voters — 34 percent versus 26 percent —
also disapproved of Gov. John Kasich’s handling of abortion. (In the
latest state budget, Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the Ohio
legislature imposed new restrictions on abortions and abortion
providers.)Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,370 registered Ohio
voters from Feb. 12 to Feb. 17 for the poll, producing a 2.7 percent
margin of error.The findings indicate the state is moving left on the biggest social issues of the day.In 2004, Ohioans approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.Last year, a Saperstein Associates poll conducted for The Columbus Dispatch
found 63 percent of Ohioans favor legalizing medical marijuana, but 59
percent said they oppose full-on legalization. (Given the different
methodologies, it’s unclear how Saperstein Associates’ results compare
to Quinnipiac University’s poll.)Whether the liberal shift applies to ballot initiatives
remains to be seen. This year, two groups aim to get medical marijuana
and same-sex marriage on the Ohio ballot.Contrary to what polling numbers might imply, it
currently seems more likely same-sex marriage will end up on the ballot
this year. FreedomOhio, which is leading the effort, says it already has
the petition signatures required to get the issue on the ballot in
November, even though other LGBT groups, including Equality Ohio, say
the effort should wait until 2016.Meanwhile, the Ohio Rights Group admits it doesn’t yet
have the signatures required to get medical marijuana on the ballot. The
organization has until July to gather 385,247 petition signatures,
which in large part must come from at least half of Ohio’s 88 counties.
In the very unlikely scenario the Ohio Rights Group gets all the petitions in circulation back with 36 legitimate signatures filled out on each, the organization would
have about 246,000 signatures.Still, with support seemingly growing, it seems unlikely
medical marijuana and same-sex marriage will remain illegal in Ohio for
by German Lopez
Board of Elections to move, Kasich repeals one early voting week, income inequality on rise
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday ruled that
the Hamilton County Board of Elections can move to a former hospital
site at Mount Airy after the 2016 election, but whether early voting
moves along with the Board of Elections needs to be resolved separately.
The decision does little to resolve the dispute between local Democrats
and Republicans about which location — downtown or Mount Airy — is
better for early voters. Democrats argue downtown, as the central hub of
local public transportation, best meets the need of most early voters.
Republicans argue the Mount Airy facility is closer to the center of the
whole county and provides free parking, which Republicans say should
make up for the few bus routes that go to the neighborhood.Gov. John Kasich on Friday signed two controversial
election bills that reduce the time allotted for early voting by one
week and restrict counties’ ability to send out unsolicited absentee
voting applications. The reduction of early voting in particular raised
claims of “voter suppression” from Democrats because the bill eliminates
the Golden Week in which early voters can register to vote and actually vote on
the same day. Republicans say the bills are necessary to establish
uniform early voting hours and rules across the state. In general, both
sides acknowledge Democrats benefit from more early voting access and
Republicans benefit from less early voting access.Income inequality rose in Ohio between 1979 and 2011, but Ohio fared
better than most states, according to an analysis from the Economic
Policy Institute and the Economic Analysis and Research Network. Ohio’s
top 1 percent make roughly 18.1 times the annual income as the bottom 99
percent. In comparison, the average nationwide rate is 24.4 and the rate
in the two worst performing states — New York and Connecticut — is 40.Contrary to faulty reports from Councilman Charlie Winburn and The Cincinnati Enquirer,
the city extensively warned residents about its decision to decertify
the flood levee around Lunken Airport. In fact, Winburn in 2010 actually
voted in favor of an ordinance that supported the decertification. The
decision means residents in the area need to purchase flood insurance.Mayor John Cranley and other city officials plan to boost
minority- and women-owned business contracts through aspirational
inclusion goals set between the city and contractors. Since the city can’t
force businesses to meet the goals, Cranley acknowledges the city could
fail. But contractors who worked on the Horsehoe Casino said a similar
policy was effective in boosting minority rates for that project.Two people died in Walnut Hills today after a stabbing and police-involved shooting, according to Cincinnati Police.Cincinnati plans to increase efforts to get more solar
panels on city rooftops. A more specific announcement should come in the
next few weeks. Just a couple weeks ago, the Solar Foundation ranked
Ohio No. 8 in the nation for solar jobs.Ohio gas prices continued rising this week.Watch a robot 3-D print with metal here.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
