by German Lopez
Conflicts of interest at JobsOhio, transportation projects approved, Ohio women fare poorly
CityBeat is participating in a City Council candidate forum on Oct. 5. Have any questions you would like to ask candidates? Submit them here.
State Auditor Dave Yost says he will investigate
the potential conflicts of interest found by the Ohio Ethics Commission
for nine of 22 top JobsOhio officials, including six of nine board
members. For critics, the conflicts of interest add more concerns about JobsOhio, the
privatized development agency that proposes tax breaks for businesses
and has been mired in controversy ever since it was set up by Gov. John
Kasich and Republicans to replace the Ohio Department of Development.
Because the agency is privatized and deals with private businesses, many
of its dealings are kept from the public under state law. Republicans
argue the secrecy is necessary to allow JobsOhio to more quickly
establish job-creating development deals, but Democrats say the secrecy
makes it too difficult to hold JobsOhio accountable.A state board approved nearly $3 billion in transportation projects
proposed by Kasich, including work on the MLK/I-75
Interchange in Cincinnati that city and state officials say will create
thousands of jobs in the region. The projects will require additional
state and local money to be fully funded over the next few years.
In comparison to men, Ohio women have lower incomes, hold
fewer leadership roles and disproportionately suffer from the state’s
high infant mortality rate. The issues placed Ohio at No. 30 out of 50 states for women’s issues
in a Sept. 25 report from the Center for American Progress (CAP). The report analyzed 36
indicators for women in the categories of economic security, leadership
and health; it then graded the states and ranked them based on the
grades. CAP, a left-leaning organization, is touting the report to
support progressive policies that could help lift women out of such
disparities, including the federally funded Medicaid expansion and an
increase to minimum wages.Commentary: “Ohio legislator worried a same-sex marriage case will turn the country socialist, make him cry.”
Mayoral candidate John Cranley, who’s running against fellow Democrat and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, says he doesn’t know if he can stop the parking plan if he’s elected.
Cranley explained it will only be possible if the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority doesn’t set up contracts and sell bonds for the deal
before the election. Under the parking plan, the city is leasing its
parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which will then
hire various private operators to manage the assets. Qualls supports the
plan because it will raise money and resources to fund development
projects and modernize the city’s parking services, but Cranley argues
it cedes too much control over the city’s parking assets.
It turns out Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye won’t be removed
from Ohio’s education guidelines. State Board of Education
President Debe Terhar, a Cincinnati Republican, initially called the
book “pornographic” and demanded its removal from the state guidelines,
which led the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio to criticize Terhar and ask her to reconsider her comments.
With the latest delay, small businesses won’t be able to enroll online for Obamacare’s marketplaces until November. Until then, small businesses will
only be able to sign up by mail, fax or phone. The delay is the latest of a
few setbacks for Obamacare, but the rest of the federally run online marketplaces will still launch on Oct. 1 as planned. CityBeat covered statewide efforts to promote and obstruct the marketplaces in further detail here.Gov. Kasich is donating to charity more than $22,000 that he received in campaign contributions from an indicted man.
The city has begun work on a retail corridor that will start on Fourth Street and run north through Race Street. The corridor will take years to complete, but city officials say it will be different than previous failed plans.
The number of passengers whose trips originate at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has increased for six straight months, according to airport officials.
Data-analysis company Dunnhumby is looking to invest in Cincinnati startups.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center landed federal money to test vaccines. The contract could prove the largest the hospital has ever obtained, according to The Business Courier.
Police in the Netherlands use trained rats to catch criminals.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Pure Romance on Sept. 24 announced that
it is moving to downtown Cincinnati despite a decision from Gov. John
Kasich’s administration to not grant tax credits to the $100
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
In the middle of a state economy mired in
stagnant growth, Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans are
attempting to weaken a key safety net that benefits more than 1.8
by German Lopez
Seelbach helps gunshot victim, Pure Romance to stay in Ohio, Council denies car allowances
Councilman Chris Seelbach last night helped a gunshot victim
before the man was taken to the hospital. Seelbach
posted on Facebook that he was watching The Voice with his partner,
Craig Schultz, when they heard gun shots. They went to their
window and saw a man walking across Melindy Alley. When Seelbach asked
what happened, the man replied, “I was shot.” Seelbach then ran down and
held his hand on the wound for 10 to 15 minutes before emergency
services showed up. “We have a lot of work to do Cincinnati,” Seelbach
wrote on Facebook. Police told The Cincinnati Enquirer the victim seemed to be chosen at random.Pure Romance yesterday announced it will remain in Ohio
and move to downtown Cincinnati despite a decision from Gov. John
Kasich’s administration not grant tax credits to the $100 million-plus
company, which hosts private adult parties and sells sex toys, lotions
and other “relationship enhancement” products. The reason for Pure Romance’s decision: The city,
which was pushing for Pure Romance despite the state’s refusal, upped its tax break offer
from $353,204 over six years to $698,884 over 10
years. Kasich previously justified his administration’s refusal with
claims that Pure Romance just didn’t fall into an industry that Ohio
normally supports, such as logistics and energy. But Democrats argue the
tax credits were only denied because of a prudish, conservative
perspective toward Pure Romance’s product lineup.
