by German Lopez
Medicaid expansion petition certified, more tax credit secrecy, disparity study in 2015
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified a petition effort
that, if approved by voters, would require the state to expand its
Medicaid program. The effort
now must gather roughly 116,000 signatures to be approved by the Ohio
Ballot Board and eventually end up on the 2014 ballot. Under Obamacare, states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs; if
they accept, the federal government will pay for the full expansion
through 2016 then indefinitely phase down its payments to 90 percent
after that. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found
the expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and generate $1.8
billion in extra revenue. But the expansion has been so far rejected by
Republican legislators, who tend to be opposed to government-run health care
programs and say they’re concerned the federal government won’t be able
to uphold its commitment to Medicaid as it has for nearly four decades. CityBeat covered the expansion in greater detail here.
In another example of rising secrecy surrounding JobsOhio, state tax credit estimates are now exempt from public records law,
which means the public will no longer be able to see the value of tax
credits granted to new and expanding businesses. The estimate is used by
JobsOhio to gauge whether it should propose granting a tax break to a certain business, but the
Ohio Development Services Agency says it’s concerned the numbers aren’t
accurate in the long term. In the past few months, JobsOhio has been
mired in controversy because of its lack of transparency. Republicans
argue that JobsOhio’s secretive nature allow the privatized development
agency to move more quickly with job-creating development deals, but
Democrats argue tax dollars are being used with little accountability.
The final results of Cincinnati’s disparity study for city contracts aren’t expected until 2015.
The city is pursuing the study, which is estimated to cost between
$500,000 and $1.5 million, to gauge whether Cincinnati should change its contracting policies
to favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses. The study is
necessary before making such changes because of a U.S. Supreme Court
ruling that requires governments to empirically prove there is a racial or
gender-based disparity before favorably targeting such groups.
Meet Cincinnati’s new police chief: Jeffrey Blackwell.
He’s currently deputy chief at the Columbus Division of Police, where
he’s been for 26 years. Blackwell was picked over three other finalists:
Paul Humphries, who’s been acting Cincinnati Police chief since June; Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the Mesa, Ariz., Police
Department; and Jerry Speziale, deputy superintendent of the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey Police.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio criticized Debe Terhar,
president of the State Board of Education, for calling Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
“pornographic” and demanding it be removed from the state’s teaching
guidelines. Terhar and others have criticized the book because it
contains a scene in which a father rapes his daughter. The Common Core
standards adopted by Ohio suggest The Bluest Eye as an example of reading text complexity, quality and range
for high school juniors who are typically 16 or 17 years old, but it’s
ultimately up to school districts to decide whether the novel belongs in
the curriculum. Removing mention of the book from the state’s
guidelines wouldn’t explicitly ban the book in Ohio schools, but it
would weaken the novel’s prominence as a teaching tool.
The University of Cincinnati Medical Center is part of an international effort
involving clinical trials to cure Alzheimer’s, the neurodegenerative
disease with no known cure that causes long-term memory loss, confusion, mood
swings and other symptoms typical of dementia.
Police are searching for an active shooter
on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard in the District of Columbia.
The shooter has barricaded himself in a room after allegedly shooting
at least three people.
Ohio gas prices are back down.
An unarmed drone club for children with autism might teach the children to view things from different perspectives.
by German Lopez
County blocks sewer projects, sex toy company welcomed in Kentucky, Kasich fights for coal
Hamilton County once again froze new work on a $3.2 billion project that will retrofit Cincinnati’s sewers
because of a dispute concerning the city’s established bidding
requirements. City Council in 2012 passed and in 2013 further adjusted
rules that require companies bidding for lucrative sewer contracts to
meet specific local hiring and training standards. City Council says the
requirements will produce more local jobs, but Hamilton County
commissioners argue that the rules favor unions and cost too much for
businesses. Councilman Chris Seelbach and Commissioner Chris Monzel were
originally working on a compromise, but prospects fell through after
City Council rejected the deal. CityBeat covered the conflict in further detail here.
Covington, Ky., is publicly welcoming Pure Romance to the other side of the Ohio River,
which could cost Cincinnati and Ohio up to 120 jobs and $100 million in
revenue. Pure Romance was initially planning to move from Loveland,
Ohio, to downtown Cincinnati with some tax support from the city and
state, but after the state’s tax credit agencies rejected the plan, the
company has been getting better offers from out-of-state sources,
including Covington. Ohio officials say they denied Pure Romance because the
company isn’t part of a target industry such as biotech, energy or
logistics, but emails have suggested that the Republican state government is worried about the
deal coming off as politically embarrassing because some of Pure
Romance’s products include sex toys.
Ohio coal officials repeatedly complained about the state’s water pollution rules
to Gov. John Kasich, whose administration then carried on the
complaints to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Kasich’s
office insists it was just trying to collect “different viewpoints and then work
together to challenge each other to do the best job possible,” but
environmental advocates say the governor was putting unfair pressure on a
state agency just trying to do its job. The conflict might explain why
the Ohio EPA’s top water-quality official, George Elmaraghy, was forced
to resign after claiming that coal companies are pursuing permits “that
may have a negative impact on Ohio streams and wetlands and violate
state and federal laws.”
The tea party-backed pension reform effort on Thursday sued to change ballot language
approved by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The lawsuit says
the current ballot language is making “conjecture and partisan
argumentation” by claiming the pension amendment will force the city to
raise taxes, fees or other revenues to cope with stricter requirements
for paying back Cincinnati’s $872 million pension liability. If it’s
approved by voters, the amendment would effectively privatize the city’s
pension system so future city employees, minus police and firefighters,
would be required to contribute to and manage an individual 401k-style
plan; currently, the city pools city employees’ retirement funds, makes
its own contribution and invests the funds through an independent board.
CityBeat covered the tea party-backed pension amendment in further detail here.
Hamilton County sheriffs are rolling out a three-phase plan
to move homeless squatters out of county buildings and especially the
Hamilton County Courthouse, where much of the city’s homeless population
has been sleeping and defecating. Sheriffs will first set up bathrooms,
such as portable potties, and try to identify the needs of the
squatters and whether they should be connected to mental health or other
services; during the month of the first phase, homeless people will be
allowed to remain in the buildings. Then sheriffs will get more strict
and forcibly remove people but still connect them to special services.
Finally, the affected buildings will be cleaned up.
An upcoming report will likely place legislators and police and fire officials in conflict
over the state’s police and fire pension system. Supporters of the
pension system claim it’s financially stable, but a state consultants
predicted that an actuarial report will soon show the pension system is
failing to make its required commitments and will be unable to play for
health care benefits beyond 15 years. Despite the problems, pension
officials say they want to avoid more changes until the most recent
changes are in place for one year. The most recent reforms will be
officially in place for one year on July 2014, but they won’t show up on
actuarial reports until late 2015, which means further changes would
have to be held off until 2016 at the earliest under pension
A lengthy, scathing report from the state’s independent prison watchdog found skyrocketing violence and drug use, high staff turnover and low staff morale at the Toledo Correctional Institution.
Two private organizations and the city of Cincinnati are working to place 21 bike share stations with 10 bicycles each in Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati by spring 2014.
The reason reported mayoral primary results seemed to stall midway through counting: a memory card mix-up.
Hamilton County Board of Elections Director Amy Searcy says the memory
cards were never in an insecure environment, but some memory cards were
locked up and left behind, while others were accidentally taken to a
warehouse instead of the Board of Elections.
At four times their usual number, bats are forcing health officials to recommend rabies vaccinations and other disease-avoiding precautions to people in Kenton County in northern Kentucky.
Cincinnati’s largest mall, currently known as Forest Fair
Village and previously named Cincinnati Mall, Cincinnati Mills and
Forest Fair Mall, is apparently not for sale, despite early reports from The Business Courier.
Social robots can easily replace humans as dogs’ best friend, according to a new study in Animal Recognition.
by German Lopez
Advocates pursue LGBT protections, Ohio among worst polluters, local business could move
It’s legal in most of Ohio for an employer to fire someone
over his or her sexual orientation, but a new bipartisan bill being
pushed by Equality Ohio could make the practice and anti-LGBT discrimination for housing illegal.
Critics of the Equal Housing and Employment Act argue it could lead to a
flood of lawsuits against companies, but Equality Ohio argues that just
hasn’t happened in other states that passed nondiscrimination statutes.
The bill’s Democratic and Republican sponsors argue that it would
actually grow the economy by making Ohio more inclusive, which would
make it easier to keep “the best and the brightest” employees. The bill
was introduced in May and its sponsors expect it to be taken up after
the General Assembly reconvenes in October.
In the United States, Ohio’s power plants pollute more than all but Texas’ power plants,
making Ohio one of the nation’s leading contributors to global warming,
according to a Sept. 10 report from advocacy group Environment Ohio.
The report calls for all levels of government to create and enforce
stronger standards and regulations to curtail pollution and encourage
cleaner forms of energy. National conservative groups oppose the
stricter rules; they flat-out deny human-caused global warming despite the nearly unanimous scientific consensus that it’s at least partly caused by human actions. Some companies also argue efficiency standards impose too many costs on businesses and customers.
Cincinnati officials apparently expected Pure Romance to get tax credits from Ohio.
But the state ultimately refused to grant the credits, which are
regularly given to firms for job creation. Now the company, along with
its $100 million in annual revenues, is considering moving across the
river to Covington, Ky. Ohio officials won’t clarify why Pure Romance’s
request was refused, but the company suspects it’s because its product
lineup includes sex toys, which could have been politically embarrassing
for Gov. John Kasich’s administration.
Following the Sept. 10 mayoral primary’s historically low
voter turnout, the Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s unofficial third
political party, is supporting efforts to reform how the city elects its mayors.
“It is absurd that taxpayers paid $400,000 for a primary yesterday that
few people voted in, and that decided very little,” said Mike Goldman,
convener of the Charter Committee, in a statement. Voter turnout for the
Sept. 10 mayoral primary was a dismal 5.68 percent, much lower than the
15 percent that turned out for the primary held on Sept. 11, 2001 — the
day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon —
and the 21 percent of voters that participated in the 2005 primary.A City Council motion could strip council members’ support
for a controversial permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale.
The proposed facility, Commons at Alaska, would be a 99-unit housing
facility with residency and supportive services for the homeless,
particularly those with mental health issues, physical disabilities and
histories of substance abuse. Several Avondale residents are concerned
the facility would further deteriorate an already-blighted community. CityBeat covered the dispute in further detail here.
Cincinnati Public Schools is asking the state to force the Emery Center, home of the embattled Emery Theatre, to pay taxes.
The property taxes could produce $130,000 a year for CPS, which the
school district says it needs because local property taxes make up more
of its funding than the typical urban district in Ohio. The Emery Center
was originally tax exempt under a plan that used the ground floor for
education purposes and a renovated Emery Theatre for community events.
But neither happened; the ground floor is currently used by the Coffee
Emporium, and the theater currently isn’t being renovated or used.
A judge ordered Duke Energy to destroy or return a memo
that was apparently embarrassing for Cincinnati officials because the
memo, which was sent by the city’s Law Department to the city manager,
was supposed to remain private under attorney-client privilege. Duke
wanted to use the memo in its current case against the city. The city
and Duke are in court as part of an agreement between the two entities
to legally settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate
for the streetcar project.
The Ohio Department of Insurance hasn’t received any applications or certified individuals for Obamacare’s formal outreach effort.
The “navigators,” as officials call them, are a crucial part of Obamacare because they’re
supposed to promote the law’s benefits to ensure the federal government
meets its health insurance enrollment goals to keep costs down. Health
care advocates claim the lag is driven by federal training requirements
and a state law enacted in July. The state law made it so some groups,
including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, can no longer
participate in the navigator program, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Debe Terhar, the president of Ohio Board of Education, wants Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye removed from the state’s Common Core education standards
because the book contains a rape scene. Terhar called the book
“pornographic” at a Sept. 10 Board of Education meeting. But Terhar
clarified that she doesn’t want to ban the book, and she would still
allow different school districts keep it in their curriculums.
State Auditor Dave Yost says Ohio’s cities and counties need to do a better job complying with public record requests.
A sampling of 20 cities and counties found eight, or 40 percent, had
weaknesses in compliance. The most common problem was inadequate
measures to track public record requests.
The Cincinnati area’s largest mall is up for sale for $45 million.
The struggling mall has gone through several names over the years:
Forest Fair Village, Cincinnati Mall, Cincinnati Mills and Forest Fair
Mall.Orangutans apparently announce their travel plans a day in advance.
Employers in most of Ohio can currently fire workers for their sexual orientation and gender identity, but a new bill could stop it
1 Comment · Wednesday, September 11, 2013
It’s legal in most of Ohio for someone to be fired over his or her sexual orientation and gender identity, but a new bill could ban the practice.
by German Lopez
War on drugs fails goals, housing complex raises concerns, courts deny parking challenges
With the war on drugs widely considered a failure after more than four decades, experts are suggesting legalization and decriminalization as viable alternatives.
One concern: Despite recent attempts at sentencing reform, Ohio’s
prison population is set to grow further and breach a capacity barrier
previously set by the U.S. Supreme Court in a ruling against California.
With costs rising and drug use rates seemingly unaffected by harsher
enforcement, groups of academics, former law enforcement officials and civil
libertarians say it’s time to look at states and countries that have
abandoned criminalization and harsh enforcement with great success. To read the full story, click here.
A planned supportive housing facility in Avondale is raising concerns for residents
who claim the complex could hurt a neighborhood already plagued by
poverty, crime, obesity, unemployment and homelessness. Particularly
worrying for Avondale 29, the group opposing the plans, is that the
facility is near a daycare and elementary school, which the group says
could have a negative impact on neighborhood children. Supporters of the
facility say the opposition is based on widespread misinformation. They
point to a similar similar supportive housing facility in Columbus,
which, according to the Columbus Police Department’s Gary Scott, had
a positive impact on the community surrounding it.
Opponents of Cincinnati’s parking lease were dealt two major blows in court yesterday: The Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear their first legal challenge and effectively upheld the city’s referendum-immune emergency powers, and the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court refused to place a temporary restraining order
on the lease despite claims that the city manager made “significant and
material” changes to the deal without City Council approval. Both the
challenges come from the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST), which claims parking rates and enforcement
hours will rise because the city is ceding too much power over its
services by leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority. Supporters of the parking lease argue the
plan is necessary to leverage the city’s parking assets to finance
development projects that will grow the city’s tax base.
Commentary: “Secrecy Plagues Potentially Good Programs.”
The city is fighting to have a document removed
from its legal battle over the streetcar with Duke Energy. City officials says the document is “nothing scandalous” and the city just
made a mistake by accidentally disclosing it, but a Duke attorney says
the document is a source of “embarrassment” for the city and important
to the case. As part of an agreement, Cincinnati and Duke are arguing in
court to settle who has to pay an estimated $15 million to move utility
lines to accommodate for the streetcar route.
Advocates of the federally funded Medicaid expansion yesterday filed petitions to the state attorney general’s office
to get the issue on the 2014 ballot. As part of Obamacare, states are
asked to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone up to 138
percent of the federal poverty level. If they accept, the federal
government would pay for 100 percent of the expansion’s cost for three
years then indefinitely phase down to 90 percent. The Health Policy
Institute of Ohio found the expansion would save Ohio $1.8 billion and insure half a million Ohioans. Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and state Democrats support the expansion, but Republican legislators are resisting it.
More than two-thirds of Ohioans support laws that protect gays and lesbians against job discrimination, but more than four in five mistakenly think such laws are already in place at the state and federal levels, according to the 2013 Ohio Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.
The survey also found a slim majority of Ohioans oppose amending the
state constitution to allow same-sex marriage, which somewhat
contradicts earlier polls from The Washington Post and Quinnipiac University that found a plurality of Ohioans now support same-sex marriage.
State agencies are probing the second high-profile suicide in an Ohio prison
in the past month. Ariel Castro, a Cleveland man who was sentenced to
life for kidnapping three women and beating and raping them as he held
them for a decade, was found hanging on Tuesday after an apparent
suicide. His death was the seventh suicide in an Ohio prison this year
and the 35th since 2008. “As horrifying as Mr. Castro’s crimes may be,
the state has a responsibility to ensure his safety from himself and
others,” said Christine Link, executive director of the American Civil
Liberties Union of Ohio, in a statement. “Questions remain whether Mr.
Castro was properly screened for suicide risk and mental illness.”
The Ohio Development Services Agency is offering $30 million in loans and grants
to employers who train their workforce. “Building a strong economy is
about ensuring Ohio’s workforce has the tools it needs for success,”
said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, in
a statement. “We want our workforce to be ready for the competitive
jobs of tomorrow.”
Ohio legislators are asking the federal government to pursue a balanced-budget amendment.
Although the amendment might sound like a good idea in campaign
platitudes, many economists agree it’s a bad idea because it limits the
federal government’s flexibility in reacting to economic downturns that
typically cause deficits by lowering tax revenues and increasing the
amount of people on government services.
A Fairfield, Ohio, woman is being forced by the Fairfield Board of Zoning Appeals to get rid of five of her seven dogs.
The woman, who says she suffers from depression, Parkinson’s disease and
multiple sclerosis, says she needs the dogs to cope. The zoning board
said it had heard anonymous complaints from neighbors, which apparently
convinced the board to not provide an exemption for Fairfield’s two-pet limit.Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is considering dropping some products and offering low-price alternatives for others in response to growing concerns about lacking performance.For the second time in a year, an Ohio judge is publicly shaming a convicted idiot.
A new implant allows doctors look into people’s brains.
Planned supportive housing facility has some Avondale residents worried about its effects on an already plagued neighborhood
7 Comments · Wednesday, September 4, 2013
What was once a nursing home is now being turned into a supportive housing complex for homeless and disabled, low-income individuals — and some Avondale residents aren’t happy about it.
by German Lopez
Council allows pension amendment, parking lease in court again, county to evict squatters
Despite unanimous opposition, City Council yesterday fulfilled duties dictated by the City Charter and reluctantly voted to allow the controversial pension amendment on the November ballot. The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
so future city employees — excluding police and fire personnel, who are
under a separate system — contribute to and manage individual
401k-style accounts. Currently, the city pools pension contributions and
manages the investments through an independent board. City officials,
including all council members, oppose the amendment because they say it
will cost the city more and hurt benefits for city employees. Supporters of the amendment, who are backed by out-of-state tea party
groups, claim it’s necessary to address Cincinnati’s rising pension
costs. CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.
The conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) is once again taking the parking lease to court. The legal pursuit comes after City Solicitor John Curp denied COAST’s challenge.
COAST claims that the city manager made “significant and material”
changes to the parking lease, but Curp said the changes were
ministerial and only made as a result of delays caused by COAST’s first
legal challenge against the parking lease. If the latest legal tactic is
successful, City Council could be forced to vote on the changes made to
the parking lease, which could endanger the entire lease because a
majority of council members now say they oppose the plan. A hearing is
scheduled for the challenge today at 11:30 a.m.
Hamilton County is evicting homeless squatters from its courthouse,
but it plans to carry out the evictions by connecting the homeless with
existing services. “We don’t want to get mired down in too much
political debate,” Hamilton County Sheriff’s Major Charmaine McGuffey
told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s a public health hazard.”
About 750 people in Hamilton County are homeless throughout any typical
night; of those, 700 spend the night in shelters and the rest, who are mostly downtown, sleep
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against
ex-Councilman John Cranley, yesterday unveiled two TV advertisements: “Neighborhoods” and “Wheelbarrow.”
The first ad touts Qualls’ supports for neighborhood
investments. The second ad is particularly aggressive and claims Cranley
was forced to resign from City Council because of ethics issues regarding his personal
The number of Ohioans on welfare dropped over the past few years
as Gov. John Kasich’s administration enforced federal work
requirements. Ben Johnson, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Job
and Family Services, says the efforts have brought the state’s welfare
program into federal compliance.
Ariel Castro, the man convicted for the decade-long
kidnapping, beating and raping of three Cleveland women he held captive,
was found hanging in his prison cell on Tuesday after an apparent suicide.
Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday released an update
on the state’s sexual assault kit testing initiative: So far, the
attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation has received 3,530
previously untested rape kits from 105 law enforcement agencies in Ohio.
The agency has tested 1,488 kits, leading to to 460 hits in the
Combined DNA Index System.
Internet cafe owners submitted petitions yesterday to put a law that effectively banned their businesses on the ballot. State officials claim the cafes were hubs for criminal and illegal gambling activity, but cafe owners say the ban is unfair.
This frog listens with its mouth.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:33 PM | Permalink
State senator gives proposal another shot in Ohio
State Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) is introducing
legislation Thursday that would attach mandatory drug testing to welfare
benefits, even though similar policies have proven to be costly with
little gain in other states.
“It is time that we recognize that many families are
trying to survive in drug-induced poverty, and we have an obligation to
make sure taxpayer money is not being used to support drug dealers,”
Schaffer told The Columbus Dispatch. “We can no longer turn a blind eye to this problem.”
Under the proposal, welfare recipients in three counties
would be required to take a drug test if they admit in a questionnaire
to using drugs in the past six months. Children, who make up a bulk of
welfare recipients, would be exempt. (In June, 24,443 adults and 105,822
children obtained welfare benefits in Ohio, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.)
The policy, which was originally touted as a way to reduce
welfare costs, has backfired in many states. That’s why the supporting
line is now about preventing dollars from going to drug dealers instead
of cost savings.
reports the latest problems in Utah: “Utah has spent more than $30,000
to screen welfare applicants for drug use since a new law went into
effect a year ago, but only 12 people have tested positive, state
When Ohio legislators in 2012 proposed a drug testing requirement for welfare benefits, CityBeat reported another failure in Florida originally covered by The Miami Herald:
In that state, the program had a net loss of $45,780 after it
reimbursed falsely accused welfare recipients for their drug tests. Only
108 people out of the 4,086 accused, or 2.9 percent, tested positive,
and most tested positive for marijuana.
Utah and Florida are among eight states
that have enacted drug testing requirements for welfare recipients since
2011, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A court placed an injunction on the Florida program after
the American Civil Liberties Union sued on September 2011. That injunction
was upheld on Feb. 26 by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in
Atlanta, which concluded,
“The simple fact of seeking public assistance does not deprive a TANF
(welfare) applicant of the same constitutional protection from
unreasonable searches that all other citizens enjoy.”
Given that Schaffer’s bill would require drug testing only
after information is solicited through questionnaires, it’s unclear
whether legal challenges like the one in Florida would be successful in
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,