by Andy Brownfield
Cincinnati asks state to overturn law preventing cities from regulating oil and gas drilling
Cincinnati City Council continued its effort to prevent a
controversial method of drilling for oil and gas by passing a resolution
on Wednesday asking the state to allow the city to make its own
The resolution expresses council’s dissatisfaction with
the Ohio Legislature for granting “special privileges to the oil and
natural gas industry” and asks it to repeal any laws that pre-empt local
control over drilling.
The resolution targets the controversial practice of
hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” which uses chemically-laced water to
free up natural gas trapped in shale formations underneath Ohio.
Fracking opponents worry that the chemicals used in the
fluid — which companies aren’t required to disclose — can be toxic to
people and animals.
Prior to the council vote, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan held a news conference on the steps of City
“I believe local officials should have a say on all
matters related to potentially hazardous activities such as fracking,”
Quinlivan said in an emailed statement. “I urge my colleagues to send a strong message to the Ohio
Governor, the Ohio Legislature, and Cincinnati residents by passing
A 2004 state law puts regulation of oil and gas drilling
under the state’s purview, preventing municipalities from regulating
drilling on their land.
Copies of the resolution will be sent to Gov. John Kasich
and members of the Ohio General Assembly elected from the Cincinnati
area. The resolution comes after Ohio recently lifted a
moratorium on new injection wells, which shoot wastewater deep
underground for storage.
There had been a temporary ban on new wells almost a year
ago after seismologists said an injection was to blame for 11
earthquakes around the Youngstown area.
City council in August passed an ordinance to band
injection wells within city limits. Because the injection well ban
doesn’t mention drilling, council hoped it wouldn’t clash with the state
law preventing local regulation of oil and gas drilling.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Cincinnati City Council members focused a
lot of attention on a contentious plan to lease city parking assets
during a Dec. 3 committee presentation on the 2013 budget. The proposed budget would cover the first half of 2013 until
a switchover to a fiscal year starting in July.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Budget
at 03:45 PM | Permalink
Massive cuts endanger local public access media
Mitt Romney was criticized for wanting to “kill Big Bird”
due to his proposed cuts to publicly funded media, and now City Manager
Milton Dohoney Jr. could face similar criticism. In his 2013 budget proposal,
Dohoney suggested eliminating $300,000 in support to Media Bridges, an
organization that provides public access TV and radio stations in
executive director of Media Bridges, called the cuts a “meteor” to
his organization’s budget. He described dire circumstances in which Ohio
originally cut funding to Media Bridges in June 2011, leaving the organization with
$198,000 from remaining money in the state fund and $300,000 from Cincinnati’s general fund. The state fund was provided by Time
Warner Cable, and lobbying from the cable company is what eventually led
to the fund’s elimination. The end of the Time Warner fund cut Media
Bridges’ budget by one-third, forcing the organization to change
facilities to make ends meet with less space.
With the city manager proposing to cut the city’s $300,000 in funding, Media
Bridges is essentially losing $498,000 in 2013. Bishop says that’s about
85 percent of the organization’s budget — a financial gap that would be
practically impossible to overcome. “If it’s a complete cut, we’re
looking at liquidation,” says Bishop.
When it was notified of the changes a few months ago, Media Bridges gave an
alternative plan to the mayor’s office that keeps $300,000 in funding
every year after a six-month transition period. But even that plan isn’t
ideal, according to Bishop. It would force Media Bridges to cut four
staff members, become more dependent on automation and charge
$200 a year for memberships with a sliding scale for low-income members.
Media Bridges will be reaching out to the public, mayor and
council members in the coming weeks to draw support in fighting the cuts.
At the government meetings, Bishop will make the plea
that public access outlets are important for low-income families. He
says it’s true that the Internet and cable television have expanded media
options for the public, but, according to the 2010 Greater Cincinnati
Survey, more than 40 percent of people in Cincinnati don’t have access
to broadband. That’s a large amount of the population that will be left
without a way to easily speak out in media if Media Bridges funding is
In a world of saturated media, Bishop rhetorically asked
why four TV channels that do a public service would need to be targeted:
“Does it seem so ridiculous that the people should have a tiny bit of
that bandwidth so that they can communicate with the community, share
cultural events, share what’s going on in the community and participate
He added the organization also provides educational access, which allows institutions like the University of Cincinnati,
Cincinnati Public Schools and various private schools to reach out to
Media Bridges also sees the cuts as a bit unfair relative
to other budget items. Bishop acknowledges “fiscal times are hard,” but
he pointed out CitiCable, which broadcasts City Council meetings and other educational services, is getting more than $750,000 in the proposed budget
to run one TV channel, while Media Bridges isn't getting $300,000 to run
four TV channels and a radio station. He praised CitiCable — “Those guys do a great job over
there; they provide a great service” — but he also says the disproportionate
cuts are “just not right.”
