by German Lopez
Kasich tax plan criticized, JobsOhio records due today, workers demand prevailing wage
The Ohio House is looking to rewrite
parts of Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal after dissent has focused
on the governor’s tax plan. The chamber’s leaders are looking to set
aside the tax plan from the bill so they can better focus on other
complicated parts of the budget, including the Medicaid expansion and
school funding. Even without the governor’s controversial sales tax
expansion plan, Kasich’s budget proposal contains enough leftover money
to pass some income tax cuts, with about $280.4 million in general
revenue available for fiscal year 2014 and $690.2 million available in
fiscal year 2015, according to an analysis in the Bluebook. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here.
State Auditor Dave Yost says he expects to get the subpoenaed financial records from JobsOhio
today by the noon deadline, even though the audit has come under
criticism from Gov. Kasich and other state officials. Yost says he
should be allowed to look into JobsOhio’s full financial records, which
include private funds, but Kasich and other Republicans argue only
public funds are open to audit. JobsOhio is a publicly funded nonprofit,
privatized development agency that was set up by Kasich and Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development,
which is susceptible to a full audit.
Workers for the $78 million U Square project near the University of Cincinnati allege they are being underpaid.
In a lawsuit, union workers are claiming they should be paid prevailing
wage established in state law because the project is using public funds
and 50 percent owned by a public authority.
With the support of City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., Cincinnati is now looking to cash into its innovative water technology
with the formation of the Global Water Technology Hub, which will use
expert advice to identify market needs and sell the technology. The city
promises the hub will also help keep water rates low for users and find
new revenue sources.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld will hold a press conference
today to introduce his Restoring Our Communities Initiative, which will
seek to fight blight and improve child safety in Cincinnati. The
initiative will include a push for the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 16, which
would make it so individuals are not liable for trespassing convictions
if the person is remediating blight on abandoned personal property. In a
statement, Sittenfeld explained the purpose of the initiative: “Blight
is a complicated issue that impacts many aspects of life, and I think
this plan helps attack the problem from several angles.”
Cincinnati Council’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved $10,000
for the Westwood Square project, which will involve a larger facility
for the Madcap Theater, green space and changes to the neighborhood’s
entryways to better encourage community pride and economic development.
A new $20 million, seven-story apartment tower with 110 high-end apartments is being planned for Downtown, above the Seventh and Broadway Garage.
Two weeks in, Horseshoe Casino’s executive says the casino is doing well and turnout has been good.
A report found auto insurance rates in Ohio are “a bargain,” with the state having the fourth lowest costs among other states and Washington, D.C.
A machine keeps human livers alive outside a body for 24 hours, which could double the amount of livers available for transplant and save thousands of lives.
by German Lopez
Federal grants tied to streetcar, transit projects
The MLK/I-71 Interchange project is supposed to be funded through the city’s parking plan, but mayoral candidate John Cranley, who opposes the parking plan and streetcar, says the city should instead use federal funding that was originally intended for the streetcar project.
Between 2010 and 2011, the streetcar project was awarded about $40 million in federal grants — nearly $25 million through
the Urban Circulator Grant, $4 million through the Congestion Mitigation
and Air Quality (CMAQ) Grant and nearly $11 million through TIGER 3. The grants are highly competitive and allocated to certain
projects. In the case of Cincinnati, the grants were specifically
awarded to the streetcar after it was thoroughly vetted as a transit, not highway, project.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) website explains why the Urban Circulator Grant is only meant for transit projects like the streetcar:
“Urban circulator systems such as streetcars and rubber-tire trolley
lines provide a transportation option that connects urban destinations
and foster the redevelopment of urban spaces into walkable mixed-use,
The CMAQ Grant’s main goal is to fund projects that
curtail congestion and pollution, with an emphasis on transit projects,
according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The website explains, “Eligible activities include transit
improvements, travel demand management strategies, traffic flow
improvements and public fleet conversions to cleaner fuels, among
The DOT website says TIGER 3 money could go to a highway project,
but one of the program’s goals is promoting “livability,” which is
defined as, “Fostering livable communities through place-based policies
and investments that increase transportation choices and access to
transportation services for people in communities across the United
States.” TIGER 3 is also described as highly competitive by the DOT, so only a few programs get a chance at the money.When asked about the grants’ limitations, Cranley said, “I
believe … the speaker of the house, the senator, the congressman, the
governor and the mayor could petition and get that changed. Just because
that may have been the way they set the grants in the first place
doesn’t mean they can’t change it.”
