by German Lopez
50 days ago
City manager defends streetcar, student who shot himself identified, city to sell defunct mall
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. defended the streetcar project
at a special four-hour session of City Council yesterday, but the city
manager did not reveal any specifics over how the project’s $17.4
million budget gap could be closed. Dohoney revealed the price of
halting the project would be $72 million: the project has already cost
the city $19.7 million, the city would have to spend another $14.2
million in close-out costs and another $38.1 million in federal grants
would have to be returned to the federal government. Most of Dohoney’s
presentation focused on the streetcar’s economic benefits, but opponents
say the budget gap proves the streetcar project is unsustainable and
its costs are too high.
The Cincinnati Enquirer identified the 17-year-old honors student at LaSalle High School who tried to commit suicide
in front of a classroom of 22 other students yesterday, even though parents asked press to provide privacy. The student remains
alive and in critical condition this morning. No other students were physically hurt, and classes are
resuming as normal. (Update: The student’s name was removed from this post upon the family’s request.)
The city is moving to sell Tower Place Mall for $1
to Brook Lane Holdings, an affiliate of JDL Warm Construction, so the
construction company can pour $5 million into the defunct mall and
convert it into a garage with street-level retail space. Financing the
project at Pogue’s Garage, which is across the street from Tower Place
Mall, is still being worked out now that the parking plan has been
delayed by court battles and a referendum effort.
Cincinnati’s police and firefighter unions are filing a lawsuit
over the city’s health care dependent audit. The city is asking employees
to verify whether spouses and children are legitimately eligible for
health care benefits by turning over documents such as marriage
licenses, birth certificates and tax returns. The unions’ attorney told WVXU
the unions are willing to provide the necessary documents, but he said
they’re concerned the process is too intrusive and difficult.
Two firms are getting tax credits
for creating jobs in the Greater Cincinnati area: 5Me, which creates
manufacturing software, and Festo Americas, which specializes in factory
and process automation. Altogether, the credits could create 312 jobs
in the region.
A Democratic state senator hinted yesterday at letting voters decide
whether Internet sweepstakes cafes should be allowed in Ohio. State
officials, particularly Attorney General Mike DeWine, claim
Internet cafes are hubs for criminal activity. The Ohio House already
passed a measure that would effectively ban the cafes, but some are
cautious of the ban as the Ohio Senate prepares to vote.
An intelligent headlight makes raindrops disappear.
Some people may prefer death to being saved by this terrifying robot snake.
by German Lopez
42 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.
3 Comments · Thursday, May 2, 2013
To cyclists, it’s a given that Cincinnati
desperately needs more bike lanes. But recent research shows bike lanes
don’t just pose advantages for cyclists; they can also help local
economies and public health.
0 Comments · Thursday, May 2, 2013
Convening in packed City Council chambers
on April 29, Cincinnati officials discussed the costs and benefits of
the streetcar project in light of a $17.4 million budget gap revealed by
the city administration on April 16.
by German Lopez
48 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
49 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
51 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
54 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
54 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
55 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.