by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:38 PM | Permalink
Cradle Cincinnati hopes to reduce infant deaths through new initiative
Cincinnati and Hamilton County saw infant mortality rates
drop to the lowest on record in 2013, but the city and county’s rates
for infant deaths remained far above the national average, according to a
report released Tuesday by advocacy group Cradle Cincinnati.In 2013, the city saw 53 babies die before their first
birthday, or 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. Throughout the county,
the deaths of 95 babies put the rate at 8.9 deaths per 1,000 live
births.But in the past five years, the city’s infant mortality
rate hit 12.4 deaths per 1,000 live births and the county’s rate reached
9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.Even worse, black families in Hamilton County were twice
as likely as white families to have a baby die before his or her first
birthday.In comparison, the national average for infant mortalities was 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011.To help reduce the region’s high infant mortality rates, Cradle Cincinnati points to a few potential targets:• Short pregnancy spacing, meaning 18 months or fewer
between births, can lead to premature birth. It was associated with 33
percent of the county’s infant mortalities last year.• Maternal smoking during pregnancy can lead to premature
birth and birth defects. It was associated with 15 percent of the
county’s infant mortalities last year.• The local rate of sleep-related infant deaths in Hamilton
County is triple the national average. Many of these deaths could be prevented
by ensuring a baby sleeps alone, on his or her back and in a crib,
Cradle Cincinnati found.Cincinnati’s high rate of infant mortalities are one of
the many factors that help explain the city’s disparities in life
expectancies, according to Cincinnati Health Department officials.
A CityBeat analysis of U.S. Census Bureau and
Cincinnati Health Department data also tied neighborhood life
expectancies to income levels. The strong correlation could suggest a connection
between poverty and earlier death.Through the Cradle Cincinnati initiative established last year, local officials hope to put an end to the disturbing trends.
“We are cautiously optimistic that these numbers are going
down, but we still have a very long way to go,” said Hamilton County
Commissioner Todd Portune, founder and co-chair of Cradle Cincinnati, in
a statement. “We cannot rest until every child born in Hamilton County
lives to see his or her first birthday.”
Cradle Cincinnati’s full report:
by German Lopez
Demographics, overall numbers move in right direction
The federal government reported slightly better numbers in
January for Obamacare’s once-troubled online marketplaces, but Ohio and
the nation still fall far short of key demographic goals.
For the first time since HealthCare.gov’s glitch-ridden rollout, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) numbers show the amount of new enrollees actually beat projections.
About 1,146,100 signed up for Obamacare in January, slightly higher
than the 1,059,900 previously projected by the Centers for Medicare and
More importantly, a small boost in young adults means 25
percent of 3.3 million enrollees across the nation and 21 percent of
60,000 Ohio enrollees were aged 18 to 34. That’s up 1 percentage point
for the nation and 2 percentage points for Ohio.
The White House previously said 39 percent of enrollees
need to be young adults, who tend to be healthier, to avoid driving up
health care costs by filling the insurance pool with older, sicker
people who typically use more resources.
HHS’ numbers only reflect people who signed up for a
health plan, not people who paid for their first premium, which is
widely considered the final crucial step to getting covered.
Nearly nine in 10 single, uninsured young adults could
qualify for financial assistance through the health care law or free
Medicaid, which expanded eligibility in Ohio through Obamacare, according to HHS.
by German Lopez
As project moves forward, National Church Residences initiates community engagement
The group heading a supportive housing project in Avondale on Friday announced it will initiate monthly "good neighbor" meetings to address local concerns, with the first meeting scheduled at the Church of the Living God, located at 434 Forest Ave., on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. National Church Residences (NCR) says the meetings will help "set the highest property, safety, and conduct standards" for the 90-unit Commons at Alaska facility, which will aid chronically homeless,
disabled and low-income individuals."National Church Residences is excited to become part of the revitalization of the Avondale neighborhood," said Amy Rosenthal, senior project leader for NCR, in a statement. "Through this series of meetings, we look forward to sitting down with our neighbors and answering their questions about our organization and in particular the planned apartment community."The meetings should help address some Avondale residents' concerns about the project. Although several opponents of the facility say their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude that follows so many supportive housing projects, critics consistently argue the housing facility will attract a dangerous crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.Critics' claims actually contradict some of the research done on supportive housing. A study conducted for similar
facilities in Columbus found areas with permanent supportive housing
facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically
comparable areas.Still, the controversy eventually reached City Council after Councilman Christopher Smitherman proposed pulling the city's support for state tax credits funding the project. In January, council rejected Smitherman's proposal and voted to continue supporting the project. (It's questionable whether a different council decision would have made any difference, since the group already received state tax credits last June.)By several economic indicators, Cincinnati's worst-off certainly need more support. About 34 percent of the overall population and more than half of the city's children live in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.Correction: This story originally claimed the facility would house 99 apartments, based on a previous estimate. The amount of apartments was actually reduced to 90 through negotiations. We apologize for the error.
