by German Lopez
32 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:17 AM | Permalink
Ohio courts hurt poor, Qualls calls for streetcar hearing, House to vote on budget today
A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) found Ohio's poor are regularly victimized by illegal practices in courts that jail the state's poor for failing to pay fines they can't afford. The problem particularly afflicts the state's rural counties, which sometimes openly admit to jailing people even when they can't afford to pay fines. The ACLU says courts need to be more transparent in communicating defendants' rights, provide retroactive credits to those wrongfully incarcerated based on circumstances of poverty and consistently hold hearings to assess defendants' financial viability and willfulness to pay fines.The streetcar is being threatened by a $22.7 million budget gap, and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who is running for mayor and has long supported the streetcar, is calling a meeting to get all the details on how the project got here and whether it's still economically viable. Qualls says it's too soon to jump to conclusions about the project's fate, and she says she would like to see the options and details laid out by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. at the hearing. But Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley, a longtime opponent of the streetcar, is already using the news to call for the project's demise. The streetcar is one of few issues dividing the Democratic candidates in the mayoral race, which the latest poll has Qualls leading by 14 points.The Ohio House is expected to vote on a budget
today that would defund Planned Parenthood, ban comprehensive sex
education and fund crisis pregnancy centers that promote
abstinence-only, anti-abortion education. This week, the budget has been
regularly mocked by Democrats for potentially opening teachers to lawsuits if
they explain condoms, other forms of birth control and other basic sex facts to students in a
way that could lead to "gateway sexual activity."The Ohio House budget bill also fails to expand Medicaid — a failing that Moody's is warning could put hospitals at risk for budgetary shortfalls. The report points out that hospitals were supposed to get more patients through a Medicaid expansion, which would be funded almost entirely by the federal government through Obamacare, to make up for a reduction of federal reimbursements for uncompensated care. The Medicaid expansion would have insured 456,000 Ohioans and saved the state money, according to a report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in greater detail here.For student voters, the Ohio House budget bill would also make it more difficult to vote by forcing public universities to withhold essential documents that can be used as voter identification. The rule would make it so universities have to declare students in-state for tuition purposes when issuing them a letter or utility bill to vote, effectively costing universities extra revenue from out-of-state students if they choose to issue the documents. Democratic State Rep. Kathleen Clyde says the move will likely make it so universities never hand over the documents.This week's CityBeat commentary: "Bad Budget Ideas Confound Public Discourse."As the city wrestles with laying off cops and firefighters to balance the budget, Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig is considering a potential job offer in Detroit "very carefully." Craig interviewed for the top cop position in Detroit last week. "I'm humbled they would consider me a top candidate," Craig told The Cincinnati Enquirer.A new poll found Republican Gov. John Kasich in "reasonably good shape" for re-election, beating potential challenger Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald 46-37.Disbarred attorney Stan Chesley resigned from the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees after being asked to by fellow board members.Metro announced new direct, crosstown routes yesterday. The routes will make it easier to travel from the east to west side and vice versa.The Business Courier has a look at the top 10 worst-paying Cincinnati jobs.Five to 15 were killed and more than 150 were injured in a Texas fertilizer plant explosion yesterday.Even though a majority of 54 voted in favor and only 46 voted against it, the background checks bill for gun buyers failed in the U.S. Senate yesterday, failing to overcome what was essentially a filibuster. Ohio's senators were split on the issue, with Sen. Rob Portman voting against the bill and Sen. Sherrod Brown voting in favor. Universal background checks are supported by more than 90 percent of Americans, according to a poll from The New York Times and CBS.Scientists have found magnetic brain stimulation could remove cravings for cigarettes.
by German Lopez
33 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
Ohio House Republicans are poised to
reject the Medicaid expansion and the $500 million per year in federal
funding that would come with it for the next two years.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The Ohio House Finance Committee on April 16 approved a
budget bill that would ban comprehensive sex education, defund Planned
Parenthood and fund crisis pregnancy centers that pro-choice groups call
by German Lopez
33 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
34 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
34 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
35 days ago
Posted In: Economy
at 04:00 PM | Permalink
Cuts affecting education, housing, environment
Policy Matters Ohio released a report
Monday that gives a hint of how federal sequestration, a series of
across-the-board federal budget cuts that kicked in March 1, will affect
Ohio. The impact of sequestration is already being felt in various areas, including
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.
