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
37 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
38 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.
by German Lopez
40 days ago
Pro-choice groups rebuke Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan
Pro-choice groups are criticizing Ohio House Republicans’
budget plan for pulling money from Planned Parenthood and shifting
federal dollars to “anti-choice” crisis pregnancy centers.
The Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan would redirect federal
funding for family planning services in a way that would strip funding
for Planned Parenthood and family planning providers.
During hearings at the Ohio House Finance and
Appropriations Committee today, multiple women’s health advocates,
ranging from health experts to members of Planned Parenthood, said these
services mostly benefit low-income women, particularly in rural areas. On the other side, representatives from anti-abortion groups spoke in support of the Ohio
House Republicans’ measures, citing health care options, family values, abstinence and
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice
Ohio, says the defunding measure has become a recurring trend for Ohio Republicans, who
have taken up the Planned Parenthood measure multiple times in the past
couple years. But she says the threat could have more weight this
“This feels different,” Copeland says. “They’ve always
kind of tried to hide it before. This time they were a lot more upfront
about it. It seems like they may be willing to put political capital
into this fight this time.”
A separate section of the Ohio House Republicans’ budget
plan redirects federal funding to a program that will fund
crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which provide abstinence-only family
Some researchers have found abstinence-only programs to be ineffective. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health
found abstinence-only programs have no impact on rates for teenage
pregnancy or vaginal intercourse, while comprehensive programs that
include birth control education reduce rates. A 2011 study from researchers at the University of Georgia that looked at data from 48 states concurred abstinence-only programs do not reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy. The study indicated states with the lowest teenage pregnancy rates tend to have the most comprehensive sex and HIV education programs.Still, a 2010 study from a University of Pennsylvania researcher found abstinence-only education programs may delay sexual activity. The study, which tracked black middle school students over two years, found students in an abstinence-only program had lower rates of sexual activity than students in the comprehensive program.A study released in January by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio found CPCs routinely mislead patients. The study, which looked at CPCs
around Ohio in an “undercover investigation,” said 47 percent of CPCs
give misleading information about mental health problems and abortion,
and 38 percent provide false information about the connection between
breast cancer, infertility and abortion.
Some supporters say the Ohio House Republicans’ budget
measures aren’t specifically about Planned Parenthood, abortion or birth
control. Instead, they argue they’re trying to establish more
health care options for women.
But the providers that would be able to get more funding
already apply for it; they just lose out to Planned Parenthood’s
services, which are deemed superior by state officials who distribute
the funds during the competitive distribution process.
Copeland says “no thinking person” should fall for the
reasoning given by Republicans and supporters who say abortion is not
one of their concerns.
“They’re trying to impose their morals on you,” Copeland
says. “These are not health care experts. These are not people who are
trying to find real solutions for the problems that real people face.
These are people who want to impose their personal views, their personal
morality on you.”
Some anti-abortion supporters, including Denise
Leipold of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio, say abortion and broader
cultural issues are absolutely part of the reason they support the Ohio House
Republicans’ budget plan.
“Our mission is to support the right to life from
conception to natural death,” Leipold says. “Abortion happens to be a big
problem right now because in the past 40 years it’s become part of the
She adds, “Now kids are learning that responsible sex
means that you can have sex but just use birth control. That’s not
supposed to be the attitude. The attitude is supposed to be that sex is
for a committed relationship between a man and a woman in a marital
During testimony today, Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of
Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, asked state legislators to support
the organization’s numerous medical services, including women’s health,
family planning and sexually transmitted infection (STI) treatment.
Kight also said state and federal funds do not go to abortions. Planned Parenthood’s abortion services are instead funded by private donations.
At the hearings, Republican State Rep. Ron Maag asked
Kight why Planned Parenthood doesn’t shut down its three abortion
clinics in Ohio if those clinics are potentially threatening the “good
work” Planned Parenthood does elsewhere. Kight said Planned Parenthood
believes its abortion services are “good work.”
by German Lopez
41 days ago
Posted In: News
at 11:37 AM | Permalink
Governor, Democrats, mental health advocates criticize Ohio House Republicans’ budget
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 — a move that has united Republican
Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Democrats, mental health advocates and other
health groups in opposition.
