by German Lopez
10 days ago
at 09:23 AM | Permalink
Anna Louise Inn rally today, casino revenue drops, Ohio's business climate improves
Supporters of the Anna Louise Inn, the women-only shelter near Lytle Park, will hold a rally in front of the Hamilton County
Courthouse at noon today, which was supposed to be the day Western &
Southern and Anna Louise Inn owner Cincinnati Union Bethel met in court
again. The court date has been delayed as the controversy continues to
grow. The legal battle surrounds Western & Southern’s attempts to
take over the Anna Louise Inn property and build a luxury hotel in its
stead. After Western & Southern failed to buy the Inn at below
market value in 2009, the financial giant has taken to court challenges to
slow down government-funded renovations at the property and seemingly
force Cincinnati Union Bethel to give up and sell. CityBeat’s extensive coverage about the Anna Louise Inn can be found here.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino dropped to the No. 3 spot
for Ohio casino revenue last month, losing out to casinos in Columbus and
Cleveland. The Horseshoe Casino brought in adjusted gross revenues of
$17.8 million, according to figures released by the Ohio Casino Control
Commission. With the drop, the city’s projections of bringing in $10 million to
$12 million in casino tax revenue for the year are looking far more
Ohio’s business climate is the most improved in the nation,
with Ohio’s rank going from No. 35 in 2012 to No. 22 this year,
according to the annual survey of CEOs by Chief Executive Magazine. The
improved ranking comes despite Ohio losing half a star in “workforce
quality” and “taxation and regulations” between 2012 and 2013.
But the ranking doesn’t seem to be translating to real jobs,
considering both liberal and conservative think tanks seemingly agree
Ohio is not undergoing an “economic miracle.”
If the city fails to restore its emergency powers through court battles, it could ask voters to reinstate the powers
on the November ballot, according to City Solicitor John Curp. Previously, the city used emergency clauses to
remove 30-day waiting periods on laws and effectively remove the ability
for voters to referendum, but opponents of the city’s parking plan
say the City Charter does not explicitly remove referendum rights. So
far, courts have sided against the city; if that holds, voters will have
to rework the City Charter to restore the powers.
A study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found nurse-to-patient ratios really do matter.
Charles Ramsey, the man who allegedly helped save three
kidnapped women and a child in Cleveland, has become an Internet
sensation because of his expressive interview with a TV news station. Read more on the kidnappings at the Toledo Blade.
A 32-year-old Hamilton man jumped on a moving train because, according to him, he’s filming an action movie.
News of massacres and gun violence can seem pretty bleak
at times, but it’s worth remembering gun homicides in the United States
are down 49 percent since 1993. The analysis from The Washington Post and Pew Research points to economic conditions, stricter prison sentences and lead abatement as driving factors, but it’s also worth noting the Brady Act,
which requires background checks on many firearm purchases, passed in
1993 and went into effect in 1994, around the time the dip in gun
Teachers, rejoice. New software can teach photocopiers to grade papers.
A vaccine halts heroin addiction in rats, and it’s now ready for human trials.
by German Lopez
39 days ago
Local casino tops revenue, streetcar could get new director, Medicaid expansion to fail
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino topped state casino revenues last month,
translating to $1.4 million in casino tax revenue for the city in
March. If the trend holds — a huge if, considering March was opening
month for the Horseshoe Casino — the city would get $16.8 million a
year, which would be above previous estimates from the state and city
but below estimates presented in mayoral candidate John Cranley’s budget plan.
Cranley and other city officials say casino revenue could be used to
avoid laying off cops and firefighters to balance the budget, but the
city manager’s office says it wouldn’t be enough.Two City Council decisions yesterday will allow the current project manager for The Banks to take over the streetcar project.
The two 5-4 decisions from City Council came in the middle of a tense
budget debate that could end with the layoff of 344 city employees,
including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. But John Deatrick, who could be
hired as executive director of the streetcar project as a result of the
measures, says his salary would come from the capital budget, which is
separate from the general fund that needs to be balanced in light of
structural deficit problems.
