by German Lopez
23 days ago
Streetcar budget fixes detailed, Senate kills 'right to work,' county fights infant mortality
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave his suggestions for fixing the streetcar budget gap Tuesday, and CityBeat analyzed the details here. The suggestion, which include temporarily using front-loaded Music Hall funds and pulling money from other capital projects, are capital budget items that can't be used to balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit because of limits in state law, so if City Council approved the suggestions, the streetcar would not be saved at the expense of cops, firefighters and other city employees being laid off to balance the operating budget.Ohio Senate Republicans seem unlikely to take up so-called "right to work" (RTW) legislation after it was proposed in the Ohio House. RTW legislation prevents unions and employers from making collective bargaining agreements that require union membership to be hired for a job, significantly weakening a union's leverage in negotiations by reducing membership. Since states began adopting the anti-union laws, union membership has dropped dramatically around the nation. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, were quick to condemn the RTW bills and compare them to S.B. 5, a 2011 bill backed by Republican Gov. John Kasich and Ohio Republicans that would have limited collective bargaining powers for public employees and significantly reduced public sector unions' political power.Hamilton County commissioners approved a county-wide collaborative between health and government agencies to help reduce the county's infant mortality rate, which has exceeded the national average for more than a decade. Funding for the program will come in part from the sale of Drake Hospital to UC Health.With a 7-2 vote yesterday, City Council updated its "responsible bidder" ordinance, which requires job training from contractors working with the Metropolitan Sewer District, to close loopholes and include Greater Cincinnati Water Works projects. Councilman Chris Seelbach led the charge on the changes, which were opposed by council members Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn.Ohio Senate Democrats are still pushing the Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found would insure 456,000 Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade. Ohio House Republicans effectively rejected the expansion with their budget bill, which the Ohio Senate is now reviewing. CityBeat covered the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.The state's Public Utilities Commissions of Ohio approved a 2.9 percent rate hike for Duke Energy, which will cost customers an average of $3.72 every month.Concealed carry permits issued in Ohio nearly doubled in the first three months of the year, following a wave of mass shootings in the past year and talks of federal gun control legislation.Real headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: "How much skin is too much skin for teens at prom?"A Pennsylvania woman who had been missing for 11 years turned herself in to authorities in Florida.New research shows early American settlers at Jamestown, Va., ate each other.
by German Lopez
24 days ago
Posted In: News
at 11:12 AM | Permalink
Recommendations would pull capital funding from multiple sources
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. released a memo yesterday detailing how the streetcar project's $17.4 million budget gap could be fixed by pulling funds from various capital projects and issuing more debt, upholding a promise he made at a contentious City Council meeting Monday.The five-page memo says none of the proposed capital funding sources can be used to balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit because of limits established in state law, which means the streetcar project is not being saved at the expense of cops, firefighters and other city employees being laid off to balance the operating budget."Neither Capital nor TIF funds can be used to help with the operating budget deficit that the City is facing," the memo reads. "They are separate sources of funds and by State Law, cannot be used for operating expenses like police and fire personnel."At least $5.4 million would be temporarily pulled from the $10.6 million planned for the Music Hall renovation project, but the redirected Music Hall funds would eventually come back in capital budgets for fiscal years 2017, 2018 and 2019. City spokesperson Meg Olberding explained in an email that moving funds around would not hinder the Music Hall project."The use of $5.4 million of Funds set aside for Music Hall this year is
money currently sitting in a fund for this year that will not be needed
this year," she wrote. "Funds for Music Hall will not be needed until 2016, the
agreed upon deadline for fundraising
for the Music Hall renovation with the Music Hall Revitalization
Company. Therefore, the City is still keeping its commitment to Music
Hall, while also advancing the streetcar project."About $6.5 million would be taken from infrastructure projects surrounding the Horseshoe Casino, including funds that would otherwise go to lighting the trees along Reading Road and a study that would look at adding a turn lane from Reading Road. The memo acknowledges the trade-off, but it also justifies the redirected spending: "However, since the Streetcar passes within two blocks of the Casino Site, it is a project within the Casino Area that both benefits the TIF District and the Casino."The memo also recommends pulling $400,000 that was originally set for traffic signal replacement, which would be used for the traffic replacement component of the streetcar project. Another $500,000 would come from funding currently set for water main relocation and replacement. The memo says the water main funding is simply Water Works' share: "Of the $21.7 million cost overrun for the Streetcar project, approximately $1 million was for water main relocation (and) replacement work. Water Works' share of this is $0.5 million."The remaining $4.6 million would come from the city issuing general capital debt, which would be paid back through a small portion of the income tax that is established in the City Charter for permanent improvement purposes. The memo acknowledges this would cost other economic development and housing projects $340,000 a year over the next 20 years, but it claims the funding is justified because the streetcar project is a permanent improvement project.The memo outlines other vague capital funding options that could be used to balance the budget, but Dohoney does not explicitly recommend them. The memo also leaves open the possibility of future sources of funding, including $15 million that could be opened up if the city prevails in court against Duke Energy over who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate streetcar tracks — but this was money that was originally supposed to go to neighborhood development projects — and the sale of remaining city-owned land at the Blue Ash Airport.City Council still has to consider and approve the memo's recommendations for them to become law.
