by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:18 AM | Permalink
Meet Roger Ramundo, city budget cuts could be reduced, AG won't appeal marriage order
Meet Roger Jeremy Ramundo,
the man police shot and killed on July 24 after what’s now being called
a “life or death struggle.” Police say they first tried to subdue
Ramundo, who had a history of mental health problems. But when Ramundo
fired his gun once, an officer retaliated by firing two fatal shots into
Ramundo’s left back. For family members and colleagues, Ramundo’s death
came as a shock; none of them seemed to expect that he could turn
violent. Ramundo was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and generalized
anxiety disorder, according to the health care worker who notified police that Ramundo left home with his licensed gun, but he had been refusing to take his medication for
either illness at the time of his death.
Budget cuts to human services, parks and other areas could be retroactively reduced or eliminated
with higher-than-projected revenues from the previous budget cycle,
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced yesterday. When City Council passed
the city’s operating budget in May, it had not yet received the full
revenue numbers for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. With the full
numbers expected to come in higher than originally projected, Council
will be able to evaluate options for what and how much can be restored.
Human services funding was cut by roughly one-third in the city budget,
putting it at 0.3 percent of overall spending — far below the city’s
historic goal of 1.5 percent.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine won’t appeal the temporary restraining order that forces the state to recognize a Cincinnati same-sex couple on their death certificate,
but DeWine says he’ll continue defending the state’s ban on gay marriage.
Lisa Hackley, DeWine’s spokesperson, noted that such restraining orders
are normally not susceptible to appeal. Hackley’s explanation contradicts an earlier report from The Cincinnati Enquirer that the order was going to be appealed. Meanwhile, FreedomOhio says it
will try to put an amendment legalizing marriage equality on the
November 2014 ballot, which CityBeat covered here when the group was still aiming for the 2013 ballot.
The I-71/MLK Interchange yesterday moved closer to its
$107.7 million funding goal when Ohio’s Transportation Review Advisory
Council gave preliminary approval to Gov. John Kasich’s transportation
plan, which will use $3 billion raised through Ohio Turnpike revenues to
fund infrastructure projects around the state.
The Ohio Supreme Court will review whether anti-gambling opponents of racinos have standing to sue.
Among other issues, critics argue that Kasich’s legalization of video
lottery terminals didn’t represent an actual extension of the Ohio
Lottery, which is why the state claims it was allowed to legalize the
gambling machines without voter approval. The state’s Supreme Court says
it will decide the issue after it rules on a similar case involving
privatized development agency JobsOhio.
Democrats are voicing uncertainty about whether Republicans will actually take up a Medicaid expansion bill in September. Republican legislators rejected the expansion in the state budget,
but they’ve said they will take up the issue in the fall. The Health
Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion, which is funded mostly
through federal funds from Obamacare, would insure half a million
Ohioans and save the state money over the next decade.
Charter schools’ big challenge: finding space to house their facilities.
An Ohio gun group raised $12,000 to buy George Zimmerman a gun or security system.
Drivers, beware: Hackers could soon be crashing your cars.
Drinking coffee has been linked to a 50 percent lower risk of suicide.
by German Lopez
Behind the parking plan drama, state budget cuts local funding, bridge to get federal bump
Being one of the first to discover a critical memo put Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld at the center of an ongoing drama
regarding the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and
garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The memo criticized
the financial details of the lease, but it was kept from the Port, City
Council and the public for nearly a month. Ever since the controversial
parking plan passed City Council and was upheld in court, concerned
citizens, business leaders and critics like Sittenfeld have been calling
on the city and Port to rework or halt the deal. So far, the city and
Port have stuck to their support. The city will get a $92 million lump
sum and at least $3 million a year from the lease, which it currently
plans to use to help balance city budgets and fund development projects,
such as the I-71/MLK Interchange.
