WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Government Cuts Hurt Ohio’s Economic Recovery

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Over the weekend, The Columbus Dispatch ran a story asking if cutting government hurts the economy and job creation. Really, the only answer to that question is a resounding, “Duh.”   
by German Lopez 08.27.2013
Posted In: News, Governor, Courts, Privacy at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
gilligan

Morning News and Stuff

Former governor dies, facial recognition program criticized, county prosecutor mocks court

Former Gov. John Gilligan, a Cincinnati Democrat best known for winning the creation of the state income tax, died at 92 yesterday. Gilligan’s most lasting accomplishment was also what doomed his career; the state income tax was unpopular when it passed, even though it allowed Gilligan to boost funding for education, mental health and law enforcement programs. Gilligan’s political career began in Cincinnati Council. From there, he rose to U.S. representative and then governor. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio yesterday asked Attorney General Mike DeWine to shut down a facial recognition program used by law enforcement until state officials verify and develop safety protocols that protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy. DeWine formally unveiled the program in a press conference yesterday. It allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information. Previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases. The program has been live for more than two months and so far used for 2,677 searches, but until now it was kept hidden from the public and hasn’t been checked by outside groups for proper safety protocols. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters stepped down as Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter’s attorney and called her handling of the court a “judicial circus.” Hunter has been mired in controversy ever since she took the bench: She was found in contempt by a higher court, and she’s been sued multiple times by media, including four times by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Deters, who under state law had to legally represent Hunter, said the legal troubles were too much, but his stepping down also complies with Hunter’s wishes to find her own hand-picked attorney. The University of Cincinnati is one of the top colleges where students can get the most out of their money, according to PolicyMic. UC performs better than average in the graduation rate, debt at time of graduation, percentage of undergraduate students receiving Pell grants and starting salary after graduation, yet the school manages to stay only slightly above the national average for tuition and board and room costs. Mayor Mark Mallory previously approved eliminating city parking requirements, which should allow residential development projects to greatly reduce or completely toss out parking space mandates downtown. “The goal of the ordinance is to encourage development in the urban core by permitting developers to determine their own parking needs for downtown developments,” said Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. “I firmly believe that the market will work to meet parking demands better than government minimum parking requirements.” The tax changes passed in the state budget earlier this year, including an income tax cut and sales tax hike, will go into effect on Sept. 1. The changes have been criticized for favoring the wealthiest Ohioans, as CityBeat covered in further detail here. Gov. John Kasich approved tax credits that are expected to create more than 591 jobs statewide, with at least 40 of the jobs being created at the Benjamin Steel Company in Cincinnati. Nearly one in five workers at Ohio casinos has quit or been fired. High turnover isn’t unusual in the casino business, but the numbers give a clearer glimpse at the volatility. Piloting a military drone can apparently take quite the psychological toll.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.12.2013
Posted In: News, Pensions, Budget at 03:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
city hall

Pension Amendment Earns Spot on November Ballot

Campaign paid nearly $70,000 to gather petitions in city

The tea party-backed amendment that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s ailing pension system gathered enough signatures earn a place on the November ballot. Of 14,215 signatures scrutinized so far, 8,653 were valid, according to Sally Krisel, deputy director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections. That clears the requirement of 7,443 signatures, but the numbers will grow as the board continues counting petitions. The success follows a well-funded effort from Cincinnati for Pension Reform, which paid California-based Arno Petition Consultants nearly $70,000 to collect enough signatures, according to petition documents obtained through the city. The amendment would privatize pension plans so city employees hired after January 2014 contribute to and manage their own retirement accounts — a shift from the current set-up in which the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. But unlike private-sector employees, city workers might not qualify for Social Security benefits, which means they would lack the safety net and benefits that shield them from bad investments. Alternatively, the city could be required to pay into Social Security. An Aug. 5 report from the city administration claims that would make the tea party-backed system more expensive than the current pension system, which would defeat the reform’s main intention. Supporters of the tea party amendment say it’s necessary because Cincinnati is dragging its feet in addressing an $862 million pension liability, which earned the city a downgraded bond rating from Moody’s in a July 15 report. Although the city passed reforms in 2011 addressing future pension costs, the unfunded liability actually grew by $134 million between 2012 and 2013. The Cincinnati Retirement System board is working on changes that would address the unfunded liability, but so far no agreement has been reached as board members argue over whether taxpayers or retirees should be hit hardest by more cost-cutting measures. City officials acknowledge the issues with the current pension system, but they claim the tea party-backed amendment would exacerbate cost problems and reduce payments to future city retirees. “Under the guise of ‘reform,’ a well-financed out-of-state group is pushing an amendment that spells economic disaster for the future city retirees and the city’s budget,” Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said in a statement. “Current and future retirees need an income they can live on. This amendment is a budget-buster for retirees and the city.” City Council condemned the amendment in a resolution unanimously passed on Aug. 7. CityBeat’s Aug. 14 news story will give an in-depth look at the amendment and the campaign behind it.This story was updated at 5:07 p.m. with the most up-to-date numbers.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2013
Posted In: News, Pensions, 2013 Election, Media at 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley outraises Qualls, city pension recommendations stalled, layoffs at 'The Enquirer'

