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.
by German Lopez
State plans for fracking in parks, mayor to help Obamacare, airport’s flood levee decertified
Gov. John Kasich’s administration in 2012 privately discussed a
public relations campaign to help bring fracking to three state parks. The
plan was apparently abandoned. But ProgressOhio, which released documents showing the discussions, says the plan highlights a trend in the Kasich administration
of looking out for business interests first. Fracking is a drilling technique
in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped
underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. In the past couple years,
the technique has been credited with bringing about a natural gas
production boom in much of the United States, including Ohio. But
environmentalists worry the poorly regulated practice contaminates air
and water. CityBeat covered fracking in greater detail here.Mayor John Cranley and Enroll America today plan to announce a partnership to get people enrolled in Obamacare. The goal is to fill the insurance pool
with healthier, younger enrollees, many of whom qualify for financial
assistance through HealthCare.gov, to help keep costs down. CityBeat previously interviewed Trey Daly, Ohio director of Enroll America, about the outreach efforts here.The two Republicans in charge of City Council’s Budget and
Finance Committee want to know why the city decertified a flood levee
surrounding Lunken Airport, instead of bringing it up to federal standards,
without consulting City Council. The decertification forced property
owners around the airport to buy costly flood insurance. City officials
say they made the decision because the city did not have the $20-$100
million it would cost to bring the levee up to standards.The W. Va. chemical spill cost Greater Cincinnati Water
Works about $26,000 in treatment chemicals, or about 11 cents per
customer.Getting ex-prisoners enrolled in Medicaid as they are
released could save Ohio nearly $18 million this year, according to state
officials.Duke Energy plans to sell 13 power plants, including 11 in Ohio. The company says the move is necessary because of the state’s increasingly unpredictable regulatory environment for electricity generators. Last week, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio rejected Duke’s request for a $729 million rate increase.With algorithms now capable of breaking CAPTCHA 90 percent
of the time, companies might need to find other anti-spam
protections.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
City’s rule for MSD projects attempts to increase local employment, job training
Following county commissioner’s Feb. 12 meeting, the
dispute between Cincinnati and Hamilton County over contracting rules
for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects appears to be heading to
The court battle comes after the county dismissed multiple
concessions from the city and put MSD’s revamp of the local sewer
system on hold in protest of the city’s rules. With a federal mandate
looming, both sides agree a resolution is needed soon to avoid costly
fines from the federal government.
For many across the city and county, the conflict is
understandably confusing. The debate has often been mired down by biased
media reports and political talking points that obfuscate the issue.
Jargon referencing “responsible bidder,” “local hire,” “local
preference,” unions, apprenticeship programs, a pre-apprenticeship fund
and contractors make it even more difficult to grasp what is going on.
Cutting through the politics, here is what the responsible
bidder rules actually do and why the city and county seem incapable of
What is responsible bidder?It’s a city ordinance that essentially forces MSD
contractors to adopt job training measures known as apprenticeship
programs and pay for a pre-apprenticeship fund. By requiring the
training options, the city hopes workers will be able to improve their
skills and successfully transition to other jobs once their MSD work is
Apprenticeship programs take workers through extensive
on-the-job and classroom-based training in which they can hone their
skills in a specific craft, such as electrical or plumbing work. Because
workers get paid for their work while participating in an
apprenticeship, the programs are typically characterized as an
The pre-apprenticeship fund will put money toward programs
that will teach newcomers basic skills, such as math and reading, so
they can eventually move up to an apprenticeship program.
The rules don’t apply to every MSD contractor. Contracts
worth less than $400,000, which make up roughly half of MSD’s sewer
revamp, are exempted.
What about local hire and local preference?Those are ordinances separate from responsible bidder that
give preference to Cincinnati-based businesses. They try to keep MSD
contracts within local companies.
What’s the conflict about?
The conflict is between Cincinnati and Hamilton County,
which jointly run MSD. The Democrat-controlled city supports the rules,
while the Republican-controlled county opposes them.
The city and county also dispute which governing body can
set policy for MSD. Under a 1968 agreement, the county owns and funds
MSD, and the city operates and maintains it. City Council argues the
agreement allows the city to set policy for MSD, but the county
disagrees. Both sides acknowledge the set-up is far from ideal.
