by German Lopez
71 days ago
Federal unemployment down, state joblessness up, Tower Place Mall renovations detailed
In February, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent,
from 7.9 percent in January, and the nation added 236,000 jobs. Many of
the new jobs — about 48,000 — came from construction, while government
employment saw a drop even before sequestration, a series of
across-the-board federal spending cuts, began on March 1. Economists seem quite positive
about the report.
In January, Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent,
from 6.7 percent in December, with the number of unemployed in
the state rising to 399,000, from 385,000 the month before.
Goods-producing and service-providing industries and local government
saw a rise in employment, while jobs were lost in trade, transportation,
utilities, financial activities, professional and business services,
leisure and hospitality, state government and federal government. In
January, U.S. unemployment rose to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in
A new report outlined renovations for the city-owned Tower Place Mall, which is getting a makeover as part of Cincinnati’s parking plan.
A lot of the retail space in the mall will be replaced to make room for
parking that will be accessed through what is currently Pogue’s Garage,
but two rings of retail space will remain, according to the report. The
parking plan was approved by City Council Wednesday, but it was temporarily halted by a Hamilton County judge. The legal contest has now moved to federal court, and it’s set to get a hearing today.
Meet the mayoral candidates through CityBeat’s two extensive Q&As: Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley.
Qualls spoke mostly about her support for immigration, the parking plan
and streetcar, while Cranley discussed his opposition to the parking
plan and streetcar and some of his ideas for Cincinnati.
A Hamilton County court ruled against
the controversial traffic cameras in Elmwood Place, and the Ohio
legislature is considering a statewide ban on the cameras. In his
ruling, Judge Robert Ruehlman pointed out there were no signs making motorists
aware of the cameras and the cameras are calibrated once a year by a
for-profit operator. The judge added, “Elmwood Place is engaged in
nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-card Monty. … It is a scam that
motorists can’t win.” Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced to
prohibit traffic cameras in Ohio.
JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit corporation, quietly got $5.3 million in state grants,
even though the state legislature only appropriated $1 million for
startup costs. JobsOhio says it needed the extra funds because
legal challenges have held up liquor profits that were
originally supposed to provide funding. In the past few days, State
Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, has been pushing
Republican Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio to release more details about
the nonprofit corporation’s finances, but Kasich and JobsOhio have been
Advocates for Ohio’s charter schools say Kasich’s budget amounts to a per-pupil cut,
with funding dropping from $5,704 per pupil to $5,000 plus some
targeted assistance that ranges from hundreds of dollars to nothing
depending on the school. A previous CityBeat report on online schools
found traditional public schools get about $3,193 per student — much
less than the funding that apparently goes to charter schools.
Fountain Square will be getting a new television
from Cincinnati-based LSI Industries with the help of Fifth-Third Bank
and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The new
video board will have better image quality and viewing angles, but it
will also come with more screen space for sponsors.
Ohio’s casino revenues rose in January. That could be a good sign for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which opened Monday.
In light of recent discussion, Popular Science posted a Q&A on drones.
by German Lopez
75 days ago
Before Xerox buyout, audit found ACS improperly managed parking meters
The company that would operate Cincinnati’s parking meters
if the city passes its controversial parking plan this week was mired with audited problems and
complaints in the past. The issues surfaced years before Affiliated
Computer Services (ACS) was bought by Xerox in 2010, and Xerox now denies any wrongdoing.
A 2007 audit found ACS had failed to take care and keep track of parking meters it operated in Washington, D.C.
The audit claimed 35 percent of parking meters listed in ACS’s inventory
were missing, about 16 percent of the remaining meters were completely
inoperative and 65 percent had problems that ranged from defacing to
improper height and stability. ACS also failed to fix meters within the
72-hour period mandated by its contract, according to the audit.
For some residents, the broken meters led to unfair
tickets, with 6,888 tickets, or nearly 1 percent of parking meter
tickets, being improperly issued at unfixed meters, according to the audit. The audit also found a 903-percent increase in overall parking meter complaints under the privatization contract with ACS.
The audit also questioned the financial gains for Washington, D.C., which had to pay $8.8 million, or 33.4
percent, more under privatization than projected trends under public
The bad audit wasn’t enough for Washington,
D.C., to cut its contract with ACS, which still manages the city’s
parking meters today.
