by German Lopez
Council OKs development deals, racial disparity study advances, no MSD compromise yet
City Council met yesterday for the first time since June and passed various development deals
that span six Cincinnati neighborhoods. The deals include a 15-year tax
abatement for the second phase of The Banks, which will produce 305
apartments and 21,000 square feet of retail space; several other
apartment projects; new Over-the-Rhine headquarters for Cintrifuse, a
small business and startup incubator; the redevelopment of Emanuel
Community Center; and a new homeless shelter for women in Mt. Auburn. The deals are expected to lead to 575 new apartments around the
city, which could help meet the high demand for new residential space
City Council also approved a motion
that asks the city administration to begin preparations for a disparity
study that would gauge whether the city should change its contracting
policies to favor minority- and women-owned businesses. The motion asks
the administration to either use part of the upfront money from
leasing the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority or find an alternative source of funding. The
study is required because of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, which
declared that governments must prove there’s racial or gender-based
disparity before changing policies to favor such groups. Since the city
disbanded its last minority- and women-owned business program in 1999,
contract participation rates have plummeted for minority-owned
businesses and remained relatively flat for women-owned businesses.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials still have not reached a compromise
on several local hiring and bidding policies for the Metropolitan Sewer
District (MSD), which is owned by the county but run by the city. A
moratorium on the controversial city policies expired on Aug. 1,
prompting county commissioners to block an upcoming MSD project in a
vote Wednesday. Councilman Chris Seelbach told WVXU that those working on a compromise just need a little more time, but he’s confident they’ll
be able to reach an agreement. City Council passed hiring and bidding
rules in May this year and June 2012 that require MSD contractors to
meet certain job training requirements that council members say will
lead to more local jobs, but county commissioners argue the standards
are too strenuous and favor unions. CityBeat covered the dispute in further detail here.
State Reps. Connie Pillich and Denise Driehaus of
Cincinnati will hold a press conference today asking Gov. John Kasich to
launch an ethics investigation into JobsOhio, the privatized
development agency. State Democrats have been particularly critical of JobsOhio
since a Dayton Daily News report
found six of nine JobsOhio board members have direct financial ties to
companies that have taken state aid from the development agency.
Republicans argue that JobsOhio’s secretive, privatized nature allows it
to expedite deals that bring businesses and jobs to the state, but
Democrats claim the set-up lacks transparency and fosters corruption.
Only one-third of Ohio school levies were approved in a special election Tuesday. Despite an increase in funding in the most recent two-year state budget, state funding to schools has been slashed since Gov. John Kasich took office.
The Charter Committee’s second round of endorsements for
this year’s City Council elections went to Democrats Greg Landsman and
David Mann and Republican Amy Murray. Previous endorsements went to Independents Kevin Flynn and Vanessa White and Democrat Yvette Simpson. The Charter Committee isn’t generally seen as a traditional political party, but it holds a lot of sway in local politics.
The Cincinnati Horseshoe Casino’s monthly revenue for July was higher than it was in June but lower than March. For local and state officials, the trend up is a welcome sign as they hope to tap into the casino for tax revenue.
Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s are facing a boycott for opposing legislation in Texas that would make it easier for women to sue over wage discrimination.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is finding a niche with smaller airlines like Ultimate Air.
An app dubbed “lockout insurance” lets users scan keys then 3-D print them.
