WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 02.14.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Environment, Energy, City Council at 04:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

City Pushes Energy Efficiency Standards

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 weatherization projects. 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 01.24.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Economy, Education, Privatization, Budget at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Morning News and Stuff

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 01.17.2013
 
 
nina turner

Morning News and Stuff

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 million. 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 01.16.2013
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Morning News and Stuff

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 James Craig. 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 01.15.2013
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

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 01.08.2013
Posted In: Governor, News, Environment, Economy, Government at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tedstrickland

Morning News and Stuff

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. foreign policy. 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 12.19.2012
 
 
bus

Council Passes SORTA Resolution, Budget

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 streetcar. 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 transportation project. 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 streetcar. “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 intentions. Mayor Mark Mallory on Monday published an editorial in The Enquirer promising that the transit money wouldn’t be used for the streetcar. 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 streetcar. 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.
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.03.2012
 
 
milton dohoney

Budget Hearing Raises Questions About Parking Privatization

City Manager says without lease, 344 city workers would lose jobs

Cincinnati City Council members today focused a lot of attention on a contentious plan to lease city parking assets during a Monday committee presentation on the 2013 budget. It was the first opportunity council members had to publicly question the budget’s architects. The proposed budget would cover the first half of 2013. The city is switching over to a fiscal year starting in July. Many council members expressed concern over the plan to use $21 million from a proposed 30-year lease of the city’s parking meters, garages and lots to help close a $34 million budget deficit. “It seems like … the city budget wins, but the citizens are losing,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. City Manager Milton Dohoney said the parking facilities net Cincinnati about $7 million a year. That would equal out to about $210 million over 30 years. Sittenfeld called into question the wisdom of leasing the facilities for an estimated $50 million and taking half of the profit, for an earnings of about $150 million over 30 years. Other council members expressed concern that whoever leased the parking would hike rates, something Councilman Cecil Thomas dismissed. “The market would dictate the rates that are charged,” he said. Dohoney said a combination of cuts, savings, revenue, projected growth and one-time funding sources helped eliminate the $34 million deficit. He said a budget containing only cuts would result in the layoff of 344 city workers. A slide show provided by the city showed that 802 positions had been cut since 2000.Dohoney advocated eliminating the property tax rollback promised as part of the deal to build two new sports stadiums in 1996. He said it would bring in about $9 million a year. However council has had little appetite to allow any increase in taxes as the city recovers from the Great Recession. Property taxes make up about 6 percent of the budget fund used to pay most of the city's operating expenses. The cuts proposed in the 2013 budget include eliminating support for public access company Media Bridges, the Downtown and Neighborhood Gateways Program, Juvenile Firesetter Program and Arts Grants. It would also eliminate the Cincinnati Police Department’s Mounted Patrol, which covers downtown on horseback. Dohoney said that would allow Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to redeploy those nine officers elsewhere. Dohoney said Craig had asked for a new recruit class of 50, but Dohoney requested 30. He said the additional nine from the horse patrol would bring that closer to 40. Dohoney said he was also allowing 10 additional recruits to cover patrols of University Hospital, which is no longer going to use University of Cincinnati police starting Jan. 1. He said the police department would also look for ways to save money by increasing the involvement of civilian members who could do things like take reports of non-injury car accidents. Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan asked if the budgeteers had considered restructuring the police force to save money. She has long been a proponent of “right-sizing” the police and fire forces, saying staffing levels remain at a high while the city’s population is shrinking. The proposed budget also includes investments in business groups that promote economic development, like the Port Authority, Greater Cincinnati Partnership, Film Commission and African American Chamber of Commerce. Councilman Chris Seelbach praised Dohoney and his budget team, saying he saw Cincinnati as being better off than it had been six years ago. But he also said he’d like to see the administration focus on people who are barely getting by instead of businesses and developers. “There is a focus on helping people make more money that are already making a lot of money,” Seelbach said. “Helping people that aren’t paying a lot of taxes still pay very little.”Cincinnatians can weigh in on the budget in a public hearing Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.07.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, City Council, Homelessness, News at 05:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Council OKs Application for Homeless Relocation Loan

Loan would help move three homeless shelters out of Over-the-Rhine

UPDATE 11-8-12: An aide to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls tells CityBeat that the $7 million loan will only go toward moving two of the shelters: the Drop Inn Center and a new women's shelter to be operated by the YWCA. Because the City Gospel Mission requires a religious component to is outreach to the homeless, it cannot receive federal funding. The original story follows below.City Council on Wednesday signed off on a plan to apply for federal loans to help move three Cincinnati homeless shelters to new locations. Council members voted with all but one approving the application for $37 million in loans, $7 million of which would move the Washington Park-area shelters. If the loan is approved, the City Gospel Mission would move to the West End, a new women’s shelter would be build in Mount Auburn and the Drop Inn Center would move to a yet-undetermined location.  Cincinnati had pledged $10 million toward relocating the shelters. The loan would be paid back at $532,000 a year for the next 20 years. Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole dissenting voice. He said he supports the homeless, but he is wary of the risks of the loan and the city’s ability to pay it back. Councilman Chris Seelbach, who said he moved to Over-the-Rhine shortly after the 2001 riots, voted to approve applying for the loan, but also voiced some concern. “The reason I moved is because I loved it; I fell in love with the diversity of the neighborhood,” he said, noting income diversity as well as racial and ethnic. “I would hope that we could find a location for the Drop that is in Over-the-Rhine and there isn’t a continued effort to push low income people out of Over-the-Rhine.” Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said the shelters the city has now are perfectly adequate and the money could be spent better developing affordable housing and creating jobs to help eliminate homelessness. “Historically a majority of shelters started between 1982 and 1990 because in that era we cut dollars to housing and employment,” Spring said.  “Shelters were never created to end homelessness. Shelters were created for people to have a safe place once everything else had failed them. We shouldn’t let everything else fail them.”
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 10.11.2012
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Seelbach Touts Obama's LGBT Record, Urges Early Voting

On National Coming Out Day, Obama campaign releases new ad featuring LGBT activist

On National Coming Out Day, Cincinnati’s only openly gay city councilman told CityBeat that equality for America’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered people would take a hit under a President Mitt Romney. “On day one (of his presidency) he (Romney) could hurt gay families by reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and hurt security for our country,” Seelbach said. “We need as many people serving as possible.” Councilman Chris Seelbach spoke to CityBeat as he waited to vote early outside of the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Proponents of the measure that prevented openly gay service members from serving in the military have said repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would damage the country’s combat-readiness.  A study published by the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles Law School in September found that there has been no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale. Seelbach said there would be a stark contrast for LGBT people under President Barack Obama and his GOP rival. He pointed to the Obama administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court; his vocal approval of same-sex marriage; anti-discrimination measures signed by the president that, among other things, give same-sex partners the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital and make medical decisions. He said the next president would also likely have the opportunity to appoint new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court will likely decide the fate of California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage."If you care about equality, you've got to vote," Seelbach said. "The easiest way to vote is to vote early." The Obama campaign in Ohio plans to release a new online ad touting the president’s accomplishments for LGBT people. The ad, made available to CityBeat, features Zach Wahls, a gay-rights activist born to a lesbian couple via artificial insemination. Wahls is known for his testimony before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee against a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in that state. In the ad, Wahls touts the president’s accomplishments and exhorts Ohioans to reelect Obama. “We want to make sure that we’re all doing everything we can this fall to get out, register voters, canvass, knock on doors, get our family members and friends out to the polls so that we can re-elect the best president this country has ever seen on LGBT rights,” Wahls said.
 
 

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