Ex-Councilman John Cranley is outraising Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race by $124,000, but the history and research of money in politics suggest the lead might not matter much, if at all. Mayor Mark Mallory was outspent more than three-to-one in the 2005 mayoral race by David Pepper, but Mallory won the vote 52-48 percent. Political scientists argue fundraising and campaigns generally have a marginal impact, while economic growth, the direction of the city, state and country, incumbency or successorship, name likability and recognition, and political affiliation have much bigger effects. [Correction: This originally said $134,000 when the correct number is $124,000.] The board that manages Cincinnati employees’ struggling pension system won’t make a recommendation to City Council Monday, as originally planned, because it can’t decide how much taxpayers and employees should suffer to help fix the $862 million unfunded liability. Board members couldn’t agree on the proper balance between benefit cuts and increased funding from the city. Credit rating agency Moody’s on July 15 downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating from Aa1 to Aa2 and revised the bonds’ outlook to “negative.” Moody’s stated one of the biggest causes of concern for Cincinnati’s debt outlook is its pension fund. There were massive layoffs at The Cincinnati Enquirer and its parent company Gannett yesterday, including the reported closing of the newspaper’s Kentucky office. As of the latest update from Gannett Blog, more than 200 people were laid off nationwide and 11 lost their jobs at the Cincinnati offices. The news comes just two weeks after Gannett CEO Gracia Martore proudly claimed on July 22, “We are accelerating our transformation into the ‘New Gannett’ every day.” Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who held and raped three women at his house for years, yesterday was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years. A few dozen residents organized by a conservative group asked the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to kill Cincinnati’s parking lease at a meeting Thursday. The Port is taking control over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages as part of a controversial deal that will net the city $92 million up front and $3 million or more a year afterward. CityBeat covered the lease in further detail here. While the Port Authority meeting apparently warranted live tweeting and various articles from several outlets, other local media outlets never covered a streetcar social that involved roughly 200 supporters of the Cincinnati streetcar and Mayor Mallory. State officials claim average costs for health insurance will soar by 41 percent for Ohioans who buy coverage online under Obamacare, but experts say the state’s claims are misleading. “These are sticker prices, and very few people will pay these prices,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Many will qualify for subsidies.” The Republican officials touting the claims of higher costs, including Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, have opposed Obamacare from the start. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is once again asking for an ethics probe of Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio, the privatized development agency established by Republicans to replace the Ohio Department of Development. Republicans claim JobsOhio is creating thousands of job in the state, but Democrats argue the agency’s secretive nature makes it difficult to verify whether taxpayer dollars are being effectively used. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced a statewide Internet cafe investigation spanning to an establishment in Middletown. “We are still in the beginning stages of what we expect to be a very lengthy investigation,” DeWine said in a statement.  “While it is too early in the investigation to go into specifics, we do believe the alleged criminal activity at these locations goes beyond illegal gambling.” Earlier in the year, Gov. John Kasich and the state legislature effectively banned Internet cafes, which they claimed were hubs for online gambling and illegal activity. The Ohio crime lab received about 3,300 untested rape kits from law enforcement around the state and found nearly 400 DNA matches after testing more than 1,300 of the kits. DeWine says the extensive tests are helping solve sexual assault crimes. The Cincinnati Zoo has a region-wide economic impact of $143 million, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center. Just one day after announcing he’s quitting the mayoral race, Libertarian Jim Berns is asking to rejoin. Berns withdrew from the race Wednesday in protest of the mayoral primary election and debate schedule. In a statement, he said he had changed his mind because staying in the race supposedly allows him to shed light on important issues. Keeping Cincinnati Beautiful is offering a one-day free recycling event Saturday for hard-to-recycle items. Evolution punishes selfish people, according to a game theory study.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.01.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Human services, Death Penalty at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
poor priorities

