WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 05.31.2013
Posted In: News, Governor, Privatization at 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ed fitzgerald

Proposal to Prevent JobsOhio Audit

FitzGerald calls on Kasich to veto bill

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is calling on Republican Gov. John Kasich to veto a bill that would prevent State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, from fully auditing JobsOhio, following months of controversy surrounding the private nonprofit entity."I further encourage the Governor to return to negotiations with Auditor Yost, with the explicit goal of establishing an open and transparent process by which the people of Ohio can be sure JobsOhio is spending our tax dollars efficiently, and that the program is doing what it is supposed to be doing: creating Ohio jobs," FitzGerald said in a statement. "The people’s money is the people’s business, and this bill, which slams shut the door on accountability, is simply unacceptable."Yost claims he can audit JobsOhio's liquor profits, which add up to $100 million a year, and private funds, such as donations.But the bill effectively defines JobsOhio's liquor profits as private funds that can't be audited by the state auditor. Under the proposal, Yost could only audit liquor profits and excise taxes that JobsOhio owes to the state, with all other funds effectively deemed private. JobsOhio was established by Kasich and Republican legislators in 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development. The agency's liquor profits come from a lease deal with the state to run Ohio's liquor operations. Yost argues the liquor profits are intrinsically public money because the money would be in public hands if JobsOhio wasn't handling operations.But other Republicans, led by Kasich, say opening JobsOhio to full audits would slow down the agency, hindering its ability to quickly react to economic changes and tides. Kasich has often said the private nature of JobsOhio allows it to move at the "speed of business," which he claims fosters stronger economic development in Ohio.Democrats have pushed back against the notion, saying JobsOhio's private nature only makes it more difficult to hold the state government accountable. With the latest bill, Democrats, who have now taken to dubbing the agency "RobsOhio," say their concerns are being vindicated.But the bill could have far-reaching effects beyond JobsOhio that would effectively disallow the state auditor to audit privately funded accounts in any institution that receives public funding.Despite Yost's pleas to involve him in the process, the auditing bill was passed through the Ohio House and Senate in just two days without his input.Democrats were quick to criticize the bill, asking what JobsOhio has to hide.Kasich is expected to sign the bill to make it law.JobsOhio isn't the only privatization scheme pushed by Kasich. He also sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, a northeastern Ohio prison, to the Corrections Corporation of America. So far, inmate reports and inspections have largely found deplorable conditions at the Lake Erie facility ("From the Inside," issue of May 29).
 
 
by German Lopez 04.08.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Energy, Privatization at 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
bill seitz

Morning News and Stuff

Seitz compares energy efficiency to Stalin, Music Hall lease coming, casino revenues today

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, compared Ohio’s energy efficiency laws to former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s five-year plan. Seitz is leading the charge on a review of the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. The review has been supported by Akron-based First Energy, an energy company that has long opposed Ohio’s energy efficiency standards. But environmental groups say they’re worried the review will water down a law that has brought clean energy and jobs to the state. Cincinnati is poised to approve a lease of Music Hall that will allow renovations to move forward. The plan would lease the Music Hall for 75 years to carry out renovations that will likely cost between $50 million and $100 million, with the city contributing about $10 million. CityBeat covered the plan when it was first announced here. In the midst of Cincinnati’s heated budget battle, the Ohio Casino Control Commission will release its monthly revenue estimates for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino today. City officials estimated that about $9 million to $11 million will be available at a City Council meeting Thursday — seemingly the only point of agreement in a testy exchange over the city’s budget that left city leaders with no consensus on local budget woes. Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley and others have proposed using casino revenue to help balance the city’s budget without layoffs, but Cranley’s $21 million estimate has drawn criticism for being unrealistic. The Ohio House is likely to propose alternatives to Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan this week. State legislators have criticized Kasich’s plan for favoring the wealthy, raising taxes for many Ohioans and expanding Medicaid with the use of federal funds. CityBeat covered the governor’s plan in further detail here. National parks around Ohio are cutting hours and hiring because of sequestration, a series of across-the-board budget cuts that began March 1 after congressional inaction. The cuts have forced the James A. Garfield National Historic Site at Mentor, Ohio, to close on Sundays, which means about 30,000 tourists will be unable to visit this year, according to Todd Arrington, chief of interpretation and education at the park. Ohio’s rural speed limit is being changed to 70 mph, and signs will soon reflect that. Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain’s only female prime minister, died at age 87. A fusion rocket could shoot people to Mars in 30 days.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.15.2013
Posted In: News, Courts, Parking at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
downtown grocery