House Republicans are poised to reject
Gov. John Kasich’s proposed Medicaid expansion. The expansion, which
was part of Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal, would have saved the
state money and insured 456,000 Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health
Policy Institute of Ohio. But it would have done so mostly with federal
funds, which state legislators worry will not be there years down the
line. The Medicaid expansion was one of the few aspects of Kasich’s
budget that state Democrats supported. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here.
PolitiFact Ohio gave Kasich a “Pants on Fire” rating
for his claim that his transportation budget and Ohio Turnpike plan “would make sure we have lower tolls than we’ve had through the history
of the turnpike.” PolitiFact explains: “Yes, the bill aims to keep tolls
from rising faster than the pace of inflation -- a practice that would
stand in contrast to KPMG’s findings from the past 20 years. And, yes,
the bill freezes tolls for 10 years on a small, targeted cross-section
of turnpike users. But not only are higher tolls a part of Kasich’s
plan, they are integral to the concept. The increased revenue will allow
the state to issue bonds to finance other projects. Furthermore, the
inflation cap is not written into the law, and the state has an out from
the local EZ-Pass freeze.”
Melissa Wegman will be the third Republican
to enter the City Council race. Wegman is a first-time candidate and
businesswoman from East Price Hill. She will be joining fellow
Republicans Amy Murray and incumbent Charlie Winburn.The struggling Kenwood Towne Place will be renamed Kenwood Collection as part of a broader redesign.
One program in President Barack Obama’s budget plan would task NASA with pulling asteroids to our moon’s orbit,
where the asteroids could then be studied and mined. The Obama
administration says the program will only involve small asteroids, so
big, killer asteroids will not be purposely hurled towards Earth.
New evidence suggests some two-legged dinosaurs were strong swimmers, further proving that unless we have extra asteroids to cause an extinction event, we might want to leave them dead.
by German Lopez
47 days ago
Opening Day today, BMV to offer licenses to DACA recipients, Cranley suggests budget plan
It’s Opening Day today, which means it’s time for a
citywide celebration of the Cincinnati Reds and baseball. At the City Council meeting
last week, Mayor Mark Mallory declared today a local holiday, so if you
need an excuse to sneak in a few beers while watching the parade at
work, say the mayor made you do it.
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles will allow the children
of illegal immigrants who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals (DACA) to obtain driver’s licenses.
DACA was signed by President Barack Obama to give recipients the
opportunity to remain in the country legally without fear of
prosecution, but until Friday, the BMV wasn’t sure that qualified
recipients for driver’s licenses.
Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his budget plan
Thursday that he says will avoid layoffs and the city’s plan to lease
its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development
Authority, but critics say the plan is unworkable and some of its
revenue sources are “fantasy.” Cranley’s proposal calls for $21 million
in casino revenue that Horseshoe Casino General Manager Kevin Kline
previously said will be available to City Council, but Jon Harmon,
legislative director for Councilman Chris Seelbach, says the number is
using an outdated model and the city’s estimate of $10 million is more
in line with recent turn of events. The budget proposal also claims to
make its cuts and raise revenue without layoffs, but even Cranley was
uncertain about whether that’s possible.
Opponents of the city’s parking plan say they’ve gathered more than 10,000 signatures
— more than the 8,500 required — but the signatures still need to be
verified before the plan is placed on the ballot. Last week, the
mayor told Cincinnati residents
to not sign the petition because he says it will force the city to make
budget cuts and layoffs. A ruling from Hamilton County Judge Robert
Winkler opened the parking plan to referendum by essentially striking
down the city’s use of emergency clauses.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is backing a wider religious exemption
for contraceptive coverage in health plans. As part of Obamacare,
health insurance plans are required to provide contraceptive coverage — a
measure that may save insurance companies money by preventing expensive pregnancies,
according to some estimates. But DeWine and 12 other Republican state attorney generals argue the mandate infringes on religious liberty.
It’s not just charter schools that do poorly under the state’s new report card system; most urban schools would flunk too.