by German Lopez
26 days ago
Streetcar meeting today, Ohio Senate to modify energy law, state is no 'economic miracle'
City Hall will be hosting a meeting on the streetcar project at 6
p.m. today to figure out what the project’s options are now that it has a $17.4 million budget gap. The meeting was called by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls after City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. explained in a memo that the project has a budget gap because construction bids came in
$26 million to $43 million over budget.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the the Senate Public Utilities Committee, says he wants to “modify,” not repeal, Ohio’s Clean Energy Law
to have more clear-cut compliance standards. Environmentalists say
they’re concerned Seitz will use the review as a front to
water the law down, especially since electricity giant FirstEnergy is pushing
against the law’s energy efficiency standards. CityBeat wrote more about the conflict between environmentalists and FirstEnergy here.
It’s one issue Ohio’s leading liberal and conservative think tanks apparently agree on: Ohio is not the “economic miracle”
often touted by Gov. John Kasich. In the past year, job numbers for the
state have been particularly weak, with public sector losses nearly
making up for very weak private sector gains. The right-leaning Buckeye
Institute for Public Policy Solutions says a complicated tax system is
largely to blame for the stagnant job growth, while the left-leaning
Policy Matters Ohio is mostly focusing on governments’ budget austerity.
A student allegedly shot himself
in front of classmates at LaSalle High School today. Police say he is
currently at a hospital, and there are currently no reports of anyone
else being shot. As of 10:30 a.m., the situation was still developing.After misleading media reports sent the public into a furor, Mayor Mark Mallory agreed to rescind salary raises
that were part of his office’s deficit-reducing budget plan. The plan
gave the mayor’s top aides raises to make up for an increased workload following staff reductions. Even with the raises, the plan
reduced the deficit by $33,000 during the mayor’s remaining time in
office — a fact originally omitted by The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Music Hall’s facelift is not happening just yet,
even though approvals from City Council and the Music Hall
Revitalization Company have already paved the way for Cincinnati Center
City Development Corporation (3CDC) to begin renovations. As project
manager, 3CDC will take four to six months to develop a budget, review
designs and go over the legal and financial work necessary to start the
project.Hamilton County is currently tracking to be $1.5 million over budget this year — a budget hole the Board of Commissioners hopes to plug by using the rainy day fund.
One section of the Ohio House budget bill would allow charter schools to enroll out-of-state students and charge them tuition. The policy could involve online schools, which were previously found to have poor results in a CityBeat report.
The relaxed rules potentially add more controversy to a budget plan that’s
already mired in criticism for defunding Planned Parenthood and forgoing
the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.Ohio gas prices are starting 9 cents down this week.
Bad news: The largest HIV vaccine study was shut down after patients contracted the AIDS virus more often than those who didn’t take it.
by German Lopez
29 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:34 PM | Permalink
Liberal, conservative think tanks warn of bad signs in state’s economy
It’s one issue Ohio’s leading conservative and liberal
think tanks seemingly agree on: The “economic miracle” often touted by Gov. John Kasich is not really happening.
