WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 07.15.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Budget at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

City Administration Responds to Critical Parking Memo

Previously unreleased memo spurs renewed calls to reject parking lease

The city administration today disputed the findings of a June 20 memo that suggested the city is getting a bad deal from its parking lease agreement with the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but it has not said why the memo wasn't passed along to City Council members and Port Authority during the three-plus weeks since the administration received the memo. In its own memo released today, the city claims that the June 20 memo, which was first reported by WCPO yesterday, is outdated and makes a few technical errors.The June 20 memo from Walker Parking Cosultants, a parking consultant hired by the city, found it will be 257 percent more expensive for the new private parking operator to run the city’s on-street parking services in comparison to what the city currently spends. It also concludes the city isn’t getting as much revenue as other cities got under their own parking leases. “The on-street operating expenses shown in the model are projected to grow at a faster rate than operating revenues,” the June 20 memo claims. “The city should expect a private operator to run the parking system more cost effectively than the current operation, not less effectively. Therefore, revenues should be expected to increase at a rate faster than expenses, not slower.” The memo’s numbers come through estimates provided by ParkCincy, the operating team set to take over the city’s parking meters, lots and garages following a decades-long lease agreement between the city and the Port Authority. In particular, the memo highlights what it claims are extraordinary payments requested by Xerox under the deal: The private parking operator is asking for a $627,063 fee in 2013, putting about 14.6 percent of projected net operating income to management fees. That’s far higher than the typical 2.1 percent to 2.3 percent found in similar parking deals in other cities, according to the memo. The city disputed the findings in its own memo this morning. “The information that Walker used was from an early point in time; the deal was subsequently negotiated from that point to improve the deal,” wrote City Manager Milton Dohoney in his own memo. “For example, the profit margin used was based on different parking deals in other cities that are not the same as ours. As we know, the Cincinnati model is unique in many ways.”One such trait: Cincinnati’s parking deal includes modernizing the city’s parking meters to accept credit cards and mobile payment. The city cited a letter from the Port Authority sent to City Solicitor John Curp during an email exchange on July 12, the same day the Port Authority was given the June 20 memo. The letter contradicted what Port Authority CEO Laura Brunner claims are inaccuracies. “In its memo, Walker Consulting bases its comparisons on price, yet doesn’t qualify the information with what level of service capabilities are included in the price,” the Port Authority’s letter reads. “The Port Authority is basing its purchasing decisions on price, but also level of enhancement to the on-street system that mirrors the City’s desire to modernize these vital assets and position them to enhance economic development opportunities downtown and in City neighborhoods.” Besides this “‘apples to oranges’ comparison,” the Port Authority’s letter disputes many of the technical details behind the June 20 memo, particularly questioning some of the measurements used and comparisons that don’t account for differences between Cincinnati’s parking lease and other cities’ agreements. It also emphasizes that contracts with Xerox and other companies are not finalized yet. Much of the focus is now on why the June 20 memo was kept from City Council, the Port Authority and the public for nearly a month, given the memo’s controversial findings about a controversial deal. “The city administration misled the public for months on the need for the deal, saying it was needed to avoid laying off cops and firefighters and then they don’t do it. Now it’s keeping vital information from the public and council. It’s a violation of the public trust of the highest order,” Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley said in a statement. “I am urging the Port to reject this deal that is bad for the City.” Cranley and other city officials, including several City Council candidates and council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Christopher Smitherman and Charlie Winburn, signed a letter to the Port Authority asking the city-funded agency to reject its agreement with Xerox. The city manager’s office couldn’t be immediately reached for comment. This story will be updated if further comments become available. The parking lease was finally signed by the city and Port Authority in June after months of political and court battles. The deal was signed even though a majority of City Council now opposes the lease after the city managed to balance its budget without the parking deal and without laying off cops and firefighters.City Council approved the parking lease on March 6, more than three months before the June 20 memo was given to the city administration. In return for the lease, Cincinnati is getting a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates. The city plans to use that money to pay down future budget gaps and fund development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange.Update: Clarified Port Authority didn’t receive the memo until July 12.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.16.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Streetcar, City Council at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Memo doubts parking plan, city manager defends hiding memo, streetcar to open 2016

