by German Lopez
State could block JobsOhio audit, council approves budget, streetcar budget fixes in June
The Ohio Senate sent a bill to Gov. John Kasich that prevents the state auditor from auditing private funds
at JobsOhio and other publicly funded private entities. State Auditor
Dave Yost has been pursuing a full audit of JobsOhio in the past few
months, but state Republicans, led by Kasich, have opposed the audit.
Ohio Democrats were quick to respond to the bill by asking what JobsOhio
and Republicans have to hide. JobsOhio is a privatized development
agency established by Kasich and Republican legislators meant to eventually
replace the Ohio Department of Development.
City Council passed an operating budget
yesterday that slashes several city services but prevents laying off
cops and firefighters. Human services funding, which goes to programs
that aid the homeless and poor, is getting some of the largest cuts,
continuing what Josh Spring of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition
says is a decade-long trend that has brought down human services
funding from 1.5 percent of the budget to 0.3 percent. The budget also
makes cuts to other programs and raises property taxes and several fees.
City Council will likely vote in June on how to fix the
streetcar budget gap. So far, the only known plan is the city manager’s
proposal, which would pull funding from various capital funding sources.
The streetcar budget is part of the capital budget, which can’t be used
to balance the operating budget because of limits established in state
The Ohio Senate budget bill increases education funding
over the Ohio House bill. The Senate bill raises the limit on how much a
school district can see its state funding increase, potentially putting
fast-growing suburban schools at an advantage. The House and Senate
bills use a model that gives schools base funding for each pupil — a
model entirely different from Kasich’s proposal, which critics labeled wrongheaded and regressive.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted broke a tie vote in the Hamilton County Board of Elections that will send 39 more “double voters” to the prosecutor.
In most cases, the “double voter” filed an absentee ballot and voted
in-person with a provision ballot on Election Day. The provisional
ballots always ended up being tossed out, but Republicans say they want
to find out if there were any bad intentions. Board of Elections
Chairman Tim Burke, who’s also head of the Hamilton County Democratic
Party, called Husted’s decision a “travesty,” labeling the investigation a
“witch hunt, aimed at scaring the hell out of voters.” Husted, a
Republican, said the cases at least deserve an investigation, even if
they don’t lead to an indictment.
Mayor Mark Mallory and local business leaders are calling
on Congress to take up immigration reform, which they argue will come as
a boost to the economy. “In order to continue to have the strongest
economy in the world, we need to have the most innovative and creative
ideas being developed right here in Cincinnati and across the country,”
Mallory said in a statement. “That requires the best and brightest
talent from around the globe being welcomed to our country through a
fair and sound system of immigration.”
WVXU says the list of local bike friendly destinations keeps growing.
Traveling to Mars could get someone fried by radiation.
1 Comment · Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Commissioners' proposal to cut streetcar funding not only ignores contractual obligations, but it neglects the federal grant's sole purpose.
by German Lopez
Medical marijuana advances, commissioners threaten streetcar, voter fraud report released
If you have any questions about Cincinnati, CityBeat’s staff will do its very best to answer if you submit them here.
The Ohio Ballot Board certified an amendment
that would legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp in Ohio.
Petitioners will now have to gather 385,253 signatures to get the issue
on the ballot — most likely this year or 2014. CityBeat previously covered Ohio’s medical marijuana movement in greater detail here.
Republican county commissioners are asking the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments to pull $4 million in streetcar funding,
but the city says OKI can’t legally do it. Commissioners Greg Hartmann
and Chris Monzel, who are also members of the OKI board, made the
request in a letter. City spokesperson Meg Olberding says OKI was simply
an agency that passed the money along as it worked through the Federal
Transit Administration (FTA) to OKI to the Southwest Ohio Regional
Transportation Authority (SORTA), and the agreement doesn’t allow OKI to
interfere any further. This morning, the city’s Twitter account
tweeted, “City has confirmed with Feds that OKI cannot pull streetcar $
bc funds are already obligated to this federal project.”
Ohio released its first ever statewide report on voter fraud yesterday, called the “Post-2012 General Election Voter Fraud Report.”
Secretary of State Jon Husted said the report shows voter fraud exists,
but it’s “not an epidemic.” That coincides with previous findings from
researchers: An extensive study of the nation’s databases by News21, a
Carnegie-Knight journalism initiative, found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Ohio Democrats are proposing more accountability rules
for JobsOhio, including adherence to public record laws, open meeting
laws, state ethics laws for employees and full state audits. JobsOhio is
a privatized nonprofit agency established by Gov. John Kasich and
Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of
Development. They claim the privatized nature of the agency allows it to
respond to economic problems more quickly, but Democrats say the agency
redirects public funds with minimal oversight.
