by German Lopez
78 days ago
Senators push immigrant policy, JobsOhio gets funding, parking plan passes committee
Two Ohio senators, including Senate Minority Leader Eric
Kearney of Cincinnati, are pushing a bill that will require the state’s
Bureau of Motor Vehicles to grant driver’s licenses
to the children of illegal immigrants. The senators claim state BMV
offices are inconsistently applying President Barack Obama’s Deferred
Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows the children of
illegal immigrants to remain in the country without fear of prosecution, but the Ohio Department of Public Safety says the issue is still under
review. CityBeat originally broke the story after hearing of Ever Portillo’s experiences at a Columbus BMV office here, and a follow-up story covered the internal conflict at the BMV over the issue here.
Ohio officials have said the state has only put $1 million toward JobsOhio, but records recently acquired by The Columbus Dispatch show $5.3 million in funding has been directed to the program
so far, and the public investment could be as high as $9 million. State
officials said the funding is necessary because constitutional
challenges, which the Ohio Supreme Court recently agreed to take up,
have held up the program’s original source of funding — state liquor
profits. JobsOhio is a nonprofit company established with the support of
Gov. John Kasich that’s meant to attract investment and bring jobs to
the state. Kasich says he wants to replace the Ohio Department of Development with the nonprofit company in the future.
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved a plan
to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati
Development Authority in a 4-3 vote yesterday, but the plan will require
five votes to become law in a final City Council vote tomorrow. The
plan, which CityBeat previously covered,
would lease the city’s parking assets to fund development
projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown grocery store, and
help balance the deficit. The deal would produce a $92 million upfront
payment, and the city projects that additional annual installments would
generate more than $263 million throughout the lease’s duration.
Critics are worried the city will give up too much control of its
parking assets as part of the deal, and concerns about the city’s long-term
deficits remain. The alternatives — plans B, C and S — would fix
structural deficit problems, while the budget only helps balance the deficit for the next
two fiscal years.
The company that will operate Cincinnati’s parking meters if the parking deal is approved by City Council had problems in the past,
according to a tip received by multiple news outlets from Tabitha
Woodruff, an advocate at Ohio Public Interest Research Group. The issues
surfaced years before Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) was bought by
Xerox in 2010, and Xerox now denies any wrongdoing. One of the issues is
a 2007 audit, which found ACS mismanaged parking meters in Washington,
D.C. Kevin Lightfoot, a spokesperson at Xerox, says the audit was based
on “faulty information,” and a lot of the problems found were because
the auditor improperly read parking meter screen displays.
An approved commitment by the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District (HCTID) may ensure a rail service is ready for Cincinnati
in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Hamilton
County Commissioner Todd Portune is pushing for local and state
governments to break down any barriers for Oasis Rail Transit, which
will carry passengers from Downtown to Milford.
The Ohio Board of Education will decide
between two candidates for state superintendent next week: acting
Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Sawyers or Dick Ross, Gov.
John Kasich’s top education adviser.
After years of development and anticipation, Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino opened yesterday. The casino comes with the promise of jobs and economic development, but it also poses the risk of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.
State and local legislators are also looking forward to extra
government revenue from the casino, even though casino revenue around
the state has fallen short of projections.
For Over-the-Rhine residents, the grand opening, which culminated in a
fireworks display, was sort of like being in the middle of a
Livability.com named Cincinnati the No. 10 spring break destination
because of the Cincinnati Zoo, Botanical Garden, IKEA, Cincinnati Art
Museum, the 21c Museum Hotel, Newport Aquarium and the Clifton Cultural
Arts Center, among other places and family-friendly activities.
Science doesn’t want pregnant women to be capable of anything.
Here are two pictures of Venus from Saturn’s view.
by German Lopez
79 days ago
Council may vote on parking today, GOP criticizes Kasich's budget, casino's grand opening
City Council may vote today on the controversial plan to lease the city’s parking assets to fund economic development and temporarily balance the deficit. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach put forward Plan S,
which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenues, cut $5 million
based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow
voters to choose between a $10-per-month trash fee or increase the
city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Previously, City Manager Milton
Dohoney unveiled Plan B
to the parking plan, which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own
plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to
“non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget, while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years. The parking plan was
unanimously approved by the Cincinnati Planning Commission Friday, and it appears five council members are ready to give the plan the go-ahead.