City Council yesterday unanimously rejected
restoring car allowances, paid work days and office budgets for the
city government’s top earners, including the mayor, city manager and
council members. Councilman Seelbach said he hopes the refusal
sends “a signal to the administration that this Council is not
interested in making the wealthy more wealthy or giving more executive
perks to people who already make hundred-plus thousands of dollars.” The
restorations were part of $6.7 million in budget restorations proposed
by City Manager Milton Dohoney. The city administration previously
argued the car allowances were necessary to maintain promises to hired city directors and keep the city competitive in terms of recruitment, but
council members called the restorations out of touch.
The Cincinnati area’s jobless rate dropped from 6.9 percent in August 2012 to 6.7 percent in August this year as the economy added 11,500 jobs, more than the 3,000 required to keep up with annual population growth.
The former chief financial officer for local bus service Metro is receiving a $50,000 settlement
from the agency after accusing her ex-employer of retaliating against her
for raising concerns about issues including unethical behavior and
theft. Metro says it’s not admitting to breaking the law and settled to
Ohio House Democrats say state Republicans denied access to an empty hearing room
for an announcement of legislation that would undo recently passed
anti-abortion restrictions. But a spokesperson for the House Republican
caucus said the speaker of the House did try to accommodate the
announcement and called accusations of malicious intent “absurd.” The
accusations come just one week after the state’s public broadcasting group pulled cameras from an internal meeting
about abortion, supposedly because the hearing violated the rules. The legislation announced by Democrats yesterday undoes
regulations and funding changes passed in the state budget
that restrict abortion and defund family planning clinics, but the
Democratic bill has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled
Ohioans will be able to pick from an average of 46 plans
when new health insurance marketplaces launch on Oct. 1 under
Obamacare, and the competition will push prices down, according to a new
report. CityBeat covered Obamacare’s marketplaces and efforts to promote and obstruct them in further detail here.
Ohio lawmakers intend to pursue another ban on Internet cafes
that would be insusceptible to referendum, even as petitioners gather signatures to get the original ban on the November 2014
ballot. State officials argue the ban is necessary because Internet
cafes, which offer slot-machine-style games on computer terminals, are
hubs of illegal gambling activity. But Internet cafe owners say what
they offer isn’t gambling because customers always get something of
value — phone or Internet time — in exchange for their money.
Ohio tea party groups can’t find candidates to challenge Republican incumbents.
The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed the first openly gay U.S. appeals court judge.
The Cincinnati area is among the top 20 places for surgeons, according to consumer finance website ValuePenguin.
A graphic that’s gone viral calls Ohio the “nerdiest state.”
Insects apparently have personalities, and some love to explore.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 01:56 PM | Permalink
Company moving to downtown Cincinnati despite state's refusal to grant tax credits
Pure Romance on Tuesday announced that it is moving to
downtown Cincinnati despite a decision from Gov. John Kasich’s
administration to not grant tax credits to the $100 million-plus company, which hosts
private adult parties and sells sex toys, lotions and other
“relationship enhancement” products.
Pure Romance will now move 60 jobs and its headquarters
from Loveland to downtown Cincinnati. It expects to create another 60
jobs in the process.
In a statement that thanked City Council and City Manager
Milton Dohoney for their support, Pure Romance CEO Chris Cicchinelli
cited downtown Cincinnati’s growth as a reason for remaining in Ohio.
“We look forward to playing an active role in the
continued resurgence of this region’s urban core and know that Pure
Romance professionals will add to the dynamic and exciting growth being
enjoyed in downtown Cincinnati,” he said.
The move will receive support from the city government, which previously offered $353,000 in tax breaks to the company.