An analysis by StateImpact Ohio found urban schools actually perform
worse in some areas, supporting arguments from charter school advocates
that the report cards’ harsh grades show a demographic problem in urban areas, not a
lack of quality in education. An analysis of old data by CityBeat in 2012 found Cincinnati Public Schools would fall under the new system.
A new study found bedbugs are afflicting less Cincinnati residents
— suggesting the reversal of a trend that has haunted local homeowners
for years. In the past few years, Cincinnati was marked as one of the
worst cities for bedbugs around the country.
The last two generations are falling behind their parent’s wealth. The trend shows a generational divide behind rising income inequality in the United States.
Ohio gas prices are starting to go down this week.
Scientists still don’t know what’s killing up to half of America’s bees.
Opening of Horseshoe Casino is just the latest step for up-and-coming Pendleton neighborhood
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The neighborhood of Pendleton is not what
it once was, and if the newly minted Horseshoe Casino has anything to do
with it, nor what it will be in the next few years.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Most people who play poker know more
terminology than applicable math, which you might be surprised to learn
is essential to the game. But because anyone at the table can win any
hand at any time, there’s a misleading allure to the contest. People who
play badly sometimes beat people who play well.
by German Lopez
75 days ago
Council may vote on parking today, GOP criticizes Kasich's budget, casino's grand opening
City Council may vote today on the controversial plan to lease the city’s parking assets to fund economic development and temporarily balance the deficit. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach put forward Plan S,
which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenues, cut $5 million
based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow
voters to choose between a $10-per-month trash fee or increase the
city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Previously, City Manager Milton
Dohoney unveiled Plan B
to the parking plan, which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own
plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to
“non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget, while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years. The parking plan was
unanimously approved by the Cincinnati Planning Commission Friday, and it appears five council members are ready to give the plan the go-ahead.
Members of Gov. John Kasich’s own party are beginning to show skepticism
toward the governor’s budget proposal, which would expand the sales tax
to apply to more services, increase the oil and gas severance tax and
make more Ohioans eligible for Medicaid — mostly at the cost of the
federal government. Republicans are likely to propose alternatives
before a mid-April vote. In a Quinnipiac University poll, a majority of
Ohioans approved of the Medicaid expansion but not Kasich’s tax plan. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget plan in detail here.
Police are taking measures to prevent traffic problems at the Horseshoe Casino’s grand opening tonight. Meanwhile, Indiana casinos are preparing for downturns as the Horseshoe Casino promises a major alternative to tri-state
gamblers. During the soft opening last week, Ohio’s casino regulator found
the Horseshoe Casino would have to fix its security and surveillance before the grand opening. Previous studies found casinos bring job growth at the cost of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide, and a Dayton Daily News report also found the state’s casinos are falling short of job projections.
On Friday, the sequester, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, kicked in, and it could mean big funding reductions for Ohio’s schools. The blunt cuts are largely because Republicans refuse to negotiate with President Barack Obama and Democrats — to the point that Republicans don’t even know what the president is proposing.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio is asking the state’s Department of Education to expand its seclusion room rules to apply to charter schools.
Previous reports found seclusion rooms, which were originally intended
to hold out-of-control kids until they calm down, have been largely used
for convenience by educators, leading to stricter policies from the
Ohio Department of Education. But the regulations currently apply only
to traditional public schools, not charter schools.
Reminder: On top of putting everyone around you in danger, texting while driving will now result in a fine up to $150.
The Cincinnati Zoo has confirmed it has terrible taste in names with its choice for the new four-week-old gorilla: Gladys Stones. Still, the zoo does have that whole environmentally friendly thing going on. Maybe the pros outweigh the cons.
U.S. researchers are claiming they have “functionally cured” an HIV-infected infant
after extensive treatments left the virus’s presence in blood at such
low levels that it can no longer be detected by standard clinical tests.
Scientists are ostracizing what Popular Science calls the “world’s sexiest octopus.”
