by German Lopez
31 days ago
Democrats endorse candidates, parking petitions scrutinized, Senate to rework state budget
The Democratic Party’s nominating committee announced who it’s supporting
for City Council Friday: Greg Landsman, who heads the Strive
Partnership and worked for former Gov. Ted Strickland; Shawn Butler,
Mayor Mark Mallory’s director of community affairs; Michelle Dillingham,
a community activist; and the six incumbents, which include Laure
Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Pam Thomas
and Wendell Young. The nominations still have to be approved by the
Cincinnati Democratic Committee.
Petitioners against the city’s parking plan are supposed to get their final tally on referendum today, but a new video shows at least some of the petitions may have been signed without a legitimate witness, which are needed to validate a signature.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections announced Thursday that
petitioners had met the necessary threshold of 8,522 signatures, but the
video casts doubts on whether those signatures were legitimately
gathered. The city wants to lease its parking assets to help balance the
deficit for the next two years and fund development programs around the
city (“Parking Stimulus,”
issue of Feb. 27), but opponents worry higher parking rates and
extended hours will harm the local economy. Here is the embedded video:
The Ohio Senate could restore
Gov. John Kasich’s tax, school funding and Medicaid plans when it votes
on the biennium budget for 2014 and 2015. Kasich’s tax and education
funding plans were criticized by Democrats and progressive groups for
favoring the wealthy, but the Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio
says would expand Medicaid coverage to 456,000 low-income Ohioans and
save the state money, was mostly opposed by state Republicans. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here.
New polling from Quinnipiac University found a plurality of Ohio voters now support same-sex marriage rights — granting promising prospects to Freedom Ohio’s ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage in the state this year.
An audit on JobsOhio could take months,
according to State Auditor Dave Yost’s office. Gov. John Kasich was
initially resistant to a full audit, but Yost eventually won out,
getting full access to JobsOhio’s financial records. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency that is meant to eventually replace the
Ohio Department of Development.
In response to not getting a Democratic endorsement for his City Council campaign, Mike Moroski, who was fired from his job at Purcell Marian High School for supporting gay marriage, launched the Human Party.
Cincinnati received an “F”
for business friendliness in the 2013 Thumbtack.com U.S. Small
Business Friendliness Survey from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Embattled attorney Stan Chesley will no longer practice law in Ohio.
Chesley, who has been criticized for alleged misconduct, was recently
disbarred in Kentucky. He recently resigned from the University of
Cincinnati Board of Trustees after being asked to in a letter from
fellow board members.
Ohio gas prices are shooting back up.
PopSci has an infographic showing sharks should be much more scared of humans than humans should be afraid of sharks.
by German Lopez
35 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:43 PM | Permalink
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls calls for public hearing to discuss project
After years of delays and obstructionism, a Tuesday memo from City
Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. revealed a $22.7 million budget gap is
threatening to put an end to the streetcar project, prompting Vice Mayor
Roxanne Qualls to call for a public hearing to address the issue.
In the city manager’s memo,
the city says it could bring down the potential budget gap to $17.4
million with budget cuts, but the rest would have to come from new
funds. The memo says the budget gap is a result of construction bids coming in $26
million to $43 million over budget.
The memo says the city will continue working
with “federal partners” to find solutions, but it makes no specific
proposals — a sign the project will likely require new city funds and
private donations to close the gap.
In response to the memo, Qualls, a Democratic mayoral candidate who has long
supported the streetcar, called for a public hearing on April 29 in a statement sent out today. The statement says part of the meeting
will help clarify what would happen with allocated funding if
the project fell apart.
Qualls told CityBeat it’s too early to jump to
conclusions about the project’s fate, but she says it’s time to have a
serious discussion about the project. “We’re at the point where we need
to have a very robust public conversation about this that is based upon
fact,” she says.