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.
Why a growing number of Cincinnatians struggle to break free from the cycle of poverty
5 Comments · Wednesday, February 12, 2014
At Lower Price Hill’s Oyler School, the
nurses begin many students’ visits to the school’s expansive medical
wing with one question: “Are you hungry?”
by German Lopez
LGBT groups debate timing, Avondale housing project advancing, Kasich tax cuts favor rich
A coalition between Equality Ohio and other major LGBT groups on Friday
officially declared it will not support a 2014 ballot initiative that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Instead, the coalition plans to continue education efforts and place the issue on the ballot in 2016. But FreedomOhio, the LGBT group currently
leading the 2014 ballot initiative, plans to put the issue on the ballot this year
with or without support from other groups. CityBeat covered the issue and conflict in further detail here.The group heading Commons at Alaska, a permanent supportive housing project
in Avondale, plans to hold monthly “good neighbor” meetings to address
local concerns about the facility. The first
meeting is scheduled at the Church of the Living God, located at 434 Forest
Avenue, on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. Some Avondale residents have lobbied
against the facility out of fears it would weaken public safety, but a
study of similar facilities in Columbus found areas with permanent
supportive housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as
demographically comparable areas. In January, a supermajority of City
Council rejected Councilman Christopher Smitherman’s proposal to rescind
the city’s support for the Avondale project.Gov. John Kasich’s income tax proposal would
disproportionately benefit Ohio’s wealthiest, an analysis from Policy
Matters Ohio and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found.
Specifically, the proposal would on average cut taxes by $2 for the
bottom 20 percent of Ohioans, $48 for the middle 20 percent and $2,515
for the top 1 percent. The proposal is typical for Ohio Republicans:
They regularly push to lower taxes for the wealthy, even though
research, including from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service,
finds tax cuts for the wealthy aren’t correlated with higher economic
Local policy explainers from the past week:• What Is Mayor John Cranley’s Parking Plan?• What Is Responsible Bidder?
Mayor John Cranley says he wants Catholic Health Partners to locate its planned headquarters in Bond Hill.A new Ohio law uncovered more than 250 high-volume dog
breeders that previously went unregulated in the state. The new
regulations aim to weed out bad, unsafe environments for high-volume dog
breeding, but some animal advocates argue the rules don’t go far
enough. CityBeat covered the new law in further detail here.Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald could
face a longshot primary challenger in May. But the challenger, Larry Ealy of the Dayton
area, still needs his signatures confirmed by the secretary of state to
officially get on the ballot.Former Gov. Ted Strickland could run against U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in 2016, according to The Plain Dealer. Strickland cautioned it’s not an official announcement, but it’s not something he’s ruled out, either.A bill that would make the Ohio Board of Education an
all-elected body appears to have died in the Ohio legislature.
Currently, the governor appoints nearly half of the board’s members. Some legislators argue the governor’s appointments make the body too political.Science says white noise can help some people sleep.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
Ohio's LGBT groups disagree on timing of same-sex marriage legalization as polls show increasing support
1 Comment · Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Ohio’s leading LGBT groups continue to
disagree whether 2014 or 2016 is the right year to place same-sex
marriage legalization on the ballot.