Ruling to Determine Parking Plan's Future

City, parking plan opponents meet in court, judge unlikely to rule today

The city of Cincinnati and opponents of the parking plan met in court today to debate whether laws passed with emergency clauses are subject to referendum — a crucial legal issue as the city attempts to speed ahead with plans to lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the deficit and foster economic development. After hearing extensive legal arguments from both sides, Judge Robert Winkler, who presided over the hearings, said a decision is unlikely today. Curt Hartman, who represented opponents of the parking plan, argued the city charter’s definition of emergency clauses is ambiguous, and legal precedent supports siding with voters’ right to referendum when there is ambiguity. Terry Nestor, who represented the city, said legal precedent requires the city to defer to state law as long as state law is not contradicted in the city charter. Cincinnati’s city charter does not specify whether emergency legislation is subject to referendum, but state law explicitly says emergency laws are not subject to referendum.Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, previously told CityBeat that if the parking plan is held up for too long in legal battles, the city will have to carry out spending cuts before July to balance the budget in time for the 2014 fiscal year.Emergency clauses remove a 30-day waiting period on approved legislation, and the city claims they also remove the possibility of referendum. City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on March 6 before attaching an emergency clause to the law in a 6-3 vote. But the law was quickly put on hold by a temporary restraining order from Winkler after a lawsuit was filed in favor of subjecting the plan to referendum. Opponents of the parking plan say they’re concerned the plan will cede too much control over the city’s parking meters, which they say could lead to skyrocketing parking rates.  The city says rates are set at 3 percent or inflation, but the rate can change with a unanimous vote from a special committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The special committee would comprise of four people appointed by the Port Authority and one appointed by the city manager. The city is pursuing the parking plan to help balance the city’s deficit for the next two fiscal years and enable economic development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
 
 
by German Lopez 03.20.2013
Posted In: Parking, News, Budget at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
downtown grocery

Judge Extends Parking Plan Restraining Order

City says it's reaching "pressure point" for budget cuts

Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler announced today that he will be extending the restraining order on the city's parking plan until April 3, potentially delaying any ruling on the city's plan to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority for another two weeks.Winkler's office told CityBeat that the judge has been focusing on a murder case, and the delay will give him more time to review the details of the parking plan's case before giving a ruling. The delay does not necessarily mean a ruling is delayed until April 3, and it's possible Winkler could rule within the next two weeks, according to his office.Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says the city is approaching a "pressure point" with the latest delay."We respect the court's right to do that (the extension), and know that every day that we cannot make the parking deal happen is a day that we are closer to having to lay people off," she says.Olberding says the city is so far unsure what the exact effect of the delay will be. The city has repeatedly warned that extending the legal conflict for too long will force the city to make cuts to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.City Council passed the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on March 6, but the plan was almost immediately held up by a temporary restraining order from Winkler after he received a lawsuit from Curt Hartman, an attorney who represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), on behalf of local activists who oppose the plan and argue it should be subject to referendum.The legal dispute is centered around City Council's use of emergency clauses, which remove a 30-day waiting period on approved legislation, and the city claims they also remove the possibility of referendum.In a hearing presided by Winkler on March 15, Hartman argued the city charter's definition of emergency clauses is ambiguous, and legal precedent supports siding with voters' right to referendum when there is ambiguity. Terry Nestor, who represented the city, said legal precedent requires the city to defer to state law as long as state law is not contradicted in the city charter.Cincinnati's city charter does not specify whether emergency legislation is subject to referendum, but state law explicitly says it's not.Opponents of the parking plan say they’re concerned the plan will give up too much control over the city's parking meters, which they say could lead to skyrocketing parking rates.  The city says rates are set at 3 percent or inflation, but the rates can change with a unanimous vote from a special committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The special committee would comprise of four people appointed by the Port Authority and one appointed by the city manager. The city is pursuing the parking plan to help balance the city's deficit for the next two fiscal years and enable economic development projects, including the construction of a downtown grocery store ("Parking Stimulus," issue of Feb. 27).
 