At the public hearing, both council members and the public will have time to ask questions. Qualls says she’s interested in getting answers for how the project got to
this point, what the cost issues are, whether the streetcar is still a good economic investment and what
costs are associated with shutting down the project if it’s deemed
“Fundamentally, it’s an issue of what are the costs but
also what are the benefits,” she says. “We need to clearly outline both
for the public.”But opponents, including Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley, have responded to the budget gap by criticizing the streetcar project. Cranley, a longtime
opponent of the streetcar, called for the project’s end in a statement
today: “The streetcar has been a bad idea and a bad deal for the people
of Cincinnati from the beginning. ... Ms.
Qualls has already voted to raise property taxes three times to pay for
the project. When is she going to say ‘enough is enough’?”The opposition is nothing new to the project, which has undergone multiple bouts of obstructionism, including two failed referendum efforts in which a majority of voters came out in favor of the streetcar. Qualls says these delays have only made the project’s implementation more difficult.The streetcar is one of the few issues dividing the two Democrats running for mayor this year, making it a contentious political issue (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
The city recently approved two motions to prepare to hire
John Deatrick, the current project manager for The Banks, to help bring
the streetcar’s costs in line (“City Moves to Hire New Streetcar Manager,” issue of April 10). Deatrick was involved in finding savings in the streetcar project, according to the memo.
The hire and shortfall announcement came in the middle of an ongoing local budget crisis that may lead to the layoff of 344 city employees,
including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. The crisis is a result of
legal and referendum efforts holding up the city’s plan to lease parking
assets to the Port Authority, which would have opened up funds to help
balance the budget for the next two years and carry out development projects around the city,
including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).But the streetcar project, including Deatrick’s hire, is part of the capital budget, not the operating budget that employs cops and firefighters. Capital budget funds can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of legal and traditional constraints.
A statement from Cincinnatians for Progress defended the
streetcar, despite the higher costs now facing the project: “These are
challenging moments for Cincinnati's administration and City Council
regarding the streetcar. Bids came in higher than anticipated. However,
even at a slightly higher cost, the economic benefits of the system far
outweigh these costs. This is a reality that has been outlined in study
after study and confirmed in results from other cities across the
“Nearly 100 years ago, political leaders were having these
same discussions before tragically losing resolve and abandoning the
proposed subway and rail system that was nearly complete. Times have
changed. A new attitude of positivity has taken over our city. We must
continue the pattern of success that encompasses many recent projects
that were difficult and not inexpensive, but well worth the investment.”
1 Comment · Wednesday, April 17, 2013
In the past few weeks, Cincinnati’s
political scene has been engulfed by debate over the budget, often
prompting testy exchanges between city officials.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas will
resign his council seat after the April 17 council meeting. Thomas
recommended that his wife of 32 years, Pam Thomas, take his seat.
by German Lopez
36 days ago
Streetcar faces $22.7m budget gap, bill would restrict sex education, councilman resigns
In a memo to the mayor and City Council members last night, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. revealed the streetcar is facing a $22.7 million shortfall because construction bids were way over budget. The memo says $5.3 million of that budget gap could be brought down through cuts, but fixing the rest requires $17.4 million in additional funds. The memo comes at a time the city is attempting to balance its operating budget by laying off cops and firefighters. But as John Deatrick explained when the city moved to hire him for the streetcar project, the streetcar is part of the capital budget, which is separate from the operating budget and can't be used to balance the operating budget because of legal and traditional constraints.The budget bill heading to the Ohio House floor would ban comprehensive sex education, defund Planned Parenthood and fund crisis pregnancy centers that pro-choice groups consider "anti-choice." Citing "gateway sexual activity," the bill would open teachers to up to $5,000 in fines for explaining the use of condoms and other birth control to students, and it also bans the distribution of any birth control on school grounds. The bill takes its anti-contraceptive measures to promote an abstinence-only education program. Research has found abstinence-only programs to be generally ineffective, while birth control