Morning News and Stuff

Human services funding falls short, state to kill murderer, longshot mayoral candidates rage

Although this year’s cuts are being undone, City Hall has been cutting resources to the homeless, long-term unemployed, crime victims and casualties of domestic abuse since 2004. Aid to those groups is part of human services funding, which is supposed to receive 1.5 percent of the operating budget but currently gets a quarter of that at 0.4 percent. To explain the decade of cuts, the city administration typically points to citizen surveys and meetings conducted as part of the priority-driven budgeting process. But a CityBeat analysis of the demographics of the process found they were skewed in favor of the wealthiest Cincinnatians and against low-income people, who benefit the most from human services. For the agencies that receive funding, the history of cuts is even more worrying as Cincinnati prepares for more budget gaps in the next few years. The state of Ohio will execute Billy Slagle on Aug. 7, even though the prosecutor’s office behind the charges asked the Ohio Parole Board to grant him clemency. The parole board denied the request, and Gov. John Kasich last week declined to commute the sentence to life in prison. Slagle was convicted in 1988 of murdering a 40-year-old woman in a gruesome stabbing. His family says he was in an alcohol- and drug-fueled haze at the time and has a history of problems at home, including domestic abuse, that presents extenuating circumstances. Two longshot mayoral candidates are really upset about Cincinnati’s primary system: Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble sent an F-bomb-laden email to debate organizers, and Libertarian Jim Berns quit the race. Under the current primary system, multiple mayoral candidates are allowed to run. But come Sept. 10, voters will select the top two contenders in a primary. Those frontrunners will then face off in a final election on Nov. 5 to pick who will take over City Hall on Dec. 1. Noble and Berns claim the current system favors the two frontrunners — Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley — by helping them get the most exposure through televised debates after the primary election. Commentaries:• “GOP Continues Playing Politics with Ohioans’ Health”• “Is Ohio’s New License Plate the Worst or Just Bad?” Cranley has raised more money than Qualls in the mayoral race, according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday. Cranley has raised about $472,000, compared to $348,000 for Qualls. Cranley also has about $264,000 in the bank, while the Qualls campaign has about $192,000 in hand. Undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children will be eligible for in-state tuition at Ohio public colleges, following a decision from the Ohio Board of Regents. The change will save the students thousands of dollars at the state’s public schools, which were charging exorbitant out-of-state and international rates before. The undocumented immigrants qualify for legal benefits because of an executive order signed by President Barack Obama earlier in the year that prevents the federal government from prosecuting them. The order falls short of actual legalization on the books, but it grants many benefits under state and federal law. In quite possibly the worst news ever, Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones announced they’re leaving “Parks and Recreation” after the 13th episode of the upcoming season. German scientists have proposed a new strategy for combating climate change: turn coastal deserts into forests. By science, ostriches can now fly:
 
 

City to Reduce Some Budget Cuts

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 31, 2013
A motion proposed by a majority of City Council on July 30 would use leftover revenue from the previous budget year to undo cuts to various programs, including human services, parks and the Health Department.   
by German Lopez 07.31.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Development, Stadiums at 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

More JobsOhio controversy, Council undoing cuts, stadium improvements to cost millions