Cincinnati will host a march against genetically modified organisms
Saturday as part of the international March Against Monsanto. The
movement’s organizers are calling on participants that explain the facts
of genetically modified organisms, encouraging “no slandering, no
opinions or paper — just facts.” The protest is scheduled for 1 p.m. at
A.G. Lafley is reclaiming the top spot at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. The company says the change is not part of a deeper issue.
The 35th annual Taste of Cincinnati begins tomorrow.
Win or lose, the University of Cincinnati baseball team has a lot of fun.
An adorable Labrador Retriever puppy had her heart cured after a minimally invasive heart procedure — the first ever in the Tri-State.
Salamanders have some lessons for humans when it comes to regrowing limbs.
by German Lopez
As local officials struggle with streetcar and interchange, report demands new direction
Americans are driving less, and fewer Americans are driving, according to a May 14 report
from the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), an advocacy
organization. For Cincinnati, the trend might justify a recent shift in
public policy that embraces more transportation options, including more
bike lanes and a streetcar.
“Americans drive fewer total miles today than we did eight
years ago, and fewer per person than we did at the end of Bill
Clinton’s first term,” the report reads. “The unique combination of
conditions that fueled the Driving Boom — from cheap gas prices to the
rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation — no
longer exists. Meanwhile, a new generation — the Millennials — is
demanding a new American Dream less dependent on driving.”
The report also says U.S. transportation policy “remains stuck in the past” and needs to “hit the ‘reset’ button.”
The report, which uses U.S. Department of Transportation
data from 2012, found Americans were driving about 9,000 miles a year
per person in 2012, down from a peak of nearly 10,000 in 2004. Until the
peak, Americans had been driving more miles each year since the end of
World War II.
The report finds the driving trend at odds with other means of transportation: “On the other
hand, Americans took nearly 10 percent more trips via public
transportation in 2011 than we did in 2005. The nation also saw
increases in commuting by bike and on foot.”
The report attributes much of the shift to millennials,
members of the generation born between 1983 and 2000, which the report
says are more likely to demand public transportation and urban and
walkable neighborhoods. The new expectations are
largely driven by Internet-connected technologies, which are “rapidly
spawning new transportation options and shifting the way young Americans
relate to one another, creating new avenues for living connected,
vibrant lives that are less reliant on driving,” according to the
PIRG finds the trend will likely stick as gas
prices continue to rise, fewer Americans participate in the labor force
and Americans demands less time spent in travel.
Even if millennials begin driving more in the future, the
report’s findings show Americans are going to be driving much less in
2040 than federal agencies currently assume. “This raises the question
of whether changing trends in driving are being adequately factored
into public policy,” the report reads.
The report concludes local, state and federal governments
should react to the new trend by planning for uncertainty, accommodating
millennials’ demands, reviewing the need for more highway projects,
adapting federal priorities, using transportation funds based on cost-benefit analyses and conducting more transportation research.
For Cincinnati, the trend could have implications for two
major transportation projects: the MLK/I-71 Interchange and the
The streetcar project uses capital funding sources — some uniquely tied to mass transit projects — that some opponents argue should be reallocated to support the MLK/I-71 Interchange project.
But the report’s findings seem to support the city’s
current plans to push forward with mass transit projects like the streetcar, even while
local funding for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project remains uncertain.
After making changes based on feedback from public
meetings, the Ohio Department of Transportation priced the interchange
project at $80 million to $102 million, or $10 million to $32 million
higher than the previous estimate of $70 million.
The higher price didn’t lead to the same outcry that resulted from the streetcar project’s $17.4 million cost overrun, likely because of the interchange project’s broader support, secure state funding and feedback-driven circumstances.
Still, the city could share some of the higher cost burden
for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project. Previously, the city planned to
use funds raised by leasing its parking assets to the Port Authority for the interchange, but that plan is currently being held up in court.
In 2012, the city adopted Plan Cincinnati,
the city’s first master plan since 1980. The plan advocates for more
alternative methods of public transportation, particularly light rail
and bike lanes. But the master plan does not establish means of funding,
so City Council will have to approve funding over time to implement the
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
At a Budget and Finance Committee meeting
on May 13, City Council members grilled City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
on how the city will fix the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
WEDNESDAY MAY 8: Some people would rather go to jail than
have to set foot inside a mall. Thanks to a recently announced event by
the Springdale Police Department and several other local agencies, the
two experiences will become more alike starting next week.