The audit was among a few other problems tipped to multiple media outlets by Tabitha
Woodruff, an advocate at Ohio Public Interest Research Group. In 2007, ACS was accused of bribing police officers in Edmonton, Canada, but a judge ruled in favor of ACS, stating there wasn’t sufficient evidence. In 2010, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) charged
ACS with backdating and falsely disclosing stock options between 1996
and 2005, and ACS consented to a permanent injunction without admitting or
denying the charges.
All the discovered problems occurred before 2010, when Xerox bought ACS.Kevin Lightfoot, a spokesperson at Xerox, says the audit’s findings were based on “faulty information.” He says Xerox and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation found ACS had saved Washington, D.C., money. He also claims the auditor had misunderstood the parking meters’ screen displays, which he says led to the improper identification of inoperative or malfunctioning meters.CityBeat previously covered the parking proposal,
which would lease the city’s parking assets to fund deficit reduction
and economic development, in detail.
Mayor Mark Mallory and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls have endorsed the
plan, and it’s currently expected to have the five votes necessary to
pass a possible City Council vote today.
On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach revealed Plan S,
an alternative proposal that would not lease the city’s parking assets and would instead use
$7.5 million in casino revenue, 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 a 2-percent increase in the city's admissions tax. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. also put forward
his “Plan B,” 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.
City manager’s new parking plan attempts to limit private influence, boost development
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 27, 2013
On Feb. 19, City Manager Milton Dohoney
Jr. announced what he called a “public-public partnership” that would
give control of Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority to fund more than $110 million in
economic development and help balance the city’s budget for the next two
by German Lopez
88 days ago
State of the State today, Ohio's next superintendent, fire safety legislation underway
Gov. John Kasich will give his State of the State address today in Lima, where he is expected to cover his
budget plan, jobs and tax reform. It will air live at The Ohio Channel at 6:30 p.m. During his last State of the State speech, the
governor lacked focus, imitated a Parkinson’s patient and called Californians
“wackadoodles,” leading outlets like The Hill to call the speech “bizarre.”
The next state superintendent of public instruction could be
Richard Ross, Gov. John Kasich’s education policy adviser, or acting
superintendent Michael Sawyers, according to StateImpact Ohio. Ross
apparently has Kasich’s support, making him a favorite. Stan Heffner,
the previous state superintendent, was forced to resign after misusing state resources.
New legislation will be introduced by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld to City Council today to require all rental properties to be equipped with photoelectric smoke detectors.
The photoelectric detectors have better protection against smoldering,
smoky fires, which cause more fatalities than the flaming, fast-moving
fires picked up by ionization form of detectors, according to the vice
mayor’s office. Qualls and Sittenfeld are introducing the legislation
after hearing stories from Dean Dennis and Doug Turnbull of Fathers for
Fire Safety, who both lost children to house fires.
The Horseshoe Casino’s parking plan was revealed
yesterday, reports WVXU. Parking will be free for guests on opening day
from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. It will also remain free on weekends. Weekday
parking will be free for guests who play slots or table games for 30
minutes, play an hour of poker or spend at least $25 in a restaurant or
gift shop. Otherwise, parking will cost $1 for the first hour, up to a
daily maximum of $14.
Restaurants around the country are discovering that fewer calories brings better health and business, according to Dayton Daily News.
Ohio gas prices are continuing their movement up, according to the Associated Press.
Glass was found in Kellogg’s Special K Red Berries cereal, prompting a recall, reports WCPO.
Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked yesterday, which
raises all-important questions: How did anyone notice? Why are people
following fast food chains on Twitter?
Popular Science has an in-depth report on how neuroscience will allow scientists to rewire the brain to
battle seizures, dementia, blindness, paralysis and deafness.
by German Lopez
89 days ago
Council members want photoelectric detectors in every rental property
New legislation will be introduced by Vice Mayor Roxanne
Qualls and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld on Feb. 19 to require all rental
properties to be equipped with photoelectric smoke detectors.
Photoelectric detectors are supported by fire safety
advocates because they better detect smoldering, smoky fires.
According to the vice mayor’s office, these kinds of fires have been
linked to more fatalities than the flaming, fast-moving fires picked up
by the more traditional ionization smoke detectors.
The ionization detectors also pose another risk: They are
often set off by cooking fumes, leading many homeowners and tenants to
simply pull out the batteries to turn the detectors off. In some cases,
people forget to put the batteries back in, putting them at greater risk
of a fatal fire.