The city administration yesterday disputed the findings of a June 20 memo that suggested the city is getting a bad deal from its parking lease agreement with the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but controversy remains about why the city administration withheld the memo from City Council and the Port Authority for three-plus weeks. Opponents of the parking plan are now attempting to use the memo to convince the Port Authority to reject the lease with Xerox, but the Port Authority insists that the memo is laced with inaccuracies and technical errors. The city is pursuing the lease to obtain a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates. The money will be used to pay for future budget gaps and development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange. City Manager Milton Dohoney defended the city administration’s decision to withhold the June 20 memo, but several council members are angered by what they call a “lack of transparency.” Still, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls argued the administration’s decision to keep the memo from City Council was understandable because the memo was based on faulty information. The Cincinnati streetcar got an opening date yesterday: Sept. 15, 2016. The grand opening comes after years of political controversy, pulled funding and two referendum efforts nearly killed the project. Ever since it was first proposed, the streetcar project has been engulfed in misrepresentations, which CityBeat covered here. A federal judge made permanent his earlier decision that Ohio must count provisional ballots if they’re submitted in the right polling place but wrong precinct. The ruling is being taken as a victory by voting-rights advocates. Cincinnati is negotiating to claw back its incentive with Kendle International Inc., which agreed in 2008 to keep its headquarters and create jobs at the city’s Carew Tower. The agreement gave Kendle $200,000 over 10 years on the condition it steadily grew jobs. The failure may add further doubt to the value of job deals, which were criticized earlier in the year by a report CityBeat covered here. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Christ Hospital and Bethesda North Hospital are among the best hospitals in the nation, according to U.S. News’s “Best Hospitals” feature. Here are some of the odd things that made it into the two-year state budget. Gov. John Kasich signed a Columbus school plan that will allow levy money to be shared with charter schools that partner with the Columbus school district. The Senate is the best place in the country to eat hot dogs, according to Food & Wine. More U.S. hospitals now treat gay parents equally. Dogs apparently can watch television, which is good news for an Israeli channel explicitly aimed at dogs.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.15.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Cincinnati Streetcar Scheduled to Open Sept. 15, 2016

Grand opening among several dates set after construction deal finalized

Following years of political controversy, the Cincinnati streetcar is scheduled to open for service on Sept. 15, 2016. The news was unveiled in a city memo this morning, which detailed the streetcar project’s future following a construction deal with Messer Construction, Prus Construction and Delta Railroad. The news comes after Messer revealed it will need nearly $500,000 more to do construction work, which will be covered by the project’s $10 million contingency funds. The memo detailed other upcoming milestones for the streetcar project:• March 1, 2015: Substantial completion of a 3,000-foot test track and maintenance center.• June 29, 2015: Substantial completion of Over-the-Rhine loop.• March 15, 2016: Substantial completion of all work. City Council recently approved $17.4 million in additional capital funding for the streetcar project, along with various accountability measures that will require the city manager to regularly update council and the public on the project’s progress. The project’s estimated cost now stands at $133 million.Ever since its inception, the Cincinnati streetcar has been mired in political controversies and misrepresentations, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.15.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, 2013 Election, Budget at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Morning News and Stuff

Inclusion becomes mayoral issue, streetcar clears hurdle, state budget cuts local funding