 

Ruling to Determine Parking Plan’s Future

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 20, 2013
The city of Cincinnati and opponents of the parking plan met in court March 15 to debate whether laws passed with emergency clauses are subject to referendum.  
by German Lopez 03.18.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, Parking at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Morning News and Stuff

Parade blocks LGBT group, parking plan awaits ruling, Boehner still against gay marriage

Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade drew a lot of criticism Friday for excluding the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, a group within K-12 schools that works to prevent bullying by striving for equality regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Councilman Chris Seelbach led the criticisms and a boycott on the parade — an effort that gained national attention. Chris Schulte, who was on the board that organized the parade, apparently told Seelbach that the board did not want to be affiliated with gays and lesbians due to the parade’s Catholic roots, but Schulte said in a follow-up press release that the parade does not allow any political or social movement, no matter the cause. Cincinnati’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority remains in legal limbo, even after a court hearing on Friday. Judge Robert Winkler, who presided over the hearings, did not hand down a ruling after hearing extensive legal arguments from the city and opponents of the parking plan. Opponents argued the city charter’s definition of emergency clauses is ambiguous, and legal precedent supports siding with voters’ right to referendum when there is ambiguity. The city said legal precedent requires the city to defer to state law as long as state law is not contradicted in the city charter. Cincinnati’s city charter does not specify whether emergency legislation is subject to referendum, but state law explicitly says emergency laws are not subject to referendum. Despite the reversal of his friend and Republican colleague Sen. Rob Portman, House Speaker John Boehner says he doesn’t see himself ever supporting same-sex marriage. Portman gained national recognition Friday for reversing his position two years after finding out his son is gay. Mayor Mark Mallory will announce details about the City’s Summer Youth Jobs Program tomorrow, and he’s also seeking as many employers as possible to participate in his eighth Annual Youth Job Fair. Employers can sign up for free booths at www.mayormallory.com. Due to a policy that encourages doctors to work overtime, psychiatrists are among the state’s top paid employees. State officials say the policy saves money because overtime rates are lower than psychiatrists’ normal hourly wages. On average, the doctors end up working 80 hours a week, but state officials say there are precautions in place to ensure the highest levels of care. The Steubenville rape case came to a close over the weekend, with two teenagers being found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl. While most people were appalled by the teenagers’ audacity on Twitter and other social media regarding the rape, CNN decided to report the story with sympathy for the convicted rapists: A University of Cincinnati study found a cholesterol drug could prevent colorectal cancer recurrence. Sometimes science can do gross things, like resurrecting a frog that gives birth from its mouth. Popular Science has been covering 3-D printer plans for houses, and the latest one actually looks like a house.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.15.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, LGBT Issues at 08:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
rob portman

Morning News and Stuff

Senator now supports gay marriage, Sittenfeld demands state funding, parking plan in court

