by Hannah McCartney
Third proposal would include ballot amendments, $5 million in spending cuts
City Councilmember Chris Seelbach this afternoon released a third alternative to City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.'s budget plans, both of which have received negative feedback from the public. Like Dohoney's "Plan B" (read about that here), Plan S would not lease the city's parking system to a private operator, a solution that citizens and officials are concerned would cause parking rates to skyrocket and ultimately not serve as a sustainable solution to the city's budget problems. Instead, Plan S would involve redirecting $7.5 million in casino revenue to help balance the city's $25 million deficit, $5 million in spending cuts based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and two charter amendments on the ballot that, if approved, would include up to a $10-per-month trash fee and increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Plan S is Seelbach's alternative to Dohoney's Plan B, which also does not privatize parking. Under Plan B, the city would be forced to lay off 344 public employees, including 80 firefighters and 189 police positions, and close three community centers and six pools.Instead, the $5 million in spending cuts would include reductions to city administrative services, council and the mayor’s office, some recreation and health
programs and consolidation of some police and fire services. It would also freeze 20 vacant city positions and reduce car allowances for city employees. Seelbach says he determined who would suffer these cuts by exploring city services citizens valued least during last fall's Priority-Driven Budget Initiative.
If council were to approve pursuing Seelbach's Plan S, there's a possibility it could send the city back to the drawing board, should voters choose not to approve the proposed charter amendments. "To me it seems like the public is overwhelmingly against parking, but we still have to balance our budget. ... I'm providing the public an alternative. If [the charter amendments are] something the voters would reject, I respect that and then we’d have to go back to the table and either do the leasing of parking or layoff 300 police and fire officers," Seelbach says. The parking plan is expected to be voted on during the Budget and Finance Committee's meeting at 1 p.m. on Monday, March 4.
by German Lopez
at 10:13 AM | Permalink
Findlay Market ideal for restroom, Kasich cuts local funding, The Banks exceeds goals
A report issued by Director of Public Services Michael Robinson found Findlay Market would be the best place for a freestanding public restroom,
which could cost as little as $35,000. The idea has been heavily pushed
by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who has argued that the restrooms are
necessary to accommodate a growing population and wider activity in
Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.
A new Policy Matters Ohio report found local government funding has been reduced by $1.4 billion since Gov. John Kasich took office,
leading to a nearly 50-percent reduction in state funding. Most of the
cuts came from the elimination of the estate tax, which would have
provided $625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget,
but it was repealed in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio
legislature and Kasich. When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City
Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost
Cincinnati $22.2 million in revenues for the year.
In 2012, the team behind The Banks’ public construction met or exceeded all four major project goals,
according to the annual report from The Banks Public Partnership.
Contractors installed public safety technologies throughout the
intermodal transit center and parking facility, awarded a trade contract
for a new Pete Rose Way pedestrian bridge and walkway and prepared
design and funding documents for a river walk along the Ohio River. The
project has also gone more than 400,000 hours without a lost-time
accident. The Banks previously won what John Deatrick, project executive, called the “Oscar” of planning awards, which CityBeat covered here.
City Council delayed a vote
on opposing the sale of more than 700 Section 8 units in Avondale,
Walnut Hills and Millvale because they want meet with the firm buying
the units first. City officials have scheduled the meeting for next
week. CityBeat previously covered Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ opposition to the deal here.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency lifted a requirement
that forced any new sewer development that added waste water to the
county’s overall system to offset its gains with a fourfold reduction in
storm water taken in.
BuzzFeed, the popular viral video and pop culture website, listed the Cincinnati Public Library as No. 28 on the list “The 30 Best Places To Be If You Love Books.”
Ohio’s imprisonment of fewer youth may be part of a nationwide trend.
Three Cincinnati area businesses made Interactive Health’s “Healthiest Companies in America”: Standard Textile Inc., Totes-Isotoner and American Modern Insurance Group.
Mercy Health’s Anderson and Fairfield branches made the Truven Health Analytics ranking released this week, putting the two hospitals among the nation’s best.
Omya Inc. is receiving a five-year, 40-percent tax credit for completing a consolidation of its regional headquarters to Cincinnati, which should create 25 full-time jobs and generate $1.4 million in annual payroll.
