by German Lopez
61 days ago
Ohio employment stagnates, transportation budget passed, governor opposes LGBT rights
Ohio’s unemployment rate remained at 7 percent in February, unchanged from January but down from 7.5 percent in February 2012. The stagnant rate comes despite a generally positive national unemployment report in February
— a sign that Ohio may be falling behind national growth rates. Both
the amount of employed and unemployed grew, but growth in employment
wasn’t enough to completely outweigh rises in unemployment. The job
losses were mainly in construction, state government, trade, transportation and
utilities, while professional and business services, educational and
health services and financial activities had particularly strong growth.
A state transportation budget that will raise rural speed
limits to 70 mph and leverage the Ohio Turnpike for statewide
transportation projects cleared the legislature. The bill received bipartisan support and opposition as
it moved through the Ohio House and Senate. Supporters say the bill will
create jobs and address the state’s infrastructure needs without raising
taxes, but opponents are worried potential toll hikes at the Ohio
Turnpike will hurt northern Ohio to subsidize projects for the rest of
Earlier in the day, Gov. John Kasich seemed to support same-sex civil unions, but his spokesperson walked back
the comments to clarify the governor is still against changing the Ohio
Constitution to support same-sex marriage and civil unions. The initial
comments from Kasich sparked a response from Ian James, co-founder of
FreedomOhio, which is pushing an amendment that would legalize same-sex
marriage in Ohio for 2013: “I hope Gov. Kasich understands civil unions
are banned by the Ohio Constitution as well and they are a cruel
substitute for legal marriage.” The Republican Party is currently
undergoing some soul-searching on the gay marriage issue, with a
Republican National Committee report recently pointing out a generational divide on the issue and Sen. Rob Portman coming out in favor of marriage equality last week.
Tea party leaders are threatening the Republican Party for recent moves
supporting LGBT rights, including Portman’s acceptance of
same-sex marriage. The group also opposes the expected appointment of
Matt Borges to chairman of the Ohio Republican Party because of a
2004 misdemeanor ethics conviction that was later expunged and Borges’
work as a lobbyist for Equality Ohio, an LGBT group.
Cincinnati’s year-over-year home sales were up in February, but growth wasn’t as quick as January.
There were 1,662 homes sold in February, up 11.9 percent from
February 2012 and more than the 1,600 homes sold in January. But January
year-over-year sales were up 27 percent from 2012.
Kasich’s sales tax plan, which was criticized for raising taxes across the board, may be dead, but Ohio legislators are still planning
to carry out changes to the income tax with the 2014-2015 budget. In the past week,
Policy Matters Ohio has pushed for the earned income tax credit, which CityBeat found could be a progressive alternative to an across-the-board cut to the income tax. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here.
The Ohio Development Services Agency says state tourism reaped $15 for every $1 put into marketing. In 2009 and 2010, the returns were $13. In 2011, the return was $14.
Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Gmoser indicted Punxsutawney Phil, a famous groundhog, for the ongoing bout of cold weather. The groundhog predicted an early spring.
The universe’s estimated age has been bumped up to 13.8 billion years.
by German Lopez
63 days ago
Jobs fair needs employers, parking petition underway, JobsOhio meets deadline
The city’s Youth Job Fair needs more employers
to reach the city’s goal of 100, says Mayor Mark Mallory. The fair offers young people a chance to seek out jobs. Employers can sign up for the free booths at www.mayormallory.com.
The petition to stop the parking plan is at 4,000 signatures
— nearly half of the 8,522 required before April 5. Under the plan, the city will lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the 2014 and 2015 budgets and foster economic development,
but opponents say the semi-privatization plan will cede too much
control of the city’s parking assets and cause rates to skyrocket.
Whether the plan is subject to referendum is currently being debated in court.
JobsOhio, the privatized, nonprofit development agency, met the deadline
on a subpoena issued by State Auditor Dave Yost to collect the agency’s
full financial records, which include public and private funds.