by German Lopez
Mayor Mark Mallory praises day's work as "huge day of progress for Cincinnati"
City Council met today for the first time since June and passed several development deals and projects spanning six Cincinnati neighborhoods.The approved deals include a 15-year tax abatement for the second phase
of The Banks, which will produce 305 apartments and 21,000 square feet
of retail space; several other apartment projects; new Over-the-Rhine headquarters for Cintrifuse, a small
business and startup incubator; the redevelopment of Emanuel Community Center; and a new
homeless shelter for women in Mt. Auburn.The projects are expected to lead to 575 new apartments around the city. That could prove particularly timely for downtown Cincinnati, which is currently struggling to meet high demand from a growing market of aspiring property renters, leasers and buyers."Today is a huge day of progress for Cincinnati," Mayor Mark Mallory
said in the statement. "The momentum has been building in our city for a
while. And now, developers and businesses are lining up to do projects
in the city because they see all of the progress and they want to be a
part of it. This is the vision — our success is leading to more
success."Among the other items, Council passed a motion asking the city administration to look into a disparity study and a resolution condemning a ballot initiative that would change the city's pension program by pushing future public employees into a less generous 401K-style plan.Today's meeting was Council's only full session for July and August, which is why the agenda was so packed. That's irked some council members and critics, who argue Council should be in session for more of the summer."Council has no shortage of issues to consider and challenges to address — this should NOT be our only Council meeting of the summer," tweeted Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld during today's meeting.Council is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 11.
by German Lopez
Proposal uses parking lease funds to measure disparity among contracted businesses
Cincinnati council members and community leaders today explained and defended plans to use the parking lease to fund a disparity study that would gauge whether the city should change its contracting policies to favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses.But before City Council unanimously passed the motion at today's meeting, it was amended to allow the city administration to find alternate sources of funding.Since the city dismantled its last minority- and
women-owned business program in 1999, contract participation rates for
minority-owned businesses have plummeted, while rates for women-owned
businesses have remained relatively flat.But because of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, governments must conduct a study to prove there's a race- or gender-based disparity before policies can be adjusted to favor such groups.Cincinnati has not taken up a disparity study since 2002. That study found evidence of disparities but ultimately recommended race- and gender-neutral policies to avoid legal uncertainty that surrounded the issue at the time."This is an opportunity to respond to a complaint and
concern that has been around for as long as I can remember," Councilman
Wendell Young said.City officials claim they couldn't conduct another study until the administration finished implementing recommendations from OPEN Cincinnati, a task force established in 2009 after Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration were criticized for neglecting the city's small business program.But the holdup has also been brought on by the study's cost, which city officials currently estimate between $500,000 and $1.5 million. Some critics argue the money would be better spent elsewhere.Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who's running for mayor this year, defended the cost by explaining a disparity study can potentially lead to economic development by lifting minority groups, who currently face unemployment rates higher than white Cincinnati residents. She said it's on the city to ensure everyone, including women and minorities, benefit from Cincinnati's economic growth.Other critics, particularly mayoral candidate John Cranley, have criticized the motion's suggestion for funding. The motion asks the city administration to fund the study with part of the upfront money that will come from leasing the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but it does allow the city administration to find other funding options if possible.Cranley, who supports conducting a disparity study but opposes the parking lease, says the money should come from other, unnamed sources because parking funds are currently being held up while the city hashes out legal uncertainty surrounding the lease and the Port Authority works out contracts with private operators that will manage Cincinnati's parking assets.In response to those concerns, Qualls said that "money doesn't grow on trees" and Council has to make do with what it has.Councilman Chris Seelbach voted against the parking lease, but he supports using parking funds for the disparity study. He says that, while he may have voted against the lease, the vote is done and the money is there.The amended motion was unanimously passed by City Council today. It asks the city administration to present a budget and timetable for the study at the Budget and Finance Committee's first October meeting.Updated at 3:18 p.m. with results of City Council meeting.
5 Comments · Wednesday, August 7, 2013
It’s impossible to separate what happened
in Washington Park on Aug. 3 and Aug. 4 from the economic
revitalization Cincinnati has achieved in the past few years.
by German Lopez
Voting begins for mayoral primary, Cintrifuse to get OTR home, The Banks moves forward
Early voting for the mayoral primary election begins
today. The top two winners of this round of voting will go head-to-head in the
Nov. 5 election. The candidates: Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who supports the streetcar and parking lease; ex-Councilman John Cranley, a Democrat who opposes the streetcar and parking lease; Jim Berns, the Libertarian who attempted to withdraw from the race but changed his mind a day later; and Sandra “Queen” Noble, an eccentric Independent candidate who sent an F-bomb-laden email to debate organizers.