The latest state budget secured more cuts to city and county governments,
putting local governments at a $1.5 billion shortfall in the next two
years compared to 2010 and 2011, according to a new report from
progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio.
Republican Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators slashed local
government funding in 2011 to help fix an $8 billion budget hole. But
the latest state budget, which Kasich signed into law in June, was awash
in extra revenues because of Ohio’s economic recovery — so much so that
legislators passed $2.7 billion in tax cuts. For Cincinnati, the
original cuts cost the city more than $22 million in revenue.
The Brent Spence Bridge was bumped up in a federal funding priority list
through a successful amendment from Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio
Republican. The amendment prioritized $500 million for obsolete and
structurally unsound bridges, but it’s so far unclear how much of the
money will go to the Brent Spence Bridge project, which state officials
estimate will cost $2.7 billion. Currently, Ohio and Kentucky officials
plan to pay for the bridge project by enacting tolls.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor this
year, is calling on the city manager to produce a plan that would
structurally balance Cincinnati’s operating budget by 2016. “To build on
the momentum Cincinnati is now experiencing, we must set a course now
for a fiscally sustainable future,” Qualls said in a statement. “That’s
why I’m urging that we have a plan to reach structural balance by 2016,
restore reserves and increase the city’s pension contribution, minimize
using the parking lease payment to restore budget cuts and continue to
invest in neighborhoods and jobs to grow revenue.” The announcement
comes more than one week after Moody’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating
and criticized the city for its exposure to unsustainable pension
liabilities and reliance on one-time sources to fix budget gaps.
Ex-Councilman John Cranley, who’s also running for mayor,
is rolling out his jobs plan today. The initiative will provide a job
training program for individuals facing long-term unemployment or
underemployment, which the Cranley campaign estimates will result in 379
individuals per year obtaining full-time, permanent jobs. The
program will be mainly paid for by pulling funds from the city’s Office of
Environmental Quality, Department of Finance, travel and the state
lobbyist. “My deepest conviction is that there is dignity in work. I
believe all able-bodied adults should work and be self-sufficient. And I
believe society has an obligation to ensure the opportunity to work
exists,” Cranley said in a statement.On Second Thought: “Facts vs. Perceptions in Trayvon Martin Coverage.”
Police yesterday shot and killed
Roger Ramundo, an allegedly armed Clifton resident. Officers had
been called to the area of Clifton and Ludlow avenues by a mental health
provider, who said there was a person with mental health issues armed with a gun, according to interim Cincinnati Police Chief Paul
Humphries. Police said they tried to first subdue Ramundo with Tasers
during an ensuing struggle, but they were unsuccessful and the man
pulled out his gun and fired a shot. That’s when one officer fired two
shots that hit Ramundo, who was then taken to University Hospital, where
he was pronounced dead.
Gov. Kasich isn’t providing clemency
to a Cleveland killer who stabbed his victim 17 times, overruling a
rare plea for mercy from prosecutors but siding with a majority of the
state parole board. Billy Slagle will be executed on Aug. 7.
Ohio will take a hands-off approach
to promoting Obamacare, even though outreach will be crucial for the controversial
health care law. President Barack Obama’s administration estimates it
will have to enroll millions of young adults into health care plans to turn the law into a success.
Meanwhile, Hamilton County is investigating if Obamacare could result in lower property taxes by allowing the county to shift costs to the federal government.
A Cincinnati money manager is being accused of running an “elaborate Ponzi scheme”
that cost investors “tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars,”
according to a July 20 complaint filed in the Hamilton County Common
The average price of a flight from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport dropped, but the airport is still the second-most expensive in the nation.
CityBeat gave Internet cat-celebrity Lil Bub an in-depth look in this week’s issue. Find it online here.
Want to maximize your tan? Here is how close you could get to the sun and survive.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 01:17 PM | Permalink
Policy Matters Ohio finds cities, counties will receive $720 million less from state
The recently passed state budget means cities and counties will get even less money from the state, according to a new report from progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio.