Breaking news: Teenagers are horny. Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Hundreds of Madeira High students involved in sexting?”
A Dayton donut shop is apparently one of the best in the nation, according to Saveur magazine.
Do video games cause violence? Apparently, the debate is a lot more complicated than most people think.
Mouse brain cells can live longer than the mice they came from.
by German Lopez
GOP questions Medicaid expansion, Qualls' streetcar concerns, council backs efficiency
State legislators, particularly Republicans, have a lot of questions regarding Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion.
Legislators are worried the state won’t be able to opt out of the
expansion if the federal government reneges its funding promise, raising
potential financial hurdles. As part of Obamacare, the federal
government pays for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first
three years, and the share phases down to 90 percent after that.
Kasich’s budget includes a trigger — called a “circuit breaker” — in
case the federal government ever funds less than currently promised. A
study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found
the Medicaid expansion could insure nearly 500,000 people and generate
$1.4 billion by raising revenue and shifting funding burdens from the state to federal
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a longtime supporter of the streetcar, is getting concerned
about some of the problems surrounding the project. In a memo to the
city manager, Qualls suggested putting the streetcar project through
“intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and
timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League
Baseball All-Star Game. The memo was in response to streetcar
construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget — a
setback that could cause further delays or more funding problems.
With Councilman Chris Seelbach’s strong support, City Council passed a resolution urging the state government to maintain its energy efficiency standards.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public
Utilities Committee, sent out a memo Feb. 1 that pledged to review the
state’s standards, causing much concern among environmental groups.
Tolls for the Brent Spence Bridge could be as low as $2,
according to financial consultants involved with the project. The tolls
will help pay for the massive rehabilitation project, which gained
national attention when President Barack Obama visited Cincinnati to support rebuilding the bridge.
State Democrats and Republicans have some questions
about the governor’s Ohio Turnpike plan. Some Democrats are concerned
the state government won’t actually freeze toll hikes at the rate of inflation for
EZPass users. Others are worried
about language in the bill. The plan leverages the Ohio Turnpike to fund a statewide construction program.
The man accused of dumping fracking waste into the Mahoning River in Youngstown was arrested and charged with violating the Clean Water Act.
Dayton wants to help
illegal immigrants who are victims of crime. The Dayton City Commission
approved a $30,000 contract with a law firm to help potential
victims. CityBeat previously covered the recent struggles of children of illegal immigrants in Ohio.
A Dayton Daily News report found Ohio overpays unemployment compensation claims by millions of dollars.
The University of Cincinnati is launching a technology incubator for mobile apps.
In his State of the County address yesterday, Commission President Chris Monzel said Hamilton County is “on the move and getting stronger.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine and officials from other states announced a $29 million settlement with Toyota over the unintended acceleration debacle. Ohio will get $1.7 million from the settlement.
A meteor flew over Russian skies and exploded with the strength of an atomic bomb Friday, causing a sonic blast that shattered windows and injured nearly 1,000 people.
Scientists engineered mice that can’t feel the cold. Certain people on CityBeat’s
staff would probably do anything for this superpower, but scientists
are probably going to use it to make better pain medication.
by German Lopez
Council resolution embraces Cincinnati’s past clean energy successes
With a resolution passed Wednesday, City Council is urging state legislators to maintain the energy efficiency standards that helped drive Cincinnati’s clean energy growth.State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, sent out a memo
Feb. 1 that suggested “a meaningful review” of the state’s energy
efficiency standards, which were previously established by Senate Bill
221 in 2008 and Senate Bill 315 in 2012. In the memo, Seitz wrote he was open
to freezing and weakening some of the established standards.Environmental groups responded by calling on local governments to defend the standards. In Cincinnati, the
call was picked up by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who touted
the city’s past clean energy efforts in a statement: “Cincinnati has
made great strides in energy efficiency by seeking cost savings while
boosting our city’s green image. Energy efficiency is helping Cincinnati
support a double bottom line of environmental and economic
sustainability, and we endorse full implementation of our state
efficiency law.”The city estimates it saves $1 million a year on energy bills
because of the law’s efficiency programs, which includes upgrades and
Christian Adams, a clean energy associate of Environment Ohio,
praised Cincinnati for passing the resolution in a statement: “From
efficiency to solar, Cincinnati [is] a state leader on clean energy, and it’s
proving to be a win-win-win for consumers, the environment and the
economy. If state lawmakers want to change our clean energy law, they
should follow Cincinnati’s lead and double-down on wind, solar and
energy efficiency.”In a previous report, Environment Ohio claimed Cincinnati could become the solar energy capital of the region. CityBeat covered the report and Cincinnati’s — particularly the Cincinnati Zoo’s — success with solar energy (“Solar Cincinnati,” issue of Dec. 19).