Members of Gov. John Kasich’s own party are beginning to show skepticism
toward the governor’s budget proposal, which would expand the sales tax
to apply to more services, increase the oil and gas severance tax and
make more Ohioans eligible for Medicaid — mostly at the cost of the
federal government. Republicans are likely to propose alternatives
before a mid-April vote. In a Quinnipiac University poll, a majority of
Ohioans approved of the Medicaid expansion but not Kasich’s tax plan. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget plan in detail here.
Police are taking measures to prevent traffic problems at the Horseshoe Casino’s grand opening tonight. Meanwhile, Indiana casinos are preparing for downturns as the Horseshoe Casino promises a major alternative to tri-state
gamblers. During the soft opening last week, Ohio’s casino regulator found
the Horseshoe Casino would have to fix its security and surveillance before the grand opening. Previous studies found casinos bring job growth at the cost of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide, and a Dayton Daily News report also found the state’s casinos are falling short of job projections.
On Friday, the sequester, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, kicked in, and it could mean big funding reductions for Ohio’s schools. The blunt cuts are largely because Republicans refuse to negotiate with President Barack Obama and Democrats — to the point that Republicans don’t even know what the president is proposing.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio is asking the state’s Department of Education to expand its seclusion room rules to apply to charter schools.
Previous reports found seclusion rooms, which were originally intended
to hold out-of-control kids until they calm down, have been largely used
for convenience by educators, leading to stricter policies from the
Ohio Department of Education. But the regulations currently apply only
to traditional public schools, not charter schools.
Reminder: On top of putting everyone around you in danger, texting while driving will now result in a fine up to $150.
The Cincinnati Zoo has confirmed it has terrible taste in names with its choice for the new four-week-old gorilla: Gladys Stones. Still, the zoo does have that whole environmentally friendly thing going on. Maybe the pros outweigh the cons.
U.S. researchers are claiming they have “functionally cured” an HIV-infected infant
after extensive treatments left the virus’s presence in blood at such
low levels that it can no longer be detected by standard clinical tests.
Scientists are ostracizing what Popular Science calls the “world’s sexiest octopus.”
If you can watch BigDog, the four-legged robot, toss cinder blocks with ease and not fear the robot apocalypse, you’re not prepared.
by German Lopez
83 days ago
Parking plan's final public hearing, officials list Plan B, governor's approval hits highs
The tone was negative once again in the final public hearing
for the city manager’s plan to lease the city’s parking system. Of the
two dozen speakers, only four were positive. Tabitha Woodruff,
who is with the Ohio Public Interest Research Group, voiced mixed feelings about the plan: “As we feared it provides a short-term solution
to a long-term budget problem, raises hours and rates on citizens, and
has the potential to incur high transaction costs. … We’re encouraged,
however, by the selection of a public entity, the Port Authority and by
numerous proposed provisions of the lease intended to insure the city
maintains control of details like rates and hours.” CityBeat wrote about the plan in detail here.
If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, and eliminate Human
Services Funding, but critics argue there are better alternatives.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says casino and parking revenue and cuts
to non-essential programs could help clear the deficit without the plan.Gov. John Kasich’s job approval rating has risen above 50 percent for the first time,
and he’s beating all the potential Democratic gubernatorial
candidates in theoretical match-ups, according to a Quinnipiac University
poll. CityBeat covered the governor’s budget plan, which will set the state’s policy blueprint for the next two years, here.
The Ohio House will vote on Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan today, which leverages the Turnpike for a statewide infrastructure program.
With the approval of Metro’s operating budget, City Council and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) have ended their dispute
over streetcar funding. Council members had been approving monthly
budgets as they worked things out with SORTA, which manages the region’s
bus system. SORTA filed a lawsuit disputing the limits of the transit fund, but it dropped the suit
after the city said it will not use the money for maintenance of streets, sidewalks
and streetlights. (Correction: This previously said the city will “only use the money for streets, sidewalks and streetlights” when the opposite is true.)The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) says the state’s schools are making improvement, but they still “have room to grow.”
In the latest state report cards, Ohio schools improved in 14 of 26
categories and met the state’s performance goal on 21 out of 26, with
particularly strong gains in math and science, but ODE says, “The
performance of Ohio’s economically disadvantaged students and minorities
remains unacceptably low.” The state auditor has a problem with how Ohio’s schools report data through what he calls a “just-trust-me” system.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a 40-year agreement
with the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) that
will lease the county-owned Memorial Hall and provide renovations to the
105-year-old building. County officials have long said the building,
which is used to host concerts, shows and speaking events, is in dire
need of upgrades, particularly overhauls to its roof, windows, facade
work, floors, air conditioning and bathrooms — all of which will now be
financed by 3CDC with the help of tax credits.The commissioners also approved a two-year policy agenda, which generally outlines their plans for county finances and taxes, infrastructure and economic development.