Ionization detectors are more common in homes because they
are typically cheaper. Their ability to pick up fast-moving fires also
makes them better suited for catching fires that can spread more
Qualls and Sittenfeld are introducing the legislation
after hearing stories from Dean Dennis and Doug Turnbull of Fathers for
Fire Safety, who both lost children to house fires. “After meeting with
Dean and Doug, hearing their story and learning more about photoelectric
alarms, we knew we had to do something locally to better protect
citizens,” Qualls and Sittenfeld said in a joint statement.
The legislation has been endorsed by the Cincinnati Real
Estate Investors Association and the Greater Cincinnati Northern
Kentucky Apartment Association. Representatives from both organizations
will join Qualls, Sittenfeld, Dennis, Turnbull and Fire Chief Richard
Braun in a press release unveiling the legislation at 10 a.m. on Feb.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends the use of both
kinds of detectors. Hybrid detectors with both photoelectric and
ionization technologies can be purchased, but they are more
expensive than their individual counterparts.
by German Lopez
92 days ago
GOP questions Medicaid expansion, Qualls' streetcar concerns, council backs efficiency
State legislators, particularly Republicans, have a lot of questions regarding Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion.
Legislators are worried the state won’t be able to opt out of the
expansion if the federal government reneges its funding promise, raising
potential financial hurdles. As part of Obamacare, the federal
government pays for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first
three years, and the share phases down to 90 percent after that.
Kasich’s budget includes a trigger — called a “circuit breaker” — in
case the federal government ever funds less than currently promised. A
study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found
the Medicaid expansion could insure nearly 500,000 people and generate
$1.4 billion by raising revenue and shifting funding burdens from the state to federal
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a longtime supporter of the streetcar, is getting concerned
about some of the problems surrounding the project. In a memo to the
city manager, Qualls suggested putting the streetcar project through
“intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and
timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League
Baseball All-Star Game. The memo was in response to streetcar
construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget — a
setback that could cause further delays or more funding problems.
With Councilman Chris Seelbach’s strong support, City Council passed a resolution urging the state government to maintain its energy efficiency standards.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public
Utilities Committee, sent out a memo Feb. 1 that pledged to review the
state’s standards, causing much concern among environmental groups.
Tolls for the Brent Spence Bridge could be as low as $2,
according to financial consultants involved with the project. The tolls
will help pay for the massive rehabilitation project, which gained
national attention when President Barack Obama visited Cincinnati to support rebuilding the bridge.
State Democrats and Republicans have some questions
about the governor’s Ohio Turnpike plan. Some Democrats are concerned
the state government won’t actually freeze toll hikes at the rate of inflation for
EZPass users. Others are worried
about language in the bill. The plan leverages the Ohio Turnpike to fund a statewide construction program.
The man accused of dumping fracking waste into the Mahoning River in Youngstown was arrested and charged with violating the Clean Water Act.
Dayton wants to help
illegal immigrants who are victims of crime. The Dayton City Commission
approved a $30,000 contract with a law firm to help potential
victims. CityBeat previously covered the recent struggles of children of illegal immigrants in Ohio.
A Dayton Daily News report found Ohio overpays unemployment compensation claims by millions of dollars.
The University of Cincinnati is launching a technology incubator for mobile apps.
In his State of the County address yesterday, Commission President Chris Monzel said Hamilton County is “on the move and getting stronger.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine and officials from other states announced a $29 million settlement with Toyota over the unintended acceleration debacle. Ohio will get $1.7 million from the settlement.
A meteor flew over Russian skies and exploded with the strength of an atomic bomb Friday, causing a sonic blast that shattered windows and injured nearly 1,000 people.
Scientists engineered mice that can’t feel the cold. Certain people on CityBeat’s
staff would probably do anything for this superpower, but scientists
are probably going to use it to make better pain medication.
by German Lopez
95 days ago
More than 700 units being sold to New York company
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is asking the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to stop the sale of 748 housing
units to a New York company — potentially preventing a repeat of a
similar sale back to 2007 that led to dropping property values in the area.
In a press release Tuesday, Qualls argued that locals should be given the
opportunity to purchase the project-based Section 8 housing in Walnut
Hills, Avondale and Millvale. Currently, HUD is bypassing local
communities with plans to sell the housing to a corporation controlled
by the Puretz family of Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Cincinnati’s residents are still recovering from the
massive disinvestment that was allowed to occur with an eerily similar
situation in 2010,” Qualls said in the release, referring to a
similar sale that culminated in a huge drop in property values between
2007 and 2010.