Parking debate continues, mayors work to bring manufacturing, voting bills pass legislature
City Council watered down Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan to
just two proposals: upgrading parking meters and increased enforcement. Council and public opposition ultimately proved too much for increasing neighborhood rates and expanded evening hours at major hubs. The changes
mean less revenue for the city but reduced parking costs for
residents. Still, with the parking plan changing almost daily, it’s
unclear whether the current iteration will be the final proposal that
the Neighborhood Committee and City Council ultimately pass.Compare: Cranley’s original parking plan versus the parking privatization plan.Meanwhile, Xerox, the private operator that took over
Cincinnati’s parking meters in the parking privatization plan, proposed
its own version of a parking plan in which the company manages parking
meters while City Council retains control over setting hours, rates and
enforcement. Xerox says its plan will generate
more revenue. But Cranley rejected Xerox’s plan weeks ago.Commentary: “County Should Accept Responsible Bidder Law.”Cranley yesterday announced he’s partnering with Dayton
Mayor Nan Whaley to get a share of $1.3 billion in federal funds that
would help attract manufacturing. The two cities will compete as one
community for the federal Investing in Manufacturing Communities
Partnership. The competition’s 12 winners will each receive part of
the $1.3 billion pot. Even if Cincinnati and Dayton don’t win, Cranley
said the competition will at least get them thinking about working
together as a community for manufacturing jobs.The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature yesterday
approved controversial election bills that reduce the state’s early voting period by one week and restrict
counties’ abilities to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot
applications. Democrats say the measures are meant to suppress voters,
but Republicans argue the changes are supposed to set uniform standards
across the state. At least one top Ohio Republican previously admitted the
measures were supposed to suppress voters, particularly “the urban —
read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Gov. John Kasich is now
the only person that stands between the bill becoming law.The city plans to undertake a pothole-fixing blitz in March.The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority will begin its
14-neighborhood rehabilitation plan in Evanston, where the agency will
target about 100 properties.With a “virtual online menu” and access to vocational
education in the seventh grade, Gov. Kasich says he wants to get Ohio students planning their careers much earlier.The Ohio House approved a plan that will give schools four
more calamity days — more popularly known as “snow days” — for the
current school year. The bill now heads to the Ohio Senate and Kasich.U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown wants to close a loophole in
Medicare that costs seniors thousands of dollars in unexpected medical
bills.Quinnipiac University’s most recent poll found Ohioans
would choose Hillary Clinton over Kasich and other Republicans for
president.Whooping cough appears to be evolving in response to its vaccine.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
Comparing Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan to the one he stopped in November
5 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
What's different between Mayor John Cranley's parking plan and the plan he helped kill in November?
by German Lopez
Proposal could increase parking enforcement, hours and rates
Mayor John Cranley on Feb. 12 officially unveiled his
plan for Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, providing the
first clear option for the city’s parking system since the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority agreed to halt the previous plan.
The proposal seeks to effectively replace the previous
administration’s parking privatization plan, which outsourced the city’s
parking assets to the Port Authority and several private companies, and maintain local control of the city’s parking assets.Here’s a breakdown of the plan and all its finer details.
What is Cranley’s parking plan?
It’s a plan for Cincinnati’s parking
meters, lots and garages. More specifically, Cranley calls his proposal a
“framework” that focuses on upgrading the city’s parking meters and keeps City Council’s control of parking rates and hours.
Cranley’s plan, based on a Feb. 7 memo from Walker Parking Consultants, achieves his goals in a few ways:
• The city would issue bonds, backed by future parking revenues, to upgrade all parking meters to accept credit card payments.
• The amount of enforcement officers under the city’s
payroll would increase to 15, up from five, to provide greater coverage
of the city’s parking meters. (Currently, a few areas, including major
hubs like the University of Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine, are
effectively unenforced for two to five hours a day, according to Walker.)
• Neighborhood meter rates would go up by 25 cents to 75 cents an hour. Downtown rates would remain at $2 an hour.
• Sundays and holidays remain free.