The bleak economic news has been highlighted by recent
reports from the right-leaning Buckeye Institute for Public Policy
Solutions, which supports little government intervention in the economy,
and the left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, which focuses on policies
that can benefit low- and middle-income Ohioans.
The March “Ohio by the Numbers” report from the Buckeye
Institute did acknowledge that Ohio has a lower unemployment rate than
the national average, but the report was particularly hard on Ohio’s
lacking private sector job growth. It pointed out the state lost 16,800
private sector jobs in February, ranks No. 27 in the nation for private
sector job growth since January 2010 and ranks No. 47 for private sector
job growth since January 1990.
Policy Matters’ March report was similarly harsh: “Since the end of the
recession, Ohio has added 133,700 jobs, growing at a rate of 2.7
percent. But that growth leveled off in the second half of 2012, and the
reported zigzag of the last two months means that Ohio has only added
2,700 jobs over the past year, growing at a very weak 0.1 percent.”
The news may come as a surprise to those who have been
reading seemingly positive job news in recent months. Policy Matters
places the problem on the inherent volatility in job reports, which are
based on household surveys: “This volatility should serve as an
important reminder: Monthly numbers are preliminary and will likely be
revised, so it is unwise to make too much over the month-to-month
changes. Longer-term trends provide a more accurate gauge of the state’s
While they agree on the problem, the two think tanks disagree on the causes and solutions.
Greg Lawson, policy analyst at the Buckeye Institute, says
the biggest problem is Ohio’s tax system. In this area, he points out
three major problems: higher income tax rates than other states, an
unusual amount of municipalities in Ohio with income taxes and
complicated filing for individuals and businesses.
“You find nowhere else in the entire country a situation
in which someone has to file multiple income tax forms ... for different
jurisdictions they work in,” he says, citing the different tax rates
and credits someone working in multiple municipalities might have to
deal with. “That creates a drag on the efficiency of being able to set
As far as tax cuts are concerned, another report
from Policy Matters found a series of tax cuts passed by the Ohio
General Assembly in 2005 had little impact on the state’s economic
growth. The report found Ohio experienced job losses while the rest of
the country grew, and not a single Ohio sector outpaced national
performance. The report concluded, “State economies are complicated and
there are many reasons why Ohio’s job growth is lagging. However, it is
clear that the 2005 tax cuts did not bring about the promised job
growth. There is no reason to think that further tax cuts will, either.”
Instead, Policy Matters has focused on austerity, which
led to the public sector job cuts outlined in Policy Matters’ March
report: “A private-sector gain of 16,900 jobs has been nearly erased by
the 14,200 jobs lost in the public sector. Most of those public job
losses happened at the local level.”
Indeed, federal sequestration has already caused some damage in Ohio, and local government funding cuts approved by Kasich have also forced local governments to cut back (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
by German Lopez
29 days ago
Ohio may allow open containers, Medicaid may be on ballot, pollution afflicts region
State Sen. Eric Kearney, a Cincinnati Democrat, introduced a bill
in the Ohio Senate yesterday that would allow opened alcoholic
beverages in “entertainment districts,” which must have populations of more than
50,000 within one-half mile by one-half mile. Kearney said Over-the-Rhine
would be an ideal benefactor of the new bill. “Senate Bill 116 will
promote tourism and business development across the state,” Kearney said
in a statement. “By modifying Ohio’s law, this will provide an
opportunity for developments such as the Over-the-Rhine Gateway in
Cincinnati and The Flats in Cleveland to create an entertainment
experience and attract more customers.”
Supporters of the Medicaid expansion say they may attempt to put the issue on the November ballot
if the Ohio General Assembly fails to take action by fall. Republicans
in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate have so far rejected Gov. John
Kasich’s pleas for an expansion, instead moving toward asking the federal government for a Medicaid waiver
that would allow the state to make broader
reforms. At least 90 percent of the expansion would be funded by the
federal government. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.
The Greater Cincinnati region and Hamilton County ranked among the worst in the nation
in the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report.