The cuts to Media Bridges are some of many adjustments in
the budget proposal by Dohoney. To balance Cincinnati’s estimated $34 million
deficit, Dohoney suggested pursuing privatizing parking services and
other cuts, including the elimination of the Cincinnati Police
Department’s mounted patrol unit and a $610,770 reduction to human services
funding.Update (Nov. 30, 3:45 p.m.): Meg Olberding, spokesperson for the city manager's office, called back CityBeat after this story was published. She explained Media Bridges was a target for cuts for two reasons: The program was ranked low in importance in public feedback gathered during the priority-driven budget process, and Media Bridges isn't seen as a core city service.Olberding also said that while some funding does flow through the city to CitiCable, that money has always come from franchise fees from Cincinnati Bell and Time Warner. In the case of Media Bridges, the city was not funding the program until it picked up the tab in 2011. Until that point, Media Bridges was funded through the now-gone Time Warner fund. Only after funding was lost did the city government provide a “one-year reprieve” in the general fund to keep Media Bridges afloat, according to Olberding.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 28, 2012
It’s been a big week for government
budgets. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners approved the
county’s 2013 budget, and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his
budget proposal, which now the mayor and City Council must approve.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 28, 2012
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. on Nov.
24 unveiled his 2013 budget plan. The proposal, which must be approved
by City Council and the mayor, seeks to close a $34 million deficit
while avoiding major cuts and layoffs. The proposed budget will only set
the city’s course until mid-June, when the city will transition into
establishing budgets based on fiscal years.
by German Lopez
Plan Cincinnati set for approval, Hamilton County's budget delayed, waste wells return
Plan Cincinnati is expected to be approved by City Council
Wednesday, according to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. The plan was
unanimously approved by the Livable Communities committee last night. Plan Cincinnati,
which is Cincinnati’s first comprehensive plan in 30 years, emphasizes the city’s urban center through new infrastructure, transportation
options and goals to make downtown residents stay in the area. CityBeat
previously covered the plan in greater detail here.
At the request of the sole Democrat on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, a vote on the 2013 budget is being delayed by one week.
Commissioner Todd Portune asked Commission President Greg Hartmann, a
Republican, for the vote delay to address funding to juvenile courts and
plans for future financial stability. Hartmann agreed to the delay,
noting consensus is important for budget issues. The budget won’t raise
taxes, but it could put 150 Hamilton County employees out of jobs.
Wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of fluids used during the fracking process, will soon be popping up around Ohio again.
The wells are the first to get state approval since earthquakes around
Youngstown in December were blamed on nearby wastewater injection wells.
It’s clear little — not even earthquakes — will stop Ohio’s fracking
boom, but at what cost? It is generally accepted switching from coal to
natural gas would bring down pollution that causes global warming, but some findings from Australia suggest problems still lay ahead. One study
found an abnormal amount of greenhouse gases around an Australian
fracking site. Methane leakage in particular is a problem at natural gas
sites because over 100 years methane is 25 times more effective at
trapping heat than carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change.
Cincinnati home sales shot up in October,
according to the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors. The report paints a
great picture for the city’s housing economy. Housing was one of the biggest sectors hit by the financial
crisis of 2007-2008, so a recovery in housing is a sign the economic downturn
could soon be a thing of the past.
University of Cincinnati researchers want to know if testing emergency-room patients for HIV makes sense.
ER doctors worry about longer wait times, disrupted operations and
possible interference with emergency services, but the health benefits
could outweigh the negatives.
FirstGroup America is looking into moving from its Cincinnati headquarters. The company originally got a million-dollar tax incentive from the city for moving to downtown.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich hopes his rejection of Obamacare’s health exchanges will ignite some re-election fundraising.
Kasich is up for re-election in 2014. Exchanges are subsidized, heavily
regulated insurance markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of
Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more
transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace.
With Kasich’s rejection, the federal government will manage Ohio’s
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted finally had a good day
in court on Saturday. In a reversal from the lower court’s ruling, the
Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said ballots without proper
identification should not be counted. It’s estimated that, at most, the ruling will affect about 2,000 votes.
A Dayton man allegedly robbed the same bank twice.
