by German Lopez
Private backers support streetcar offer, city budget gap estimated, governor's race still close
More than a dozen business and philanthropic entities
support the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority’s (SORTA) plan to
develop a private-public partnership to pay for the streetcar’s
operating costs, according to Eric Avner, vice president of the
philanthropic Haile Foundation. If the people cited by Avner put money behind their support, they could get streetcar operating costs off
the city’s books and pave the clearest path forward for the $132.8
million streetcar project since the new mayor and City Council took
office earlier this month. Although Cranley called SORTA’s offer
“woefully insufficient” earlier in the day, Councilman Kevin Flynn, one
of two swing votes on council, said the idea could turn into a viable option if the business and philanthropic community
provided more assurances.
Other streetcar news:• City Council will hold public hearings on the streetcar
today at 1:30 p.m., with a vote to decide the project’s fate expected
tomorrow.• Speaking about the streetcar project, Vice Mayor David Mann told The Business Courier, “I’m awfully close to saying let’s go for it.” • The Federal Transit Administration might prefer to deal with SORTA over Mayor Cranley if the streetcar is completed.
Cincinnati’s projected operating budget gap for fiscal
year 2015 is $16 million, which means City Council will need to find new
revenue or cuts to balance the budget by July. Although a majority of
council members promise to structurally balance the budget in the next
few years, a minority say it will be more difficult than most expect without hiking
taxes or cutting police and firefighters.The 2014 gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. John
Kasich and Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald is within the margin of
error, according to a poll released Monday by Public Policy Polling (PPP). “Although
there’s been a fair amount of movement toward Republicans nationally
since (November), the state of this particular race has seen very little
movement and Democrats continue to have an excellent chance at a pick
up next year,” wrote Tom Jensen, director of PPP.
Meanwhile, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune could challenge FitzGerald for the Democratic nomination.A task force could undertake a comprehensive review of the city charter to modernize the city’s guiding legal document.Startup incubator SoMoLend is likely to liquidate before
the scheduled Jan. 23 state hearing about alleged securities fraud. The
liquidation would be an effective end to a once-promising company that partnered with the city of Cincinnati to foster startups
and small businesses.
This year could be the least deadly on Ohio’s roadways, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.A bill in the Ohio House could require hospitals to report
the number of newborns addicted to drugs. The grim number would provide
a much-needed measure for tackling Ohio’s so-called opioid epidemic.
Ohio is doing a poor job fighting infectious diseases,
according to a report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital obtained a grant to combat brain cancer.
Two won the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot.
Even the physics behind emperor penguin huddles are pretty complicated.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
ProgressOhio loses case against privatized development agency
The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously dismissed a request to compel JobsOhio to disclose various documents. The court argued the Republican-controlled General Assembly largely
exempted JobsOhio from public records law and therefore allowed the agency to keep most of its inner workings secret.The decision was a major loss
for advocacy group ProgressOhio, which claims the documents should be on the
The Republican-controlled legislature, with the support of
Republican Gov. John Kasich, in 2011 established JobsOhio, a privatized
development agency, to replace the Ohio Department of
Development. The JobsOhio Board of Directors is chaired by wealthy Ohio businessmen.
Republicans argue JobsOhio’s secretive, privatized nature
is necessary to quickly foster economic development deals across the
state. Democrats say the anti-transparency measures make it far too difficult to hold
JobsOhio accountable as it recommends how to spend taxpayer dollars.An Oct. 23 report criticized JobsOhio and other privatized development agencies around the country for consistently displaying conflicts of interest and other scandalous behavior. The report came from Good Jobs First, a
research center founded in 1998 that scrutinizes deals between
businesses and governments.
Kasich previously touted JobsOhio as one of the reasons
Ohio’s economy quickly recovered following the Great Recession, but
recent indicators show the state’s economy is now slowing down. Ohio is one of five states whose economy worsened in the past three months,
according to an index from the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia that
combines four economic indicators to gauge states’ economic health.
Others have more directly questioned the Kasich administration’s claims to success. An Oct. 29 investigation from The Toledo Blade found
jobs numbers from the Ohio Development Services Agency are vastly inflated,
indicating that the state government isn’t producing nearly as many
jobs as it claims.
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The American Civil Liberties Union of
Ohio says it opposes Senate Bill 238, which would reduce Ohio’s
in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days.
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The Ohio House on Nov. 20 passed sweeping gun legislation
that would impose a stand-your-ground law in the state.
by German Lopez
As Ohio legislators advance law, studies cast doubt on claims of improved public safety
Supporters of a stand-your-ground law claim
the measure would make the public safer by making it easier for people to defend themselves from criminals, but the
research so far shows the law might weaken public safety in a few key areas and actually increase the amount of homicides.