The Medicaid expansion is part of a measure in the
Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that encourages states to expand their
Medicaid programs to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the
federal poverty level with the use of federal funds. For the first three
years, the federal government would pick up the entire tab for the
expansion. After that, payments would be phased down over time so the federal
government would be paying 90 percent of costs.
Ohio House Republicans oppose the measure because they say
they’re worried federal funding will dry up in the future, even though
there is no historical precedent of the federal government failing to
pay its commitment to Medicaid.
Kasich’s proposal for the Medicaid expansion includes an
automatic trigger that would immediately stop and retract the expansion
if federal funding falls through, but Ohio Republicans previously voiced
concerns in hearings that the trigger would hurt Ohioans who have
become accustomed to government-provided health insurance without any
plan to make up for the lost coverage.
A report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found
the expansion would help insure 456,000 Ohioans by 2022 and save the state
money in the next decade by producing economic growth and shifting
health-care expenses from the state to the federal government.
For advocates of mental health and addiction treatments,
Ohio House Republicans’ rejection of the Medicaid expansion and other
budget items means mental health and addiction services will miss out on
$627 million per year, according to a report from the Office of Health Transformation.
Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan would include $50
million more annual funding for mental health and addiction services,
but that’s also not enough to make up for the $140 million in annual funds
cut around the state since 2002 and the $17 million being cut over two
years through the dissolution of the tangible personal property tax
Cheri Walter, chief executive officer of the Ohio
Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities (OACBHA), says the Medicaid
expansion is a great opportunity to emphasize mental health services
around the state.
“On the mental health side, ... sometimes it can take two
or more years for someone to get a disability determination that makes
them Medicaid eligible,” she says. “In addition to making more people
Medicaid-eligible, it will speed up the process for many others.”
Walter says for addiction patients in particular, getting
access to health services can be difficult because alcoholism and other
forms of addiction are not technically disabilities. By including more
income levels in the Medicaid program, less people will fall through the
cracks, she says.OACBHA was one of the many groups that rallied at the Ohio Statehouse Thursday in support of the Medicaid expansion. The crowd, which received support from Ohio Democrats and Kasich, was estimated to reach 2,500.
Until the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, the
Medicaid expansion was required, but the court ruled that states must be
allowed to opt in and out.
The Medicaid expansion was one of the few parts of
Kasich’s budget plan that Democrats and progressives approved, while the
two other major proposals in Kasich’s plan — school funding and a tax cut
proposal — were criticized for disproportionately benefiting wealthy Ohioans (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).
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?”
by German Lopez
43 days ago
Posted In: News
at 12:35 PM | Permalink
Policy Matters Ohio releases county-by-county map detailing tax credit
As part of an effort supporting a state earned income tax credit (EITC), Policy Matters Ohio unveiled an interactive map today that shows the potential benefits to taxpayers in different counties.For Hamilton County, about 19 percent of tax-filing households would qualify for the program. A 10-percent EITC would return about $15.6 million to households in Hamilton County, or about $225 on average for each qualifying filer. A 20-percent EITC would return about $31.2 million to Hamilton County, with each qualifying filer getting about $451 on average.EITC is a tax credit that goes to working families, typically favoring low- and middle-income earners with children. It is already used by the federal government and several states to progressively reward employment.CityBeat previously covered Policy Matter's efforts and how EITC could replace Gov. John Kasich's tax proposals, which would expand the sales tax and cut income taxes by 20 percent across the board, here.Since then, Ohio House Republicans have rejected most of Kasich's tax proposals, instead downsizing the plan to a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut with no sales tax expansion.Here is the interactive map, courtesy of Policy Matters:Learn About Tableau
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