programs ultimately save money by avoiding costly pregnancies and sexually transmitted infection treatment.Councilman Cecil Thomas is stepping down, and he will be replaced by his wife of 32 years, Pam Thomas. The appointment has raised questions about how council members are replaced upon resignation, but Thomas says he's just following the rules. Under the current system, designees appoint successors to council seats, but the designees give great weight to the incumbent's input.JobsOhio repaid $8.4 million to Ohio yesterday — fulfilling a promise it made in March that it would fully repay the state for public funding received since it opened on July 5, 2011. The sum is much higher than the $1 million state officials originally said would go to the agency. JobsOhio's finances came under criticism after it was revealed that Gov. John Kasich was redirecting public funds to the agency, prompting a closer look from State Auditor Dave Yost. JobsOhio is a privatized development agency that Kasich and Republicans established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.In light of the Boston Marathon bombings, Flying Pig Marathon organizers are evaluating security measures, but they're not sure whether additional measures are needed just yet. The Flying Pig Marathon is expected to draw more than 20,000 participants on May 5 — close to the 23,000 who typically attend the Boston Marathon. Still, only about 150,000 spectators are expected at the Flying Pig Marathon, while about 500,000 typically spectate the Boston Marathon.City Council is expected to vote today in support of expanding mobile food vending in the city and make the program, which is handled by 3CDC, permanent. The new mobile vending spots will be near nightlife areas in Over-the-Rhine and during the day at Washington Park.TriHealth and Mercy Health are among the top 15 hospital systems in the United States, according to a new ranking from Truven Health Analytics.When renewing its contract with Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., Kroger asked the company to move its center from Des Moines, Iowa, to Cincinnati, bringing an estimated 55 new jobs to the city.New surgical tape works like a parasitic worm for extra stickiness.For the first time, scientists are being allowed to study psychedelics for potential medical treatments.
by German Lopez
37 days ago
Cecil Thomas recommends Pam Thomas for replacement
Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas’ last City Council
meeting will be Wednesday, after which he will be replaced by his wife of
32 years, Pam Thomas.
“Her qualifications are impeccable,” Thomas told reporters Tuesday. “She will give this city a good representation.”
Thomas’ wife ran for Hamilton County clerk of courts last
year, ultimately losing to Tracy Winkler. But Thomas said she won 70
percent of the vote in Cincinnati, making her an obviously strong
contender as a local candidate.
Thomas’ recommendation has raised questions among critics about how council members are replaced upon resignation. Incumbents can only make recommendations to successor designees, who make the final decision, but as Councilman Wendell Young, one of Thomas’ designees, noted at the meeting, the designees typically give great weight to the incumbent’s recommendation. When asked whether council members should have so much
power in recommending appointees, Thomas said, “I just follow the
rules.” He said if City Council wants to change the rules, it can.
Thomas said he will now run for the
State Senate seat being left vacant by State Sen. Eric Kearney, who is
term limited. He acknowledged the State Senate may be a more
difficult place for Democrats, which are in the minority at the state
level, but he said he hopes to “bridge divides” if he serves.
Until then, Thomas said he is looking forward to his time
off, although he will miss having a role in local politics: “It's going
to be tough to not be able to have that direct hands-on.”
Thomas said he wanted to step down earlier in the year,
but he decided to stay in office to see if the city could avoid laying
off cops and firefighters by balancing the fiscal year 2014 budget through the parking plan
(“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), which Thomas strongly supports. With the parking plan now in legal limbo and the layoffs going through, Thomas is stepping down.
by German Lopez
37 days ago
Explosions shake Boston Marathon, council member could resign, sequestration hurts Ohio
Two explosions at the Boston Marathon yesterday led to the deaths of at least three and injured at least 140 others,
with the deaths including an 8-year-old boy. So far, it is
unclear who carried out the bombings. Police said the two bombs
were set in trash cans, less than 100 yards apart, near the finish line
of the marathon. Officials said police also found two bombs in different
locations, but they were not set off. At least 134 entrants
from Greater Cincinnati were at the marathon, but none are believed to
be hurt, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The bombings were carried out on Patriots’ Day, a Massachusetts-based
holiday that commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution,
and tax day. They were the first major act of terrorism on U.S. soil
since Sept. 11, 2001.