by German Lopez
Seelbach tired of streetcar delays, Pentagon to lift combat ban for women, JobsOhio in court
Council Member Chris Seelbach says he’s getting impatient
with streetcar delays. During a series of complaints aired on Twitter, Seelbach wrote the deadline for streetcar operation should be the Major
League Baseball All-Star Game in 2015. This week’s CityBeat cover story explains some of the delays and how the streetcar relates to the 2013 mayor’s race.
The Pentagon is planning to lift the ban
on women in combat situations. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said
the decision came after a recommendation from his Joint Chiefs of
Staff. Between the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and this decision,
President Barack Obama’s administration has been one of the most
inclusive when it comes to the military.
The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear
a case questioning the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Policy group ProgressOhio says it might be illegal to use state liquor profits to
fund JobsOhio, a private nonprofit organization Gov. John Kasich set up
to drive economic growth in the state.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game could bring
$60-$80 million to Cincinnati, according to Julie Heath,
director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center. It was
recently announced Cincinnati will host the game in 2015.
Gov. Kasich said he won’t oust
State Board of Education President Debe Terhar after she made a
Facebook post comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler. Kasich is happy she
admitted it was a mistake, and he said he will leave it at that.
Democrats called for her ousting Tuesday.
American Military Partner Association, a national
organization that supports LGBT veterans, endorsed FreedomOhio’s
same-sex marriage amendment. If voters approve the amendment this
November, gay marriage will be legalized in Ohio. CityBeat wrote more about FreedomOhio’s ballot initiative here.
Cincinnati Public Schools is piloting an after-school program focusing on the arts. The high-energy sessions are apparently proving to be a hit among students so far.
U.S. Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, says President Barack Obama is out to annihilate the Republican Party. I’m not seeing the problem here.
Moody’s doesn’t have confidence in U.S. nonprofit hospitals.
New science makes it possible to detect brain damage in football players that previously couldn’t be seen until a victim was dead. CityBeat covered how head trauma relates to former Bengals players' workers' comp claims here.
Popular Science explains how to make the perfect snowball.
by German Lopez
Secretary of state race underway, bridge may need private funding, sewer policy dismissed
Is the race for Ohio secretary of state already underway? Ohio
Sen. Nina Turner, who is considering a run against Secretary of State
Jon Husted in 2014, says she will introduce legislation to protect voters against Republican efforts to limit ballot access. She also criticized Husted for how he handled the 2012 election, which CityBeat covered here. Husted responded by asking Turner to “dial down political rhetoric.”
Build Our New Bridge Now, an organization dedicated to building the Brent Spence Bridge, says the best approach is private financing.
The organization claims a public-private partnership is the only way to
get the bridge built by 2018, rather than 2022. But critics are worried
the partnership and private financing would lead to tolls.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners threw out
a Metropolitan Sewer District competitive bidding policy yesterday. The
policy, which was originally passed by City Council, was called unfair
and illegal by county commissioners due to apprenticeship requirements and rules that favor contractors within city limits. Councilman Chris Seelbach is now pushing for compromise for the rules.
Believe it or not, Cincinnati’s economy will continue outpacing the national economy this year, says Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.
Three Cincinnati-area hospitals are among the best in the nation,
according to new rankings from Healthgrades. The winners: Christ
Hospital, Bethesda North Hospital and St. Elizabeth Healthcare-Edgewood.
Democrat David Mann, former Cincinnati mayor and congressman, may re-enter politics with an attempt at City Council.
In its 2013 State of Tobacco report, the American Lung Association gave Ohio an F for anti-smoking policies.
The organization said the state is doing a poor job by relying
exclusively on federal money for its $3.3 million anti-tobacco program.