If you can watch BigDog, the four-legged robot, toss cinder blocks with ease and not fear the robot apocalypse, you’re not prepared.
by German Lopez
93 days ago
Cranley calls for streetcar's end, SORTA obtains federal grant, casino gets state approval
John Cranley is calling for the city to halt progress on the streetcar after a report from The Cincinnati Enquirer revealed the city’s construction bids are $26 million to $43 million over budget.
City Manager Milton Dohoney says the city might throw out the bids and
start the bidding process again, but no final decision has been made yet. But
Cranley argues the city has no leverage over bidders because it already bought the
streetcars. In CityBeat’s in-depth look at the streetcar,
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, said the cars had to be bought early
so they can be built, tested and burned into the tracks while giving
staff enough time to get trained — a process that could take as long as
two and a half years. The city also cautions that sorting through the
bids will take a few more weeks.
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) landed a $2.5 million grant
to purchase seven new buses. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat,
yesterday announced SORTA had won the competitive grant from the U.S. Department
of Transportation. The new buses will replace old ones that
are no longer good for service.
The Horseshoe Casino got approval from the state yesterday despite fears of bankruptcy
surrounding the casino’s parent company. As a precaution, the Ohio
Casino Control Commission is requiring Caesar’s, the troubled company,
to undergo annual financial reviews and notify the commission of any
major financial plans, including any intent to file bankruptcy. Caesar’s
is currently $22 billion in debt.
Ohio legislators have a lot of questions
about Gov. John Kasich’s new school funding formula. Kasich claims his
formula levels the playing field between poor and wealthy schools, but Rep. Ryan Smith, a Republican, pointed out his
poor Appalachian district is getting no money under the formula, while
the suburban, well-off Olentangy Schools are getting a 300 percent
increase. In a previous glimpse at the numbers for Cincinnati Public
Schools (CPS), CityBeat found the funding increases aren’t enough to make up for past cuts — largely because of the phaseout of tangible personal property reimbursements.
Another report found low-performing schools could be forced to outsource teaching. The new policy has aggravated some local officials.
Kasich’s budget will apparently benefit
the state’s mentally ill and addicted. Mental health advocates said the
budget will expand treatment, housing and other services. Most of the
benefits will come from the Medicaid expansion.
CPS says it will not lose any funding over the state auditor’s attendance scrubbing report. The report, released Tuesday, found CPS had been scrubbing attendance data, but the school district claims errors were not intentional.
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel will give the State of the County address later today.
Ohio Third Frontier approved $3.6 million in new funds to support Ohio innovation. About $200,000 is going to Main Street Ventures, a Cincinnati-based startup accelerator.
Cincinnati Art Museum named an interim curator: Cynthia Amneus.
Covington is getting a new city hall.New evidence shows lab testing on mice may not be helpful for humans. Apparently, mice and human genes are too different for treatments to be comparable.
by German Lopez
School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4
School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on
the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is
expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it
for it to become law. In an early simulation
of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools
dropped from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current
system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School
retaining its top mark with an A.
The governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary
to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there
will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in
2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge
The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.
Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected.
Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition.
With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in
2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its
legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here.
The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether
marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent
against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of
the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex
marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end.
Ohio gained approval
on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding
for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With
the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in
coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs.
But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February.
As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid
plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal
government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that,
federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020
and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives.
Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money
in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care.
Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today.
With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws.
Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways.
Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down
on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal
advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a
breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.
by German Lopez
Parking privatization deal reached, rape flier case could be unsealed, casino revenue drops
The city of Cincinnati and its largest city employees union have reached a deal
regarding the privatization of the city’s parking assets. Under the
deal’s terms, the city will give raises and not lay off anyone for three
years, but only if the city’s parking assets are privatized. However,
the head of a Clifton community group is still not happy with the privatization plan. He says the plan is bad for business because it limits the amount of affordable parking in the area. But would laying off 344 city employees be better for business?
The identity of the Miami University student who put up
the infamous “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier may soon be revealed. The Ohio Supreme Court
will decide by Dec. 14 whether the case should be unsealed and open to public view. Robert Lyons, the Butler County part-time judge who sealed the case, has faced scrutiny in the past few months for conflicts of interest regarding drinking-and-driving cases.