The report, which used 2009-2011 U.S. EPA data, found Greater Cincinnati
to be No. 10 worst for year-round particle pollution and No. 14 for
ozone pollution. Still, the report did find overall improvement around
the nation, with Greater Cincinnati making some advances in pollution
reduction in the past few decades.
A new Ohio law going into effect today will require school coaches to acquire additional concussion awareness training.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross says the
training will make it easier for coaches to identify symptoms of
concussions and get help for students.
A University of Cincinnati study found it could be cost-effective to screen at-risk populations for hepatitis C.
A vegetarian lifestyle may fit some of CityBeat’s most beautiful employees, but Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble says pets need a more expansive diet.
Not only do they have multiple cultural traditions, but humpback whales also learn new tricks by watching their friends.
by German Lopez
30 days ago
Budget pushes conservative policy, moms demand action on guns, mayor shrinking budget
For this week’s cover story, CityBeat analyzed the Ohio House budget bill that would defund
Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the
Medicaid expansion in favor of broader reforms. The bill passed the Republican-controlled Ohio House last week, but it still needs to be approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich. Ohio Senate President Keith
Faber announced yesterday that the Ohio Senate will not move forward
with the Medicaid expansion — a sign the Ohio Senate is agreeing with the Ohio House on that issue.
Facing the recent wave of deadly gun attacks around the nation, some moms have banded together to demand action. Moms Demand Action is using its political clout to push gun control legislation at a federal level, but it’s also promoting grassroots campaigns in cities and states around the nation.
Contrary to The Cincinnati Enquirer’s “exclusive” story, the mayor’s office is actually shrinking its budget
by $33,000 between July 1 and Dec. 1 despite plans to give some
employees raises. The mayor’s office says the raises are necessary
because the employees will be taken a bigger workload to make up for
reduced staff levels, but the budgetary moves will save money overall.
Originally, The Enquirer reported the raises without noting the savings in the
rest of the budget plan, inspiring a wave of angry emails from readers
to the mayor’s office through The Enquirer’s “tell them what you think” tool.
This week’s commentary: “Streetcar’s No. 1 Problem: Obstructionism.”
At the NAACP meeting today, members will ask independent Councilman Chris Smitherman to step down from his leadership position. The disgruntled members told The Enquirer
that Smitherman, who is an opponent of the streetcar and often partners
up with the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), is using the NAACP for his “personal and political
agenda,” not civil rights. Smitherman told The Enquirer to focus
on the legitimate work of the NAACP instead of a potential coup that he
says isn’t newsworthy. Smitherman will not allow media into today’s
City Council unanimously passed a resolution
yesterday to oppose anti-union laws that are misleadingly called “right
to work” laws. The laws earned their name after a decades-long spin campaign from big businesses that oppose unions, but the laws’ real purpose is weakening unions
by banning collective bargaining agreements that require workers to join
unions and pay dues. The City Council resolution has no legal weight;
it simply tells higher levels of government to not pass the anti-union law.
Metro’s budget would need to increase by two-thirds
to implements the bus and public transportation agency’s long-range plan, which would add rapid
transit lines, other routes and sheltered transit centers with more
Two Cincinnati economic entities are getting federal funds:
The Cincinnati Development Fund will get $35 million to invest in
brownfield redevelopment, nutritional access and educational
improvements, and Kroger Community Development Entity will get $20
million to increase low-income access to fresh and nutritional foods and
fund redevelopment projects.
As expected, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald officially announced yesterday that he will run for governor against Kasich in 2014.
Kasich appointed former State Rep. John Carey to head the Ohio Board of Regents,
which manages the state’s public university system. Carey says his
biggest goal will be to better align higher education opportunities with
jobs that are available in Ohio.
Sen. Sherrod Brown is unveiling a bill that would effectively break up the big banks by imposing strict capital limits and other rules. CityBeat wrote about Brown’s efforts here.
In a blog post
yesterday, Rep. Steve Chabot, a Cincinnati Republican, criticized
President Barack Obama for not calling the Boston bombers “Islamic
jihadists.” Public officials typically do not publicly jump to
conclusions in the middle of an ongoing investigation.