JobsOhio also said it will eventually pay back $1 million in public
funds. Gov. John Kasich and other Republicans argued only public
funds can be checked by the state auditor, but Yost says he’s allowed to seek a full audit. Kasich and the Republican-controlled
legislature approved JobsOhio in part to replace the Ohio Department of
Development, which can be fully audited.In a letter to the Latino Affairs Commission, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wrote that the children of illegal immigrants should be eligible for driver’s licenses
under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
(DACA) initiative, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to
qualify for a social security number and work permit. DeWine’s letter is
not legally binding, but since it’s coming from the state’s top legal
adviser, it could put pressure on the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ legal
team as it continues reviewing Ohio’s driver’s license policy.Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, is pushing an earned income tax credit (EITC)
that could act as a progressive replacement for Gov. John Kasich’s tax
plan. The tax credit benefits low- and middle-income people,
particularly those with kids. The Policy Matters report says the federal
EITC has been one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in the
A bill that will limit the referendum process was pushed through the Ohio House Policy and Oversight Committee,
despite warnings from members of the League of Women Voters and
Democrats that the bill might draw a constitutional challenge. The bill
would give petitioners 10 days to collect additional signatures if their
initial submission falls short. Under current law, members can
continuously collect signatures while the secretary of state and boards
of elections verify the initial batch. The Ohio Constitution gives
petitioners 10 days to file, not collect, additional signatures.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld unveiled his three-pronged strategy for reducing city blight. The plan would encourage the passage of a state law that would allow people to trespass abandoned properties to remediate them, focus demolition resources on hazardous buildings and expand the city’s vacant foreclosed property registry.
A report from Catalyst for Payment Reform and Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave Ohio and six other states a D for health care transparency. Twenty-nine states got an F, and only New Hampshire and Massachusetts got A’s.Ohio lawmakers are poised to raise the speed limit on interstates in rural areas to 70 mph.
When The Huffington Post asked Ohio Sen. Rob
Portman if he wished it hadn't required a personal experience with gay
marriage to alter his position to favor marriage equality, he
responded, “Well, it did.”
He added, “I'm more of an economic policy wonk. That's always been my
background and focus: budget issues and economic growth issues. … That’s
just where I was.” Portman came out in support of same-sex marriage two
years after finding out his son is gay.
T.J. Lane, the convicted Chardon High School shooter, will spend the rest of his life in prison after murdering three Ohio students. At hearings yesterday, Lane smiled and mocked the victims’ families.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is looking to fill more than 1,000 jobs.
NASA's advice for a near-term meteor strike: “Pray.”
Due to a severe lack of funding, NASA does not have the proper
technology to detect all the small asteroids in orbit that could level cities. If a
deadly asteroid is detected, the current plan is to crash a spacecraft
on it to slow it down or alter its course.
Would you get a vampire facial?
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown finds bipartisan support for bringing America’s biggest banks in line
1 Comment · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
In 1911, Standard Oil underwent what many
of today’s conservatives would decry as government and judicial
overreach; the petroleum giant — 41 years old and originally from
Cleveland — was taken apart by the U.S. Supreme Court.
by German Lopez
70 days ago
Kasich adviser named superintendent, bridge costs may change, educators protest budget
The Ohio Board of Education named Richard Ross,
one of Gov. John Kasich’s top education advisers, to the state school
superintendent position. Ross’ appointment links the Ohio Department of
Education more closely with Kasich, according to StateImpact Ohio. Ross
is replacing Stan Heffner, who resigned in August after an ethics
investigation found he had misused state resources for personal matters
and testified in favor of legislation that could have benefited a
company he planned to work for.In a study that should be out next month, Ohio and Kentucky officials are reviewing the Brent Spence Bridge project
to make it more affordable.
Many officials want to use tolling to help pay for the bridge, but
northern Kentucky residents and elected officials have pushed back
because they’re concerned tolls will divert traffic to other bridges in
Ohio and hurt the local economy.
In a press conference in front of the Ohio Statehouse
yesterday, more than 100 educators and members of the Coalition of Rural
and Appalachian Schools (CORAS) asked Kasich to rework his education
reform proposal in a way that would raise per-pupil funding, fully fund transportation,
career technical and special education programs and pay for new
initiatives like the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Under Kasich’s
current proposal, the state is reducing aid from $5,700 for each student
to $5,000, but CORAS says funding should be increased to $6,270. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal, which includes his education reform plan, here.
While funding in Kasich’s plan is mixed for traditional public schools, charter schools will get 4.5 percent more funding,
according to the Legislative Service Commission. Conservatives
typically tout charter schools for providing more “school choice,” but
in a previous report, Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, found more choices may bring down results from teachers and students.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan and friends and family of fire victims are pushing for a review of Cincinnati’s fire ordinance codes
to avert fire deaths. The proposed changes include more required
fire exits, annual inspections, a mandatory fire drill at the beginning
of each school semester, the removal of all exceptions in the code and a
measure that would prevent air conditioning units from being placed on
windows that are supposed to act as exits. Quinlivan is also encouraging
the University of Cincinnati to restart a certified list of preferred
rental locations around campus, which would only include housing
properties that pass fire safety inspections.