Following Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley’s announcement Friday to increase city contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses once elected, fellow Democratic mayoral candidate and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls echoed support for the proposals, although she disputed Cranley’s record on the issue. One issue in particular is the Croson study that would allow the city to prepare for a broader inclusion plan for minorities and women. Qualls has repeatedly proposed a Croson study during her time in City Council and previous time in the mayor’s office, but she says Cranley failed to publicly raise the issue at all during his time on council between 2000 and 2009. Cincinnati’s streetcar project cleared another hurdle Friday when Messer Construction announced it needed $500,000 to carry out construction work, which is easily covered by the project’s $10 million contingency fund. With a construction contract, new funding and accountability measures now moving forward, the only potential issue is who has to pay to move utility lines to accommodate for streetcar tracks. The city claims Duke Energy does, while the energy company puts the onus on the city. That issue is currently being worked out in court, although the city has already set aside $15 million to carry out the work for now and just in case Duke isn’t forced to carry the costs. Throughout the streetcar’s history, the project has been mired in misrepresentations and exaggerations, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. The recently approved two-year state budget provides about $517 million less local government funding than the budget did in 2011, even though it pays for $2.7 billion in new tax cuts. Democrats have been highly critical of the cuts, but the governor’s office says local governments are effectively getting more funding through other sources not particularly geared for city and county governments. CityBeat covered local government funding in greater detail here and the state budget here. Some state officials are pushing to establish an online, searchable database that would allow Ohio taxpayers to track state spending penny-by-penny. The state treasurer’s office already maintains a database for teacher and state employee salaries. The Health Careers Collaborative, an organization working to increase health care employment in Greater Cincinnati, has a new leader. Amish communities in Ohio are questioning whether they should take royalties for land that would be used for fracking, an oil and gas extraction process that environmentalists claim is dangerous for surrounding air and water. For the Amish, the issue is spiritual, rooted in their religious restrictions against technology and many facets of the modern world. CityBeat covered fracking and its ongoing effect on some Ohio communities in greater detail here. Ohio gas prices are starting up this week. Twinkies are returning to store shelves today. HD 189773b, a blue exoplanet, may look hospitable, but the planet has a bad habit of raining glass sideways.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.10.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Media at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
media bridges studio

Media Bridges Shutting Down

Public access media organization to close by end of year

Local public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting its doors for good by the end of the year, ending nearly 25 years of public service. The organization’s demise is a result of the city eliminating funding for Media Bridges in its latest budget, which was passed by City Council in May. “It is with great sadness that I must announce that Media Bridges will close its doors by the end of 2013. The city has made it extremely clear that we will not be receiving any more funding from them. While we have tried many other avenues for revenue it has become clear that we will be unable to sustain operations beyond 2013,” Media Bridges Executive Director Tom Bishop announced Tuesday in the organization’s newsletter.The shutdown will be a steady process, with Media Bridges completely closing once its channels are transferred or Dec. 13 — whichever comes first.The city’s budget cuts were originally considered in December, but City Council managed to restore some funding to keep the organization afloat. Prior to the partial restoration, Bishop had called the cuts a “meteor” to his organization’s budget. City officials previously defended the cuts to Media Bridges, citing city surveys that ranked the program poorly in terms of budgetary importance. For the surveys, the city used meetings and mailed questionnaires to gauge public opinion. But Bishop claims the surveys’ demographics were lopsided against low-income Cincinnatians, the income group that benefits the most from public access programs like Media Bridges. For both the meeting-based and mail-in surveys, Bishop’s claim checks out. His concern is even directly acknowledged and backed in the documented survey results for the meetings: “Twenty-two percent of meeting participants earned less than $23,050 per year, compared to 40.8 percent of the population at large who earn less than $24,999 per year. While this is not representative of the population at large, the data does indicate strong participation from low income residents.” Meanwhile, wealthier Cincinnatians were much better represented, with 11 percent of meeting participants making $150,000 or more per year despite only 6 percent of the city at large belonging to that income group, according to the survey results. The same issue can be found in the mail-in survey: Only 22 percent of respondents made less than $25,000, while 10 percent made $150,000 or more.“It’s ridiculous that they would call that representative of the city of Cincinnati,” Bishop says. Instead of using its skewed survey results, Bishop argues the city should have looked at the 2010 Spring Greater Cincinnati Survey from the University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research. In that survey, Cincinnati respondents were asked how important it was to provide recording equipment to citizens and neighborhoods so they can “produce educational and public access programs for cable television.” About 54.3 percent called it “very important,” 33.9 percent labeled it “somewhat important” and 11.7 percent said it was “not too important.” City officials also defended the cuts by claiming that funding was only provided as a “one-year reprieve” after Media Bridges lost state funding that came through Time Warner Cable, which successfully lobbied to end its required contributions in 2011. Bishop disputes the city’s claim, saying Media Bridges and its staff weren’t informed that the city funding was meant to be temporary — at least until it was too late. Media Bridges is a public access media organization founded in 1988 that allows anyone in Cincinnati to record video and sound for publicly broadcasted television and radio. It also provides educational programs for people new to the process. Although Media Bridges is closing down, the city is still funding CitiCable, which, among other programming, broadcasts City Council and county commissioner meetings, through franchise fees from Cincinnati Bell and Time Warner.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.12.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Budget at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
streetcar