On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Ohio House passed sweeping gun legislation
that would impose a stand-your-ground law in the state. The bill now requires approval from the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and
Republican Gov. John Kasich to become law.
Stand-your-ground laws remove the duty to retreat before
using deadly force in self-defense in places in which a person is
lawfully allowed. Current Ohio law only maintains a traditional “castle
doctrine,” which removes the duty to retreat only at a person’s home or
The laws have grown particularly controversial following
the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida, where a
stand-your-ground law exists but supposedly played a minor role in the
trial that allowed Zimmerman to go free.
Regardless of what drove Zimmerman to his actions or
allowed him to go free, three major studies found stand-your-ground laws
might increase violence and widen racial disparities in the U.S.
A June 2012 paper
from National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and Texas A&M
University researchers concluded, “Results indicate (castle doctrine and
stand-your-ground) laws do not deter burglary, robbery, or aggravated
assault. In contrast, they lead to a statistically significant 8 percent
net increase in the number of reported murders and non-negligent
manslaughters.” The study looked at FBI Uniform Crime Reports from 2000
to 2010 for 21 states, including 17 states with stand-your-ground laws
and four states, including Ohio, with castle doctrine laws that only
apply to a person’s home and vehicle.
Another June 2012 paper
from NBER stated, “Our results indicate that Stand Your Ground laws are
associated with a significant increase in the number of homicides among
whites, especially white males. According to our estimates, between 28
and 33 additional white males are killed each month as a result of these
laws. We find no consistent evidence to suggest that these laws
increase homicides among blacks.” The study looked at monthly data from
U.S. Vital Statistics to gauge the effect of stand-your-ground laws on
homicides and firearm injuries, with supplemental analysis of data from
FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports and the Health Care Utilization
A July 2013 study
from the left-leaning Urban Institute found “homicides with a white
perpetrator and a black victim are ten times more likely to be ruled
justified than cases with a black perpetrator and a white victim, and
the gap is larger in states with Stand Your Ground laws.” According to
the findings, stand-your-ground states are more likely to legally
justify white-on-white, white-on-black and black-on-black homicides but
not black-on-white homicides. For the study, the Urban Institute used
FBI Supplementary Homicide Report data for all 50 states and Washington,
D.C., dated between 2005 and 2010.
When confronted with such statistics, supporters of
stand-your-ground laws typically note that violent crime rates dropped in the states that adopted the laws. But, as PolitiFact Florida pointed out in response to Florida Rep. Dennis Baxley, violent crime began dropping before stand-your-ground laws were passed.
The nationwide violent crime rate dropped from 757.7 to
386.3 between 1992 and 2011, with more than half of the drop occurring
between 1992 and 1999, according to FBI crime data.
The June 2012 paper from NBER found more than 20 states passed
traditional castle doctrine or stand-your-ground laws between 2000 and
2010, after the violent crime rate began to drop.The research could show correlation instead of causation. Perhaps some unnamed factor in states that adopted stand-your-ground laws makes it more likely that they’ll see increases in homicides or racial disparities, even as violent crime declines. But, at the very least, it doesn’t seem supporters of stand-your-ground laws have the empirical evidence on their side.
by German Lopez
Local senator to run for lt. governor, audit clears JobsOhio, House OKs "stand your ground"
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald selected State Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati as his running mate
for his bid against Gov. John Kasich in 2014. Although Kasich is widely
perceived as a favorite as the incumbent, recent polling found the race is tied. (The poll was commissioned by Ohio Democrats, but the firm behind it was deemed the most accurate national pollster of 2012.)
Republican State Auditor Dave Yost’s long-awaited audit of JobsOhio found no substantial conflicts of interests at the privatized development firm established by Gov. Kasich and
Republican legislators to replace the public Ohio Department of
Development. But the audit found 113 items totaling
nearly $69,000 in inadequately documented expenditures financed through the state’s leased liquor profits and insufficient safeguards to identify
potential conflicts of interest. In a statement, John Patrick Carney, the Democratic candidate for state auditor running against Yost in 2014, claimed the audit was “a whitewashed attempt that fails to give taxpayers a full accounting of JobsOhio” and touted it as evidence the state auditor’s office needs change. CityBeat previously wrote about criticisms towards JobsOhio in further detail here. (Updated at 10:45 a.m.: Rewrote paragraph to add Carney’s comments.)
The Ohio House yesterday approved sweeping gun legislation
that would impose “stand your ground” rules in the state and
automatically recognize concealed-carry licenses from other states.