In 2007, HUD sold 618 subsidized housing units to NY Group
OH 1 LLC, a company with no previous housing experience in Cincinnati,
according to Qualls’ release. As the 2008 financial crisis and Great
Recession pulled down the global economy, property values dropped all
around the nation, but things went particularly south in NY Group’s
Cincinnati buildings. The owner eventually defaulted on the housing
units, and Fannie Mae foreclosed in 2010. Property values went from $21.5
million to $7 million between 2007 and 2010, when the units were sold in a sheriff’s sale. In that time period, the
buildings blighted, with residents complaining about
deteriorating structures, broken lighting, bed bugs, cockroaches and mold. In one case, an
apartment’s restroom ceiling reportedly collapsed.
Qualls is focused on preventing more blighted buildings:
“Preservation of the housing in good condition is vital to the
improvement of our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods cannot afford to
have more blight brought on by an absentee owner. Because these
properties are supported by government funding, it is vitally important
that HUD get public input from the City of Cincinnati and Avondale,
Walnut Hills and Millvale residents and stakeholders about this proposed
new transfer of HUD funded properties before making any further
Qualls has invited the local HUD field office director to
the Feb. 26 Livable Communities Committee meeting to discuss the sale.
She has also written to other HUD officials, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, U.S. Sen.
Rob Portman and Rep. Steve Chabot to prevent the sale.
by German Lopez
93 days ago
Streetcar construction bids come over budget
The latest batch of bad streetcar news provoked a harsh
memo to the city manager’s office from Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who has long supported the $125
million transit project. In the memo, Qualls wrote about “serious
concerns” regarding the project’s costs and timetable.
“Whether people support or oppose the streetcar project,
everyone has a vested interest in getting the most for our public
dollars and in having the highest confidence in the management of the
project,” Qualls wrote. “While a council majority has continued to
support the project, council has not given the administration a ‘blank
The memo suggested putting the streetcar project through
“intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and timetable back in
line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major
League Baseball All-Star Game.
The memo is in response to streetcar construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over
budget. Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says the bids leave the city with
two options: The city could take up the current bids, which could have their costs brought down upon further review, or the city could reject the
bids and rebid the project, which would cause delays. But Olberding also cautions that the administration is still working on fully reviewing the bids — a process that could take weeks or longer.
Qualls is running for mayor against John Cranley, a former
Democratic council member. Cranley has been a vocal opponent of the
streetcar project — creating a strong contrast between the two candidates that has placed the streetcar
in the center of the 2013 mayoral race.
Earlier today, Cranley held a press conference asking the
city to halt the streetcar project. In a statement, he argued it is “irresponsible” to continue work on the streetcar in light of the higher
CityBeat previously covered the streetcar and how it relates to the race between Qualls and Cranley (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
by German Lopez
94 days ago
Obama gives State of the Union, archdiocese defends LGBT firing, Qualls against HUD sale
President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union speech
yesterday. During the speech, Obama outlined fairly liberal proposals for the economy, climate change, gun control and immigration. He also suggested raising the minimum wage to $9 and attaching it to rising cost of living standards. The Washington Post analyzed the proposals here. To watch a bunch of old people clap too much while the
president outlines policy proposals that will likely never pass a
gridlocked Congress, click here.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is standing firm
in its firing of Purcell Marian High School administrator Mike Moroski.
The termination came after Moroski publicly stated his support for
same-sex marriage on his blog — a position that contradicts the Catholic
Church’s teachings. CityBeat covered Moroski’s case in this week’s news story, and gay marriage was covered more broadly in a previous in-depth story.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls wants to stop
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from selling
768 housing units in Walnut Hills, Avondale and Millvale. Qualls says
the sale is “eerily similar” to a sale dating back to 2007, which
resulted in dropping property values and blighted buildings. She argues local buyers should get a chance to take up the properties before HUD makes the sale to a New York company.
State Treasurer Josh Mandel is up to his old tricks again. In a letter to Ohio legislators Monday, Mandel, a Republican, opposed the Medicaid expansion,
claiming, “There is no free money.” But for the state, the Medicaid
expansion is essentially free money. The federal government will cover
all the costs of the expansion for the first three years, then phase down to paying 90 percent of the costs by 2020 — essentially, free
John Kasich, another Republican, has backed the Medicaid expansion, claiming it makes
financial sense in the long term. In 2012, Mandel lost the race for Ohio’s Senate seat after he ran
a notoriously dishonest campaign against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Financing details for the Brent Spence Bridge are due in March.
The details will provide much-wanted information for local residents
cautious about the new tolling scheme, which will help pay for the bridge’s
Cincinnati officials and residents celebrated
the work completed near the Horseshoe Casino at an event yesterday.
