WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Republicans to Reintroduce Anti-Abortion ‘Heartbeat Bill’

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Ohio legislators on Aug. 15 reintroduced a bill that would ban abortions in the state as early as six weeks after conception, but questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality.   

Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Like many politicians, Gov. John Kasich touted transparency and openness on the campaign trail, but this year’s JobsOhio controversies have proven that the governor was all talk and no action when he made such claims.   
by German Lopez 08.21.2013
Posted In: News, Human services, Economy, Privatization at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
poor priorities

Morning News and Stuff

Homeless shelters report rise in calls, Cincinnati loses jobs, JobsOhio controversy continues

Greater Cincinnati homeless shelters are reporting a 31 percent increase in the number of families calling for help — a sign that homelessness may be trending up. Meanwhile, City Council managed to avoid cutting funding to human services that help the homeless this year, but the local government has steadily provided less funding since 2004, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.Cincinnati lost 4,000 jobs from June to July, but it gained 14,000 between July 2012 and July this year, far above the 3,000 necessary to keep up with annual population growth, according to data released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was at 7.1 percent in July, down from 7.3 percent in June and 7.4 percent in July 2012. The labor force shrunk in comparison to the previous month and year, which means the unemployment rate fell partly because many people stopped looking for jobs. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July and the U.S. rate was 7.4 percent. More JobsOhio controversy: The state panel that approves tax credits recommended by the privatized development agency has never said no, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Gov. John Kasich and Republicans say the Ohio Tax Credit Authority is supposed to be an independent watchdog on JobsOhio, but both JobsOhio and the Ohio Tax Credit Authority have their boards appointed by the governor. Democrats have been highly critical of JobsOhio for its lack of transparency and privatized nature, but Republicans say both are good traits for an agency that needs to move fast to land job-creating development deals. Meanwhile, two Democrats in the Ohio House are pushing a ban on Ohio officials, including the governor, receiving outside pay. The proposal is largely in response to JobsOhio recommending $619,000 in tax credits in 2012 and 2013 to Worthington Industries, a company that paid Kasich through 2012 for his time on its board. The Ohio Ethics Commission refused to investigate the potential conflict of interest because it said Kasich made a clean break from Worthington when he was elected. Hamilton County taxpayers might have to put up $10 million to give the Cincinnati Bengals a high-definition scoreboard, thanks to the team’s lease with the county. Economists generally see stadiums as one of the most over-hyped, unsuccessful urban investments, according to The Nation. No City Council member supports the tea party-backed pension amendment that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city workers, excluding cops and firefighters, contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts. Currently, Cincinnati pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. City officials and unions claim the measure will cost the city more than the current system and hurt retirement gains for city employees. But tea party groups say the amendment is necessary to address Cincinnati’s growing pension costs, including an $862 million unfunded liability. CityBeat wrote about the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here. Ohio is partnering up with the Jason Foundation to provide training and information to teachers, coaches, other school personnel, parents and students about suicide, the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds after car accidents. The measure aims to curb down suicide rates. Hamilton County and Cincinnati are pursuing joint funding of technology upgrades for 911 services, and the two local governments are moving permitting services to one location, according to a statement from Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s office. Hartmann has long pursued more city-county collaboration so both can run more efficiently and bring down costs. The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati is now called Interact for Health. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) yesterday reported 2013’s first case of West Nile Virus. A 72-year-old woman in Cuyahoga County is apparently being hospitalized for the disease. ODH Director Ted Wymyslo said in a statement that, while Ohio has dealt with West Nile Virus since 2002, cases have dropped in the past year. The University of Cincinnati is set to break another record for enrollment this fall. Dunnhumby USA yesterday unveiled the design for its downtown headquarters. A new electric car can fold itself in half when parking.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.20.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Government, Governor at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City refuses parking lease challenge, Qualls calls for transparency, Kasich losing in new poll