The parking plan would lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and allocate a portion of the raised funds — $20 million — to the MLK/I-71 Interchange project, but the plan is currently being held up by a lawsuit seeking to enable a referendum.
The streetcar is one of the few issues in which Cranley
and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a streetcar supporter who is also running for mayor, are in stark contrast (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
Cranley’s opponents recently accused him of originally
supporting the streetcar when he was a council member through two 2008 City
Council motions, but Cranley says those motions,
which he co-sponsored, only asked the city administration to study the
merits of a streetcar plan, not approve of it. Cranley voted no on the
first streetcar resolution in October 2007 and the motion to actually
build the streetcar in April 2008.
“I’ve never said that I’m against the (streetcar) concept
in all circumstances,” Cranley says. “I wanted to know if there was a
way that they could pay for it in a way that wouldn’t take away from
what I thought were more important priorities.”
3 Comments · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
City plans to create bike lanes on Spring
Grove Avenue from near Hopple Street to Bank Street are facing some
opposition from the Camp Washington Business Association.
by German Lopez
Kasich adviser named superintendent, bridge costs may change, educators protest budget
The Ohio Board of Education named Richard Ross,
one of Gov. John Kasich’s top education advisers, to the state school
superintendent position. Ross’ appointment links the Ohio Department of
Education more closely with Kasich, according to StateImpact Ohio. Ross
is replacing Stan Heffner, who resigned in August after an ethics
investigation found he had misused state resources for personal matters
and testified in favor of legislation that could have benefited a
company he planned to work for.In a study that should be out next month, Ohio and Kentucky officials are reviewing the Brent Spence Bridge project
to make it more affordable.
Many officials want to use tolling to help pay for the bridge, but
northern Kentucky residents and elected officials have pushed back
because they’re concerned tolls will divert traffic to other bridges in
Ohio and hurt the local economy.
In a press conference in front of the Ohio Statehouse
yesterday, more than 100 educators and members of the Coalition of Rural
and Appalachian Schools (CORAS) asked Kasich to rework his education
reform proposal in a way that would raise per-pupil funding, fully fund transportation,
career technical and special education programs and pay for new
initiatives like the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Under Kasich’s
current proposal, the state is reducing aid from $5,700 for each student
to $5,000, but CORAS says funding should be increased to $6,270. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal, which includes his education reform plan, here.
While funding in Kasich’s plan is mixed for traditional public schools, charter schools will get 4.5 percent more funding,
according to the Legislative Service Commission. Conservatives
typically tout charter schools for providing more “school choice,” but
in a previous report, Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, found more choices may bring down results from teachers and students.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan and friends and family of fire victims are pushing for a review of Cincinnati’s fire ordinance codes
to avert fire deaths. The proposed changes include more required
fire exits, annual inspections, a mandatory fire drill at the beginning
of each school semester, the removal of all exceptions in the code and a
measure that would prevent air conditioning units from being placed on
windows that are supposed to act as exits. Quinlivan is also encouraging
the University of Cincinnati to restart a certified list of preferred
rental locations around campus, which would only include housing
properties that pass fire safety inspections.
The first public hearings on Kasich’s budget proposal to expand Medicaid contained mixed testimony,
with supporters touting greater accessibility to health care and
improved health results and opponents claiming that Medicaid leads to
worse outcomes and will discourage people from improving their economic
situation. Previous studies, which CityBeat covered along with the rest of Kasich’s budget proposal here,
found Medicaid expansions led to lower mortality rates and better
health outcomes in certain states. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio
says the Medicaid expansion will save the state money in the next decade and provide health insurance to 456,000 Ohioans by 2022.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has posted the full lawsuit filed against the city’s parking plan, which is set to have a hearing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on Friday. CityBeat wrote more about the lawsuit here.
Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled that Elmwood Place can’t collect
on tickets from speed cameras that he recently deemed a violation of
motorists’ due process. The city and police are filing an appeal to the
initial ruling, which halted the use of the cameras.
Eighteen percent of Greater Cincinnati’s chief financial officers plan to hire
for new professional-level positions in the second quarter, while 66
percent say they will only fill jobs that open in the next three months.
Ohio joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in a $7 million settlement with Google yesterday that is expected to net $162,000 for the state.
The case centered around Google collecting data from unsecured wireless
networks nationwide and taking photographs for its Street View service
between 2008 and March 2010.
The effort to effectively ban Internet sweepstakes cafes passed an Ohio House committee.
The federal government may not need to balance its budget at all, according to Bloomberg.
Trained Soviet attack dolphins with head-mounted guns are on the loose.
by German Lopez
Friends, family of victims call for more safety rules
On New Year’s Day, a fire broke out in a residential home
near the University of Cincinnati that led to the deaths of UC students Chad
Kohls and Ellen Garner, and their friends and family say the deaths could have been prevented by a better fire ordinance code. Now, Councilwoman
Laure Quinlivan is heeding their call.
Speaking in front of the Livable Communities Committee
today, friends and family of Kohls and Garner asked City Council to pass changes to the fire ordinance, including more required fire exits, annual inspections, a mandatory fire drill at the beginning of each school semester and the removal of all exceptions in the code. They’re also asking the new ordinance be named in honor of Kohls and Garner.
Quinlivan says her office will work with the city administration to find possible changes that would help avert fire deaths, including a measure that
would prevent air conditioning units from being placed on windows that
are supposed to act as exits.
Quinlivan is also encouraging UC to restart a certified
list of preferred rental locations around campus, which would only include housing
properties that pass fire safety inspections.
“I am touched that those close to Ellen and Chad contacted
me, so that we can work with our city administration to prevent similar
tragedies in the future,” Quinlivan said in a statement.Two weeks ago, City Council unanimously approved an
ordinance that requires all rental properties be equipped with
photoelectric smoke detectors that are better at detecting slow,
smoldering fires, which have been linked to more fatalities than the
flaming, fast-moving fires picked up by the more traditional ionization
smoke detectors, according to the vice mayor’s office. CityBeat covered that legislation here.
by German Lopez
Federal unemployment down, state joblessness up, Tower Place Mall renovations detailed
In February, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent,
from 7.9 percent in January, and the nation added 236,000 jobs. Many of
the new jobs — about 48,000 — came from construction, while government
employment saw a drop even before sequestration, a series of
across-the-board federal spending cuts, began on March 1. Economists seem quite positive
about the report.
In January, Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent,
from 6.7 percent in December, with the number of unemployed in
the state rising to 399,000, from 385,000 the month before.
Goods-producing and service-providing industries and local government
saw a rise in employment, while jobs were lost in trade, transportation,
utilities, financial activities, professional and business services,
leisure and hospitality, state government and federal government. In
January, U.S. unemployment rose to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in
A new report outlined renovations for the city-owned Tower Place Mall, which is getting a makeover as part of Cincinnati’s parking plan.
A lot of the retail space in the mall will be replaced to make room for
parking that will be accessed through what is currently Pogue’s Garage,
but two rings of retail space will remain, according to the report. The
parking plan was approved by City Council Wednesday, but it was temporarily halted by a Hamilton County judge. The legal contest has now moved to federal court, and it’s set to get a hearing today.
Meet the mayoral candidates through CityBeat’s two extensive Q&As: Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley.
Qualls spoke mostly about her support for immigration, the parking plan
and streetcar, while Cranley discussed his opposition to the parking
plan and streetcar and some of his ideas for Cincinnati.