Republican Sen. Rob Portman reversed his stance on same-sex marriage after his son came out as gay. The announcement means both Ohio senators are poised to support the Freedom to Marry amendment, which would legalize gay marriage in Ohio and could be on the ballot this year. CityBeat covered FreedomOhio’s efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Ohio in further detail here. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Gov. John Kasich to reverse local government funding cuts carried out during his tenure as governor. A previous Policy Matters Ohio report found the state has cut local government funding by $1.4 billion since Kasich took office, which happens to be the exact amount Kasich says his tax cuts are worth. The governor’s office has previously argued that Kasich had to make some cuts to help balance an $8-billion deficit inherited from former Gov. Ted Strickland, and Kasich is touting his tax cuts as one way to reinvigorate Ohio’s small businesses. But local officials from around the state say that money is needed in cities, villages and counties. The Cincinnati parking plan will be in court today to determine whether a temporary restraining order should remain and whether a lawsuit that claims the plan should be subject to referendum should move forward. If the restraining order does remain, the city says it will have to make cuts to balance the budget by July — in time for the 2014 fiscal year. CityBeat wrote more about the lawsuit here and the parking plan here. State Auditor Dave Yost says he “fully anticipates” he will get the financial records for JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit agency that Kasich supports. Some state Republicans and Kasich argue that only JobsOhio’s public funds should be open for audit, but Yost wants to audit all of the agency’s finances. Kasich says he wants JobsOhio to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development, which is susceptible to a full audit. Plan Cincinnati won the Frank F. Ferris II Community Planning Award from The Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, which commemorates “a local planning commission or committee whose efforts have contributed to the elevation of planning principles, greater awareness of the value of planning and improved quality of life,” according to a press statement. CityBeat covered Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master plan since 1980, in further detail here. Supporters of the Medicaid expansion gathered at a rally yesterday. As part of his budget proposal, Kasich suggested expanding Medicaid, which would cover 456,000 Ohioans by 2022 and save the state money in the next decade, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. Opponents say they fear the plan will leave the state under an unsustainable financial commitment. CityBeat wrote more about the Medicaid expansion and the rest of Kasich’s budget here. Defense cuts that are part of sequestration, a series of across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in March 1, have forced the Air Force to cancel an Ohio festival. The development team behind The Banks says it wants to have a hotel built and ready in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Some analysts are doubting Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, which could have bad implications for the local economy. Higgs Boson, the theorized particle that gives the universe its mass, has been discovered with the help of the Large Hadron Collider.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.13.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Economy, Streetcar, Mayor at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley: Redirect Funding From Streetcar to Interchange

Federal grants tied to streetcar, transit projects

The MLK/I-71 Interchange project is supposed to be funded through the city’s parking plan, but mayoral candidate John Cranley, who opposes the parking plan and streetcar, says the city should instead use federal funding that was originally intended for the streetcar project. Between 2010 and 2011, the streetcar project was awarded about $40 million in federal grants — nearly $25 million through the Urban Circulator Grant, $4 million through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Grant and nearly $11 million through TIGER 3. The grants are highly competitive and allocated to certain projects. In the case of Cincinnati, the grants were specifically awarded to the streetcar after it was thoroughly vetted as a transit, not highway, project. The Department of Transportation (DOT) website explains why the Urban Circulator Grant is only meant for transit projects like the streetcar: “Urban circulator systems such as streetcars and rubber-tire trolley lines provide a transportation option that connects urban destinations and foster the redevelopment of urban spaces into walkable mixed-use, high-density environments.” The CMAQ Grant’s main goal is to fund projects that curtail congestion and pollution, with an emphasis on transit projects, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The website explains, “Eligible activities include transit improvements, travel demand management strategies, traffic flow improvements and public fleet conversions to cleaner fuels, among others.” The DOT website says TIGER 3 money could go to a highway project, but one of the program’s goals is promoting “livability,” which is defined as, “Fostering livable communities through place-based policies and investments that increase transportation choices and access to transportation services for people in communities across the United States.” TIGER 3 is also described as highly competitive by the DOT, so only a few programs get a chance at the money.When asked about the grants’ limitations, Cranley said, “I believe … the speaker of the house, the senator, the congressman, the governor and the mayor could petition and get that changed. Just because that may have been the way they set the grants in the first place doesn’t mean they can’t change it.” The parking plan would lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and allocate a portion of the raised funds — $20 million — to the MLK/I-71 Interchange project, but the plan is currently being held up by a lawsuit seeking to enable a referendum. The streetcar is one of the few issues in which Cranley and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a streetcar supporter who is also running for mayor, are in stark contrast (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23). Cranley’s opponents recently accused him of originally supporting the streetcar when he was a council member through two 2008 City Council motions, but Cranley says those motions, which he co-sponsored, only asked the city administration to study the merits of a streetcar plan, not approve of it. Cranley voted no on the first streetcar resolution in October 2007 and the motion to actually build the streetcar in April 2008. “I’ve never said that I’m against the (streetcar) concept in all circumstances,” Cranley says. “I wanted to know if there was a way that they could pay for it in a way that wouldn’t take away from what I thought were more important priorities.”
 