Behold, the greatest thing the internet has ever created: The Spice Kittens livestream.With a nose cell transplant, paralyzed dogs are walking again.
by German Lopez
City manager gets raise despite deficit, GE food regulations, Ohio unemployment drops
Cincinnati may have a deficit estimated to be between $34
million and $40 million, but that didn't stop City Council from voting 6-2 Thursday to approve a $23,000 raise and one-time $35,000 bonus for City Manager Milton Dohoney,
the highest-paid city employee. The raise brings his salary up from
$232,000 to $255,000. Council members Chris Seelbach and Chris
Smitherman voted against the raise. P.G. Sittenfeld also opposed the
raise and bonus, but he missed the vote because he was out of town for
personal reasons. If City Council balances the budget for the next year
and fires someone making $58,000 or less to help do so, the raise and
one-time bonus could have meant one person’s job.
City Council also voted 8-0 to encourage the U.S.
Department of Agriculture to enforce mandatory labeling of all
genetically engineered (GE) food. Alison Auciello, Ohio-based organizer
for Food & Water Watch, praised the move in a statement: “Genetically
engineered foods are potentially unsafe, and consumers should have the
right to decide for themselves if they want to eat GE foods. It took
regulation to get food processors to label ingredients and nutrition
facts on labels, and now we’re calling for federal lawmakers to require
the labeling of GE food.”
Ohio’s unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in October,
down from 7.1 percent in September, according to the Ohio Department of
Jobs and Family Services. The numbers were mostly positive with the
amount of unemployed dropping by 10,000 and the amount of employed
rising by 13,900. The civilian labor force also grew, although it was
still below Oct. 2011 levels. Most gains were seen in service-providing
industries, professional and business services and government. In
comparison, the federal unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in
October, up from 7.8 percent in September.
The Anna Louise Inn won another zoning appeal yesterday.
The victory upheld a conditional use permit for the Inn, which will
allow Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Inn, to carry on with $13
million renovations. Western & Southern has vowed to appeal the
Income inequality in Ohio is wide and growing.
A new study found the gap between the rich and poor is widening, with
the lower and middle classes actually losing real income since the
After Thanksgiving, the Cincinnati Zoo team will be studying penguins off the coast of Chile.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is having no part in the good unemployment news. The company announced another round of job cuts as part of a large restructuring program. It’s unclear how the cuts will impact Cincinnati.
Hostess, maker of Twinkies, is going out of business.
The company blamed a workers’ strike for the move, but Hostess has been having
problems for a long time. The company has already filed for bankruptcy
twice this decade.
The Ohio Board of Regents launched OhioMeansSuccess.org, a website meant to place students on a path to college and a successful career.
Russia can get pretty hardcore. While herding sheep, one grandmother fended off and killed a wolf with an axe.
The U.S. Navy is retiring its mine-sweeping dolphins and replacing them with robots.
by German Lopez
Council approves raise amid deficit, GOP versus Planned Parenthood, puppy mills regulated
It’s official: Cincinnati’s budget proposal will arrive Nov. 26.
The budget will seek to close a deficit estimated to be between $34
million and $40 million. Part of the budget plan was revealed when the
city manager’s office suggested privatizing parking.Despite the deficit the city is facing, City Council pushed forward a $21,000 raise and a one-time $35,000 bonus
for City Manager Milton Dohoney in a 6-3 vote. It’s the first raise
Dohoney is getting since 2007, but some are unhappy with the decision in
light of the deficit, which could lead to job cuts. “The city manager
is a good man, he is a hard worker, but to me this just feels out of
touch with the economic reality that we are in right now,” Councilman
P.G. Sittenfeld told Fox 19. “You don't give the highest paid employee
in the city a raise, a significant raise, when you're facing a
potentially huge budget deficit. Plus, you know, there's a very real
possibility of layoffs.”Ohio Republicans are pushing forward
with HB 298, a bill that cuts funds to Planned Parenthood. The
organization has become a popular target for Republicans
because it provides abortions, but abortion services only make up 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood offers. The move is just one of many recent moves in the Republican agenda against abortion rights.