A Hamilton County court ruled against
the controversial traffic cameras in Elmwood Place, and the Ohio
legislature is considering a statewide ban on the cameras. In his
ruling, Judge Robert Ruehlman pointed out there were no signs making motorists
aware of the cameras and the cameras are calibrated once a year by a
for-profit operator. The judge added, “Elmwood Place is engaged in
nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-card Monty. … It is a scam that
motorists can’t win.” Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced to
prohibit traffic cameras in Ohio.
JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit corporation, quietly got $5.3 million in state grants,
even though the state legislature only appropriated $1 million for
startup costs. JobsOhio says it needed the extra funds because
legal challenges have held up liquor profits that were
originally supposed to provide funding. In the past few days, State
Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, has been pushing
Republican Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio to release more details about
the nonprofit corporation’s finances, but Kasich and JobsOhio have been
Advocates for Ohio’s charter schools say Kasich’s budget amounts to a per-pupil cut,
with funding dropping from $5,704 per pupil to $5,000 plus some
targeted assistance that ranges from hundreds of dollars to nothing
depending on the school. A previous CityBeat report on online schools
found traditional public schools get about $3,193 per student — much
less than the funding that apparently goes to charter schools.
Fountain Square will be getting a new television
from Cincinnati-based LSI Industries with the help of Fifth-Third Bank
and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The new
video board will have better image quality and viewing angles, but it
will also come with more screen space for sponsors.
Ohio’s casino revenues rose in January. That could be a good sign for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which opened Monday.
In light of recent discussion, Popular Science posted a Q&A on drones.
Opening of Horseshoe Casino is just the latest step for up-and-coming Pendleton neighborhood
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The neighborhood of Pendleton is not what
it once was, and if the newly minted Horseshoe Casino has anything to do
with it, nor what it will be in the next few years.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Budgets are supposed to give elected officials at all levels
of government a chance to show off their strengths and agendas, but
recent issues have mostly raised questions about whether these people
are actually capable of leading to begin with.
by Hannah McCartney
Main Street spot is being eyed for CitiRama 2014
Leaders of a quiet Over-the-Rhine civic garden that harvests produce like peaches, tomatoes, garlic and blackberries to sell at Findlay Market are worried they could be forced to relocate after calling the same spot home since 1998. CitiRama, a partnership between the Cincinnati Homebuilders Association and the city of Cincinnati that holds annual or biannual home shows on chosen urban plots
of land, has proposed that the lot at 1718
Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, which currently houses the Eco Garden
project (run by local nonprofit Permaganic), be amended to instead house
the site for its next event, which would force the garden to
relocate. The Livable Communities Committee yesterday was presented a memo
submitted by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls from City Manager Milton Dohoney
Jr., recommending that the Eco Garden lot, which is currently
subletted to Permaganics for its Eco Garden program by the Civic Garden
Association (CGA), be relocated to a larger area so the site can be procured for CitiRama. The parcel of land is actually owned by the city of
Cincinnati, but the city leases a number of parcels to the CGA for
their use. According to the memo, the lease between the city and
the CGA expires in 2015, but grants the city the power to terminate the
lease at any time if another use for the land arises. The area
containing the Eco Garden has been targeted as the next CitiRama site by
the city’s Department of Community Development (DCD), the main
controller of the property. According to Dohoney’s memo, should the Eco
Garden be forced to move elsewhere, the DCD would fund the garden's startup and
relocation costs. For Angela Ebner, executive director with Permaganic,
that’s not a sufficient compromise, but she’s hopeful the parties can
reach an agreement by demonstrating that the Garden's OTR existence is actually of value to CitiRama, which is seeking out forward-thinking potential homeowners invested in fostering positive urban cultural experiences. “We think they’re (CitiRama) interested in
working with us because we think they’re interested in working with that
demographic of eco-friendly people. I’m pretty certain they’ll be
accepting of the fact that we do a really good job of reflecting the
needs and values of people in the community,” she says. CitiRama's events are designed to attract potential homeowners and developers to pinpointed plots of land in hopes of reviving urban areas with new housing opportunities, but there's also a heavy focus on sustainability. The most recent CitiRama event, which opened at Virginia Place in Northside (located at the intersection of Virginia and Chase avenues), took place in Sept. 2012. The Eco Garden exists to “create experiential learning opportunities for inner-city youth to cultivate self-reliance, job skills and an entrepreneurial aptitude by cultivating a market garden to grow fresh, healthy vegetables and herbs for direct sales at Findlay Market," according to a Permaganic Facebook post. They recruit local at-risk teens for a unique job readiness program, which allows the teens to work in the garden in exchange for a stipend. Supporters of Permaganic and the Eco Garden are concerned that moving the garden would cause disrupt not just to the crops that have grown for the past several years, but also the fabric of the neighborhood, particularly the at-risk neighborhood youth who see the space as a "home away from home." Ebner and supporters are currently waiting for word from the city in hopes of moving forward on a compromise. “We want a green, peaceful, healthy world for everyone’s children,” says Ebner. “That’s the bottom line.”