So, did the city’s rules halt MSD projects?
No. Nothing in the city’s ordinances forces MSD projects
to stop. County commissioners singlehandedly halted MSD projects in
protest of the city’s rules. If it were up to the city, work would
Why are these projects so important?
By federal decree, the city needs to revamp the sewer
system to bring it up to environmentally safe standards. The project
will cost $3.2 billion over 15-20 years, making it one of the most
expensive in the city’s history.
If the city and county don’t carry on with the revamp
soon, the federal government will begin issuing fines. By some guesses, the fines could begin rolling in by the end of the year.
Why does a majority of City Council support responsible bidder?
Councilman Chris Seelbach, the Democrat who championed the
rules, says they will boost local employment and create more job
training options for the city’s struggling workforce.
Other Democrats on council agree, although some, like Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, believe the ordinance is “imperfect.”
Does responsible bidder benefit workers?
Some research suggests it would.
The left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) in a
December report argued apprenticeship programs provide an opportunity to
revitalize the U.S. workforce.“By 2020, America is projected to experience a shortage of
3 million workers with associate’s degrees or higher and 5 million
workers with technical certificates and credentials,” the report
claimed. “Compounding our inadequate workforce development system,
research shows that employers are now spending less on training than
they have in the past. At the same time, industry surveys show that a
lack of qualified workers is a top concern for many employers.”Citing a 2012 study from Mathematica Policy Research, CAP
estimated apprenticeship programs alone can boost a worker’s lifetime
earnings and benefits by more than $300,000. Over 36 years of
employment, that’s an average gain of nearly $8,400 a year.Why do county commissioners oppose the rules?
In terms of policy, county commissioners say the responsible bidder rules favor unions and burden businesses.
On a legal basis, the county argues the city’s responsible
bidder rules conflict with state law and the local hire and preference
rules enforce unconstitutional geographic preferences.
Does responsible bidder actually favor unions?
Since unions tend to offer better and more apprenticeship programs, yes.
But the rules don’t exclude non-union businesses from
participating. For example, Ohio Valley Associated Builders and
Contractors maintains some non-union apprenticeship programs that would
qualify under the law.
Still, most of the union favoritism debate centered around
a regulation the city actually offered to give up. Specifically, under
current rules employers are only eligible to contract with MSD if they
have apprenticeship programs that have graduated at least one person a
year for the past five years. In October, Seelbach offered to strip the mandate and replace it with an incentive program. The county
seemed unmoved by the proposal.What about businesses? Does responsible bidder burden them?
By requiring businesses to adopt apprenticeship programs
and put 10 cents for each hour of labor into a pre-apprenticeship fund,
the law certainly places more regulations on businesses. Whether the
requirements are a burden is subjective.John Morris, president of the Ohio Valley Associated Builders and Contractors and an opponent of the law, told CityBeat the pre-apprenticeship fund’s requirement will increase business costs by $2-3 million over 15-20 years.Citing MSD estimates for the cost of labor, Rob
Richardson, regional manager of the Laborers’ International Union of
North America, said the fund will cost businesses $1.5 million.Even if someone accepts Morris’ estimate, the requirement adds up to at most 0.1 percent of the $3.2 billion project.
More broadly, some supporters of the city’s rules question
whether placing a burden on businesses is innately a bad thing. The
basic point of government regulations is to make the economy and
businesses work better for the public. In that sense, regulations are
always going to burden businesses to some extent.For example, financial regulations burden big banks and
financial institutions. But many Americans agree the regulations are
necessary to avoid another financial crisis like the one that plunged
the country into the Great Recession.Still, critics argue the extra regulations would increase the cost of business, and the impact could ultimately be felt by MSD ratepayers.Why don’t the city and county just compromise?