The Over-the-Rhine Eco Garden could be forced to relocate
if the city approves CitiRama’s development proposal. The move would be
fully funded by the city’s Department of Community Development, with
startup and relocation costs paid for.
Ohio’s concealed weapon carry permits reached record highs in 2012 with more than 76,000 permits issued.
Fewer Ohioans are starting their own businesses, and the state’s level of self-employment is one of the lowest in the nation, according to a report from Dayton Daily News.
With Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino set to open March 4, gambling addiction could be one of the downsides to the casino’s glitz and job creation, but extra funds for the state’s treatment programs and special training for casino employees could help combat the problem.
A medical marijuana amendment could be on Ohio’s 2013 ballot, but anti-drug groups are already speaking out against it.
Think the 114-year-old Japanese woman has reached an impressive age? Guffaw. Popular Science lists six much older animals.
by German Lopez
84 days ago
Plan B would lay off 344 city employees, eliminate Human Services Funding
If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, but critics argue
there are better alternatives.In a memo dated to Feb. 26,
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. wrote that the city will also have to close three community centers and six pools; eliminate Human Services Funding, which aids the
city’s homeless and poor; and reduce funding for local business groups,
parks, nature education for Cincinnati Public Schools and environmental
regulations, among other changes. In total, the cuts would add up to $25.8 million — just
enough to balance the deficit that would be left in place without the parking plan.
In addition to the cuts, failing to approve the parking
plan, which leases the city’s parking meters for 30 years and lots and garages for 50 years to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority, would displace plans to
convert Tower Place Mall, construct a 30-floor tower with a grocery
store downtown, accelerate the the I-71/MLK Interchange project, acquire
the Wasson Line right-of-way for a bike trail and add $4 million to the
next phase of Smale Riverfront Park (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne
Qualls, who’s running for mayor, has come out in favor of the parking plan, but John Cranley, another
Democrat running for mayor, says he opposes the deal because it will
hurt downtown businesses.
“It’s the boy who cried wolf,” Cranley says. “In 2009,
2010, 2011 and 2012 … they threatened to lay off police and
firefighters, and it never happened.”
Cranley says he
would rather take $10 million from projected casino revenue and $7
million from current parking revenues to help clear the deficit. For the
remaining $8.8 million, he would cut non-essential programs, which
would exclude police, fire, garbage collection, health, parks and
recreation, street pavement and Human Services Funding, across the
board by 10 to 15 percent. If that wasn’t enough, he would then
move to the essential programs, which he says make up about $300 million
in the $368.9 million budget, with a 1-percent across-the-board cut.
He says his solution would have the upside of fixing
structural deficit problems in Cincinnati’s General Fund, whereas the
one-time lease of the city’s parking assets will only take care of the deficit for the next two years.
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says City Council could
use the casino revenue to pay for the deficit, but $4 million of it is
already set for the Focus 52 program, which funds neighborhood
“Council can use whatever revenue sources they want,”
Olberding says. “That’s why the memo … says we can either use this plan
or another plan.”
Cranley says he would not do away with the Focus 52
program, but he would instead find funding for it in the Capital Budget,
which is separate from the General Fund.
Olberding says City Council could approve the use of about
$3 million in parking meter revenue for the General Fund, but the rest
of the parking money, which comes from lots and garages, is tied to an
enterprise fund, which, by state law, means the city would have to sell
its parking lots and garages before it could obtain money for the General Fund.Cranley, who also opposes the streetcar project (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23), says it
would be possible to pay for the I-71/MLK Interchange and other projects
if the streetcar wasn’t taking up funds. If it was up to him, he says
he would remove streetcar funding and use it on other development
projects “without batting an eye.”
In the Feb. 27 City Council meeting, Vice Mayor Roxanne
Qualls said the Budget and Finance Committee will likely vote
on the city manager’s parking plan on March 4 or March 11.