6 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Forget the bickering, back-and-forth and ballot measures. What we’re now doing — and I use “we” to
mean whomever accesses city coffers or pulls capital and/or operating
budget purse strings — is putting the streetcar before public good and
by German Lopez
Police chief leaving to Detroit, council scrutinizes streetcar, Anna Louise Inn sold
The city confirmed today that Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig
will be leaving Cincinnati to take a job in Detroit. During Craig’s
time, the city experienced a significant drop in crime. City officials praised Craig for his attempts to forge better ties between the
Cincinnati Police Department and local communities, particularly by establishing
the External Advisory Committee, a group of active local
community members and business leaders that gives advice on the police department’s policies and procedures. City Manager
Milton Dohoney Jr. said the city will begin a nationwide search for
Craig’s replacement tomorrow.
Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB) is selling the Anna Louise Inn to Western & Southern for $4 million,
and CUB will be relocating the Inn’s services to Mount Auburn. Many Anna Louise Inn
supporters are taking the sale as a sign Western & Southern won,
while others are glad the extensive legal battles are finally over. The
sale came after years of Western & Southern obstructing the planned renovations for the Anna Louise
Inn through court battles and other legal challenges, which CityBeat covered here. In a Q&A with The Cincinnati Enquirer,
Western & Southern CEO John Barrett reflected on the events, saying
his company took the “high road” throughout the controversy — a claim many Anna Louise Inn supporters dispute.
City Council grilled Dohoney
yesterday over fixing the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget gap and
whether paying for the cost overruns to save the project is worth it.
Supporters of the streetcar pushed questions and comments that touted
the streetcar project’s return on investment, which was further
supported by Dohoney’s testimony and previous studies
from HDR, a consulting firm, and the University of Cincinnati.
Opponents suggested the cost overruns were too much and the project,
which now stands at $133 million, is too expensive. A final decision is
expected by the end of May. The streetcar project’s funding comes from
the capital budget, which can’t be used to fix the city’s $35 million
operating budget deficit because of limits established in state law.
The city and county governments are clashing over the city’s hiring policies
for companies bidding on the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD)
construction projects. The city’s laws require construction
firms to have apprenticeship programs, which the city says promotes job
training on top of employment. But the Hamilton County Board of
Commissioners claims the requirements aren’t feasible and put too much
of a strain on companies. Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune
questioned why the city’s policy only applies to MSD and not other local
The Duke Energy Garden is the latest addition to the Smale Riverfront Park.
A Catholic teacher union will not support Carla Hale,
a gay Columbus-area teacher who was fired after she named her
girlfriend in an obituary for her mother. Hale says she was fired over
her sexuality, but the Catholic Church says she was fired for revealing a
“quasi-spousal relationship” outside of marriage. The Catholic Church
opposes same-sex marriage, which means all gay couples are in a
non-marital relationship under the Church’s desired policies.The Internal Revenue Service scandal, which involves IRS officials unfairly scrutinizing conservative groups, is now nationwide. Previous reports pinned the practice on a Cincinnati field office, but numerous IRS offices around the country, including one in Washington, D.C., were found to be guilty of the practice in documents acquired by The Washington Post.
Headline from The Columbus Dispatch: “Man who killed wife, then self: ‘I couldn’t take her mouth anymore.’”
The brain catches grammar errors even when a person doesn’t realize it.
by German Lopez
City manager, council members discuss streetcar funding
At a Budget and Finance Committee meeting today, City
Council members grilled City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. on how the city
will fix the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget gap and whether
paying for the cost overrun to save the project is worth it.
Supporters of the streetcar pushed questions and comments
that suggested the streetcar will provide the city with a large return on investment, which was
supported by Dohoney’s testimony and previous studies from HDR, a consulting
firm, and the University of Cincinnati (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
Opponents suggested the cost overruns were too much, and
the project, which the city manager said now stands at an estimated $132 million to $133 million, is
In a memo issued April 30, Dohoney recommended various capital funding sources
to fix the streetcar budget gap, including a temporary reallocation of
Music Hall renovation funds and money that would have otherwise gone to infrastructure projects around the
Dohoney clarified that funding for Music Hall is not being
permanently pulled; instead, his recommendations would delay Music Hall funding
until 2016, which is when the Music Hall project will need the funds, and use currently allocated funding on the streetcar project.
Dohoney added that Otto Budig, president of the Music Hall
Revitalization Company, raised no concerns about the streetcar plan
after it was explained to him.
Dohoney also clarified that his recommendations would not raise taxes.
A few council members, particularly Councilman Chris
Seelbach, asked whether the streetcar project could face future cost
overruns. Dohoney said it’s possible, based on the project’s scope.
“For major projects like this … there is usually an
anticipation that something other than the exact plan may occur
somewhere along the line,” Dohoney said.