Cuts will be spread out all around the state, leading to
cuts in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency,
reduced research programs at major universities and the elimination of
military jet flyovers at certain events.
Wendy Patton, a senior project director at Policy Matters, says the cuts are only the beginning.
“We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg now,” Patton
says, citing cuts in Chillicothe that will force the Chillicothe
Metropolitan Housing Authority to serve 47 less families through the
housing voucher program. “We will see this kind of information come out
across Ohio’s 88 counties as the months roll by.”
In February, the White House outlined how sequestration
cuts will affect Ohio in its efforts to convince Congress to stop the
cuts. The White House estimated about 26,000 civilian defense department
employees would have to be furloughed, nearly $6.9 million in funding
to clean air and water would have to be cut and 350 teacher and aide
jobs would be put at risk, among other cuts.
Even the unemployed will be hurt through cuts to
unemployment insurance benefits — bad news in an
already weak economy. In Ohio, about $5.3 million in federal grant money
going toward unemployment insurance will be cut in a way that particularly affects the long-term unemployed, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.
“We already have a problem with the long-term unemployed,”
says Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters. “This just
makes it worse for these folks.”An analysis from The Washington Post found employers often discriminate against anyone who has been unemployed for a considerable time during the hiring process.
by German Lopez
35 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:04 AM | Permalink
Tax Day today, city layoffs underway, Ohio Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood
Today is Tax Day, which means income tax returns have to
be filed by midnight. If you’re in a rush, there are a variety of online
tax filing services out there, particularly for state and federal
taxes. Cincinnati’s e-filing service can be found here.
Cincinnati is outlining the time frame
for police, firefighter and other layoffs that the city says it must
undertake to balance the budget. The layoffs are currently set for June
9, with layoff letters going out by then. The city administration says the
layoffs are necessary because the city’s plan to lease its parking
assets has been held up in court and a referendum effort, eliminating
the use of parking funds to help balance the budget in time for fiscal
year 2014. Opponents say there are alternatives, but Mayor Mark Mallory
and the city’s budget gurus recently criticized the suggestions as misleading and unworkable.
Ohio House Republicans are once again attempting to defund
Planned Parenthood in their latest budget plan, but this time they are
also throwing in support for crisis pregnancy centers, which tout
abstinence-only education, in a separate part of their budget proposal.
The moves have sparked criticism from pro-choice groups around the state
that say Republicans are trying to push their morality on women, while
anti-abortion groups have praised the budget for enforcing family values
and what they claim are more women’s health options.
The Medicaid expansion is uniting Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Democrats, mental health advocates and other health experts
against the Ohio House Republicans’ budget proposal, which rejects the
expansion. Supporters of the expansion point to studies that say the
expansion will save the state money, insure nearly half a million
Ohioans and help the state’s neediest, but Ohio Republicans say they’re
concerned the federal funding backing the expansion will dry up at some
point, even though there’s no historical precedent of the federal
government failing to meet its Medicaid commitments.
State officials are moving to reform
Ohio’s foster care system after several deaths were linked to poor
oversight and regulations. The Foster Care Advisory Group sent out its
suggestions last week, which include removing some rules to
“normalize” foster children’s childhoods and eliminating county-by-county
Internet sweepstakes cafes have been closed in California and Florida — a move state officials are looking to replicate in Ohio.
Ohio gas prices are low this week.
A new state license plate design is now available.
A new strand of the bird flu is here, and it’s already killed 11 people in China.
Scientists have reconstructed the ancestor that came between the human and chimp.