“Stand your ground” rules remove a duty to retreat before using deadly
force in self-defense when a person is in areas in which he’s lawfully
allowed; current Ohio law only removes the duty to retreat when a person is
in his home or vehicle. The bill is particularly controversial
following Trayvon Martin’s death to George Zimmerman in Florida, where a
“stand your ground” law exists but supposedly played a minor role in
the trial that let Zimmerman go free. The bill now requires approval
from the Ohio Senate and Gov. Kasich to become law.
Commentary: “False Equivalency Confuses Streetcar Debate.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it opposes new early voting limits
that would shorten the in-person early voting period from 35 to 29 days
and remove a “golden week” that allows Ohioans to simultaneously
register and vote in person. The Ohio Association of
Election Officials claims the limits are necessary to establish uniform
voting days across all counties without placing too much of a burden on
smaller counties. But Democrats claim the limits aim to suppress voters.
The Ohio Senate yesterday cleared the new early voting limits, which now require approval from the Ohio House and Gov. Kasich to become law.
If property and business owners along the planned
streetcar line sue over the cancellation of the $133 million project, legal experts say they have a very slim chance of winning.
The threat of litigation is one of the potential back-up options
discussed by streetcar supporters if Mayor-elect John Cranley and the
incoming City Council agree to cancel the project, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners agreed to increase the tax return local property owners will get
as part of the deal funding Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball
Park. The deal boosts the rebate to $13 million in 2014, up from $10
million in 2013 but still below the $20.5 million promised to property
owners after voters approved a sales tax hike to fund the stadiums.
Commissioners estimate property owners will receive nearly $46 for each
$100,000 of property value from the boosted rebate, up from $35 this
year, but Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes told CityBeat that the exact number is unclear until the tax commissioner approves new tax rates.
College campuses generally struggle with too-frequent cases of sexual assault, but one lawsuit from an alleged victim is targeting Miami University
for supposed negligence and a breach of the student code of conduct.
The female student claims she was raped by former Miami University student Antonio
Charles, but she says that multiple red flags could have prevented the
alleged incident. Charles was eventually expelled from Miami University for “sexual
misconduct” in response to the incident involving the plaintiff, but
that was after he was investigated for multiple other accusations related to sexual misconduct. Miami University Sexual
Assault Response Coordinator Rebecca Getson defends some of the
university administration’s actions regarding sexual assault cases as a
strict adherence to protocol and blames some of the public perception on
the administration’s lack of awareness about the atmosphere.
Cincinnati’s economy will grow more slowly than the nation’s economy next year, according to Cincinnati USA Partnership for Economic Development’s panel of five regional economists.
Al Neyer plans to build a $22 million luxury apartment tower in downtown Cincinnati.
Cancer research done on mice might get screwed up by standard laboratory temperatures.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Winter shelter needs funds, streetcar work could ramp up, school formula hurts minorities
As of Friday, Cincinnati’s winter shelter still needs $43,000
out of the $75,000 required to open from
late December through February. That means hundreds of homeless people
could be left out in the cold — literally — for at least a month longer
than usual if the shelter doesn’t get more donations. According to
Spring, the goal each night is to shelter 91 people, although the number
can fluctuate depending on the circumstances. For its run between late
2012 and early 2013, the winter shelter housed roughly 600 people, or
about $125 a person. Anyone can donate to the winter shelter — and Drop
Inn Center — at tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati. To contribute specifically to the winter shelter, type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional).”
Officials involved with the $133 million streetcar project are considering around-the-clock work
for certain days to speed up delivery of rail and minimize disruptions
at busy streets around Over-the-Rhine. The third shifts would reduce the
time needed to deliver and install rails around Findlay Market and
Liberty Street from one week to a couple days at each location, which
would allow the city to avoid closing down surrounding streets beyond a
weekend or Monday and Tuesday, according to project executive John
Deatrick. He says the extra work is absolutely not related to recent
discussions about canceling the project.
The new school funding formula approved by Republican Gov.
John Kasich and the Republican-controlled General Assembly means
high-minority schools get less state aid
than schools with less diversity. Southwest Ohio’s 10 most diverse
school districts will average $3,837 in state aid per student, while the
10 least diverse districts will average $4,027 per student. The finding
is just the latest controversy for a school funding formula that is
supposed to make state aid to schools more equitable. CityBeat covered some of the prior concerns in further detail here.
Despite Mayor-elect John Cranley’s insistence that the streetcar conversation “is over,” The Cincinnati Enquirer continues getting messages in support of the project.