 

Parking Plan Remains in Limbo

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets remains up in the air after court rulings last week kept a court-mandated restraining order in place until at least March 15, when a hearing is scheduled at the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.   
by German Lopez 03.11.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, City Council, Taxes, Privatization, Parking at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking plan on hold, mall renovations to go ahead, Kasich's sales tax plan under fire

Cincinnati’s plan to lease parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority remains on hold as a lawsuit arguing the law should be subject to referendum works through the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. The legal dispute is focused on City Council’s use of the emergency clause, which eliminates a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws and takes away the possibility of a referendum. Emergency clauses are routinely deployed in City Council, but opponents of the parking plan say that doesn’t make them right. Whether the parking deal does go through or not, the Tower Place Mall renovations will be carried out. The city originally included the renovations as part of the plan, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the city is planning on selling the the property to a subsidiary of JDL Warm Construction for an undisclosed sum, and the company will then pay an estimated $5 million for the redevelopment. Gov. John Kasich’s plan to expand the sales tax to fund tax cuts is being heavily criticized by some members of the business community, but Rep. Ron Amstutz, chairman of the Ohio House Finance & Appropriations Committee, says he is looking into ways to save the proposal. Kasich’s plan would expand the application of the sales tax to include more services, including cable TV and admission to sport events, but it would lower the sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5 percent and carry out 20-percent across-the-board income tax cuts. CityBeat wrote about Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here. As part of Kasich’s education plans, the state’s school voucher program is expanding to help students meet a Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires third-graders pass a test in reading proficiency before they can move onto fourth grade. Supporters argue the voucher program provides more choice and control for parents, but opponents say the state should not be paying for private educations. A previous Policy Matters Ohio report found expanded school choice through more vouchers can have negative effects on education, including worse results for students and teachers. State Auditor Dave Yost is pushing for a full audit of JobsOhio, the publicly funded private, nonprofit agency, but Republican state legislators are joining Kasich in opposition. The opposing Republicans say the state auditor can track any public funds used for JobsOhio, but they say the agency is allowed to keep its private funds under wraps. Kasich says he plans to replace the Ohio Department of Development, which can be fully audited by the state auditor at any time, with JobsOhio. The Ohio Department of Education apparently knew or should have known of ongoing data scrubbing in schools as early as 2008, according to The Toledo Blade. Emails acquired by The Blade show officials analyzed and discussed data reports that year after media reports detailed how urban districts excluded thousands of test scores on state report cards. Supporters of the Anna Louise Inn gathered Friday in celebration of International Women’s Day and to stand against Western & Southern’s repeated efforts to run the Inn out of the neighborhood. The U.S. Census Bureau says Cincinnati commutes are much shorter than the national average, with only 2.9 percent of Cincinnatians spending more than 60 minutes one-way during their commute, as compared to the 8.1 percent national average. The Cincinnati Enquirer unveiled its new tabloid format today. Ben Kaufman says it looks nice and arrived on time. The Killers are coming to the Horseshoe Casino. A new study says results from fMRI scans are unintentionally distorted and inaccurate — to the point that some studies on the human brain that use fMRI results may be seriously questionable.
 
 

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