Streetcar Gets Good News with New Construction Bid

Messer Construction asks for less than $500,000 more; easily covered by contingency fund

Messer Construction says it needs nearly $500,000 more than the original $71 million it asked for to do construction work for the streetcar project, but the extra money is easily covered by the project’s $10 million contingency fund that the city established in case of further cost overruns.In June, City Council approved an extra $17.4 million and accountability measures for the streetcar project, which require the city manager to publicly update council with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports. During discussions for the funding and accountability proposals, some council members, particularly Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, raised concerns that Messer would require more money than the city could afford. Sittenfeld said he was especially concerned Messer would have all the leverage going forward, considering the city supposedly needed the lower construction bid to keep the project within its new budget.Messer was the lowest bidder for the project’s construction work, but even that bid came $26 million higher than the city’s original estimates, forcing the city to close a budget gap if the project was to continue. With the construction bids taken care of, the only known funding concern for the streetcar is who has to pay $15 million for moving utility lines to accommodate for streetcar tracks. Duke Energy argues the cost burden is on the city, while the city says the energy company has to pay up. The issue is currently being decided in court.Ever since Cincinnati began pursuing the streetcar project, it’s been mired in misrepresentations and political controversy, which CityBeat covered in further detail in this week’s cover story.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.12.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, 2013 Election, Prisons at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley's inclusion plan, effort targets abortion limits, more charter school waste found

Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley is releasing a plan today that promises to reward more of the city’s business contracts to black people, Latinos and women if he’s elected. Cranley says he will hire an inclusion officer that would help him achieve the goals of the plan, which is modeled partly after the African American Chamber of Commerce’s OPEN Cincinnati Plan that was passed by City Council in 2009. “In order to make Cincinnati a world-class city, we have to have a thriving, diverse middle class. We can’t do that if we leave half of our residents behind economically,” Cranley said in a statement. Cranley’s main opponent in the mayoral race is Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who supported the OPEN Cincinnati Plan in 2009. So far, the main issues surrounding the campaign have been the streetcar and parking plan — both of which Cranley opposes and Qualls supports. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is asking Ohioans to take up a long, complicated petitioning process that could lead to the repeal of some of the anti-abortion measures in the state budget. The process could force the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing some of the measures unrelated to appropriating state funds, or it could put the repeal effort on the ballot in November 2014. FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal campaign through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back. CityBeat covered the state budget and its anti-abortion provisions, which Republican Gov. John Kasich signed into law, in further detail here. A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy (CCPA), Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The school’s former superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on charges of theft for previously discovered incidents. CCPA is set to receive $6 million from the state in 2014, up 3 percent from the previous year.The state’s prison watchdog released a new report that found force is more often used against blacks in Ohio prisons. Nearly 65 percent of “use of force” incidents in 2012 involved blacks, even though they only make up about 46 percent of the total prison population. After analyzing reports from the first quarter, Hamilton County revised its estimates for casino revenue downward. That means $500,000 less in 2014 for the stadium fund, which has long presented problems for the county’s budget. Still, the county says the revision isn’t a big problem and the focus should instead be on the bigger problem: a looming $30 million budget gap. Following an approved transfer from the governor and his staff, Ohio’s “rainy day fund” hit an all-time record of $1.5 billion. The fund is typically tapped into during emergency economic situations in which the state must spend a lot of extra money or take extraordinary measures to fix a sudden budget shortfall. Cincinnati area exports reached a record high in 2012. Ohio is No. 4 in the nation for foreclosures, according to a report from real estate information company RealtyTrac. The report adds more doubt to claims that Ohio is undergoing some sort of unique economic recovery, following a string of reports that found year-over-year job growth is lacking in the state. Still, Ohio added more jobs than any other state in May. If the robust growth holds in the June job report due next week, it could be a great economic sign for the state. Early streetcar work is leading to a downtown street closure this weekend, presenting yet another sign that the project is moving forward. Earlier this week, CityBeat published the top 10 misrepresentations surrounding the streetcar project. New evidence suggests a fraction of disposable wells used during the hydraulic fracturing process — also known as “fracking” — cause earthquakes, but the risk can be averted with careful monitoring, according to the researchers. Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water underground to free up oil and gas reserves. CityBeat covered its effects in Ohio in further detail here. A nanoparticle device can kill germs with sunlight.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: Abortion, Budget, News at 03:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ed fitzgerald