They kind of tried, but it seems the philosophical split
between Hamilton County Republicans and Cincinnati Democrats is too
strong to reach a substantial agreement.The city, for example, has offered multiple concessions to
the county. In May, City Council modified the law to ease some
requirements and add an exemption for contracts worth less than
$400,000, which covers half of the contracts involved in MSD’s sewer revamp. In
October, Seelbach offered to replace a strict mandate with a looser incentive
program. Seelbach also told CityBeat on Feb. 6 that he would consider raising the contract exemption from $400,000 to $750,000.In return, the county rejected the concessions and instead
offered to establish aspirational inclusion goals and some funding for
local job training programs — as long as the city repealed its rules
altogether.Which side would win the court battle?
It’s hard to say. Both sides — and their lawyers — seem pretty confident about their legal standing.
So what’s next?
At the current rate, it looks like the city and county are
heading to court. Whether the process involves a full-on legal battle
or mediation between the city and county’s lawyers remains uncertain,
but it’s clear something will eventually have to give.This blog post will be regularly updated as the situation develops.
by German Lopez
City’s poor struggle to break free, CPS gains nationwide praise, city and county head to court
With Cincinnati’s child poverty and economic mobility
rates among the worst in the country, it’s clear the city’s poor can get
stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty. Although the impoverished trend
afflicts more than half of the city’s children, every level of
government has in some way cut services to the poor. The end result:
Many Cincinnati neighborhoods show little signs of progress as poor health and economic
indicators pile up. Read CityBeat’s in-depth story here.Following the adoption of community learning centers,
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) continue receiving praise for establishing a workable model for educating low-income
populations. Locally, independent data shows the model has pushed CPS
further than the traditional approach to education, even though the
school district continues struggling with impoverished demographics. A few
hundred miles away, newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
says he will implement the Cincinnati model in the biggest city in the nation.Hamilton County and Cincinnati are heading to court to
decide who can set policy for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD)
projects. The conflict came to a head after Hamilton County
commissioners deliberately halted federally mandated MSD projects to
protest the city’s job training rules for contractors. The
Republican-controlled county argues the rules favor unions, burden
businesses and breach state law, but the city says the rules are
perfectly legal and provide work opportunities for city workers.Commentary: “Legalizing Marijuana Is Serious Business.”With HealthCare.gov mostly fixed, CityBeat
interviewed Trey Daly, who is leading the Ohio branch of an organization
reaching out to the uninsured to get them enrolled in Obamacare.Explainer: Everything you need to know about Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan.University of Kentucky researchers found tolls would, at worst, reduce traffic on a new Brent Spence Bridge by 2 percent.After raising concerns over teacher pay and missed
classroom time, Republicans in the Ohio House delayed a vote on a bill
that would add school calamity days. Gov. John Kasich called for the
bill to help schools that have already exhausted their snow days during
this winter’s harsh weather.Ohio regulators fined Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino
$75,000 for providing credit to early patrons without running the proper
background checks.Cincinnati-based Kroger faces a lawsuit claiming stores
deceived customers by labeling chickens as humanely raised when the
animals were brought up under standard commercial environments.Cincinnati-based crowdfunding startup SoMoLend settled
with Ohio over allegations that it sold unregistered securities and its
founder misled investors. Candace Klein, the founder, resigned as CEO of
the company in August.Comcast intends to acquire Time Warner Cable, one of two major Internet providers in Cincinnati, through a $45 billion deal.U.S. physicists pushed fusion energy closer to reality with a breakthrough formally announced yesterday.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
Cincinnati Public Schools’ community learning centers turn schools into neighborhood resource hubs
2 Comments · Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Community learning centers helped improve Cincinnati Public Schools' reputation, and now other cities are paying attention.