Cranley says the underlying idea is to maintain a few key
principles, particularly local control over rates and hours. He cautions
Walker’s proposal, including expanded enforcement hours, could change with public input and as City Council puts together the final plan.Does the plan let people use smartphones to pay for parking meters?
No. Cranley says the upgraded meters will support the
technology, but it will be up to council to decide whether it’s enabled in the
Smartphone capability is a double-edged sword: It introduces its own set of costs, including shorter battery life for meters. It also allows customers to avoid under- and overpaying at parking meters, which decreases citation and meter revenues. But smartphone access also increases ease of use, which could lead to higher revenues by making it easier to pay.
The parking privatization plan promised to provide smartphone access at all parking meters. The previous administration and Port
Authority championed the feature as key to increasing convenience and revenue.
OK, that explains the parking meters. What about the parking garages?
Cranley’s plan makes two changes to garages:
• The Port Authority would take over Fountain Square South
Garage. The Port would be required to cover expenses for the garage,
but any net revenue could be used on projects within the city.
• The city would issue bonds, backed by future parking revenues, to build a garage at 7th and Broadway streets.
Otherwise, things remain the same as today.
In other words, the city would be on the hook for
parking garage repairs and upgrades, which Walker estimates would cost
roughly $8 million in capital expenses over the next five years.But the city would also continue directly receiving around $2 million per year in net revenue from parking garages, according to Walker.
Still, the city isn’t allowed under state law to use the revenue from parking garages for anything outside the parking system.The parking privatization plan tried to do away with the restriction by putting the Port Authority in charge of garages. State law allows agencies like the Port to tap into garage revenues for other uses, such as development projects.But without the previous administration’s plan, Cranley claims the Port Authority declined to take over more facilities beyond Fountain Square South
Garage. Given the rejection, Cranley says it’s up to council to figure out another way to leverage garage
revenues beyond putting them back in the parking system.What does Cranley’s plan do about the thousands of parking tickets already owed to the city?
Nothing. By Cranley’s own admission, the city needs to do a
better job collecting what it’s owed. But he says that’s something City
Council will have to deal with in the future.
So why did Cranley oppose the parking privatization plan?
Cranley vehemently opposed giving up local
control of the city’s parking assets. He warned that outsourcing meters to the Port Authority and private companies would create a for-profit incentive to
ratchet up parking rates and enforcement.
The previous administration disputed Cranley’s warnings.
They pointed out an advisory board, chaired by four Port Authority
appointees and one city appointee, would need to unanimously agree on
rate and hour changes, and the changes could be vetoed by the city
manager.Without any changes from the advisory board, the 30-year privatization plan hiked downtown parking meter rates by 25 cents every three years and neighborhood rates by 25 cents every six years. The plan also expanded enforcement hours to 8 a.m.-9 p.m. in Over-the-Rhine and parts of downtown.
Still, City Council would lose its control of rates and hours under the privatization plan. Cranley and other opponents argued the outsourcing scheme could insulate the parking system from public — and voter — input.
Cranley also opposed the privatization plan’s financial
arrangement. Under the old deal, the city would receive a lump sum of
$85 million and annual installments of $3 million, as long as required
expenses, such as costly garage upgrades or repairs, were met.In comparison, the city currently gets roughly $3 million in net revenue from parking meters and another $2 million in net revenue from parking garages. (As noted earlier, the parking garage revenue can only be used for parking expenses.) Cranley characterizes the lump sum as
“borrowing from the future” because it uses upfront money that could
instead be taken in by the city as annual revenue.Related: Compare Cranley’s plan with the parking privatization plan.
Why does Cranley think his proposal is necessary? It solidifies the death of the parking privatization plan. That’s important to begin the process of legally dismantling the previous plan.The plan also increases net parking meter revenues from roughly $3 million to $6 million in the next budget year and more than $7 million per year within five years, according to Walker’s original estimates. (The estimates are likely too high because they assumed evening hours would expand around the University of Cincinnati, Short Vine in Corryville, Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But Cranley shelved the expansion of hours, with no estimates for how the changes will affect revenues.)Since parking meter revenue, unlike garage revenue, can be used for non-parking expenses, the extra revenue could help plug the $20 million gap in the $370 million operating budget.Why do some people oppose Cranley’s plan?