The report looks at “three blows” of cuts to local governments: less direct aid, no money from a now-repealed estate tax and
the beginning of the end of a state subsidy that supported local property taxes. The cuts add up to at least $720 million less over the next
two years than cities and counties got in the past two years, the report finds.
It’s even less money when looking further back in Ohio’s history — specifically before Republican Gov. John Kasich took office.
“Local governments will see $1.5 billion less in tax
revenues and state aid compared with” fiscal years 2010 and 2011, said
Wendy Patton, the report’s author, in a statement. “Fiscal crisis will
continue in many communities.”
Kasich and Republican legislators slashed local government
funding in 2011 to help fix an $8 billion budget hole. But the latest
state budget, which Kasich signed into law in June, was awash in extra
revenues because of Ohio’s economic recovery — so much so that
legislators passed $2.7 billion in tax cuts.
The Republican-controlled state government repealed the
estate tax in the last budget, but some Democrats and local governments
were hopeful at least some of the lost money could be restored this
Casino revenue was supposed to curtail some of the cuts,
but Policy Matters concludes it’s not enough. Casino revenue has also
consistently come under expectations: The state government in 2009
estimated Ohio’s casinos would take in $1.9 billion a year, but that
projection was changed in February to roughly $1 billion a year.
For Cincinnati, the previous round of budget cuts cost the
city more than $22 million in revenues — nearly two-thirds of the
budget gap the city faced for fiscal year 2014. Although the city managed to avoid laying off cops and firefighters as a result, it still had to slash other city services and raise property taxes.
Some city and county officials are trying to persuade the
state government to undo the cuts. In March, Cincinnati Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld gathered officials around the state to launch ProtectMyOhio.com, which lets citizens write directly to the state government about the cuts.
by German Lopez
Ohio must recognize gay couple, Qualls knocks pension plan, 1.25 million in state uninsured
A federal judge ruled that a state death certificate must recognize the marriage of a newlywed same-sex couple,
but the order only applies to James Obergefell
and John Arthur. It’s the first time a same-sex marriage is recognized
in Ohio. The two men had the case expedited because Arthur is suffering
from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurological disease with
no known cure. Al Gerhardstein, the attorney for the two husbands, says
the ruling could be the beginning of legal challenges from gay couples
inspired by the Supreme Court’s ruling against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which could put further pressure on Ohio to legalize same-sex marriage. CityBeat covered ongoing efforts to legalize gay marriage in the state here,
although the group in charge of the movement is now aiming to put the
issue on the ballot in 2014, not 2013 as originally planned.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in a statement called the tea
party-backed charter amendment that would revamp the city’s pension
system “a wolf in sheep's clothing.” She is also requesting the city
administration study the amendment’s consequences and report back to
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Aug. 5. The amendment
would funnel new hires into a private retirement plan similar to what’s
typically found in the private sector — except, unlike private-sector
workers, city employees don’t pay into Social Security and don’t collect
Social Security benefits from their years with the city. The amendment
was announced less than a week after Moody’s, a credit ratings agency, downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating in part because of the city’s increasing pension liability.
A poll analysis from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati suggests more than 1.25 million Ohioans are uninsured,
with about 17 percent of the working-age population lacking insurance.
It also found that Ohioans are increasingly reliant on public programs
to obtain health benefits. The analysis looked at the Health
Foundation’s 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll.
The results could spur further efforts to expand Medicaid eligibility
in the state, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found
would save the state money and insure nearly half a million Ohioans
over the next decade. Republican legislators rejected the Medicaid
expansion in the state budget, citing concerns that the federal government wouldn’t be able to uphold its 90-percent funding commitment.
Gov. John Kasich wants to fast track
the I-71/MLK Interchange in part by using revenue from the Ohio
Turnpike’s tolls. Kasich’s recommendations, which must be approved by
the state’s Transportation Review Advisory Council, add up to $107.7
million in state funds.