For the streetcar project, there are a few remaining uncertainties. Dohoney said he doesn’t know for certain whether Messer
Construction, which responded to the city’s bid process with the lowest construction bid, is still willing
to contract with the city under the terms it previously offered. He said Messer officials have indicated they are still interested, but it remains an uncertainty until a contract is in place.
Another uncertainty is exactly how much laying down the
tracks will cost. Dohoney said it won’t be possible to gauge the exact
cost until Messer or any other company contracts with the city and
begins actual work on the project.
But for those situations, Dohoney said the streetcar project has a $10 million contingency fund available, as required by the federal government.
Councilman Chris Smitherman, who opposes the streetcar project, asked whether there’s a
funding ceiling that, if breached, would make Dohoney stop supporting
the streetcar project. Dohoney said he could not provide a number
without further thought and analysis. When Smitherman later asked if the streetcar
should be built at any cost, Dohoney said no.
When asked what would happen if the project’s cost overruns were not covered, Dohoney said the project would effectively end.
Smitherman asked how the city administration can be
pushing forward with the project, given the cost overruns: “How is the
administration continuing to move forward with a project that without a
vote of council is dead?”
Dohoney responded by saying the city administration does not have to stop by law until it is directed to do so by City Council.
Ending the project would come with its own costs of about
$72 million, according to Dohoney: $19.7 million that was already spent,
$14.2 million in close-out costs and $38.1 million in federal grants
that would have to be returned to the federal government.Dohoney said stopping would also make the federal government reluctant about working with Cincinnati in the future: “They’ve let us know they would not be pleased if we did it.”The city administration is currently working with the federal government to obtain another $5 million that could be used for contingency or to undo some of the overrun fixes being looked at, but federal officials are waiting to see how the city government reacts to the current cost overrun problems before a decision is made, according to Dohoney.
Much of the City Council discussion focused on the streetcar’s merits,
particularly whether the first phase of the project, which would run
from The Banks to just north of Findlay Market, could be successful on its own. The
city plans to eventually expand the route to the University of
Cincinnati and hospitals uptown — a route originally part of the first phase of the streetcar project that was cut after Gov. John Kasich pulled $52 million in state-distributed federal funding in 2011.
“If the intent of the streetcar would only be to go from
The Banks to just north of Findlay Market, then I never would have said
it's a project worth doing,” Dohoney said. “The intention has always
been to connect the two major employment centers of the city and go
But Dohoney later clarified that the first phase of the
project would help invigorate hundreds of vacant lots and buildings in
Over-the-Rhine, which he said would make that phase of the project a
success by itself.
Some opponents of the streetcar have incorrectly attempted
to tie the streetcar project to the city’s $35 million operating budget
deficit, which will likely be closed in part by laying off cops, firefighters and other city employees.
But the streetcar project’s funding comes from the capital budget,
which can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of limits
established in state law.
by German Lopez
Council to discuss streetcar, bills would protect LGBT, CPS to prevent data scrubbing
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is set to discuss the plan to close the streetcar budget gap today, which was proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
on April 30. The plan borrows funding from various capital funding
sources, including a temporary reallocation of Music Hall funds and
money from infrastructure projects surrounding the Horseshoe Casino.
None of the funding pulled can be used to balance the city’s $35 million
operating budget deficit, which is leading to cop and firefighter layoffs, because of limits established in state law
between capital budgets and operating budgets.
A group of bipartisan Ohio legislators proposed bills in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate that would change the state’s anti-discrimination law
to cover gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The
measures would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the
state’s anti-discrimination law, joining 21 other states and the
District of Columbia, which already have similar laws.The bills have to
be approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Republican
Gov. John Kasich to become law.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is making changes to prevent attendance data scrubbing following an audit in February
that criticized CPS for the practice. The school district says internal
investigations found no employees intentionally scrubbed data, but the
changes being made should help prevent further problems in the future. The
state auditor’s February report seemed to blame state policy over
individual school districts for the findings. Attendance data scrubbing
can make schools look much better in state reports, which could lead to
increased funds or less regulatory scrutiny from the state.
An audit revealed that the IRS targeted tea party groups
that were critical of government and attempted to educate people on the
U.S. Constitution. The extra scrutiny originated at a
Cincinnati field office.
Most Ohio public university presidents are paid more than the nationwide median salary for the job.
The two brothers of the Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for about a decade say they have no sympathy for him. One of them called his brother a “monster.”
Ohio gas prices are down this week.
A new study found people can better calm themselves down
by watching their brains on scanners. Participants learned how to
control activity in a certain brain region after just two sessions.
Watch a Canadian astronaut perform David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in space: