by German Lopez
Council resolution embraces Cincinnati’s past clean energy successes
With a resolution passed Wednesday, City Council is urging state legislators to maintain the energy efficiency standards that helped drive Cincinnati’s clean energy growth.State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, sent out a memo
Feb. 1 that suggested “a meaningful review” of the state’s energy
efficiency standards, which were previously established by Senate Bill
221 in 2008 and Senate Bill 315 in 2012. In the memo, Seitz wrote he was open
to freezing and weakening some of the established standards.Environmental groups responded by calling on local governments to defend the standards. In Cincinnati, the
call was picked up by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who touted
the city’s past clean energy efforts in a statement: “Cincinnati has
made great strides in energy efficiency by seeking cost savings while
boosting our city’s green image. Energy efficiency is helping Cincinnati
support a double bottom line of environmental and economic
sustainability, and we endorse full implementation of our state
efficiency law.”The city estimates it saves $1 million a year on energy bills
because of the law’s efficiency programs, which includes upgrades and
Christian Adams, a clean energy associate of Environment Ohio,
praised Cincinnati for passing the resolution in a statement: “From
efficiency to solar, Cincinnati [is] a state leader on clean energy, and it’s
proving to be a win-win-win for consumers, the environment and the
economy. If state lawmakers want to change our clean energy law, they
should follow Cincinnati’s lead and double-down on wind, solar and
energy efficiency.”In a previous report, Environment Ohio claimed Cincinnati could become the solar energy capital of the region. CityBeat covered the report and Cincinnati’s — particularly the Cincinnati Zoo’s — success with solar energy (“Solar Cincinnati,” issue of Dec. 19).
by German Lopez
Seelbach tired of streetcar delays, Pentagon to lift combat ban for women, JobsOhio in court
Council Member Chris Seelbach says he’s getting impatient
with streetcar delays. During a series of complaints aired on Twitter, Seelbach wrote the deadline for streetcar operation should be the Major
League Baseball All-Star Game in 2015. This week’s CityBeat cover story explains some of the delays and how the streetcar relates to the 2013 mayor’s race.
The Pentagon is planning to lift the ban
on women in combat situations. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said
the decision came after a recommendation from his Joint Chiefs of
Staff. Between the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and this decision,
President Barack Obama’s administration has been one of the most
inclusive when it comes to the military.
The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear
a case questioning the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Policy group ProgressOhio says it might be illegal to use state liquor profits to
fund JobsOhio, a private nonprofit organization Gov. John Kasich set up
to drive economic growth in the state.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game could bring
$60-$80 million to Cincinnati, according to Julie Heath,
director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center. It was
recently announced Cincinnati will host the game in 2015.
Gov. Kasich said he won’t oust
State Board of Education President Debe Terhar after she made a
Facebook post comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler. Kasich is happy she
admitted it was a mistake, and he said he will leave it at that.
Democrats called for her ousting Tuesday.
American Military Partner Association, a national
organization that supports LGBT veterans, endorsed FreedomOhio’s
same-sex marriage amendment. If voters approve the amendment this
November, gay marriage will be legalized in Ohio. CityBeat wrote more about FreedomOhio’s ballot initiative here.
Cincinnati Public Schools is piloting an after-school program focusing on the arts. The high-energy sessions are apparently proving to be a hit among students so far.
U.S. Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, says President Barack Obama is out to annihilate the Republican Party. I’m not seeing the problem here.
Moody’s doesn’t have confidence in U.S. nonprofit hospitals.
New science makes it possible to detect brain damage in football players that previously couldn’t be seen until a victim was dead. CityBeat covered how head trauma relates to former Bengals players' workers' comp claims here.
Popular Science explains how to make the perfect snowball.
by German Lopez
Secretary of state race underway, bridge may need private funding, sewer policy dismissed
Is the race for Ohio secretary of state already underway? Ohio
Sen. Nina Turner, who is considering a run against Secretary of State
Jon Husted in 2014, says she will introduce legislation to protect voters against Republican efforts to limit ballot access. She also criticized Husted for how he handled the 2012 election, which CityBeat covered here. Husted responded by asking Turner to “dial down political rhetoric.”
Build Our New Bridge Now, an organization dedicated to building the Brent Spence Bridge, says the best approach is private financing.
The organization claims a public-private partnership is the only way to
get the bridge built by 2018, rather than 2022. But critics are worried
the partnership and private financing would lead to tolls.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners threw out
a Metropolitan Sewer District competitive bidding policy yesterday. The
policy, which was originally passed by City Council, was called unfair
and illegal by county commissioners due to apprenticeship requirements and rules that favor contractors within city limits. Councilman Chris Seelbach is now pushing for compromise for the rules.
Believe it or not, Cincinnati’s economy will continue outpacing the national economy this year, says Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.
Three Cincinnati-area hospitals are among the best in the nation,
according to new rankings from Healthgrades. The winners: Christ
Hospital, Bethesda North Hospital and St. Elizabeth Healthcare-Edgewood.
Democrat David Mann, former Cincinnati mayor and congressman, may re-enter politics with an attempt at City Council.
In its 2013 State of Tobacco report, the American Lung Association gave Ohio an F for anti-smoking policies.
The organization said the state is doing a poor job by relying
exclusively on federal money for its $3.3 million anti-tobacco program.
The Centers for Disease Control says Ohio should be spending $145
The Air Force is gearing up for massive spending cuts currently set to kick in March. The cuts will likely affect Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Dennis Kucinich, who used to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, will soon appear on Fox News as a regular contributor.
For anyone who’s ever been worried about getting attacked by a drone, there’s now a hoodie and scarf for that.
by German Lopez
New restrooms stalled, Medicaid expansion saves money, there is no “climate debate”
City Council wants to do more research
before it proceeds with freestanding public restrooms in downtown
and Over-the-Rhine. The vote has been delayed. Critics say
the restrooms are too expensive at $130,000, but supporters, particularly Councilman Chris Seelbach, insist the
restrooms will not be that expensive. A majority of City Council argues
the restrooms are necessary because increasing populations and growth in
downtown have made 24-hour facilities necessary.
A new report found Ohio’s budget would benefit from a Medicaid expansion.
The expansion would mostly save money by letting the federal government
pick up a much larger share of the cost for Ohio’s population, particularly prison
inmates. A previous study
found Medicaid expansions were correlated with better health results,
including decreased mortality rates, in some states. Another study from
the Arkansas Department of Human Services found the state would save
$378 million by 2025 with the Medicaid expansion. Most of the savings from the Arkansas study
would come from uncompensated care — costs that are placed on health
institutions and state and local governments when uninsured patients
that can’t and don’t pay use medical services.
The Dayton Daily News has a wonderful example of how not to do journalism. In an article on the supposed “climate debate,”
the newspaper ignored the near-unanimous scientific consensus on global warming and decided to give credence to people who deny all
scientific reasoning. To be clear, there is no climate debate. There’s the overwhelming majority of scientists, climatologists and data on one side, and there’s the
pro-oil, pro-coal lobby and stubborn, irrational conservatives who will
deny anything that hurts their interests on the other side.
The Ohio Board of Education approved policies for seclusion rooms.
The non-binding policy requires parents to be notified if their
children are placed in a seclusion room, and the Ohio Department of
Education can also request data, even though it won’t be made public. More
stringent policies may come in the spring. Seclusion rooms are supposed
to be used to hold out-of-control kids, but an investigation from The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio found the rooms were being abused by teachers and school staff for their convenience.
If the city wants to buy Tower Place, the mall will have to be cleared out, according to City Manager Milton Dohoney.
Last week, the remaining businesses at Tower Place were evicted, and
Dohoney said the city did not sign off on the eviction orders. Apparently, the
city really didn’t agree to or enforce eviction orders, but the city’s buyout requires
evictions. Dohoney said the eviction notices should signify the
deal to buy Tower Place is moving forward.
Dohoney appointed Captain Paul Humphries to the assistant chief position
for the Cincinnati Police Department. Humphries has been on the force
for 26 years, and he currently serves as the chief of staff to Chief
Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP) is targeting Mt. Airy and Carthage.
Starting March 1, police, businesses and civic groups will begin
putting together accelerated revitalization and reinvestment plans for
the communities. NEP emphasizes building code enforcement, crime,
neighborhood cleanup and beautification.
Good news, everyone. Cincinnati is no longer the bedbug capital.
Bob Castellini, owner of the Reds, was named the region’s master entrepreneur by Northern Kentucky University.
The Ohio Department of Transportation released a website that has real-time traffic information.
Some people really suck at political slogans.
Oh, science. Apparently, particle physics could improve Netflix’s suggestions.
by German Lopez
State budget will reform taxes, Monzel takes charge of county, freestanding restroom vote
Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,”
according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new
plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax
structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some
are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education.
Chris Monzel is now in charge
of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as
president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice
president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost
$130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but
Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility
for about $40,000.
Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy
regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been
looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad
for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures
job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and
Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges.
King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions.
Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality.
Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not
require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea.
An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring.
Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president.
Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world,
say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes
it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne
Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world.
Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.
by German Lopez
Strickland won't run in 2014, county reviewing MSD, freestanding restroom underway
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland will not run for governor in 2014. In a statement released today, the Democrat who previously served four years as governor did not
give a reason for why he won’t run. But he did promise his wife and him
will “continue to be politically active private citizens.” Strickland
also touted his accomplishments as governor, including energy, health
care, social services and property tax reform. In September, Strickland
faced criticism from the left for pushing for the Democratic platform
to include a mention of God and a proclamation that Jerusalem is the
capital of Israel. The platform amendment contradicts decades of U.S.
Hamilton County wants an efficiency review
of the Metropolitan Sewer District. Republican Commissioner Chris
Monzel ordered the review. He says he expects “things at the
Metropolitan Sewer District are being managed and operated in a highly
efficient and effective manner,” but he wants to make sure. MSD is
currently taking part in a multi-billion dollar, federally mandated upgraded
system. CityBeat wrote about MSD’s green initiatives here.
Findlay Market might soon host Cincinnati’s first freestanding restroom.
If it goes well, it could be the start of a much bigger city-wide
project, and freestanding restrooms will be built all around downtown
and Over-the-Rhine. The test facility is being touted by Councilman
Chris Seelbach and other city officials as they seek to provide better
access to restrooms throughout the city.Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing a possible ethics investigation from the Ohio House of Representatives. The controversy was prompted by a recently filed lawsuit, which alleges Beck participated in a fraud that cheated investors out of more than $1.2 million.
Some local educators are supporting the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio. The rooms, which are enclosed spaces used to calm or restrain children who become violent, have come under criticism after an investigation from StateImpact Ohio and The Columbus Dispatch
found the rooms were being abused for the convenience of staff. Ohio
does not currently regulate the use of seclusion rooms, but that is
likely to change in an upcoming Ohio Board of Education meeting.
On the bright side, Ohio has the 10th best education laws, according to a study from StudentsFirst.
Overall, Ohio got a C-, making it one of the 12 states to get a B or C.
No state received an A. StateImpact Ohio has more on the grade here.
State officials probably understand how I felt when I dropped out of a
college history class because the professor was too strict of a grader.
Then again, state education systems are probably more important than
Colonial History 101.
The Blue Wisp, home of the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is looking to renegotiate its lease.
Over the holidays, restaurant hero and Blue Wisp manager Ed Felson told
customers his jazz-themed restaurant and club is having financial
problems.The most emailed phrase while committing fraud at work is “cover up.”
One major problem with prolonged space missions: Humans become lazy and sleepy. It seems like being an astronaut isn’t different from any other job. Who can we rely on when aliens finally invade?
by Andy Brownfield
Resolution promises no bus funds used on streetcar
In hopes of quashing rumors, City Council on Wednesday
passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit authority had voted
Tuesday on an agreement with the city that contained a provision saying
money from the $42 million transit fund that pays for bus operation
can’t be used on the streetcar.
The agreement needs to be signed by the city as well in
order to release millions of dollars in federal grants to help fund the
streetcar. The city has pledged to match those grants with local funds.
SORTA wants to make sure the transit fund isn’t used for that purpose,
but the city wants to have the freedom to use that money on any
At least one council member questioned the necessity of passing the resolution.
Chris Seelbach said that nobody on council or in the city
administration had proposed or would propose using transit money on the
“I don’t understand why we would need a provision in any
contract that would make us not be able to, when nobody’s proposing that
we do it,” he said.
The resolution has no legal standing preventing council
from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar, but
Qualls said she hoped it put citizens’ minds at rest regarding their
Mayor Mark Mallory on Monday published an editorial in The
Enquirer promising that the transit money wouldn’t be used for the
He went further on Wednesday and said during council’s
meeting that he as mayor would never approve the use of transit money
for the operation of the streetcar.
Council also passed a one-month budget for SORTA, requiring that they come back next month to pass another one.
Councilman Chris Smitherman accused Mallory of trying to
flex political muscle in the budget to strong-arm SORTA into taking out
the provision disallowing the use of transit funds for the streetcar. He
questioned the timing of passing a SORTA budget the day after the
transit authority voted to prevent transit funds being used for the
Councilman Charlie Winburn — council's sole Republican — walked out of a Budget Committee meeting in advance of the vote.
However Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said it made sense to
pass the one-month budget because it forbid SORTA from using taxpayer
money to sue the city.
City Solicitor John Curp said it was SORTA’s position in
the lawsuit that it should be the one deciding how transit funds are
used, not the city.
by Andy Brownfield
City Manager says without lease, 344 city workers would lose jobs
Cincinnati City Council members today focused a lot of attention
on a contentious plan to lease city parking assets during a Monday
committee presentation on the 2013 budget.
It was the first opportunity council members had to
publicly question the budget’s architects. The proposed budget would
cover the first half of 2013. The city is switching over to a fiscal
year starting in July.
Many council members expressed concern over the plan
to use $21 million from a proposed 30-year lease of the city’s parking
meters, garages and lots to help close a $34 million budget deficit.
“It seems like … the city budget wins, but the citizens are losing,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said the parking facilities
net Cincinnati about $7 million a year. That would equal out to about
$210 million over 30 years.
Sittenfeld called into question the wisdom of leasing the
facilities for an estimated $50 million and taking half of the profit,
for an earnings of about $150 million over 30 years.
Other council members expressed concern that whoever
leased the parking would hike rates, something Councilman Cecil Thomas
“The market would dictate the rates that are charged,” he said.
Dohoney said a combination of cuts, savings, revenue,
projected growth and one-time funding sources helped eliminate the $34
million deficit. He said a budget containing only cuts would result in the layoff of 344 city workers.
A slide show provided by the city showed that 802 positions had been cut since 2000.Dohoney advocated eliminating the property tax rollback promised as part of the deal to build two new sports stadiums in 1996. He said it would bring in about $9 million a year. However council has had little appetite to allow any increase in taxes as the city recovers from the Great Recession. Property taxes make up about 6 percent of the budget fund used to pay most of the city's operating expenses.
The cuts proposed in the 2013 budget include eliminating
support for public access company Media Bridges, the Downtown and
Neighborhood Gateways Program, Juvenile Firesetter Program and Arts
It would also eliminate the Cincinnati Police Department’s Mounted Patrol, which covers downtown on horseback. Dohoney said that would allow Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to redeploy those nine officers elsewhere. Dohoney said Craig had asked for a new recruit class of
50, but Dohoney requested 30. He said the additional nine from the horse
patrol would bring that closer to 40.
Dohoney said he was also allowing 10 additional recruits
to cover patrols of University Hospital, which is no longer going to use
University of Cincinnati police starting Jan. 1.
He said the police department would also look for ways to
save money by increasing the involvement of civilian members who could
do things like take reports of non-injury car accidents.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan asked if the budgeteers had
considered restructuring the police force to save money. She has long
been a proponent of “right-sizing” the police and fire forces, saying
staffing levels remain at a high while the city’s population is
The proposed budget also includes investments in business
groups that promote economic development, like the Port Authority,
Greater Cincinnati Partnership, Film Commission and African American
Chamber of Commerce.
Councilman Chris Seelbach praised Dohoney and his budget
team, saying he saw Cincinnati as being better off than it had been six
years ago. But he also said he’d like to see the administration focus on
people who are barely getting by instead of businesses and developers.
“There is a focus on helping people make more money that
are already making a lot of money,” Seelbach said. “Helping people that
aren’t paying a lot of taxes still pay very little.”Cincinnatians can weigh in on the budget in a public hearing Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
by Andy Brownfield
Loan would help move three homeless shelters out of Over-the-Rhine
UPDATE 11-8-12: An aide to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls tells CityBeat that the $7 million loan will only go toward moving two of the shelters: the Drop Inn Center and a new women's shelter to be operated by the YWCA. Because the City Gospel Mission requires a religious component to is outreach to the homeless, it cannot receive federal funding. The original story follows below.City Council on Wednesday signed off on a plan to apply for
federal loans to help move three Cincinnati homeless shelters to new
Council members voted with all but one approving the
application for $37 million in loans, $7 million of which would move the
Washington Park-area shelters.
If the loan is approved, the City Gospel Mission would
move to the West End, a new women’s shelter would be build in Mount
Auburn and the Drop Inn Center would move to a yet-undetermined
Cincinnati had pledged $10 million toward relocating the
shelters. The loan would be paid back at $532,000 a year for the next 20
Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole dissenting voice.
He said he supports the homeless, but he is wary of the risks of the
loan and the city’s ability to pay it back.
Councilman Chris Seelbach, who said he moved to
Over-the-Rhine shortly after the 2001 riots, voted to approve applying
for the loan, but also voiced some concern.
“The reason I moved is because I loved it; I fell in love
with the diversity of the neighborhood,” he said, noting
income diversity as well as racial and ethnic.
“I would hope that we could find a location for the Drop
that is in Over-the-Rhine and there isn’t a continued effort to push low
income people out of Over-the-Rhine.”
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati
Homeless Coalition, said the shelters the city has now are perfectly
adequate and the money could be spent better developing affordable
housing and creating jobs to help eliminate homelessness.
“Historically a majority of shelters started between 1982
and 1990 because in that era we cut dollars to housing and employment,”
“Shelters were never created to end homelessness. Shelters
were created for people to have a safe place once everything else had
failed them. We shouldn’t let everything else fail them.”
by Andy Brownfield
Posted In: 2012 Election
, Barack Obama
, LGBT Issues
, President Obama
, Mitt Romney
at 02:52 PM | Permalink
On National Coming Out Day, Obama campaign releases new ad featuring LGBT activist
On National Coming Out Day, Cincinnati’s only openly gay
city councilman told CityBeat that equality for America’s Lesbian Gay
Bisexual and Transgendered people would take a hit under a President
“On day one (of his presidency) he (Romney) could hurt gay
families by reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and hurt security for our
country,” Seelbach said. “We need as many people serving as possible.”
Councilman Chris Seelbach spoke to CityBeat as he waited to vote early outside of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
Proponents of the measure that prevented openly gay
service members from serving in the military have said repealing Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell would damage the country’s combat-readiness.
A study published by the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles Law School in September found that there has been no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale.
Seelbach said there would be a stark contrast for LGBT
people under President Barack Obama and his GOP rival. He pointed to the
Obama administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in
court; his vocal approval of same-sex marriage; anti-discrimination
measures signed by the president that, among other things, give same-sex
partners the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital and make
He said the next president would also likely have the
opportunity to appoint new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court
will likely decide the fate of California’s Proposition 8, which
outlawed gay marriage."If you care about equality, you've got to vote," Seelbach said. "The easiest way to vote is to vote early."
The Obama campaign in Ohio plans to release a new online ad touting the president’s accomplishments for LGBT people.
The ad, made available to CityBeat, features Zach Wahls, a
gay-rights activist born to a lesbian couple via artificial
insemination. Wahls is known for his testimony before the Iowa House
Judiciary Committee against a constitutional amendment that would ban
gay marriage in that state.
In the ad, Wahls touts the president’s accomplishments and exhorts Ohioans to reelect Obama.
“We want to make sure that we’re all doing everything we
can this fall to get out, register voters, canvass, knock on doors, get
our family members and friends out to the polls so that we can re-elect
the best president this country has ever seen on LGBT rights,” Wahls