Councilman Cecil Thomas is set to make a major
announcement today at 11:30 a.m. The speculation is that Thomas will
officially announce he’s appointing his wife Pamula Thomas to replace him on City Council — a
move he’s hinted at for a couple months now. Thomas is term limited
from running again in City Council, but appointing his wife to his seat
could give her some credibility and experience to run in November.
Federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board budget cuts at the federal level, is already having an effect on Cincinnati and Ohio,
with cuts taking place for education, housing and the environment. In
Cincinnati, the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency plans
to carry out $1 million in cuts by dropping 200 kids from the Head
Start program, which helps low-income families get their children into
preschool and other early education programs. Wendy Patton, a senior
project director at Policy Matters Ohio, says the cuts are only the “tip
of the iceberg.”
David Pepper, a Democrat who previously served on City
Council and the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, announced
yesterday that he will run for state attorney general. “I have been traveling
the state for years now listening to working and middle class Ohioans
and it is clear they want a change, a new direction at all levels,”
Pepper said in a statement. “I’m running for Ohio Attorney General
because Ohioans deserve better.” In the statement, Pepper touted his
experience working with law enforcement in Cincinnati and Hamilton
At least seven members of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees are asking fellow member Stan Chesley to resign
after Chesley’s permanent disbarment by the Kentucky Supreme Court last
month. A letter to Chesley from his fellow board members cited the
Kentucky Supreme Court ruling, claiming he “engaged in conduct involving
dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”Greater Cincinnati housing permits increased by 41
percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati. The numbers are another sign the local economy is quickly recovering from the Great Recession.
Convergys plans to fill 1,000 work-at-home call jobs in 60 days.
DunnhumbyUSA is preparing for future growth in Cincinnati by building a new headquarters.
Solar panels may be used to make natural gas 20 percent more efficient and therefore pollute 20 percent less greenhouse gases.
Two new studies of mice and rat skin cells could be used to treat brain disease.
by German Lopez
42 days ago
Health-care transparency is low, Medicaid expansion to stand alone, streetcar job approved
In Cincinnati, an ankle MRI can range in price from $367.46 to $2,865.42, but weak transparency laws make it difficult for consumers to compare prices.
But to make up for the lack of transparency, some companies are
providing compiled price and quality data to paying employers. A
previous report from Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care
Incentives Improvement Institute gave 29 states an “F” for health-care
price transparency, Ohio and six other states a “D” and only New
Hampshire and Massachusetts an “A.”Ohio House Republicans killed Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion plan, but Ohio Democrats are planning to introduce the expansion as a standalone bill.
The expansion, which was one of the few aspects of Kasich's budget that
Democrats supported, would have saved the state money and insured 456,000
Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of Kasich’s budget proposal here.
In two 5-4 votes yesterday, City Council approved the
executive director position for the streetcar project and a repeal on a
“double dipping” ban. The city says it needs the measures to
hire John Deatrick, the current manager of The Banks project, to head
the streetcar project, but critics argue the city should not be making
hires when it’s threatening to lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters to
balance the budget — even though the hire is through the capital budget
used for the streetcar project, not the general fund that is used to
employ cops and firefighters. CityBeat wrote more about the new position and the double dipping ban here.
This week’s commentary from CityBeat: “Religious Birth Control Exemptions Are a Double Standard.”
City Council also approved the Music Hall lease, which will enable extensive renovations. CityBeat covered some of the original details of the renovation plan when it was first announced here.
StateImpact Ohio has some information on how Ohio House Republicans’ plan for school funding differs from Kasich’s proposal.
The big difference is Kasich’s plan was based on property taxes, which
ended up being regressive, while the House plan is based on the average
cost to educate each student, which makes it so less schools,
particularly poor and rural schools that fell under Kasich’s plan, have their funding reduced. The House plan also expands performance-based pay and
school choice, which Policy Matters previously found may hurt students and teachers. CityBeat covered Kasich’s proposal in further detail here.