State Rep. Peter Beck, a Mason Republican who’s facing 16 felony charges of fraud, won’t resign his seat.
Twenty-eight people have applied to become Cincinnati’s next police chief.
With a recent uptick in violence, many have called on the city to
expedite the process of replacing James Craig, the former police chief
who left for Detroit earlier in the year.Despite rising interest rates, Cincinnati-area home sales in June continued their strong trend up.
For-profit entities are opening more online schools in Ohio, with the process set by state legislators to shut out public educators. A previous investigation by CityBeat found online schools tend to do worse and cost more than their peers.
The city administration and social media network Nextdoor are partnering up
to better link Cincinnati’s neighborhoods with the local government.
The network will provide a free website for each of the city’s
neighborhoods, which the city says will allow residents to “to get to
know their neighbors, ask questions and exchange local advice and
recommendations.” City officials plan to use the websites to regularly
reach out to local citizens.
Computer software from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could make the Internet three times faster.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:49 PM | Permalink
Officials blame Moody’s downgrade on methodology changes, state policy
It might cost Cincinnati more to issue debt following a credit rating downgrade by Moody’s. In a report released on July 15, the credit ratings agency downgraded the city’s general bonds from Aa1 to Aa2 and revised the bonds’ outlook to “negative.”“The negative outlook reflects the expectation that the city will continue to face challenges in attaining structurally balanced operations, stemming from its unfunded pension liabilities and reliance on a number of one-time budgetary solutions in recent years,” the report reads.In a memo to the mayor and City Council, City Manager Milton Dohoney put the blame on Moody’s methodological changes that now account for state pension funds that Cincinnati has no direct control over. Specifically, Moody’s now looks at the state-managed Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) and Ohio Police and Fire Retirement System (OP&F) when scoring Cincinnati, instead of just the Cincinnati Retirement System (CRS), which the city directly operates.“It is important to note the Ohio Revised Code provides the percentage each employer pays into OPERS and OP&F as its contribution. The City has paid 100 (percent) of this contribution each year as required. The City has no ability to impact the unfunded liability of OPERS or OP&F,” Dohoney wrote in the memo.Still, some of the blame lies on the city’s pension fund, which is lacking a long-term strategy for sustainability, according to Moody’s. The CRS board is currently looking at scenarios to address the city’s long-term liabilities. Its next meeting is on Aug. 1, and it could produce changes that would be presented to City Council, according to the city manager’s memo.The report also takes issue with the city’s repeated use of one-time sources to fix budget gaps. Since 2001, the city’s annual operating budgets have used one-time sources instead of achieving structural balance with long-term cuts and sources of revenue.Critics argue the one-time sources only delay fiscal woes instead of permanently fixing the budget shortfalls. Supporters claim the one-time methods allow the city to balance its budget without taking austere measures that would lead to city layoffs and hurt growth while the economy is in recovery.Moody’s also claims the city has relatively weak socioeconomic indicators, particularly resident income levels and historical unemployment rates. The report from Moody’s does give Cincinnati some good credit, citing a “pressured but still satisfactory financial position,” the recent stabilization of earnings taxes, financial flexibility provided by an available but untapped levy authority, the city’s economically diverse population and an above-average debt position. Bonds are typically issued when the city needs a temporary infusion of funds for capital projects, such as the Cincinnati streetcar.Updated with more context.
by German Lopez
Port wants parking lease money, Ohio No. 2 for job losses, Kasich plans more tax cuts
New documents acquired by The Cincinnati Enquirer show the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority wants $27 million of the city’s $92 million parking lease.
The Port Authority, a city-funded development agency, says it would use
the money for various projects around the city. The request, which has
been supported by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, may explain why the Port
Authority inexplicably took four days to sign its lease agreement with the city:
It wanted some of the money for itself. The city is leasing its parking
meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which will then hire
various private operators from around the country to manage the assets.