City manager’s new parking plan attempts to limit private influence, boost development
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 27, 2013
On Feb. 19, City Manager Milton Dohoney
Jr. announced what he called a “public-public partnership” that would
give control of Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority to fund more than $110 million in
economic development and help balance the city’s budget for the next two
2 Comments · Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Washington, D.C., is once again on the
verge of another manufactured crisis. On March 1, the sequester, a
series of mandated spending cuts, is set to kick in, threatening the
country with another round of austerity measures that will cut jobs and
bring down an already-fragile economy.
by German Lopez
84 days ago
at 10:13 AM | Permalink
Findlay Market ideal for restroom, Kasich cuts local funding, The Banks exceeds goals
A report issued by Director of Public Services Michael Robinson found Findlay Market would be the best place for a freestanding public restroom,
which could cost as little as $35,000. The idea has been heavily pushed
by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who has argued that the restrooms are
necessary to accommodate a growing population and wider activity in
Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.
A new Policy Matters Ohio report found local government funding has been reduced by $1.4 billion since Gov. John Kasich took office,
leading to a nearly 50-percent reduction in state funding. Most of the
cuts came from the elimination of the estate tax, which would have
provided $625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget,
but it was repealed in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio
legislature and Kasich. When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City
Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost
Cincinnati $22.2 million in revenues for the year.
In 2012, the team behind The Banks’ public construction met or exceeded all four major project goals,
according to the annual report from The Banks Public Partnership.
Contractors installed public safety technologies throughout the
intermodal transit center and parking facility, awarded a trade contract
for a new Pete Rose Way pedestrian bridge and walkway and prepared
design and funding documents for a river walk along the Ohio River. The
project has also gone more than 400,000 hours without a lost-time
accident. The Banks previously won what John Deatrick, project executive, called the “Oscar” of planning awards, which CityBeat covered here.
City Council delayed a vote
on opposing the sale of more than 700 Section 8 units in Avondale,
Walnut Hills and Millvale because they want meet with the firm buying
the units first. City officials have scheduled the meeting for next
week. CityBeat previously covered Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ opposition to the deal here.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency lifted a requirement
that forced any new sewer development that added waste water to the
county’s overall system to offset its gains with a fourfold reduction in
storm water taken in.
BuzzFeed, the popular viral video and pop culture website, listed the Cincinnati Public Library as No. 28 on the list “The 30 Best Places To Be If You Love Books.”
Ohio’s imprisonment of fewer youth may be part of a nationwide trend.
Three Cincinnati area businesses made Interactive Health’s “Healthiest Companies in America”: Standard Textile Inc., Totes-Isotoner and American Modern Insurance Group.
Mercy Health’s Anderson and Fairfield branches made the Truven Health Analytics ranking released this week, putting the two hospitals among the nation’s best.
Omya Inc. is receiving a five-year, 40-percent tax credit for completing a consolidation of its regional headquarters to Cincinnati, which should create 25 full-time jobs and generate $1.4 million in annual payroll.
Breaking news: Teenagers are horny. Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Hundreds of Madeira High students involved in sexting?”
A Dayton donut shop is apparently one of the best in the nation, according to Saveur magazine.
Do video games cause violence? Apparently, the debate is a lot more complicated than most people think.
Mouse brain cells can live longer than the mice they came from.
by German Lopez
85 days ago
Previous cuts helped cause Cincinnati budget deficit
A new Policy Matters Ohio report found local government
funding has been reduced by $1.4 billion since Gov. John Kasich took
office, leading to a nearly 50-percent reduction in state funding.
The report found local government funding dropped from
nearly $3 billion in the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years — the years budgeted
by former Gov. Ted Strickland — to about $2.2 billion in the 2012 and
2013 fiscal years — the first two years budgeted by Kasich. The governor’s most recent budget proposal would ensure
the continuation of the downward slide, with local government funding
dropping down to slightly more than $1.5 billion in the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, according to the
Policy Matters concluded new revenue from the state’s
casinos and an expanded sales tax would not be enough to outweigh cuts
in the Local Government Fund, utility tax reimbursements, tangible
personal property reimbursements and the termination of the estate tax. By itself, the estate tax, which was phased out at the beginning of 2013, would have provided $625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget, but it was repealed
in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Kasich.
The governor’s office has repeatedly argued that the cuts in Kasich’s first budget
were necessary to help balance an $8 billion budget deficit, but the
Policy Matters report says improving economic conditions have removed a need
for further local government funding cuts: “To encourage growth we need
good schools, reliable public safety and emergency services and strong
communities. During hard times, state and local policy led to cuts. But
further cuts in appropriations for local government are not helping
communities. Curtailing local control of local revenues will complicate
recovery – as the economy improves, it is time to restore the fiscal
partnership between state and community.”
When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City Manager Milton
Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in revenues for the year.