The first public hearings on Kasich’s budget proposal to expand Medicaid contained mixed testimony,
with supporters touting greater accessibility to health care and
improved health results and opponents claiming that Medicaid leads to
worse outcomes and will discourage people from improving their economic
situation. Previous studies, which CityBeat covered along with the rest of Kasich’s budget proposal here,
found Medicaid expansions led to lower mortality rates and better
health outcomes in certain states. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio
says the Medicaid expansion will save the state money in the next decade and provide health insurance to 456,000 Ohioans by 2022.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has posted the full lawsuit filed against the city’s parking plan, which is set to have a hearing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on Friday. CityBeat wrote more about the lawsuit here.
Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled that Elmwood Place can’t collect
on tickets from speed cameras that he recently deemed a violation of
motorists’ due process. The city and police are filing an appeal to the
initial ruling, which halted the use of the cameras.
Eighteen percent of Greater Cincinnati’s chief financial officers plan to hire
for new professional-level positions in the second quarter, while 66
percent say they will only fill jobs that open in the next three months.
Ohio joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in a $7 million settlement with Google yesterday that is expected to net $162,000 for the state.
The case centered around Google collecting data from unsecured wireless
networks nationwide and taking photographs for its Street View service
between 2008 and March 2010.
The effort to effectively ban Internet sweepstakes cafes passed an Ohio House committee.
The federal government may not need to balance its budget at all, according to Bloomberg.
Trained Soviet attack dolphins with head-mounted guns are on the loose.
by German Lopez
71 days ago
Local unemployment rises, FitzGerald to run for governor, tea party protests Medicaid
The region’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate shot up in January, with the City of Cincinnati at 8.6 percent, up from
6.7 percent in December; Hamilton County at 7.9 percent, up from 6.2
percent; and Greater Cincinnati at 8 percent, up from 6.4 percent. The
rates were still lower than January 2012, when Cincinnati was at 8.8
percent, Hamilton County was at 8.3 percent and Greater Cincinnati was
at 8.5 percent. But the civilian labor force, which measures the amount
of people working and looking for jobs, was larger across-the-board
in January 2012 than it was in January 2013. Federal and state employment
rates are normally adjusted for seasonal factors, but local rates are not. The full data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services can be seen here.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald launched an
“exploratory committee” for a gubernatorial election campaign that intends to
unseat Gov. John Kasich. In his announcement video, FitzGerald says state leaders have let down Ohioans and he can provide a better alternative.
The Cincinnati Tea Party is protesting Kasich’s plan to expand Medicaid to include anyone up to or at 138
percent of the federal poverty level. The tea party says the expansion, which is financially supported by Obamacare,
is financed by the federal government’s debt and creates more long-term
problems by failing to address current issues with the U.S. health care
system. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio says the Medicaid expansion
will save the state money in the next decade and provide health
insurance to 456,000 Ohioans by 2022. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal, which includes the Medicaid expansion, in further detail here.
Yesterday, Kasich’s administration tried to explain why it did not seek legislative approval before transferring
about $6.5 million in taxpayer money to JobsOhio, but it did not provide
any evidence for its claim that the grants used do not require
legislative approval. State Democrats are getting increasingly critical of the
lack of transparency behind JobsOhio, a publicly funded nonprofit
agency that Kasich established to eventually replace the Ohio Department
of Development. Recently, State Auditor Dave Yost has been pushing to
fully audit JobsOhio’s finances, even its private funds, but Kasich and
General Assembly Republicans argue the state auditor can only check on
Bipartisan efforts to get rid of traffic cameras are underway, largely because the policy is seen as a money grab, may be unconstitutional and likely to be put to referendum, anyway.
A nun, poll worker and widower have been indicted
in the Hamilton County Board of Election’s voter fraud case. The board
says the charges are only the beginning, and other investigations are
In order to meet new state standards, Cincinnati will implement safety improvements for pedestrians, including changes to lines separating pedestrian crosswalks and countdowns on more pedestrian signals.
The University of Cincinnati is investing $1.6 million
in its doctoral programs and accepting proposals to support others to
show how it would result in better faculty, student research
productivity, recruitment, retention of top students and ability to
leverage extended funding.
With yesterday’s approved changes to the state’s transportation budget, Ohio could be moving to a 70 mile-per-hour speed limit soon.
A dad hacked the game Donkey Kong to allow his daughter to play a heroine instead of Mario.
With a new artificial intelligence app that tweets even after a person dies, mortality is no longer a concern for retaining Twitter followers.
by German Lopez
75 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.