Pure Romance was originally considering moving to Kentucky after Ohio
refused to give the company tax credits. Kasich and other Republican officials justified their refusal with claims that Pure Romance
just didn’t fall into an industry that Ohio normally supports, such as logistics and energy.But
Democrats, citing other companies that obtained tax credits despite not
being within traditional industries, argue that Kasich’s administration
only denied the tax request because of a prudish, conservative perspective toward Pure
Romance’s product lineup, which includes sex toys.Pure Romance is looking to move downtown by the end of the year, but the time frame hinges on ongoing lease negotiations.
by German Lopez
Food stamp rules to hit locals, city defends allowances, charterites oppose pension initiative
Gov. John Kasich’s refusal to seek another waiver for
federal regulations on food stamps will force 18,000 current recipients
in Hamilton County to meet work requirements
if they want the benefits to continue. That means "able-bodied"
childless adults will have to work or attend work training sessions for 20 hours a week starting in October to continue getting food assistance. The renewed rules are coming just one month before federal stimulus funds for the food stamp program are set to expire, which will push down the $200-a-month food benefits
to $189 a month, or slightly more than $2 a meal, in November. In light of the new requirements, the Hamilton County
Department of Job and
Family Services will help link people with jobs through local partnerships and
Hamilton County's SuperJobs Center,
but that might be difficult for food stamp recipients who have past
convictions, mental health problems and other barriers to employment.The city administration defended its proposal to restore $26,640 in car allowances
for the mayor, city manager and other director-level positions in the
city government, just a few months after the city narrowly avoided
laying off cops, firefighters and other city employees by making cuts in
various areas, including city parks. City spokesperson Meg Olberding
says car allowances are part of traditional compensation packages in
other cities Cincinnati competes with for recruitment, and she says that
the compensation was promised to city directors when they were first
hired for the jobs. But Councilman Chris Seelbach says the proposal is
out of touch and that he's more concerned about lower-paid city employees,
such as garbage collectors, who haven't gotten a raise in years, much
less a $5,000 car allowance. The Charter Committee, Cincinnati's unofficial third political party, came out against the tea party-backed pension ballot initiative. The committee recognizes Cincinnati needs pension reform soon, but it says the tea party proposal isn't the right solution. The tea party-backed amendment would privatize Cincinnati's pension system so future city employees — excluding cops and firefighters, who are under a different system — would have to contribute to and manage 401k-style retirement accounts. Under the current system, the city pools and manages pension funds through an independent board. Supporters argue the amendment is necessary to deal with the city's growing pension liability, but opponents, including all council members, argue it would actually cost the city more and decrease employees' benefits. CityBeat covered the amendment and the groups behind it in further detail here.State Rep. John Becker of Clermont County wants U.S. Judge Timothy Black impeached because the judge ruled Ohio must recognize a Cincinnati same-sex couple's marriage in a death certificate. The judge gave the special order for locals James Obergefell and John Arthur, who is close to death because of a neurodegenerative disease with no known cure called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says if the city were to synchronize its mayoral primary elections with other state and county elections, it could save money by spreading the share of the costs. The Sept. 10 primary cost Cincinnati $437,000. The change would require altering the city charter, which needs voter approval.The Ohio Department of Education will soon release revised report card grades for Cincinnati Public Schools and other school districts following an investigation that found the school districts were scrubbing data in a way that could have benefited their state evaluations.An Ohio bill would ban drivers younger than 21 from driving with non-family members in the car and bump the driving curfew from midnight to 10 p.m., with some exceptions for work and school.A University of Cincinnati football player is dead and three others are injured following a single-car crash.Ohio gas prices rose as the national average dipped.Here is a map of air pollution deaths around the world.
2 Comments · Wednesday, September 18, 2013
In the past few weeks, it’s come out that
Gov. John Kasich’s supposedly jobs-obsessed administration is letting
120 jobs leave Ohio for neighboring Kentucky instead of supporting the
jobs through tax credits.
by German Lopez
Mayoral candidates debate, legislators back Pure Romance, board could expand Medicaid
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley focused most of their disagreement on the streetcar and parking lease
at yesterday’s first post-primary mayoral debate. No matter the
subject, Cranley repeatedly referenced his opposition to the streetcar
project and his belief that it’s siphoning city funds from more
important projects and forcing the city to raise property taxes to pay
for debt. Qualls argued the streetcar project will produce economic
growth and grow the city’s tax base, which the city could then leverage
for more development projects; that claim has been backed by studies
from consulting firm HDR and the University of Cincinnati, which put the
streetcar’s return on investment at three-to-one. On the parking lease,
Qualls claimed money raised through the lease could be used to leverage
economic development projects, while Cranley said the lease would hurt an
entire generation by shifting control of Cincinnati’s parking assets
from the city to the unelected Port Authority and private companies.