FitzGerald Unveils Plan to Repeal Anti-Abortion Measures

State budget limits access to legal abortions through various changes

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is urging a coalition effort to begin a long, complicated petitioning process that could repeal some of the anti-abortion measures in the recently approved two-year state budget. If the petitioning process is successful, it would force the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing aspects of the budget that don’t involve appropriations of money. If the General Assembly changes, rejects or ignores the repeal proposal, it could be put on the ballot in November 2014.FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal effort through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back. Speaking at a press conference Thursday, FitzGerald also questioned the constitutionality of some of the anti-abortion measures, particularly those that require doctors give certain medical information regarding abortions and restrict publicly funded rape crisis centers from discussing abortion as a viable option. He said such rules might violate free speech rights. The state budget effectively defunds contraceptive care and other non-abortion services at various family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood. It also makes it more difficult for abortion clinics to establish mandatory patient transfer agreements with hospitals. The budget provides separate federal funding to crisis pregnancy centers, which act as the pro-abstinence, anti-abortion alternatives to comprehensive clinics like Planned Parenthood. The budget also gives money to rape crisis centers, but centers that take public funding are barred from discussing abortion as a viable option with rape victims. Days before the budget’s passage, Republican legislators also added an amendment that forces women to get an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion. As part of the amendment, doctors are required to inform the patient if a heartbeat is detected during the ultrasound and provide an estimate of the fetus’s chances of making it to birth. FitzGerald, who’s currently Cuyahoga County executive, plans to run against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014. Kasich signed the controversial state budget with the anti-abortion measures on June 30, despite calls for the governor to use his line-item veto powers — a move that would have kept the rest of the budget in place but repealed the anti-abortion provisions. CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: News, Education at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ccpa

Audit Finds More Problems at City's Largest Charter School

School administrators already accused of misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars

A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The school’s former superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on charges of theft for previously discovered incidents. The audit reviewed Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy’s (CCPA) records for fiscal year 2010, finding Stephanie Millard, the school’s former treasurer, was overpaid by $8,307. At the same time, founder and ex-superintendent Lisa Hamm used the school credit card for $8,495 in payments to the Cincinnati Bengals, Benihana Japanese Steakhouse, Wahoo Zip Lines, Omaha Steaks and Dixie Stampede. “These two officials saw no boundaries in how they used taxpayer dollars,” State Auditor Dave Yost said in a statement. “With each audit, we find more of the same: total disregard for the trust placed in them.” CCPA responded to the audit by stating it has terminated the credit card and replaced it with two debit cards, which supposedly have controls in place to require approval and keep track of who’s using the cards and for what. The school is also reviewing contracts for the next school year to ensure no further overpayments are made, on top of requiring payments be board-approved. In March, the school fired Hamm and Millard, and the two former school officials were indicted on 26 counts of theft in office. Their attorney, Mike Allen, claims the school board approved the spending, which could mean the women didn’t break any laws. In June, another special audit found CCPA had inappropriately spent $520,000 for various unnecessary expenditures, including bonuses, Christmas gifts, Nutrisystem weight loss products and Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber concerts. CCPA enrolls nearly 1,200 students for kindergarten through 12th grade, with more than 95 percent coming from low-income households, according to Ohio’s school report card data. The Ohio Department of Education gave the school’s K-12 building in the West End a “D” and its K-6 building in Madisonville a “B” for the 2011-2012 school year. The school is set to receive roughly $6 million in state dollars in 2014, up 3 percent from the year before. That follows the funding trend for Ohio’s charter schools, which are generally receiving more state money in the recently approved two-year state budget.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: News, Guns, Budget, Streetcar at 09:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover streetcar misrepresentations