Six of nine JobsOhio board members have direct financial ties to companies that have received tax credits and other help from the agency and state government, an investigation from Dayton Daily News discovered. The members are connected in various ways: Some are employed by the companies, others sit on their boards and a few just own stocks. The conflicts of interest that could undermine JobsOhio’s goals. The privatized development agency was established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators to replace the Ohio Department of Development. Republicans claim JobsOhio’s privatized nature allows it to move at “the speed of business” when luring companies to the state. But Democrats argue that the agency is unaccountable and draining state funds without any clear indication of where the money is going. Meanwhile, JobsOhio gave financial aid to a company that simply shifted jobs from one city to another. The agency gave Timbertech a 50-percent credit to create 85 jobs in Wilmington, Ohio. The company is abiding, but it’s simultaneously closing down a Columbus factory at the loss of 58 jobs. Cincinnati will end up not laying off any city employees after City Council undoes $4 million in budget cuts with leftover revenue from the previous budget year. The restorations will reverse some or all of this year’s cuts to human services, parks, the Health Department and other city programs. Council members called the higher-than-projected revenue evidence that Cincinnati’s economic strategy is working. But the reversals also raise questions about the city administration’s original claims: When the 2014 budget was first being considered, Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration said the city would have to lay off 344 workers, including many cops and firefighters, to balance the budget without the parking lease. But without any of the parking money allocated, the city managed to avert all layoffs and undo a bulk of cuts, largely by using better-than-expected revenues from the past budget year. Fixing up the Great American Ball Park for the All-Star Game could cost county taxpayers $5 million. The All-Star costs are just one part of the $27 million taxpayers will pay to improve stadiums in Hamilton County over the next five years. Stadiums are often touted by local officials as a way to boost the economy, but economists and urban planners have found that publicly funded sports arenas don’t lead to sizable economic growth. Ohio’s job growth is so slow that it will take nearly five years to recover all the jobs lost during the Great Recession. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading fundraising for this year’s Council campaigns. The Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce is hosting two mayoral debates. This year’s candidates are Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, ex-Councilman John Cranley, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble. Qualls and Cranley are considered the two frontrunners. The Cincinnati Art Museum is calling on community contributions to finish the second half of its renovations. The museum has raised $2.7 million out of the $6 million it needs. Red Squirrel, a local restaurant chain, is closing down three of five eateries. Internet-based psychotherapy apparently works.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.30.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, City Council at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Council to Undo $4 Million in Budget Cuts

Human services, parks among programs getting funding restorations

A motion proposed by a majority of City Council today would use leftover revenue from the previous budget year to undo cuts to various programs, including human services, parks and the Health Department. The restorations mean no city workers will be laid off as a result of the operating budget passed in May. Previously, 60 positions had been cut, but many employees remained in different offices while the budget situation was worked out. The cuts were previously approved with the 2014 budget before council members knew final revenue numbers for fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30. Council had to pass the budget 30 days early because the city’s use of emergency clauses, which eliminate a waiting period on passed laws, was being held up in court. The city ended up with roughly $10 million more revenue than projected in the past budget year. The Council motion uses nearly $4 million to undo some of the $20 million in cuts carried out in the latest budget. The rest of the extra revenue will be held until the city manager makes further suggestions, but some of that money will likely be saved for next year’s budget gap, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said at a press conference. Human services funding is getting more than $510,000 restored, putting the program at 0.4 percent of the operating budget. Cincinnati has historically set a goal of directing 1.5 percent of the operating budget to human services, which flows through various agencies that aid low-income and homeless Cincinnatians. The Health Department is getting the largest restoration at $900,000, allowing the city to bring back positions affecting junked vehicles, rodent control, litter and weed response, infant mortality and more. Parks will also get back $400,000 out of $1 million that was cut in the previous budget. Another $312,000 is being used to restore recreation funding, particularly to keep the Busch Center open. Other programs getting money back: the Center for Closing the Health Gap, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Film Commission, African American Chamber of Commerce, Urban Agriculture Program, Office of Environmental Quality, Neighborhood Support Fund, Neighborhood Business District Support Fund, Law Department and funding to 3CDC for Fountain Square maintenance. Qualls claimed the higher-than-projected revenues are evidence the city’s economic strategy is so far successful. “Cincinnati’s strategy of investing in jobs, neighborhoods, people is working,” she said. “We are seeing an increase in revenue as a result of investments we are making.” Qualls also acknowledged that the budget debate has felt like a “roller coaster” for many citizens. Originally, Mayor Mark Mallory’s administration claimed it would have to lay off police and firefighters if the city didn’t lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. But when the parking lease was held up in a court challenge, Council managed to pass a budget without the public safety layoffs. Now, Council is undoing further cuts and moving forward with the parking lease. After the press conference, Qualls told CityBeat that some of the unused revenue may also be used to finance a disparity study that would gauge whether the city should change its contracting policies to favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.29.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Business, Guns at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar gets executive, businesses call for inclusion, gun control group opens Ohio chapter