The deal will provide $92 million up front and at least $3 million a
year afterward, which the city plans to use for development projects and
to plug budget gaps.
Ohio lost the No. 2 most jobs in the nation last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That pushed the state unemployment rate to 7.2 percent in June, up from 7 percent in May, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services
found. The state lost 12,500 jobs in June, with the private sector
showing losses across the board. The month’s big losses mean the state
has only added 15,000 jobs in the past year, even though the state
actually topped job growth in May with more than 32,000 new jobs. In
June, Pew Charitable Trusts found Ohio was the No. 46 state for job growth between April 2012 and April this year.
Gov. John Kasich says he wants to further cut state taxes to reduce the bracket for the wealthiest Ohioans
to less than 5 percent. Such a cut could require raising regressive
taxes that put more of a burden on the state’s poorest, such as the
sales tax. The latest two-year state budget, which Kasich signed into
law, did just that, as CityBeat previously covered:
It cut income taxes in a way that favored the wealthy, then it raised
sales taxes in a way that forced the lowest-income Ohioans to pay more.
A report released yesterday suggests Ohio taxpayers could be on the hook for costs
if something goes wrong at an oil and gas drilling operation. The
Environment Ohio report finds the state’s regulations on “fracking,” an
oil and gas extraction process, require too little financial assurance
from drilling companies to dissuade dangerous risks. In Ohio, fracking
well operators are required to secure $5,000 in upfront bonds per well, but even those payments can be avoided through regulatory
loopholes. At the same time, damage caused by fracking can cost
communities and the state millions of dollars, and simply reclaiming the
well and its property can cost hundreds of thousands.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters says he wouldn’t have prosecuted George Zimmerman,
the man who shot and killed an unarmed black 17-year-old last year in
Florida. Zimmerman was found not guilty of manslaughter and
second-degree murder by a jury on July 13 after he claimed self-defense.
A lack of local access to healthy foods was linked to higher obesity rates
in a study released yesterday. That could be troubling news for
Avondale and other Cincinnati neighborhoods that are deemed “food
deserts,” areas that don’t have reasonable access to healthy foods. CityBeat covered the efforts of some city officials, including Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, to end food deserts here.
Cincinnati is looking for feedback on local bike projects.
The American Civil Liberties Union is asking Ohio to avoid shutting off electricity in state prisons,
calling the practice “dangerous” as temperatures approach 100
degrees. Ohio’s prisons have already shut down electricity twice in the
afternoon this week and relied on backup generators. The shutdowns are commonly deployed as part of a power
agreement that’s generated $1.3 million for the state since 2010.
Harris Teeter Supermarkets shareholders are suing to stop a planned acquisition from Kroger.
Detroit yesterday became the biggest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy.
An “invisibility wetsuit” hides people from sharks.
by German Lopez
Parking lease facing legal dispute, critical memo dismissed, mayor to attend streetcar social
In a letter to the city solicitor, a conservative organization is threatening more legal action
to stop the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages
to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The Coalition Opposed to
Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) claims the city manager exceeded his authority when he
made two “significant and material” changes to the lease agreement after
City Council approved the deal in March. If the city solicitor doesn’t
take up the legal challenge, COAST could sue the city by itself.
Supporters of the parking lease argue it’s necessary to fund development
projects in the city and modernize the city’s parking services, but
opponents say it gives up too much control over the city’s parking
meters, lots and garages and will hurt businesses downtown.
The Business Courier reports that a critical parking memo was supposed to provide a “strike point” for negotiations between the Port Authority and Xerox,
which will manage the city’s parking meters under a lease agreement.
But the city administration didn’t begin sharing the June 20 memo with
anyone else, including the Port Authority, until July 12, after council
members and media outlets began asking the city administration about it.
The memo suggested the city is getting a bad deal from the parking lease agreement and overpaying Xerox. Port and city officials argue the memo relied on outdated information and made technical errors.