by German Lopez
City plans to add firefighters, abortion clinics under threat, Kasich gets union supporters
Mayor John Cranley yesterday announced a plan to add
another recruit class to the Cincinnati Fire Department and effectively
eliminate brownouts, but it remains unclear how the class will be paid
for in the long-term. The Fire Department applied for a federal grant
that would cover the costs for two years, but the city would need to pay for the new firefighters’ salaries after that. To some City Council members, the proposal, along
with other plans to add more police recruits and fund a jobs program
for the long-term unemployed, raises questions about what will get cut
in the budget to pay for the new costs.Gov. John Kasich’s administration has led an aggressive
effort to shut down abortion clinics around the state, and a clinic in
Sharonville, Ohio, could be the next to close after the administration
denied a request that would have allowed the clinic to stay open without an
emergency patient transfer agreement. The process has apparently
involved high-ranking officials in the Ohio Department of Health, which
one regulator says is unusual. The
threat to the Sharonville clinic follows the passage of several new anti-abortion
regulations through the latest state budget, but state officials say the
new regulations were unnecessary to deny the Sharonville clinic’s
request to stay open.Unions broadly support Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Ed FitzGerald’s campaign, but at least one union-funded group,
Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Ohio, seems to be throwing its
weight behind Kasich, a Republican. The surprising revelation shows
not every union group has kept a grudge against Kasich and other
Republicans after they tried to limit public employees’ collective
bargaining rights through Senate Bill 5 in 2011. ACT Ohio says its
support for Kasich is related to jobs, particularly Kasich’s support for
infrastructure projects. The jobs market actually stagnated after
Kasich took office, which some political scientists say could
cost Kasich his re-election bid even though economists say the governor isn’t to blame.Talk of tolls continues threatening the $2.65 billion
Brent Spence Bridge project as opposition from Northern Kentuckians remains strong. Ohio and Kentucky officials insist tolls are necessary to replace
the supposedly dangerous bridge because the federal government doesn’t
seem willing to pick up the tab.
Ohio gas prices keep rising.A Dayton University student froze to death after falling asleep outside, with alcohol a possible factor.Airplane pilots often head to the wrong airport, according to new reports.Watch people tightrope walk between hot air balloons.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
City, schools to collaborate, protesters call for MSD work, some question The Banks’ success
Cincinnati officials and Cincinnati Board of Education
leaders yesterday announced a new collaborative that aims to share and
align the city and Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) policy goals. The
initiative will focus on five areas: population growth, workforce
development, safe and livable neighborhoods, wellness and access to
technology. City and school officials say the collaborative alone won’t
hit their budgets, but future joint initiatives could obviously carry
their own costs.Councilman Chris Seelbach and union supporters yesterday
gathered outside the Hamilton County Administrations Building to call on
county commissioners to open bidding on several Metropolitan Sewer
District (MSD) projects. County commissioners blocked the work in
protest of Cincinnati’s “responsible bidder” rules, which require MSD
contractors to meet more stringent job training requirements and pay
into a pre-apprenticeship fund that will train new workers in different
crafts. The Republican-controlled county says the rules are illegal,
favor unions and burden businesses, but the Democrat-controlled city
says the standards help train local workers and create local jobs.Meanwhile, county commissioners appear ready to take the
city-county dispute to court. If the conflict isn’t resolved by the end
of the year, the federal government could impose fines to force work on
a mandatory overhaul of the local sewer system to fully continue,
according to Commissioner Chris Monzel.Cincinnati’s riverfront has come a long way, but The Cincinnati Enquirer
and others seem unhappy The Banks is taking so long to fully develop. A
lot was promised with the initial plan for the riverfront, but the
Great Recession and other hurdles slowed down the development of condos,
office and retail space and a hotel. For some business owners, the
slowdown has made it much harder to get by unless a major event — a Reds
or Bengals game, for example — is going on, particularly during bad
winters. In particular, struggling Mahogany’s owner Liz Rogers says she “would like
to see more retail, a hotel, a movie theater.”Following Councilman Charlie Winburn’s warnings that the
city wastefully bought too much road salt, the city is actually running
low on salt and waiting on an order of 3,500 tons. Over the past couple months,
Winburn accused the city of wasting money when he “discovered” a pile of
unused road salt. Despite Winburn’s attempts to make “saltgate” into a thing, it turns out the city bought the salt when it was
cheaper and planned to use it in the future.Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center plans to
reopen a pediatric health clinic that abruptly closed down when
Neighborhood Health Care Inc. shut down operations. The clinic expects
to see 500 needy children and teenagers each month.Local Republicans are still looking to host the Republican National Convention in 2016.Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald asked
Republican Gov. John Kasich to pledge he would serve his full four years
if he won re-election, meaning Kasich would be unable to run for