John Deatrick is taking over as project executive of the Cincinnati streetcar project, moving on from his previous work as project manager of The Banks. Deatrick’s hiring announcement happened in April, but it was delayed while City Council fixed the project’s budget gap. Deatrick and his team previously won an award for their work at The Banks, and he says he will bring the same scrutiny and success to the streetcar project. A new project manager for The Banks is set to be hired in August. Since the streetcar project’s inception, it has been mired in misrepresentations and political controversy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. Local business leaders are calling on the city government to change its contracting policies to target minority- and women-owned businesses. Advocates argue the city’s inclusion rates have greatly dropped since Cincinnati did away with its inclusion program in the 1990s, but the city administration points out the rates are likely understated because women- and minority-owned businesses are no longer required to report themselves as minorities or women. The business leaders say the figures are too low regardless, which could have big implications since minority-owned businesses are more likely to hire minorities, who have twice the unemployment rate as white residents. As a result of court rulings, Cincinnati needs to first conduct a disparity study before it makes any changes that specifically target minorities or women. Gabrielle Giffords’s anti-gun violence organization is opening an Ohio chapter to promote legislation that intends to protect both the public and the rights of gun owners. Giffords, a former U.S. representative who survived an assassination attempt, has been touring around the country — at one point coming to Cincinnati — to speak out against gun violence. Gun control legislation failed in the U.S. Senate in April after it fell short of getting 60 votes to overcome procedural hurdles, even though polling shows a clear majority of Americans favor such legislation. Local government funding may be further reduced as a result of recent tax cuts because the Local Government Fund traditionally gets a percent of state tax revenue. Specifically, critics are concerned less state tax revenue will slow down “natural growth” in funding to cities and counties. Last week, an analysis from Policy Matters Ohio found the recently passed two-year state budget already reduces local government funding, following even steeper reductions in the previous budget. The cuts since Gov. John Kasich took office have cost Cincinnati more than $22 million. A traffic camera ban would cost Ohio cities and counties millions of dollars in revenue. Ohio gas prices are starting down this week. Home-schooled and private-school students have a right to play on public school teams because of a provision in the recently passed state budget. When Columbus’ parking meters were upgraded to accept credit cards, revenue jumped by 13.2 percent. Cincinnati’s meters will be upgraded as part of the parking privatization plan.Ohio air bases are undergoing review this week as part of Congress’ attempts to gauge whether the nation’s Air Force is prepared for current and future missions and homeland defense. Slow news day, Enquirer? Florida researchers found “fat shaming” actually perpetuates obesity. It would probably take 300 to 500 piranhas five minutes to strip the flesh off a 180-pound human.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.25.2013
Posted In: Human services, News, Homelessness at 07:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
qualls

City Might Reduce Budget Cuts

Higher revenues could help restore funding to human services and parks

City Council could partly or totally undo the latest budget cuts to human services, parks and other areas by using higher-than-expected revenues from the previous budget cycle, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced today.When City Council passed the budget in May, it was unclear how much revenue would be left over from fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30. Now, revenues are expected to come in higher than originally projected.The full revenue numbers should be released next week, allowing City Council to evaluate its options for what and how much can be restored.Human services was cut by about $500,000 in the last budget, putting the program at $1.1 million. Funding to parks was also reduced by $1 million down to $7 million.But the funding could be restored, at least in part, within a month, Qualls said.Qualls and other city officials previously told CityBeat they intended to restore human services funding and other cut programs with higher-than-expected revenues and perhaps the parking lease, but Qualls' announcement today was the clearest indication that it's actually happening.The vice mayor made the announcement at a mayoral forum hosted by the Human Services Chamber of Hamilton County, which consists of various local social service groups. Qualls, who's running for mayor this year, was speaking at the event with John Cranley, who's also running for mayor.Human services funding flows through several local agencies that focus on providing aid to the homeless and poor. Programs include sheltering, job training and drug rehabilitation.Cincinnati has historically set a goal of dedicating 1.5 percent of its operating budget to human services, but only 0.3 percent of the latest budget went to the program.
 
 

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