Supporters of the streetcar plan to launch a campaign this week to
lobby council members and Cranley to back the project. The campaign will
begin on Thursday with a town hall-style meeting particularly aimed at
stakeholders along the streetcar route. The location and specific time
should be announced later today or tomorrow.
Still, as Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier writes, it is unlikely Cranley will break his promise on the streetcar.
That means it might be up to the three swing votes on City Council —
P.G. Sittenfeld, David Mann and Kevin Flynn — or a referendum to save the project.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport spent nearly $120,000 since July on coaching and job evaluation services for its board and CEO, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
That’s on top of the $140,000 the board spent on travel, conferences
and expensive dinners since 2011. Following the disclosures, local
leaders have called for leadership changes at the board.
Cincinnati-area businesses only have until Nov. 15 to garner enough votes to enter into a competition hosted by Chase Bank that will divide $3 million among 12 small businesses across the country.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority’s expansion plans already received approval
from Hamilton, Brown, Adams, Scioto and Boone counties. The plan
expands the Port Authority’s boundaries from 26 miles to 205 miles along
the Ohio River, which the Port says will make the agency more
attractive to businesses.
At least 41 percent of 1,600 new apartments in and near downtown are receiving aid from the city of Cincinnati.
City officials say the aid helps continue Cincinnati’s economic
momentum and urban revitalization. But critics say more aid should go to low-income housing and other Cincinnati neighborhoods.
Virtual Community School of Ohio, an online charter school, didn’t follow rules for educating students with disabilities. CityBeat covered online schools and the controversy surrounding them in further detail here.
Ohio gas prices are down 17 cents per gallon this week.
Cranley has inspired some interesting parody accounts on Twitter.
As if they weren’t terrifying enough, drug-resistant “superbugs” can show up in animals.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Cranley sets agenda, streetcar cancellation costs still unknown, Kasich limits minor parties
Mayor-elect John Cranley laid out his plans and priorities for his first term
at his first press conference yesterday. Cranley says two of his top
priorities are undoing the $133 million streetcar project and parking
plan, which would lease the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to
the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. He also spoke on some of his more
positive ideas, including the interchange project at Interstate 71 and
Martin Luther King Drive, 3CDC-style public-private partnerships to
revitalize neighborhoods and development of the Wasson Way bike trail,
old Swifton Commons and Westwood Square.
It remains unclear
how much it would cost to actually cancel the streetcar project. As of September’s monthly
progress report, $94 million is tied to contractual obligations, $23
million is already spent and nearly $45 million in federal grants is still attached
to the project. And if contractors, subcontractors and taxpayers sue the
city to complete the project, it could impose litigation costs on the
operating budget instead of the capital budget currently financing
construction. Supporters of the streetcar also say cancellation could
tarnish relationships with the federal government and contractors, which
have a stake in the project’s completion. At his press conference
yesterday, Cranley said he’d weigh the costs and benefits of
cancellation and would continue the project if he deems it cheaper.
Meanwhile, Cranley might travel to Washington, D.C., to discuss reprogramming nearly $45 million in federal grants
from the streetcar project to the I-71/MLK interchange project. In a
June 19 letter, the U.S. Department of Transportation claimed it would
take back nearly $41 million of the grant money if the streetcar project
were canceled. City officials say they’ve already spent $2 million from
the grants on the streetcar project, and, according to city spokesperson Meg Olberding, that would
need to be repaid through the operating budget if the project were terminated.
Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature passed a bill
that imposes new restrictions on minor political parties trying to get on the
state ballot. The requirements force minor parties to meet higher
petition signature and voting thresholds to get and remain on the
ballot. Ohio Libertarians say they plan to sue to block the changes from
becoming law in 90 days. Democrats and minor parties say the changes
are meant to protect Kasich’s chances of re-election in 2014; they argue
that, without the new requirements, tea party challengers upset with
Kasich over his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion could take away enough votes and spoil the election in favor of a Democrat. CityBeat covered the Senate version of the bill in further detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners yesterday unanimously approved
the first budget in six years that didn’t require major cuts or revenue
increases to achieve balance, but the budget also had very little in
terms of new policies. Commissioners also approved a separate plan from
the Port Authority, a city- and county-funded development agency, to
expand its borders; the Port now needs to work out agreements with other
jurisdictions before the expansion becomes official.
Janitors in Cincinnati are striking against New York City-based ABM
in a push for wage hikes and health benefits. In supporting the
efforts, Councilman Chris Seelbach says the strike and media attention
surrounding it should hopefully put pressure on Cincinnati’s Fortune 500
companies that hire ABM to clean their buildings.