president in 2016.Doctors say technology must prevent texting while driving.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
, City Council
at 12:32 PM | Permalink
ACES promises to address common policy goals shared by both bodies
Cincinnati officials and Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) leaders on Thursday promised to work in greater collaboration through the Alliance for Community and Educational Success (ACES), a new joint operation that will attempt to align the city and school district's shared policy goals.ACES plans to focus on five areas: population growth, workforce development, safe and livable neighborhoods, wellness and access to technology. As a few examples, the city could help CPS establish better Internet access at low-income schools, align marketing to attract more residents, sustain school resource officers that help keep schools safe and set up internships within the city's workforce."While the city and school system are separate entities, we all know that our schools are the most powerful tool for growth that we've got," said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.City and school leaders cautioned that the collaborative alone shouldn't affect their budgets, although future initiatives could require new funding.To enforce the collaborative, City Council's Education and Entrepreneurship Committee and the Cincinnati Board of Education members will meet on a monthly basis. Sittenfeld said he will regularly call on city department directors to make sure city services are being delivered in cooperation with the local school system.The collaborative will also try to bring in outside education groups, such as the Strive Partnership as it works on providing a universal preschool program in Cincinnati.School officials praised the announcement."Without good schools, we don't have good cities. Without good cities, we don't have good schools," said Alecia Smith, principal of Rothenberg Academy, where city and school leaders gathered for the announcement.Cincinnati Board of Education President Eve Bolton argued the announcement should make voters more confident when supporting property tax levies for the schools, which voters might be asked to do again in 2015."I think it will increase the confidence by the voters and by the taxpayers that what resources exist are being best leveraged together," she said. "There's no infighting or turf wars being waged and wasting their dollars."City and school leaders previously worked together for CPS' $1 billion school facilities master plan, which officials credit with effectively rebuilding major aspects of the school district. ACES could also help bring in another major player — the city — into community learning centers, a CPS-led initiative that brings in various outside resources, including health clinics and college preparation programs, to turn schools into service hubs.Community learning centers have been recognized around the country for their success in lifting low-income schools. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to adopt the model in the city that just elected him last November.
by German Lopez
Medical marijuana effort underway, MSD battle continues, FitzGerald challenger questioned
The Ohio Rights Group could get medical marijuana
legalization on the ballot this November, but the group first must gather enough petition signatures. Although the campaign has
medical research and polling in its favor, it’s also struggled to raise a
significant amount of cash to support a statewide campaign. At the same
time, many entrepreneurs see the legalization of medical marijuana as
inevitable; over the past weekend, Comfy Tree Cannabis Collective held a
seminar to advise potential businesses on the inner workings of selling
legalized marijuana.Commentary: “Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts.”Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel says the county
is willing to go to court to fight Cincinnati’s “responsible bidder”
rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. The county says
the rules are illegal, burden businesses and favor unions. But city officials, particularly
Councilman Chris Seelbach, says the rules help train workers and create
local jobs. The rules impose stricter job training requirements on MSD
contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that
would help train new workers in different crafts.Larry Ealy, a Dayton-area man, could challenge
gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald in a Democratic primary, but the
chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party cautions that Ealy
consistently fails to gather enough signatures for his election bids. In
the past, Ealy attempted to run for various offices in Dayton.City officials and the Cincinnati Public Schools Board plan to
announce a new collaboration today. The initiative intends to align and
better implement the city and school district’s shared policy goals.
“We want to establish the framework and make sure the right culture is
there,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who announced the collaboration,
previously told CityBeat. “Then people can do what elected officials are supposed to do: roll up your sleeves and come up with smart, viable policies.”Following the demolition of the University of Cincinnati’s
Wilson Auditorium, it’s unclear what, if anything, will replace the
building.The Ohio Supreme Court reminds state judges that the conditions for jailing people over unpaid fines are limited.As people turned up the heat to deal with the polar vortex, they also drove gas prices — and future bills — up.LED lights make cities look cooler on camera.A new mind-controlled robotic hand comes with a sense of touch.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 5, 2014
A new controversy seems to brewing in
City Hall. As budget promises begin to pile up, local officials and
media are starting to ask the big question: What is going to get cut?