Revenue from casinos in Toledo and Cleveland is dropping. The numbers paint a bad picture for Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials expecting budget problems to be solved by casino revenue.
A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare recipients in Ohio resurfaced last week. Republican legislators claim the requirement will save the state money, but a similar proposal in Florida added to budget woes as the state was forced to pay for drug tests.
Ohio’s ultra-wealthy population is growing.
About 1,330 Ohioans are worth $30 million or more, an increase of 2
percent since 2011, according to a report from Wealth-X. The news could
shape Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cut the income tax using revenue from a
higher oil-and-gas severance tax, perhaps encouraging state officials to make
the cut more progressive.
Gov. Kasich is ending the practice
of giving so many tax credits to keep businesses in Ohio. The move could
potentially cost the state jobs as businesses move to other areas with
bigger, better incentives, but state officials and the business community don’t seem too worried for now.
If the Ohio government agencies were forced to cut their budgets by 10 percent, the results would not be pretty. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
would have to close prisons, and the Ohio Department of Natural
Resources would have a tougher time enforcing new regulations on
Ohio’s exotic animal law is facing a challenge in federal court
today. Exotic animal owners claim the law violates their First
Amendment and property rights by forcing them to join private
associations and give up their animals without compensation. They also
do not like the provision that requires microchips be implanted into the
animals. The Humane Society of the United States is defending the law,
which was passed after a man released 56 exotic animals and killed himself in 2011.
An Ohio court said a business tax on fuel sales must be used on road projects.
Ohio gas prices are still dropping.
The cure for leukemia could be a modified version of the AIDS virus.
by German Lopez
New casinos around Ohio won’t provide enough revenue for cuts to state aid
A new analysis suggests that tax revenue from Ohio’s new casinos will not be enough to make up
for state spending cuts to cities and counties. The findings of the Oct. 1 analysis, by left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, apply even to casinos and big cities that get
extra casino tax revenue. They still lose twice in state aid what they
get in new taxes, according to the report.
Overall, the analysis found that new casino revenue will
provide $227 million a year to counties and cities. In total, state aid
to counties and cities has been cut by about $1 billion. That means the
tax revenue isn’t even one quarter of what cities and counties will
need to make up for cuts.
The cuts also won’t be enough to make up for state cuts to
schools. When casino plans propped up around the state, governments
promised that revenue from casinos would be used to build up schools.
However, state aid to K-12 education has been cut by $1.8 billion, and
new tax revenue will only make up 0.5 to 1.5 percent of those cuts in
most school districts, according to the Policy Matters report.In 2013, Cincinnati will become the fourth Ohio city with a
casino. Cleveland and Toledo have casinos, and a new casino opened
in Columbus Oct. 8.
Currently, the system is set up so each casino is taxed at
33 percent of gross revenues. That revenue is split into many pieces
with approximately 34 percent going to the school fund. Each city with a
casino also gets an exclusive 5 percent of its casino’s revenue.For Cincinnati, that means about $12.1 million in new annual tax revenue. But even with that revenue, Cincinnati will still be losing about $17.7 million in state funding, according to calculations from Policy Matters.
In past interviews, Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Gov.
John Kasich, has repeatedly cited the constitutional requirement to
balance Ohio’s budget to defend any state budget cuts: “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. We had to fix that.”Cuts Hurt Ohio, a website showing cuts to state aid, was launched by Policy Matters earlier this year. That website found $2.88 billion in cuts to state aid with $1.8 billion in cuts to education and $1.08 billion in cuts to local governments. In Hamilton County, that translated to a $136 million cut to education and a $105 million cut to local government.The report does caution that its findings are
“necessarily tentative”: “Projected revenues have come down
significantly since the 2009 campaign for the casino proposal, and the
expected opening of numerous gambling facilities makes it hard to be
sure what revenues will be. We estimate casino tax revenue based on
several sources, including state agencies, casino operators, and former
taxation department analyst Mike Sobul. Our numbers reflect a
comparatively optimistic assessment.”