City Solicitor John Curp rebuked a conservative group that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the city’s parking lease without City Council's explicit approval. Curp wrote in a letter that the two changes disputed by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) were within the lease’s terms and only made because COAST’s previous lawsuit forced the city to delay leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. If COAST hadn’t pursued the lawsuit, the city would have been able to continue with the original timetable for the parking lease. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls yesterday unveiled a motion calling for the first expansion of local disclosure and reporting requirements since 1997 that would impose new rules on city officials, lobbyists and contractors and require the city administration to post the disclosed information on the city’s website. Qualls said in a statement that the update is particularly timely because the Metropolitan Sewer District is taking on a federally mandated $3.2 billion, 15-year reworking of the city’s sewers, which will presumably involve many lobbyists trying to get lucrative contracts for businesses they represent. New poll results from Public Policy Polling (PPP) show Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald beating Gov. John Kasich 38-35 percent in the 2014 election. Kasich’s approval rating now stands at 42-47 percent, down 10 points from November. Most respondents still seem unaware of FitzGerald, with 62 percent saying they aren’t sure if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of him. PPP is affiliated with Democrats, but the polling firm performed well in the 2012 presidential race and, if anything, favored Republicans with its results. Hop On Cincinnati is asking the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District to support a trackless trolley that the group says could live alongside the Cincinnati streetcar. The trolley, estimated to cost $10 million to $15 million, would be similar to the system in Northern Kentucky, and each route would run past major garages to allow people to park before getting on board. If the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District gives the project approval, it could get federal funding. Investors are upset with SoMoLend, the crowdfunding incubator that has been targeted by a state investigation with accusations of fraud. Critics of the company say that the allegations could hurt future crowdfunding pursuits and harm the state. Shortly after the charges came to light, the city of Cincinnati announced it would cut ties with SoMoLend, which partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with up to $400,000 in loans. Ohio is the seventh worst state for debt, according to a recent study from NerdWallet.com. The number of low-income Ohio children in Head Start, the early education program, will drop by more than 1,800 following automatic spending cuts at the federal level. CityBeat previously covered the cuts here. Ohio’s top waterways watchdog is stepping down from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency after his boss and Kasich asked him to step down. Kasich was apparently angered by an email in which George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s division of surface water, told his staff that the coal industry wants permits that would damage the state’s streams and wetlands and break state and federal laws. Various state officials are criticizing a “stand your ground” bill currently sitting in the Ohio legislature. The self-defense law has been scrutinized because of George Zimmerman, a Florida resident who was acquitted of murder in the shooting of unarmed black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Many people blame Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which expands self-defense rights, for Martin’s death. Zimmerman’s legal defense team didn’t invoke the law, but the judge involved in the case mentioned it in her jury instructions. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says some school safety plans would be “useless” during a real shooting because they’re too long and complicated. Ohio is releasing school report cards this week, but the standards may be biased against income and racial diversity. Cincinnati-based Macy’s stocks plunged last week, alongside other Cincinnati stocks and the rest of the market. Renowned “Star Trek” actor George Takei will lead Cincinnati in the Chicken Dance at Oktoberfest this year. Ancient Egyptian jewelry was made from meteorites.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.15.2013
Posted In: News, Pensions, Emery Theatre, Governor at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tea party pensions

Morning News and Stuff

Outsiders back pension reform, Requiem could be evicted, JobsOhio conflicted in interests

Local and national tea party groups are pushing a ballot initiative that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system by moving city workers from a public plan to 401k-style plans, but city officials and unions are urging voters to reject the measure because they claim it would raise costs for the city and reduce gains for retirees. Cincinnati for Pension Reform paid Arno Petition Consultants nearly $70,000 to gather enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. It’s so far unclear where that money came from. Virginia-based Liberty Initiative Fund, which is supporting a similar pension proposal in Tucson, Ariz., is backing the Cincinnati effort, with one of two blog posts on its website praising the local initiative. Liberty Initiative Fund has given at least $81,000 to the Tucson campaign. For more information about the Cincinnati campaign and initiative, click here. Hamilton County Judge Carl Stitch on Wednesday ruled against granting a temporary restraining order that would prevent the trio that owns and leases the Emery Theatre from evicting the nonprofit seeking to renovate the building. The ruling means Requiem Project, which was founded in 2008 to renovate the theater, might be kicked out by the University of Cincinnati, Emery Center Apartments Limited Partnership (ECALP) and the Emery Center Corporation (ECC), the groups that own and lease the Emery Theatre. Still, the judge said that the ruling should in no way indicate what the final outcome of the case will be and it could turn out that Requiem deserves a long-term lease. Gov. John Kasich received campaign donations from and served on the board of Worthington Industries, a central Ohio steel processor, before the company got tax credits from JobsOhio, the privatized development agency. Kasich’s spokesperson told the Associated Press that the governor severed ties with Worthington before the tax deals were approved. Still, the latest discovery adds to a series of conflicts of interest that have mired JobsOhio in the past few weeks. Previously, Dayton Daily News found that most of the board members on JobsOhio had direct financial ties to some of the companies getting state aid. Republicans defend JobsOhio because they say its privatized and secretive nature allows it to carry out job-creating development deals more quickly, but Democrats say the agency is too difficult to hold accountable and might be wasting taxpayer money. Commentary: “Disparity Study Now.” State officials are looking to tighten limits for local governments passing budgets, issuing debt and funding pensions. State Rep. Lou Terhar, a Republican from Cincinnati, and State Auditor Dave Yost say the proposal is aimed at correcting pension problems such as the one in Cincinnati, which Yost labeled “Pension-zilla.” Cincinnati’s unfunded pension liability currently stands at $862 million, which earned the city a downgraded bond rating from Moody’s in a July 15 report. A task force convened by Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor is set to meet again to discuss possible changes to the state’s death penalty. The panel recently proposed eliminating the use of capital punishment in cases in which an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary, robbery or rape. A record number of white women, many from rural areas, are being sent to Ohio prisons, according to a report from the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C., think tank. Two City Council candidates are struggling to get their names on the ballot because of a couple different circumstances. Newcomer Mike Moroski fell 46 petition signatures short of the requirement of 500 signatures that have to be turned in by Aug. 22. Meanwhile, hundreds of Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld’s petitions might be thrown out because several dates were corrected by crossing them out and writing the accurate date on the back of the forms. The Hamilton County Board of Elections says it’s unclear whether it can accept those signatures. Both candidates are now renewing their petition drives to ensure they appear on the Nov. 5 ballot. Candace Klein is resigning as CEO of SoMoLend, the embattled local startup that previously partnered with the city of Cincinnati to link local businesses to up to $400,000 in loans. City officials announced Monday they were severing ties with SoMoLend after it was revealed that the Ohio Division of Securities is accusing the company of fraud because SoMoLend allegedly failed to get the proper licenses and exaggerated its financial and performance figures. SoMoLend’s specialty is supposed to be using crowdfunding tactics to connect small businesses and startups with lenders, but the charges have called its expertise into question. Metro, the city’s bus system, turns 40 today, and it plans to hold a party on Fountain Square from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in celebration. Activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman sold a majority of his Procter & Gamble stocks. Popular Science has the list of the 10 weirdest robots at this year’s drone show here.
 
 

Circle of Violence Unbroken

Ohio set to execute Billy Slagle this week despite a prosecutor’s request for clemency

7 Comments · Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Billy Slagle is going to die on Aug. 7. The Ohio Parole Board recommended against granting Slagle clemency on July 16, and Gov. John Kasich last week denied Slagle’s request to have his death sentence commuted to life in prison.    
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:
 
 

GOP Continues Playing Politics with Ohioans’ Health

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Ohio officials announced on July 23 that they’ll take a hands-off approach to promoting the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), leaving it to the federal government to inform citizens about opportunities and benefits provided under the law.   
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 07.24.2013
Posted In: News, Budget at 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

State Budget Cuts Local Government Funding

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 year. 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.
 
 

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