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar project misrepresented, gun control battle continues, Media Bridges closing down

Ever since the Cincinnati streetcar has been envisioned, the mass transit project has been mired in misrepresentations driven largely by opponents and politicians. CityBeat has a breakdown of the misrepresentations here, showing some of the silliest and biggest falsehoods claimed by opponents and supporters. The national battle over gun control came to Cincinnati on July 4 when former Rep. Gabby Giffords stopped at the Northside parade to call for new restrictions on firearms. Giffords is part of a slew of national leaders calling for stronger regulations and enforcement for background checks — a policy more than nine in 10 Americans support. Still, the call seems to be politically unheard so far: Federal legislation is stalled in Congress, and Ohio legislators are working to loosen gun restrictions. Facing city budget cuts, public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting down by the end of the year. The city picked up Media Bridges’ funding after the organization lost state funding that had been provided through an agreement with Time Warner Cable. But city officials claim the local funding was supposed to act as a one-year reprieve and nothing more — a claim Media Bridges was apparently never made aware of until it was too late. To justify the cut, the city cites public surveys that ranked budget programs in terms of importance, but a look at the citizen surveys shows the demographics were skewed against low-income people who make the most use out of programs like Media Bridges. Check out CityBeat’s editorial content for this week’s issue:• German Lopez: “Meet Daniela,” the hypothetical victim of Republican policies at the state and national level.• Ben Kaufman: “‘Enquirer’ Takes Questionable Approach to Covering Meyers Ordination,” which analyzes the questionable apathy to a supposedly “illegal” ordination of a woman Catholic priest.• Kathy Wilson: “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” a look at the life story of South African leader Nelson Mandela and the hurdles he faced as he helped end discriminatory apartheid policies. If you’re headed to Fountain Square today, expect to see some images of bloodied fetuses and fetal limbs. An anti-abortion group is showing a video with the gruesome visuals as part of a protest against what it sees as “the greatest human rights injustice of our time.” The group defends its tactics by citing its First Amendment rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has so far refused to rule one way or the other on the issue, but, barring some restrictions for airwave broadcasts, the court typically protects all kinds of political speech as long as it’s not pornographic. The Cincinnati Police Department is changing how it responds to calls to focus on what it sees as the most important issues, such as impacting violent crime, youth intervention efforts, long-term problem solving projects, traffic safety and neighborhood quality-of-life issues. The biggest change will come with how the department reacts to minor traffic accidents: It will still respond, but it may not file a report. The so-far-unnamed Greater Cincinnati coalition working to reduce the local infant mortality rate set a goal yesterday: zero. It’s a dramatic vision for a region that, at 13.6, has an infant mortality rate more than twice the national average of six, as CityBeat covered here. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced in a statement yesterday that he will be gathering local leaders and health officials to encourage the state to expand Medicaid. The expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here, would save Ohio money and insure half a million Ohioans in the next decade, according to an analysis by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. Fish oils may increase the risk of prostate cancer, according to a new study. A measure that would disallow employers from discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals made it through a U.S. Senate committee yesterday. Cadillac’s Super Cruise could have the features to making self-driving cars viable. A device trains blind people to see by listening.
 
 

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