The Centers for Disease Control says Ohio should be spending $145
The Air Force is gearing up for massive spending cuts currently set to kick in March. The cuts will likely affect Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Dennis Kucinich, who used to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, will soon appear on Fox News as a regular contributor.
For anyone who’s ever been worried about getting attacked by a drone, there’s now a hoodie and scarf for that.
by German Lopez
New restrooms stalled, Medicaid expansion saves money, there is no “climate debate”
City Council wants to do more research
before it proceeds with freestanding public restrooms in downtown
and Over-the-Rhine. The vote has been delayed. Critics say
the restrooms are too expensive at $130,000, but supporters, particularly Councilman Chris Seelbach, insist the
restrooms will not be that expensive. A majority of City Council argues
the restrooms are necessary because increasing populations and growth in
downtown have made 24-hour facilities necessary.
A new report found Ohio’s budget would benefit from a Medicaid expansion.
The expansion would mostly save money by letting the federal government
pick up a much larger share of the cost for Ohio’s population, particularly prison
inmates. A previous study
found Medicaid expansions were correlated with better health results,
including decreased mortality rates, in some states. Another study from
the Arkansas Department of Human Services found the state would save
$378 million by 2025 with the Medicaid expansion. Most of the savings from the Arkansas study
would come from uncompensated care — costs that are placed on health
institutions and state and local governments when uninsured patients
that can’t and don’t pay use medical services.
The Dayton Daily News has a wonderful example of how not to do journalism. In an article on the supposed “climate debate,”
the newspaper ignored the near-unanimous scientific consensus on global warming and decided to give credence to people who deny all
scientific reasoning. To be clear, there is no climate debate. There’s the overwhelming majority of scientists, climatologists and data on one side, and there’s the
pro-oil, pro-coal lobby and stubborn, irrational conservatives who will
deny anything that hurts their interests on the other side.
The Ohio Board of Education approved policies for seclusion rooms.
The non-binding policy requires parents to be notified if their
children are placed in a seclusion room, and the Ohio Department of
Education can also request data, even though it won’t be made public. More
stringent policies may come in the spring. Seclusion rooms are supposed
to be used to hold out-of-control kids, but an investigation from The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio found the rooms were being abused by teachers and school staff for their convenience.
If the city wants to buy Tower Place, the mall will have to be cleared out, according to City Manager Milton Dohoney.
Last week, the remaining businesses at Tower Place were evicted, and
Dohoney said the city did not sign off on the eviction orders. Apparently, the
city really didn’t agree to or enforce eviction orders, but the city’s buyout requires
evictions. Dohoney said the eviction notices should signify the
deal to buy Tower Place is moving forward.
Dohoney appointed Captain Paul Humphries to the assistant chief position
for the Cincinnati Police Department. Humphries has been on the force
for 26 years, and he currently serves as the chief of staff to Chief
Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP) is targeting Mt. Airy and Carthage.
Starting March 1, police, businesses and civic groups will begin
putting together accelerated revitalization and reinvestment plans for
the communities. NEP emphasizes building code enforcement, crime,
neighborhood cleanup and beautification.
Good news, everyone. Cincinnati is no longer the bedbug capital.
Bob Castellini, owner of the Reds, was named the region’s master entrepreneur by Northern Kentucky University.
The Ohio Department of Transportation released a website that has real-time traffic information.
Some people really suck at political slogans.
Oh, science. Apparently, particle physics could improve Netflix’s suggestions.
by German Lopez
State budget will reform taxes, Monzel takes charge of county, freestanding restroom vote
Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,”
according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new
plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax
structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some
are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education.
Chris Monzel is now in charge
of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as
president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice
president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost
$130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but
Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility
for about $40,000.
Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy
regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been
looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad
for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures
job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and
Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges.
King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions.
Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality.
Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not
require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea.
An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring.
Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president.
Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world,
say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes
it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne
Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world.
Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.
by German Lopez
Strickland won't run in 2014, county reviewing MSD, freestanding restroom underway
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland will not run for governor in 2014. In a statement released today, the Democrat who previously served four years as governor did not
give a reason for why he won’t run. But he did promise his wife and him
will “continue to be politically active private citizens.” Strickland
also touted his accomplishments as governor, including energy, health
care, social services and property tax reform. In September, Strickland
faced criticism from the left for pushing for the Democratic platform
to include a mention of God and a proclamation that Jerusalem is the
capital of Israel. The platform amendment contradicts decades of U.S.