Cincinnati Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved the construction of Over-the-Rhine headquarters
for Cintrifuse, the startup incubator. The company has been working
from a temporary location downtown, but it claims it needs a better space
to continue attracting businesses, particularly those in the tech
field. Cintrifuse will be joined in its new home by CincyTech and the
Brandery. Although all council members voiced support for Cintrifuse,
Councilman Chris Seelbach disputed using Focus 52 funds to build the new
headquarters. The city administration previously told Seelbach that the
Focus 52 money wouldn’t be used to further develop Over-the-Rhine,
which has received a disproportionate amount of city funding to spur the
The committee also approved changes for the next phase of The Banks,
which will include retail space and a nine-story apartment building with about 305
apartments. The first phase of The Banks filled
up fast and won a top award
— two big positives the city and county obviously hope to replicate with the next leg of the project.
It’s now up to the development team behind
the project and the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to approve the next phase.
Council members and city officials voiced opposition yesterday to a tea party campaign to change Cincinnati’s pension system.
Council members acknowledged the current pension system has problems, but they
called the campaign, which is currently gathering petitions to get a proposal
on the November ballot, misguided and flawed. The proposal would change
the city’s pension system to use a defined contribution model similar to
401k plans that are common in the private sector. But just like private
sector plans, the new system might require paying into Social Security, which would
make the plan more expensive for Cincinnati.
Ohio House Republicans are being asked to hold oversight hearings
for JobsOhio, the state-funded, privatized development agency that has
been mired in controversy in the past few weeks. Most recently, Dayton Daily News
discovered that some members of the JobsOhio board are employed by, on
the board of or stockholders in companies that are receiving state aid
through JobsOhio. Republicans say JobsOhio’s privatized and secretive
nature allow it to move faster with deals that attract businesses and
jobs to the state, but Democrats argue the agency is too unaccountable
and might be wasting and misusing taxpayer money.
Billy Slagle, the convicted murderer who apparently hung himself over the weekend, died without knowing of a plea deal that could have prevented his scheduled execution. CityBeat wrote about Slagle’s case in further detail here.
The Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is upset that charges have been dropped against an allegedly abusive Amish dog breeder.
The group had pushed for charges against Jonas Beachy, the breeder,
after 52 dogs were pulled from his central Ohio farm with dental disease, feces-smeared coats and paws mangled by wire mesh
cages. Circleville Law Director Gary Kenworthy conditionally dismissed
the charges because of problems securing veterinarian records for the
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS)
announced in a statement today that the Ohio Human Trafficking Task
Force, the Ohio Department of Public Safety and ODJFS will be working
with the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers to help minors who
are victims of human trafficking. The new collaboration is seen as
another step to stop human trafficking in Ohio, an issue that has haunted the state in the past.
Metro’s bus service is adding routes and changing connections on Aug. 18.
BuzzFeed has a list of “31 Ways To Tell You’re From Cincinnati,” but the list reads like something from 2001. Who’s avoiding Over-the-Rhine with all its new restaurants and after LumenoCity?
Popular Science has a rundown on how 3-D printing body parts will revolutionize medicine.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:50 PM | Permalink
Food stamp program losing temporary funding boost
With a temporary boost to the federal food stamp program
coming to an end this November, more than 1.8 million Ohioans — 16 percent of the state’s population — will receive significantly less food aid, according to an Aug. 2
report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
The report calculates that the cut is the equivalent to
taking away 21 meals per month for a family of four. After the cut,
the food stamp program will provide each person with less than $1.40 per meal,
according to CBPP’s calculations.
Citing research from the USDA that shows many low-income
families still fail to meet basic standards for food security, CBPP says
the cuts will hit families that arguably need more, not less, help:
“Given this research and the growing awareness of the inadequacy of the
current SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit
allotments, we can reasonably assume that a reduction in SNAP benefit
levels of this size will significantly increase the number of poor
households that have difficulty affording adequate food this fall.”