Opening of Horseshoe Casino is just the latest step for up-and-coming Pendleton neighborhood
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The neighborhood of Pendleton is not what
it once was, and if the newly minted Horseshoe Casino has anything to do
with it, nor what it will be in the next few years.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Budgets are supposed to give elected officials at all levels
of government a chance to show off their strengths and agendas, but
recent issues have mostly raised questions about whether these people
are actually capable of leading to begin with.
by German Lopez
77 days ago
at 10:14 AM | Permalink
Council to vote on parking, hospitals push Medicaid expansion, MSD upgrades coming
City Council will vote today on the controversial plan
to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati
Development Authority. The plan would give up some control over the city’s
parking meters and garages to generate revenue to fund downtown
development projects and help balance the deficit for the next two
years. Before the City Council vote, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
will hold a presentation on solving Cincinnati’s long-term structural
deficit problems, which Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan said was a
remaining concern even if the parking plan passed. CityBeat previously covered the parking plan here, the city manager’s and John Cranley’s alternatives here, Councilman Chris Seelbach’s alternative here and the Budget and Finance Committee vote on the plan here.
Hospital groups are telling lawmakers that the Medicaid expansion is “necessary”
to preserve facilities that will face big cuts in the next year. Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), hospitals will lose funding from the federal government,
but the cuts were supposed to be made up with the prospect of more
customers. If the state doesn’t expand Medicaid, the hospitals will
still lose funding, and they won’t get many of their potential new customers. As
part of Obamacare, the federal government is carrying the full cost of
the expansion for the first three years. After that, the federal
government’s share is brought down to 95 percent and ultimately phased
down to 90 percent. By some estimates, the Medicaid expansion would save Ohio
money by shifting costs from the state to the federal government and
generate more revenue through increased economic security. Gov. John
Kasich suggested the expansion in his budget proposal, which CityBeat covered here.
Cincinnati and cities all around the nation are facing new federal requirements
to update sewer systems to better handle stormwater runoff, which can
mix with sewage and spill into rivers. Tony Parrott, executive director
of the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), says his agency has developed
software to prioritize upgrade projects and make them more efficient. CityBeat previously covered some of MSD’s efforts here.
A bill sponsored by Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, would limit the window
for collecting additional signatures for a state ballot initiative to
10 days if the secretary of state deems the initial petition signatures
short of minimum requirements. Seitz says the bill will eliminate a
loophole that allows politically motivated petitioners to extend and
abuse the state’s petitioning process, and Secretary of State Jon Husted
says the bill “is on the right track.” Opponents are calling the bill
“punitive” and saying it will weaken Ohioans’ rights to take up ballot
initiatives and referendums.
Supporters of Internet sweepstakes parlors are saying that a state ban on the establishments would be unconstitutional
and would potentially face litigation. Luther Liggett, an attorney
representing Internet Sweepstakes Association of Ohio, said a Toledo
appeals court ruling found Internet cafe games are not gambling because
the outcome is predetermined. He also said a ban would violate
constitutional protections against retroactively negating contracts,
which internet cafes hold with employees, real estate owners and
Greater Cincinnati Walmart stores are installing rooftop solar panels
as part of the retailer’s nationwide green initiative to completely
power all its stores with renewable energy. The arrays on 12 Ohio
Walmart stores will generate enough electricity to power 820 homes
year-round and eliminate carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to the
output of 1,152 cars.
The University of Cincinnati could get $30 million
as a result of the reported settlement with seven schools breaking away
from the Big East to form their own non-football conference.
The average American severely underestimates
how bad wealth inequality is, according to a YouTube video that went
viral over the weekend. If the inequality trend is truly downplayed,
that could have bad repercussions for Ohio: A previous report
from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found
Ohio’s income gap — the income difference between the rich and poor — is
wide and growing, and low-income and middle-income Ohioans have
actually seen their incomes drop since the 1990s.
How did you fare in the aftermath of the winter storm yesterday? Some southwest Ohio areas were reporting widespread power outages.
Indiana lawmakers are considering changes
to their state’s casinos to make them more competitive with
Cincinnati’s newly opened Horseshoe Casino and other Ohio
establishments. The Indiana Senate already passed a bill that would
allow riverboat casinos to move on shore and racinos to replace
electronic game tables with live dealers. The bill is now going to the
Indiana House for approval.
A gay couple was kicked out of a California mall
for holding hands and kissing. Apparently, the security officer who
kicked the couple out paid very close attention to the make-out session;
in a recording, the officer said that he counted the couple kissing 25
A new study suggested Europa, Jupiter’s moon, could have salt water on its surface, which would be good for potential extraterrestrial life.