by German Lopez
Local politician faces charges, Ohio boosts solar jobs, Obamacare enrollment improves
State Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, now faces 69 felony counts
and increasing pressure to resign. Beck is accused of helping mislead
investors into putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into an
insolvent West Chester startup company and putting some of the funds
from the company into his own campaign. Beck says he's innocent, but
that hasn't stopped top Ohio Republicans from calling for him to resign
to avoid a potential scandal and losing a seat in the Ohio legislature.Ohio ranked No. 8 in the nation for solar jobs in 2013, with solar employment growing by roughly 31 percent over the year, according to the latest census from the Solar Foundation. The report found that U.S. solar jobs grew 10 times faster than overall employment across the country. Environment Ohio applauded the numbers, praising Cincinnati in particular for its own solar-friendly efforts. But the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate is looking into ways to weaken or undo the law that makes many solar projects possible across the state. A report from the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy indicates that repealing the law could end up costing Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014 and 2025.The federal government reported slightly better enrollment numbers in January for Obamacare's once-troubled website, but Ohio and the nation still fell short of key demographic roles previously perpetuated by the federal government. Specifically, monthly enrollment actually beat projections for the first time since HealthCare.gov launched. But the cumulative amount of young adults signing up through January only reached 25 percent in the country and 21 percent in Ohio — far below the 39 percent goal the White House previously deemed necessary to avoid filling the insurance pool with older, less healthy enrollees who tend to use more resources and drive up costs. With Obamacare's online marketplaces mostly fixed, some groups are now doubling efforts to get the uninsured, particularly young adults, enrolled. CityBeat interviewed Trey Daly, Ohio state director of one of those groups, here.Explainer: Everything you need to know about responsible bidder.Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a Democrat-backed petition that would create a statewide ballot initiative for a Voter Bill of Rights, but proponents of the initiative say they'll come back with tweaked language. In a statement, DeWine said the proposal ran afoul of federal law in two places. Even if DeWine approved the language from a legal standpoint, supporters would still need to gather roughly 385,000 valid signatures before a July deadline to get the issue on the ballot in November. CityBeat covered the Voter Bill of Rights in greater detail here.Following the large amount of charter school closures last year, State Auditor Dave Yost is launching an investigation into three Ohio charter school sponsors and the Ohio Department of Education.The Cincinnati area could get 2 inches of snow.A Ky. auditor says the former finance director of Covington stole nearly $800,000.Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes posted pictures of downtown Cincinnati circa 1968 here.Sam Adams is pouring millions into a Cincinnati brewery.Grizzly bears could offer a better solution for weight loss.Watch Dale Hansen, a Texas sports anchor, take on the NFL and Michael Sam’s anti-gay haters:
Video | News | Weather | Sports Mon Feb 10 20:43:08 PST 2014Hansen Unplugged: Celebrating our differences Michael Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL; says he knows there will be problems... and they’ve already started. view full articleFollow 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
Posted In: News
at 02:19 PM | Permalink
Proposal would let poor buy a slice of pizza, while top 1 percent could buy a trip to Italy
Gov. John Kasich's income tax proposal would disproportionately favor Ohio's wealthiest, an analysis from Policy Matters Ohio and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found.Specifically, the proposal would on average cut taxes by $2 for the bottom 20 percent of Ohioans, $48 for the middle 20 percent and $2,515 for the top 1 percent.The proposal "may allow low-income Ohioans to buy a slice of pizza a year, on average," Policy Matters claims. "Middle-income Ohioans could purchase a cheap pizza maker. For the state's most affluent taxpayers, on average it would cover round-trip airfare for two to Italy, with some money left over to pay the hotel bill and buy some real Italian pizza."Under the model, Kasich's proposal would cut Ohio's income tax rates across the board by 7 percent. The goal is to bring Ohio's top tax rate, which kicks in only for income above $208,500, under 5 percent, as the governor previously proposed.Although a plurality of Americans oppose tax cuts for the wealthy, Kasich and other Republicans consistently push the tax cuts to help what they call "job creators." In the most recent state budget, Kasich and Republican legislators approved another series of across-the-board tax cuts that disproportionately benefited the state's wealthiest.In the aftermath, economic indicators from conservative, liberal and nonpartisan analysts show Ohio's economy is consistently among the worst performers in the country.The story is typical for Ohio: In 2005, the state cut income taxes across the board by 21 percent. Since then, Policy Matters found Ohio to be one of just a dozen states that actually lost jobs.Other research backs up Policy Matters' findings. In a report analyzing tax cuts for the nation's wealthiest, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found tax cuts for the wealthy aren't correlated with increased economic growth."There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth," CRS concluded. "However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution."Meanwhile, Cincinnati's poorest continue to struggle in a vicious cycle of poverty that consumes about 34 percent of the city's population and more than half of the city's children. CityBeat covered poverty and its effects on Cincinnati in greater detail here.