Commentary: “Republicans Continue Denying Social Progress.”
After only 28.8 percent of registered Cincinnati voters participated in the mayoral and City Council elections, The Cincinnati Enquirer asked those who didn’t show up to vote to explain themselves.
The answers ranged from total apathy toward the streetcar project to
disdain and distrust for the city’s government and political system.
Voters on Tuesday approved more than half of Ohio school levies.
The University of Cincinnati yesterday signed an agreement that will increase collaboration with NASA.
Blockbuster is closing down its remaining company-owned stores in the United States.
Biking in traffic can have some complicated results as bikers breathe in traffic exhaust.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Gov. John Kasich’s refusal to seek
another waiver for federal regulations on food stamps will force 18,000
current recipients in Hamilton County to meet work requirements if they
want the benefits to continue.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:48 PM | Permalink
Governor not pursuing waiver for restrictions as economy supposedly recovers
Gov. John Kasich’s refusal to seek another waiver for federal regulations on food stamps will force 18,000 current recipients in Hamilton County to meet work requirements if they want the benefits to continue.
Under federal law, “able-bodied” childless adults receiving food
stamps are required to work or attend work training for 20 hours a week.
But when the Great Recession began, the federal government handed out
waivers to all states, including Ohio, so they could provide food
assistance without placing burdens on under- and unemployed populations.
Kasich isn’t asking for a renewal of that waiver, which means
134,000 Ohioans in most Ohio counties, including 18,000 in Hamilton
County, will have to meet the 20-hours-per-week work requirement to get
their $200 a month in food aid starting in January, after recipients go through a three-month limit on benefits for those not meeting the work requirements.The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services explained earlier in September that the waiver is no longer necessary in all but 16 counties because Ohio’s economy is now recovering from the Great Recession. Two weeks later, the August jobs report put Ohio’s unemployment rate at a one-year high of 7.3 percent after the state only added 0.6 percent more jobs between August 2012 and August this year.
At the same time, the federal government appears ready to allow stimulus funding for food stamp programs to expire in November. The extra money was adopted
in the onset of the Great Recession to provide increased aid to those hit
hardest by the economic downturn.
That means 18,000 food stamp recipients in Hamilton County
will have to meet a 20-hour-per-week work requirements to receive $189
per month — $11 less than current levels — for food aid starting in
November. Assuming three meals a day, that adds up to slightly more
than $2 per meal.
The $11 loss might not seem like much, but Tim McCartney,
chief operating officer at the Hamilton County Department of Job and
Family Services (HCDJFS), says it adds up for no- and low-income individuals.
“Food assistance at the federal level is called SNAP,
which is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s not designed to
be the entire food budget for yourself or your family. It’s designed to
be a supplement. So anything you lose to a supplement, you obviously
didn’t have enough in the first place,” McCartney says.
HCDJFS already helps some recipients of other welfare
programs meet work requirements through local partnerships. But to avoid
further straining those partners with a rush of 18,000 new
job-searchers, the county agency is also allowing food stamp recipients
to set up their own job and job training opportunities with other local
organizations, including neighborhood groups, churches and community
McCartney says he’s also advising people to pursue job opportunities at Cincinnati’s SuperJobs Center,
which attempts to link those looking for work with employers. McCartney
says the center has plenty of job openings, but many people are unaware
of the opportunities.
“This population sometimes has additional barriers with
previous convictions or drug and mental health issues that would
eventually exempt them, but for others, there are plenty of
opportunities right now that we’d like to connect them with,” he says.
Conservatives, especially Republicans, argue the work
requirements are necessary to ensure people don’t take advantage of the
welfare system to gain easy benefits. But progressives are concerned the
restrictions will unfairly hurt the poorest Ohioans and the economy.
Progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio previously found every $1
increase in government food aid produces $1.70 in economic
At the federal level, Republican legislators, including
local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, are seeking further cuts to the food stamp program through H.R. 3102, which would slash
$39 billion over 10 years from the program. Part of the savings in the
bill come from stopping states from obtaining waivers on work
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio
Association of Foodbanks, decried the bill in a statement: “Congress
shouldn’t be turning to Ohio’s poorest people to find savings —
especially children and others who are unable to work for their own
food. The proposal the Ohio members of Congress supported is immoral,
and our lawmakers must work together to represent all their
constituents. No one should be in the business of causing hunger, yet
that’s the choice the Ohio members of Congress made today.”
The legislation is unlikely to make it through the U.S. Senate, but President Barack Obama promised to veto the bill if it comes to his desk.Correction: This story previously said the restrictions start removing “able-bodied” childless adults from the rolls in October instead of January.