by German Lopez
Plan B would lay off 344 city employees, eliminate Human Services Funding
If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, but critics argue
there are better alternatives.In a memo dated to Feb. 26,
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. wrote that the city will also have to close three community centers and six pools; eliminate Human Services Funding, which aids the
city’s homeless and poor; and reduce funding for local business groups,
parks, nature education for Cincinnati Public Schools and environmental
regulations, among other changes. In total, the cuts would add up to $25.8 million — just
enough to balance the deficit that would be left in place without the parking plan.
In addition to the cuts, failing to approve the parking
plan, which leases the city’s parking meters for 30 years and lots and garages for 50 years to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority, would displace plans to
convert Tower Place Mall, construct a 30-floor tower with a grocery
store downtown, accelerate the the I-71/MLK Interchange project, acquire
the Wasson Line right-of-way for a bike trail and add $4 million to the
next phase of Smale Riverfront Park (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne
Qualls, who’s running for mayor, has come out in favor of the parking plan, but John Cranley, another
Democrat running for mayor, says he opposes the deal because it will
hurt downtown businesses.
“It’s the boy who cried wolf,” Cranley says. “In 2009,
2010, 2011 and 2012 … they threatened to lay off police and
firefighters, and it never happened.”
Cranley says he
would rather take $10 million from projected casino revenue and $7
million from current parking revenues to help clear the deficit. For the
remaining $8.8 million, he would cut non-essential programs, which
would exclude police, fire, garbage collection, health, parks and
recreation, street pavement and Human Services Funding, across the
board by 10 to 15 percent. If that wasn’t enough, he would then
move to the essential programs, which he says make up about $300 million
in the $368.9 million budget, with a 1-percent across-the-board cut.
He says his solution would have the upside of fixing
structural deficit problems in Cincinnati’s General Fund, whereas the
one-time lease of the city’s parking assets will only take care of the deficit for the next two years.
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says City Council could
use the casino revenue to pay for the deficit, but $4 million of it is
already set for the Focus 52 program, which funds neighborhood
“Council can use whatever revenue sources they want,”
Olberding says. “That’s why the memo … says we can either use this plan
or another plan.”
Cranley says he would not do away with the Focus 52
program, but he would instead find funding for it in the Capital Budget,
which is separate from the General Fund.
Olberding says City Council could approve the use of about
$3 million in parking meter revenue for the General Fund, but the rest
of the parking money, which comes from lots and garages, is tied to an
enterprise fund, which, by state law, means the city would have to sell
its parking lots and garages before it could obtain money for the General Fund.Cranley, who also opposes the streetcar project (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23), says it
would be possible to pay for the I-71/MLK Interchange and other projects
if the streetcar wasn’t taking up funds. If it was up to him, he says
he would remove streetcar funding and use it on other development
projects “without batting an eye.”
In the Feb. 27 City Council meeting, Vice Mayor Roxanne
Qualls said the Budget and Finance Committee will likely vote
on the city manager’s parking plan on March 4 or March 11.