Policy Matters Ohio posted an interactive map
showing the county-by-county benefits of a state earned income tax
credit. The credit, which mostly benefits low- and middle-income earners
with children, is already used by the federal government and some
states to progressively reward employment.
Freedom Ohio and Equality Ohio will debate the Family
Research Council today over whether Ohio should legalize same-sex
marriage. The debate will be streamed here. CityBeat covered Freedom Ohio’s same-sex marriage legalization efforts here.
The U.S. Postal Service will drop its threats to stop delivering on Saturdays after Congress denied the action.
A new study found humans tend to think strangers are staring at them.
Headline: “Why Are Monkey Butts So Colorful?”
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 10, 2013
City Council’s Budget and Finance
Committee on April 8 moved forward with two controversial measures that
will create an executive project director position for the streetcar
project while allowing the city to rehire retirees while still paying
by German Lopez
43 days ago
Posted In: Health
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
House reworks Kasich budget, pro-choice group criticizes budget, city asks for stay on ruling
Ohio House Republicans released their own budget proposal yesterday that does away with many of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed policies.
The budget gets rid of the Medicaid expansion, the oil and gas
severance tax and the sales tax expansion. It also reduces the state
income tax cut to 7 percent, down from 20 percent in Kasich’s plan. The
amount of schools getting no increased funding under a new school
funding formula decreased from 368 in Kasich’s plan to 175 in the House
plan, addressing issues that selective wealthy schools were benefiting
too much from Kasich’s proposed school funding formula. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is criticizing the Ohio House’s
proposed budget for defunding Planned Parenthood and redirecting federal
funds to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). A study from NARAL
Pro-Choice Ohio, which is highly supportive of abortion rights, found 47
percent of CPCs gave inaccurate medical information regarding a link
between mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provided
false information about the connection between breast cancer,
infertility and abortion, among other findings.
The city of Cincinnati is asking Judge Robert Winkler to stay his previous ruling
so the city can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation. City
Solicitor John Curp says the city needs emergency clause powers in case
of natural disasters and to advance economic development deals that need
to be implemented before 30 days. The city previously used emergency
clauses to avoid a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but
Winkler ruled the clauses do not nullify the right to referendum,
effectively eliminating the use of emergency clauses because the city
now always has to wait 30 days in case of a referendum effort. The
ruling was given after City Council used an emergency clause to expedite the lease of the city’s parking assets
to the Port Authority to help balance deficits and fund economic
With the support of Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, City Council is looking to study
youth poverty, homelessness and other issues to better prioritize city
policy. The $175,000 study, which will be mostly privately funded, will
look at multiple factors affecting the city’s youth, including crime,
poverty, homelessness and educational opportunities. Simpson says the
study will be the first comprehensive look at the city’s youth.
Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill to end Too Big to Fail was leaked to the press Friday, and The Washington Post has an analysis on what it does here.
While the bill doesn’t explicitly break up big banks, it does severely
limit big banks in a way that may encourage them to downsize. Brown will
co-sponsor the bill with Republican La. Sen. David Vitter, making it a
bipartisan compromise. CityBeat covered Brown’s efforts in further detail here.
Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is complaining someone bugged a meeting
to listen in on staff’s plans for the 2014 election. Jesse Benton,
campaign manager for McConnell, said in a statement, “Today’s
developments ... go far beyond anything I’ve seen in American politics
and are comparable only to Richard Nixon’s efforts to bug Democratic
Party Headquarters at the Watergate 40 years ago.” During the meeting,
McConnell’s staff alluded to labeling potential opponent Ashley Judd as
“unbalanced” by bringing up past mental health problems. Meanwhile,
recent polling found McConnell is no lock for re-election.
As the media ramps up fears of another Korean war, many analysts feel there is no chance of war. Meanwhile, South Koreans seem more bored than concerned with the North’s threats.
Scientists discovered evidence of “dark lightning,” which may emanate from thunderstorms alongside visible lightning.