CityBeat previously covered Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal and how it affects taxpayers, schools and Medicaid recipients (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).
by German Lopez
85 days ago
City releases parking documents, parking plan gets hearing, restroom could cost $35,000
Following CityBeat’s blog post yesterday, the city released the official documents
for the city manager’s parking plan. So far, no one has reported
anything outrageous or unexpected. If you see anything, feel free to
Of the two dozen people who spoke at a public hearing for the parking plan yesterday, all but two opposed the plan.
Much of the opposition came from people who said they were worried parking will be expensive, but the city manager’s office says it will take three years for
parking rates to go up in Downtown and six years for rates to go up in neighborhoods after an initial hike
to 75 cents. CityBeat covered the parking plan in detail here.
Cincinnati officials are now saying that a freestanding restroom could cost as low as $35,000.
Officials say the public restroom is needed to accommodate growing
activity and population in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown. Some critics
were initially worried that the facility would cost $100,000.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino will partner up
with the Cincinnati Police Department to keep out cheats and prevent
theft. The casino will also have advanced surveillance equipment,
allowing them to detect anyone around the casino before they even get
into the building. It may seem like a lot, but casinos do tend to
attract cheaters and other troublemakers, according to Ohio Casino
Control Commission Director of Enforcement Karen Huey. The Horseshoe
Casino is set to open March 4.
A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association found more teen drivers died in crashes this year than the last two,
and some officials fear wireless devices may be a leading cause. In
Ohio, the six-month grace period for the teen wireless ban expires
Friday, which will allow police officers to issue tickets instead of
warnings to teenagers using any wireless devices while driving.
Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal would cut back a state-funded college internship program, which awarded $11 million to universities around the state.
Ohio Democrats are asking Kasich to put his Ohio Turnpike funding promises in writing
after they found out the governor’s budget proposal doesn’t actually say
that 90 percent of leveraged funds will remain in northern Ohio, which
Kasich originally promised.
Barry Horstman, investigative reporter at The Cincinnati Enquirer, collapsed and died in the newsroom yesterday. CityBeat offers its condolences to Horstman’s co-workers, family and friends.
The University of Cincinnati got a $2.3 million grant
from the National Cancer Institute to train cancer researchers. “Our
emphasis is on training the next generation of cancer researchers to
translate basic science discoveries into improved patient care,” Susan
Waltz, co-principal investigator of the grant and professor of cancer
biology at the UC College of Medicine, said in a statement.
A homemade jetpack can reach altitudes up to 25,000 feet, but it might have some trouble landing.
by German Lopez
86 days ago
City says official details, contracts will be ready before City Council vote
City Hall will host public hearings about the city manager’s
parking and economic development plan today, but the hearings will take
place before the public knows all the official details. Meg Olberding,
city spokesperson, says the legal documents and contracts for the deal
aren’t ready to be released yet, but they will be ready before City
Council holds a vote.
“We’re still finalizing the documents,” Olberding says.
“These are long, complicated documents, so we want to make sure they’re
done right, and we’ll put them online as soon as they’re available.”
When the documents are released, they will include
Cincinnati’s deal with the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development
Authority, but they will not divulge specifics on the Port Authority’s
contracts with AEW, Xerox, Denison and Guggenheim — the four private
companies partnering with the Port Authority to manage city’s parking
Without the full details, mayoral candidate John Cranley,
who opposes the parking plan, says he’s concerned the public is going
into the deal blind: “Why are they having public hearings before giving
the contract to the public and giving us the exact details? What they do
is sit back and selectively give information.”
The lack of details has already led to some surprises since the parking proposal was announced to the public. On Feb. 21, Olberding told CityBeat
the city will be able to bypass the so-called cap on parking meter rate
increases through unanimous vote from a five-person advisory committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from
the Port Authority. The process, which begins with an advisory committee that will include four members appointed by the Port Authority and one selected by
the city manager, will allow the city to raise and lower the cap in case of changing economic needs, says Olberding.Under the initial plan, parking meter rates will be
set to increase annually by 3 percent or the rate of inflation on a
compounded basis, with any increases coming in 25-cents-an-hour increments. That
should translate to 25-cent increases every three years for Downtown and
every six years for neighborhoods, says Olberding.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his parking
proposal on Feb. 19, promising $92 million upfront and an additional $3
million a year to pay off the city’s budget deficits for 2014 and 2015,
build a 30-story high-rise Downtown with a grocery store and 300 luxury
apartments, renovate Tower Place Mall and complete the I-71/MLK
Interchange project (“City Manager Proposes Parking, Economic Development Plan,” issue of Feb. 20).