Hamilton County wants an efficiency review
of the Metropolitan Sewer District. Republican Commissioner Chris
Monzel ordered the review. He says he expects “things at the
Metropolitan Sewer District are being managed and operated in a highly
efficient and effective manner,” but he wants to make sure. MSD is
currently taking part in a multi-billion dollar, federally mandated upgraded
system. CityBeat wrote about MSD’s green initiatives here.
Findlay Market might soon host Cincinnati’s first freestanding restroom.
If it goes well, it could be the start of a much bigger city-wide
project, and freestanding restrooms will be built all around downtown
and Over-the-Rhine. The test facility is being touted by Councilman
Chris Seelbach and other city officials as they seek to provide better
access to restrooms throughout the city.Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing a possible ethics investigation from the Ohio House of Representatives. The controversy was prompted by a recently filed lawsuit, which alleges Beck participated in a fraud that cheated investors out of more than $1.2 million.
Some local educators are supporting the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio. The rooms, which are enclosed spaces used to calm or restrain children who become violent, have come under criticism after an investigation from StateImpact Ohio and The Columbus Dispatch
found the rooms were being abused for the convenience of staff. Ohio
does not currently regulate the use of seclusion rooms, but that is
likely to change in an upcoming Ohio Board of Education meeting.
On the bright side, Ohio has the 10th best education laws, according to a study from StudentsFirst.
Overall, Ohio got a C-, making it one of the 12 states to get a B or C.
No state received an A. StateImpact Ohio has more on the grade here.
State officials probably understand how I felt when I dropped out of a
college history class because the professor was too strict of a grader.
Then again, state education systems are probably more important than
Colonial History 101.
The Blue Wisp, home of the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is looking to renegotiate its lease.
Over the holidays, restaurant hero and Blue Wisp manager Ed Felson told
customers his jazz-themed restaurant and club is having financial
problems.The most emailed phrase while committing fraud at work is “cover up.”
One major problem with prolonged space missions: Humans become lazy and sleepy. It seems like being an astronaut isn’t different from any other job. Who can we rely on when aliens finally invade?
by Andy Brownfield
Resolution promises no bus funds used on streetcar
In hopes of quashing rumors, City Council on Wednesday
passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit authority had voted
Tuesday on an agreement with the city that contained a provision saying
money from the $42 million transit fund that pays for bus operation
can’t be used on the streetcar.
The agreement needs to be signed by the city as well in
order to release millions of dollars in federal grants to help fund the
streetcar. The city has pledged to match those grants with local funds.
SORTA wants to make sure the transit fund isn’t used for that purpose,
but the city wants to have the freedom to use that money on any
At least one council member questioned the necessity of passing the resolution.
Chris Seelbach said that nobody on council or in the city
administration had proposed or would propose using transit money on the
“I don’t understand why we would need a provision in any
contract that would make us not be able to, when nobody’s proposing that
we do it,” he said.
The resolution has no legal standing preventing council
from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar, but
Qualls said she hoped it put citizens’ minds at rest regarding their
Mayor Mark Mallory on Monday published an editorial in The
Enquirer promising that the transit money wouldn’t be used for the
He went further on Wednesday and said during council’s
meeting that he as mayor would never approve the use of transit money
for the operation of the streetcar.
Council also passed a one-month budget for SORTA, requiring that they come back next month to pass another one.
Councilman Chris Smitherman accused Mallory of trying to
flex political muscle in the budget to strong-arm SORTA into taking out
the provision disallowing the use of transit funds for the streetcar. He
questioned the timing of passing a SORTA budget the day after the
transit authority voted to prevent transit funds being used for the
Councilman Charlie Winburn — council's sole Republican — walked out of a Budget Committee meeting in advance of the vote.
However Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said it made sense to
pass the one-month budget because it forbid SORTA from using taxpayer
money to sue the city.
City Solicitor John Curp said it was SORTA’s position in
the lawsuit that it should be the one deciding how transit funds are
used, not the city.