Some people supported the parking privatization plan. They
saw the lump sum as a great opportunity to invest in development
projects around the city. Without the lump sum, critics claim Cranley’s
plan accepts all the pain of the previous plan — increased
enforcement, rates and hours — for very little gain, even though the city would get more annual revenue and upgraded parking meters and garages.
Politics are also involved. After the contentious
streetcar debate, there’s not much Cranley can do without some critics speaking out.
When will Cranley’s plan go into effect?
City Council first has to approve Cranley’s plan for it to
become law. Council will likely take up and debate the plan at the
Neighborhood Committee on Feb. 24 and set a more concrete timeline
after that.This blog post will be regularly updated as more information becomes available. Latest update: Feb. 19.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Gov. John Kasich’s income tax proposal would excessively favor Ohio’s wealthiest, an analysis from Policy Matters Ohio and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The federal government reported slightly
better numbers in January for Obamacare’s once-troubled online
marketplaces, but Ohio and the nation still fall far short of key
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The group heading a supportive housing
project in Avondale announced Feb. 14 that it will initiate monthly
“good neighbor” meetings to address concerns about the facility.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The debate over
responsible bidder is Cincinnati’s opportunity to switch the dynamic
between workers and bigger businesses.
by German Lopez
Local infant deaths remain high, pension fixes proposed, Seitz renews anti-efficiency efforts
Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s infant mortality rates
dropped to record lows in 2013, but the city and county’s rates of
infant deaths remain far above the national average. Over the past five
years, the city’s infant mortality rate hit 12.4 deaths per 1,000 live
births and the county’s rate reached 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.
In comparison, the national average in 2011 was 6.1 deaths per 1,000
live births. Cradle Cincinnati, a collaborative initiative formed in
2013, pointed to three possible factors to explain the troubling rates: short
time between pregnancies, maternal smoking during pregnancy and poor
sleeping habits, including deaths that could be easily prevented by
ensuring a baby sleeps alone, on his or her back and in a crib.Councilman Christopher Smitherman yesterday proposed fixes
for Cincinnati’s ailing pension system, and the proposal includes a hit
to city retirees’ benefits. Unique to Smitherman’s plan is a new $100
million commitment to help shore up the city’s unfunded
liability of $870 million, but Smitherman could not say where council would get that
much money. Otherwise, the proposal would freeze cost of living
increases in the system for three years and reduce future cost of living increases from a
3 percent compounded rate to a 2 percent fixed rate, among other
changes. Smitherman hopes to get up-or-down votes on his plan within the
next two weeks, even if it requires splitting the plan into multiple
parts.State Sen. Bill Seitz plans to renew his efforts in the Ohio legislature to
dismantle the state’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates. Seitz says
“devastating testimony” in support of his bill should invigorate a push
for his plan. But the testimony will apparently be based off a flawed
industry-financed report released yesterday. A separate study, based on
an economic model from the Ohio State University, found Ohio’s energy standards
will save Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014
and 2025.Cincinnati plans to begin marketing an 18-acre plot of
land in Lower Price Hill to bring 400 jobs to the
struggling neighborhood. After the city finishes environmental
remediation this month, it hopes to put the property on the market. CityBeat previously covered some of Lower Price Hill’s struggles with poverty in further detail here.The gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. John Kasich and
Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald tightened from seven points in
November to five points this month, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. But the
survey did not include Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl as a choice —
an omission that could work to Kasich’s favor in the polling results.Gay families are being excluded from Obamacare benefits in
Ohio and other states in which same-sex marriage is not recognized.
That means Ohio’s gay families can’t get financial benefits going to
traditional families to help them get covered. President Barack Obama’s
administration says it’s aware of the issue, but it doesn’t plan a fix
until next year.Some Ohio lawmakers want an investigation into Kasich’s
administration after documents showed his administration planning to
work with oil and gas companies to promote fracking in state parks and
forests. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons
of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock oil and
gas reserves. CityBeat covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.Bad news: A Chinese firm won’t bring an $80 million project to the Cincinnati area after all.An Ohio driver rescued a kitten found frozen on the road.A parasite commonly found in cats can now be found in
arctic beluga whales. Scientists say melting ice barriers — a symptom of
climate change — explains the pathogen’s increased migration.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.