Although the federal food stamp program has been cut
before, it’s never been cut to this extent, according to CBPP. “There
have been some cuts in specific states, but these cuts have not
typically been as large or affected as many people as what will occur
this November,” the report reads.
The reductions could also have a broader economic impact:
Every $1 increase in food aid generates about $1.70 in economic
activity, according to progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio.
“Ohio’s foodbanks and hunger charities cannot respond to
increasing hunger on their own,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive
director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, in a statement released
by Policy Matters. “SNAP takes Ohioans out of our food pantry lines and
puts them into grocery store checkout lines. It provides supplemental
food to the most vulnerable among us. Now is not the time to further
reduce this already modest assistance to struggling families.”
About 48 percent of Cincinnati children are in poverty, according to a 2011 study from the National Center for Children in Poverty. Despite that, city funding to human services that benefits low-income families has been cut throughout the past decade. CityBeat covered that issue in greater detail here.
The cut to the federal food stamp program kicks in
automatically in November instead of the original April 2014 sunset date
as a result of laws passed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and
Congress. Obama and congressional Democrats are now urging legislation
that would remedy the situation, but it’s unlikely anything will pass
the gridlocked Congress.
Republicans are preparing a bill that would further cut
the food stamp program, which they see as too generous and expensive.
From Fox News:
“Reps. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, two
Republicans who helped design the bill, said the legislation would find
the savings by tightening eligibility standards and imposing new work
requirements. It would also likely try to reduce the rolls by requiring
drug testing and barring convicted murderers, rapists and pedophiles
from receiving food stamps.”
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:32 AM | Permalink
Metropolitan area adds jobs, but not enough to match population growth
The Cincinnati metropolitan area created more jobs in June, but the
growth wasn’t enough to keep up with population trends, and it coincided
with other negative factors.
The June numbers, released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, showed Cincinnati adding 3,300 more jobs between May and June. But the region only added 600 jobs in the past year, far short of the 3,000 it must add on an annual basis to match population growth.
As more people entered the job market, the amount of
unemployed people looking for work rose month-over-month, while
it slightly decreased in a year-to-year comparison.
Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit
7.4 percent in June, up from 6.8 percent in May and the same as the year
With seasonally unadjusted numbers, economists typically
prefer looking at year-over-year trends to control for seasonal factors,
such as increased summer hiring. Job numbers at the state and federal
levels are normally seasonally adjusted, but local numbers aren’t.
The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate for Ohio was
7.5 percent in June, up from 7.4 percent last year. The U.S. seasonally
unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, down from 8.4 percent.
Although the report was mixed for Cincinnati, the area has
been getting good economic news lately. In June, local housing
sales increased despite higher interest rates. In a July 22 segment, CNBC host Joe Kernen, a Western Hills native, declared, “Cincinnati has successfully reinvented itself as a hub for innovation” and technology.
by German Lopez
Port wants parking lease money, Ohio No. 2 for job losses, Kasich plans more tax cuts
New documents acquired by The Cincinnati Enquirer show the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority wants $27 million of the city’s $92 million parking lease.
The Port Authority, a city-funded development agency, says it would use
the money for various projects around the city. The request, which has
been supported by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, may explain why the Port
Authority inexplicably took four days to sign its lease agreement with the city:
It wanted some of the money for itself. The city is leasing its parking
meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which will then hire
various private operators from around the country to manage the assets.
The deal will provide $92 million up front and at least $3 million a
year afterward, which the city plans to use for development projects and
to plug budget gaps.
Ohio lost the No. 2 most jobs in the nation last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That pushed the state unemployment rate to 7.2 percent in June, up from 7 percent in May, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services
found. The state lost 12,500 jobs in June, with the private sector
showing losses across the board. The month’s big losses mean the state
has only added 15,000 jobs in the past year, even though the state
actually topped job growth in May with more than 32,000 new jobs. In
June, Pew Charitable Trusts found Ohio was the No. 46 state for job growth between April 2012 and April this year.