Mayor Mark Mallory will today join fellow streetcar supporters
at Rhinegeist Brewery to discuss the streetcar project’s latest news
and future. The city on July 15 set an opening date of Sept. 15, 2016
after finalizing a construction contract with Messer Construction, Prus
Construction and Delta Railroad, which was made possible after City Council closed a $17.4 million budget gap in June. CityBeat recently debunked some of the misrepresentations surrounding the streetcar project here.
Commentary: “Zimmerman Reactions Overlook Broader Racial Issues in America.”
Public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting down
following city and state funding cuts. The organization’s demise is a
great loss to producers like Rufus Johnson, who used its resources for years. The city picked up Media Bridges’ funding after the
state eliminated a fund that was provided by Time Warner Cable, but even the local funding was fully cut in the budget passed in May. City officials
have justified the cuts by pointing to citizen surveys that ranked Media
Bridges poorly in terms of budgetary importance, but a CityBeat
analysis found the surveys were skewed against the low-income
Cincinnatians that benefit the most from public access programs like
State Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing multiple felony charges
related to securities fraud. A lawsuit filed in Hamilton County by
investors alleges that money invested at the request of Beck and others
was used for personal gain — specifically, Beck’s campaign — instead of a
business investment as originally intended. Beck has been in power
since 2009, and his current term is set to expire in 2014.
A former poll worker was sentenced to five years for voter fraud after she voted twice for herself and three times for her sister, who’s been in a coma since 2003.
The driver who last August accidentally hit and killed a local cyclist is awaiting his sentence.
Local bike advocacy groups are asking courts to give the maximum
penalty to the driver, who’s facing at most six months in jail and a
The local housing market is rapidly recovering in a
continuing good sign for the economy, with single-family home permits up
48 percent in June compared to the year before, according to the Home
Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Reds games are No. 3 for local TV ratings in all of Major League Baseball, behind only the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Xavier University is laying off 31 employees and cutting 20 currently vacant positions.
A Miami University student is getting an astronaut scholarship, making him one of 28 students nationwide to receive the honor.
Entrepreneur says Cincinnati is an “unexpected hub for tech startups.”
A new self-aiming rifle would outshoot human snipers.
Popular Science has a guide for arguing against anti-vaccine crazies here.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:55 AM | Permalink
Supporters gathering Thursday to discuss project
Mayor Mark Mallory will join fellow streetcar
supporters Thursday to discuss how the project is coming along and where
The event is the monthly streetcar social, hosted by Cincinnatians for Progress.
Organizers expect to pull in nearly 100 people from around
the city to discuss topics and issues surrounding the project. It will take place on Thursday, July 18, between 5:30 p.m. to 8
p.m. at Rhinegeist Brewery, 1910 Elm St., Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202. For
more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.
Mallory, who’s term-limited from running for reelection
this year, has spearheaded efforts to build a streetcar in Cincinnati.
He’s been joined by a steady Democratic majority in City Council, which
most recently approved $17.4 million more in funding for the project
alongside several accountability measures that will require the city
manager to regularly update council and the public on the project’s
In the past week, the city announced the streetcar is set to open for service on Sept. 15, 2016, after city officials and bidders finalized details for a construction contract.
CityBeat’s cover story for the week of July 10 debunked the top 10 misrepresentations surrounding the Cincinnati streetcar project.
Streetcar supporters argue the project will foster
economic growth and development in Cincinnati, particularly downtown — a
claim backed by studies from advising company HDR and the University of
Opponents claim the project, which now stands at $133
million after recent cost overruns were fixed, is too expensive. They doubt it will succeed in spurring growth
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed
FitzGerald is urging a coalition effort to begin a long, complicated
petitioning process that could repeal some of the anti-abortion measures
in the two-year state budget.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Following years of political controversy,
the Cincinnati streetcar is scheduled to open for service on Sept. 15,