Mayor Mark Mallory highlighted the infrastructure improvements made to
accommodate the casino, calling the work a successful collaboration
between city government, the casino and residents.
The Ohio Resource Center has a new website for K-12 digital content. The website, ilearnOhio, is supposed to provide parents and students with the tools needed for online distance learning.
Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill is being sued
for not paying rent. The restaurant claims it’s financially viable, but
it’s holding the rent in escrow after its landlord allegedly violated the
leasing agreement. The establishment was one of the first to open at
A public Ohio school district is fighting a lawsuit in order to keep its portrait of Jesus.
The school district claims the portrait is owned by a student club and
is “private speech,” but opponents argue the portrait violates
separation of church and state.
Update on the Alamo situation at Tower Place Mall: Only one tenant remains.
The unofficial spokesman of Heart Attack Grill, the infamous Las Vegas restaurant, died of a heart attack.
Americans expect a human mission to Mars in the next 20 years, but that’s probably because they don’t know how little funding NASA gets.
An asteroid will barely miss
Earth on Feb. 15. If it were to hit, it would generate the explosive
equivalent of 2,500 kilotons of TNT. In comparison, the nuclear bomb
that hit Hiroshima during World War 2 generated a measly equivalent of
17 kilotons of TNT.
by German Lopez
96 days ago
Qualls calls for debates, CPS serves as model, Kasich's education plan breaks promises
In response to Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley’s
call for a debate, the campaign for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, another
Democratic candidate for mayor, is calling both campaigns to schedule a
series of debates. Jens Sutmoller, Qualls’ campaign manager, said in a
statement, “Vice Mayor Qualls believes the citizens of Cincinnati
deserve a robust series of public debates between the two final 2013
Mayoral candidates. She looks forward to articulating her optimistic
vision of Cincinnati’s future and the investments we need to make in our
neighborhoods and city to achieve a welcoming city of opportunity for
all our citizens.”
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) are being used as a model
by other schools around the state and country. Other schools are
particularly interested in Cincinnati’s community learning centers,
which provide services not directly related to education, including health clinics,
mental health counselors, tutoring programs and extensive after-school
programs. The approach is being praised for making schools serve the
greater needs of communities. CityBeat wrote about CPS and its community learning centers here.
Steve Dyer, an education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio, says Gov. John Kasich’s school education plan actually does the opposite
of what Kasich claimed: “However, after examining the
district-by-district runs produced by the Kasich Administration
yesterday (which I posted at Innovation Ohio earlier), what is clear
that even without eliminating the guaranteed money Kasich said he wants
to eliminate soon, kids in the poorest property wealth districts in the
state will receive 25 cents in additional state revenue for every $1
received by kids in the property wealthiest districts.” A CityBeat analysis found the education plan increases funding for Cincinnati Public Schools, but not enough to make up for past cuts.
The University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State and Miami University are getting slight increases in funding under Kasich’s higher education funding plan.
The plan increases overall higher education funding by 1.9 percent,
with UC getting 2.4 percent more funding, Cincinnati State getting 4
percent more and Miami getting 1.8 percent more. The increased funding
should be helpful to Miami University, which recently initiated $99 million in summer construction and renovation projects. Historically, Ohio has given its universities less funding per pupil than other parts of the country.
An appeals court ruling could put the Anna Louise Inn back at square one.
On Friday, the Ohio First District Court of Appeals affirmed most of a
lower court’s ruling against the Anna Louise Inn, but it sent the case
back down to the lower court on a legal technicality. The ruling means
the case could restart, but Tim Burke, the inn's attorney, claims the Anna Louise Inn has already done what the appeals court asked. For CityBeat’s other coverage of the Anna Louise Inn, click here.
Media outlets are finally picking up the story about illegal immigrants and driver’s licenses. Gongwer wrote about it here, and The Columbus Dispatch covered it here. CityBeat originally wrote about the story last week (“Not Legal Enough,” issue of Feb. 6).
Following the board president’s comparison of Adolf Hitler and President Barack Obama, the Ohio State Board of Education is set to discuss social media. CityBeat wrote about Board President Debe Terhar’s ridiculous Facebook post here.
Remember the Tower Place Mall! Two tenants are holding out at the troubled mall as they look for different downtown locations.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wants everyone to know he’s still cracking down on synthetic drugs.
The pope is stepping down.
How kids draw dinosaurs is probably wrong.