They recently advocated renewing the heartbeat bill, and Gov. John
Kasich recently appointed two anti-abortion advocates to government
positions.The Ohio House overwhelmingly approved a bill
that will put large-scale puppy mills under more scrutiny with new
state standards and yearly inspections. Animal rights activists have
argued Ohio has become a haven for bad breeding practices due to lax
laws and regulations. CityBeat previously covered the puppy mills issue and how it enables Ohio’s dog auctions.But that’s not all
the Ohio legislature got done. The Ohio House passed a bill that
further regulates “pill mills” — doctors, pharmacies or clinics that
distribute narcotics inappropriately or for non-medical reasons — and a
bill that cracks down on “cyber stalking.” The Ohio Senate passed a bill
that essentially lowers taxes for companies that increase payroll by 10
percent.A new study
highlighted the success of some Ohio schools, including Robert A. Taft
Information Technology High School in Cincinnati. The research found the
schools succeeded despite high poverty and tight budgets. The study
indicated some key attributes of success: principals play pivotal roles,
teachers and administrators are obviously engaged and invested, school
leaders provide major incentives to teachers, data is used to measure
progress and teachers and administrators do not see a lack of parent or
community engagement as an insurmountable barrier to success. The report
also made some recommendations: establish clear transitional protocols
in case a principal leaves, engage teachers, hire teachers that are
on-board with the school’s goals, leverage great reputations and
celebrate success.Hamilton County could issue securities to raise revenue.
County commissioners are currently working on ways to close a $20
million deficit. The securities idea comes from Todd Portune, the lone
Democrat on the Board of Commissioners.The investigation into U Square worker payments is ongoing.
A City Council committee wants to see if the workers are being paid
what they are supposed to be paid. Under Ohio law, workers on
city-funded projects must get a prevailing wage, which is equivalent
to the wage earned by a union worker on a similar project. But City
Solicitor John Curp argues developers do not have to pay prevailing
wages for parts of the project that aren’t getting public funding. City
Manager Dohoney also argued that overzealous requirements could drive
businesses out of Cincinnati.Despite the pleas of more than 500,000, it does not look like Cincinnati-based Macy’s will dump Donald Trump.
The billionaire has gained recognition as a big-name Republican and
“birther” — someone who ignores all facts to call into question
President Barack Obama’s country of origin. Brian Williams, news anchor
at NBC News, described Trump aptly during election night: “Donald Trump,
who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and peered into
something closer to irresponsible here, is tweeting tonight.”Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is leading a new efforts to stop the use of synthetic drugs, including bath salts.To fill a vacancy, a new interim chair has been named at the Ohio Board of Regents: Regent Vinny Gupta.
He will be replacing James Tuschman, who successfully pushed a ban on
smoking in Ohio’s college campuses. Gupta’s term will run through March
2013.Meet the loneliest planet of them all. It’s an orphan that drifted away from its parent star.
by Andy Brownfield
Committee members want to change way contracts are written to ensure fair wages
A City Council committee wants Cincinnati’s leadership to
investigate whether workers in a Clifton Heights development project are being paid
what they’re supposed to.
The Strategic Growth Committee on Wednesday passed a motion
asking the city administration to report back on wage payments to workers on
the U Square development. The project includes a parking garage as well as
residential and commercial units.
Under Ohio law, workers on projects funded by cities must be paid
a prevailing wage, which is equivalent to the wage earned by a union worker on
a similar project.
The city only has money invested in the garage, and the state of Ohio recently ruled that
workers on other parts don’t have to be paid prevailing wage.
Council members Wendell Young, Cecil Thomas and Laure Quinlivan
produced a video in which they interviewed carpenters who said they were being
paid less than the prevailing wage.
At issue is a letter from developer Towne Properties that says
the company will pay all workers prevailing wage anyway. Arn Bortz with Towne
Properties said his company cuts a check to subcontractors respecting that
agreement, so if workers aren’t being paid the proper amount it’s their fault.
City Solicitor John Curp told members of the Strategic Growth
Committee that under city and state law, the subcontractors are not required to
pay workers a prevailing wage on parts of the project that are not getting
public funding. He said the letter from the developer does not hold the weight
as a legal contract.
Young, Thomas, Quinlivan and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld all
expressed the need to overhaul the way the city enters into development
contracts to better protect workers.
However, City Manager Milton Dohoney hinted that overzealous
requirements for high wages could chase off some development projects.
He said that a project like U Square is tied to the Clifton
location because of its proximity to the University of Cincinnati, but the city
can’t be too restrictive when it comes to businesses that could expand
Dohoney said the city also doesn’t currently have the manpower to
do the kind of aggressive enforcement that the council members were asking for.
Councilman Young countered that he would like to see the city be
as aggressive with enforcement as they are with making economic development
“We want to change the rules of the game to make sure everyone is
treated equal,” Young said.
City applies for federal loan to move homeless shelters as dispute over relocation continues
1 Comment · Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Cincinnati City Council on Nov. 7 took a
step toward moving two homeless shelters out of the Washington Park
area, but not all council members or homeless advocates are sure that is
the right move.