Gov. John Kasich says he wants to further cut state taxes to reduce the bracket for the wealthiest Ohioans
to less than 5 percent. Such a cut could require raising regressive
taxes that put more of a burden on the state’s poorest, such as the
sales tax. The latest two-year state budget, which Kasich signed into
law, did just that, as CityBeat previously covered:
It cut income taxes in a way that favored the wealthy, then it raised
sales taxes in a way that forced the lowest-income Ohioans to pay more.
A report released yesterday suggests Ohio taxpayers could be on the hook for costs
if something goes wrong at an oil and gas drilling operation. The
Environment Ohio report finds the state’s regulations on “fracking,” an
oil and gas extraction process, require too little financial assurance
from drilling companies to dissuade dangerous risks. In Ohio, fracking
well operators are required to secure $5,000 in upfront bonds per well, but even those payments can be avoided through regulatory
loopholes. At the same time, damage caused by fracking can cost
communities and the state millions of dollars, and simply reclaiming the
well and its property can cost hundreds of thousands.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters says he wouldn’t have prosecuted George Zimmerman,
the man who shot and killed an unarmed black 17-year-old last year in
Florida. Zimmerman was found not guilty of manslaughter and
second-degree murder by a jury on July 13 after he claimed self-defense.
A lack of local access to healthy foods was linked to higher obesity rates
in a study released yesterday. That could be troubling news for
Avondale and other Cincinnati neighborhoods that are deemed “food
deserts,” areas that don’t have reasonable access to healthy foods. CityBeat covered the efforts of some city officials, including Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, to end food deserts here.
Cincinnati is looking for feedback on local bike projects.
The American Civil Liberties Union is asking Ohio to avoid shutting off electricity in state prisons,
calling the practice “dangerous” as temperatures approach 100
degrees. Ohio’s prisons have already shut down electricity twice in the
afternoon this week and relied on backup generators. The shutdowns are commonly deployed as part of a power
agreement that’s generated $1.3 million for the state since 2010.
Harris Teeter Supermarkets shareholders are suing to stop a planned acquisition from Kroger.
Detroit yesterday became the biggest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy.
An “invisibility wetsuit” hides people from sharks.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:28 AM | Permalink
Another statistic adds doubt to state’s economic recovery
A new report shows Ohio has the fourth highest housing
foreclosure rate in the nation — another troubling statistic for a state
that, according to state officials, is supposed to be undergoing a
major economic boom.
The report from RealtyTrac,
a real estate information company, put Ohio’s foreclosure rate at 0.96
percent during the first half of 2013, a 2-percent increase from a
comparable period in 2012.
Ohio’s foreclosure rate beat only Florida (1.74 percent), Nevada (1.4 percent) and Illinois (1.2 percent) in the rankings.
Ohio’s bump up in foreclosures defies the national trend:
Foreclosure starts are on track to hit about 800,000 this year, down
from 1.1 million in 2012, according to RealtyTrac. The recovery follows
the 2007-2008 recession and the housing crisis that helped cause it,
which led to a spike in foreclosures.
State officials, particularly Gov. John Kasich, often
claim Ohio has led the nation in job and economic growth following the
recession, but recent statistics have raised doubts about the claim.
A June 16 infographic from Pew Charitable Trusts found Ohio was the No. 46 state for job creation between April 2012 and April of this year, supporting claims from liberal and conservative think tanks that Ohio’s job growth has been stagnating in the past year.
Still, Ohio had a 7 percent unemployment rate in May, lower than the national rate of 7.6 percent.
The state also added 32,100 jobs in May — more than any
other state for that month. Whether that job growth holds up will be
made clearer on July 19, when the Ohio Department of Job and Family
Services will release state job numbers for June.
Kasich on June 30 signed a state budget approved by the
Republican-controlled General Assembly that Republicans claim will spur
further job growth, but a CityBeat analysis calls that claim into question.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Republican policies are driving Ohioans — particularly the poor, women and minorities — into a perpetual cycle of near-poverty, and the victims sometimes can't even vote against it.