A new app gives you an automatic nose job.
Researchers are developing a solar dish that produces electricity and fresh water at the same time.
by German Lopez
31 days ago
Day of fasting today, local joblessness drops in March, parking petition process questioned
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Cincinnatians to take
part in the Greater Cincinnati Day of Fasting today and put off lunch to help support the Freestore Foodbank. Sittenfeld’s office said in a press release that the event will allow
participants to “experience a small measure of the hunger that is a part
of many people’s daily lives.” There will be a ceremony for the event
at noon in Fountain Square, where participants will be able to donate to
the Freestore Foodbank.
March was another decent month for jobs in Cincinnati, with the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropping to 7.5 percent,
down from a revised 7.9 percent in February and 8 percent in March
2012. Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati
Economics Center, says most of the job growth is attributable to
Cincinnati’s growing health care services, but manufacturing has also
provided a local boon.
An anonymously posted video questions the legitimacy of some parking plan referendum petitions, but so far no formal challenges
have been filed against the referendum effort. Even if somebody were to
file a challenge, Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke
says it would required a lot — nearly 4,000 signatures — to halt a
referendum: “Because they are so far over, there’s going to have to be
more evidence by any petitioner that there are problems well beyond
those five or six sights shown in the video.”
There is now a local effort to embrace the Cincinnati Preschool Promise,
a private-public partnership that would get more local children in
preschool. The current goal is to get 25 to 50 children in preschool in a pilot
program this fall. Studies show preschool is one of the best investments
that can be made for the economy in the long term. Local preschool
services were recently cut as a consequence of federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts that began March 1.
UC President Santa Ono is recommending the school freeze in-state tuition for the next school year
— a measure the UC Board of Trustees will consider in June. Ono also
said he will not take a salary increase or bonus for the next two years,
and he is asking the school to sell the presidential condo and use the
money to pay for scholarships.
While testifying to legislators reviewing his two-year budget request, State Treasurer Josh Mandel said his office has been targeted by cyberattacks, and the technology currently available to his department is not good enough to hold off the attacks.
Humana will hire 60 people for its customer service center in downtown.
Brain cells will control the power plants of the future.In a press release, Mayor Mark Mallory proclaimed today
Zips’ Cafe Day because the restaurant is finally adding bacon to its
5 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Step one: Create problems for
Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Step two: Blame the problems on the
streetcar project. Step three: Political profit.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
An April 16 memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. revealed a $22.7
million budget gap is threatening to put an end to the streetcar
by German Lopez
32 days ago
Posted In: News
at 01:58 PM | Permalink
Cincinnati unemployment rate down to 7.5 percent
Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell sharply in March, according to data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).
Michael Jones, research director at the University of
Cincinnati Economics Center, says the numbers, while positive, were a
slowdown from previous months. “The punchline is that growth is
improving, but the rate of growth is slowing down,” he says. “But up is
Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate
dropped to 7.5 percent in March, down from a revised 7.9 percent in
February and 8 percent in March 2012. The lower unemployment rate coincided with other positive factors: a larger civilian labor force, more people employed and
less people unemployed.
Hamilton County’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate
also dropped from 7.2 percent to 6.9 percent, and Greater Cincinnati’s
rate dropped from 7.5 percent to 7.2 percent.
Jones attributes most of the drop to the region’s strong growth in health care services, but manufacturing has also played a role. “Our manufacturing has come
back stronger than the nation,” he says.
In Ohio, the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell
from 7.8 percent in February to 7.3 percent in March. The U.S.
seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate also fell, from 8.1 percent to
7.6 percent. But seasonally adjusted numbers for Ohio and the nation were widely considered weak, particularly in comparison to previous months.
Job numbers at the state and national levels are typically adjusted for seasonal factors, but local numbers are not.Unemployment numbers are collected through a household survey. The unemployment rate measures the amount of people employed relative to the civilian labor force, which accounts for the amount of people looking for jobs and people employed. Since the numbers are obtained through surveys, they are often revised in later months.