State Rep. Denise Driehaus and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, both of Cincinnati, called on the state government
to reverse its decision to not give local company Pure Romance tax
credits. Pure Romance, a $100 million-plus company whose product lineup
includes sex toys, was planning on moving from Loveland to downtown
Cincinnati with local and state support, but because the state declined
the tax breaks, the company is now considering moving to Covington, Ky.
Gov. John Kasich’s administration has said Pure Romance doesn’t fit into
the traditional industries the state invests in, but Democratic
legislators argue Kasich’s social conservatism is getting in the way of
keeping jobs in Ohio.
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder says he has “literally no thoughts”
about the possibility of the state expanding Medicaid without the
legislature and through the state Controlling Board — a possibility that
Kasich hinted at earlier in the week. Kasich has been pleading with the
Ohio General Assembly to take up the federally funded Medicaid
expansion, but Republican legislators have so far refused. If the Controlling
Board does expand Medicaid, Batchelder said the state legislature will
likely pass some protections in case the federal government reneges on
its funding proposal. Under Obamacare, states are asked to expand
Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level; if they accept,
the federal government will pay for the entire expansion through 2016
then phase its payments down to an indefinite 90 percent.Documents uncovered by USA Today further show the IRS, particularly through its offices in Cincinnati, targeted tea party groups by looking at “anti-Obama rhetoric,” inflammatory language and “emotional” statements made by nonprofits seeking tax-exempt status.
Cincinnati’s newest police chief will be sworn in on Sept. 30. The city manager on Friday officially picked Jeffrey Blackwell, deputy chief of the Columbus Division of Police.
The Cincinnati area’s economy grew by 2.7 percent in 2012, slightly higher than the country’s 2.5-percent growth in the same year.
In perhaps another sign of growing local momentum, venture capitalists appear to be investing more in Cincinnati’s entrepreneurs.
Following two high-profile suicides at Ohio’s prisons, an expert on inmate suicides will inspect the state’s facilities and protocols.
Saks Fifth Avenue might move to Kenwood Collection.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble and TriHealth are
among the top 100 companies for working mothers, according to the
magazine Working Mother.
A very rare genetic mutation makes subjects immune to pain.
5 Comments · Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Politicized redistricting is impacting yet another important state issue.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
, Health care
at 02:01 PM | Permalink
Ohio Poverty Law Center releases county-by-county breakdown
The Medicaid expansion could provide health insurance to
more than 42,000 people living in Hamilton County, according to a
county-by-county breakdown released on Aug. 28 by the Ohio Poverty Law Center (OPLC).
In Hamilton County, OPLC reports nearly 89,000 people are currently uninsured and roughly 155,000 use Medicaid.OPLC found Hamilton County also includes the two hospitals that spent the most on uncompensated care in Ohio last year: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and University Hospital. Much of that cost is incurred when low-income patients use services and can’t afford to pay for them — an issue that would be in part resolved if the same patients could pay for care through Medicaid.
Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), states are
asked to expand Medicaid eligibility so the public health insurance
program covers anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty
level, or an annual income of about $15,856 for a single-person
household. If states accept, the federal government will carry the
entire cost of the expansion for the first three years then phase down
its burden to indefinitely pay for 90 percent of the expansion’s cost. That’s much higher than the 73-percent share the federal government paid for Ohio’s Medicaid program in 2010.
Earlier this year, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio released an analysis
that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million
Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade.
Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and Democratic legislators
support the Medicaid expansion, but Republican lawmakers, who control
the Ohio legislature, have so far resisted it.
Republican legislators say they’re concerned the U.S. government
won’t be able to afford its future Medicaid payments, even though the federal
government has done so since the program was first established in 1965. Many tea
party Republicans also oppose Medicaid and other public health programs
from a philosophical perspective that calls for smaller government.
Ohio Health Issues Poll results released in June found 63 percent of Ohioans support the Medicaid expansion, with a margin of error of 3.3 percent.
Legislative leaders have said they will vote on a Medicaid
overhaul bill and perhaps a separate bill including the Medicaid
expansion when they reconvene in October.