by German Lopez
64 days ago
Senator now supports gay marriage, Sittenfeld demands state funding, parking plan in court
Republican Sen. Rob Portman reversed his stance on same-sex marriage
after his son came out as gay. The announcement means both Ohio
senators are poised to support the Freedom to Marry amendment, which
would legalize gay marriage in Ohio and could be on the ballot this
year. CityBeat covered FreedomOhio’s efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Ohio in further detail here.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Gov. John Kasich to reverse local government funding cuts carried out during his tenure as governor.
A previous Policy Matters Ohio report found the state has cut local
government funding by $1.4 billion since Kasich took office, which
happens to be the exact amount Kasich says his tax cuts are worth. The
governor’s office has previously argued that Kasich had to make some
cuts to help balance an $8-billion deficit inherited from former Gov.
Ted Strickland, and Kasich is touting his tax cuts as one way to
reinvigorate Ohio’s small businesses. But local officials from around
the state say that money is needed in cities, villages and counties.
The Cincinnati parking plan will be in court today
to determine whether a temporary restraining order should remain and
whether a lawsuit that claims the plan should be subject to referendum
should move forward. If the restraining order does remain, the city says
it will have to make cuts to balance the budget by July — in time for
the 2014 fiscal year. CityBeat wrote more about the lawsuit here and the parking plan here.
State Auditor Dave Yost says he “fully anticipates”
he will get the financial records for JobsOhio, the state-funded
nonprofit agency that Kasich supports. Some state Republicans and Kasich
argue that only JobsOhio’s public funds should be open for audit, but
Yost wants to audit all of the agency’s finances. Kasich says he wants
JobsOhio to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development, which
is susceptible to a full audit.
Plan Cincinnati won the Frank F. Ferris II Community
Planning Award from The Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission,
which commemorates “a local planning commission or committee whose
efforts have contributed to the elevation of planning principles,
greater awareness of the value of planning and improved quality of
life,” according to a press statement. CityBeat covered Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master plan since 1980, in further detail here.
Supporters of the Medicaid expansion gathered at a rally
yesterday. As part of his budget proposal, Kasich suggested expanding
Medicaid, which would cover 456,000 Ohioans by 2022 and save the state
money in the next decade, according to the Health Policy Institute of
Ohio. Opponents say they fear the plan will leave the state under an
unsustainable financial commitment. CityBeat wrote more about the Medicaid expansion and the rest of Kasich’s budget here.
Defense cuts that are part of sequestration, a series of across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in March 1, have forced the Air Force to cancel an Ohio festival.
The development team behind The Banks says it wants to have a hotel built and ready in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Some analysts are doubting Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, which could have bad implications for the local economy.
Higgs Boson, the theorized particle that gives the universe its mass, has been discovered with the help of the Large Hadron Collider.
by German Lopez
65 days ago
Report found state has cut local government funding by nearly 50 percent since 2010
With the support of local officials from around the state, Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a website called ProtectMyOhio.com to organize efforts to restore local government funding cut during Gov. John Kasich’s time in office.
Speaking during a phone conference today, Sittenfeld, Dayton
Commissioner and mayoral candidate Nan Whaley, Columbus Councilman Zach
Klein and Toledo Councilman and mayoral candidate Joe McNamara described
how state funding cuts have forced cities and counties to cut services.
“What we’re really trying to do today is speak up and
sound the alarm about the governor’s ongoing raid on the Local
Government Fund,” Sittenfeld said. “Over the last four years, the
governor has taken away $3 billion in local government funding. This
year alone, municipalities across Ohio are going to receive nearly $1
billion less than they previously would have.”
He added, “This is the exact same money that cities,
villages and townships used to keep cops in the street, staff our fire
departments, fix the potholes and some of the other basic services that
citizens rightly expect and the local governments are the ones
responsible for delivering.”
In the past, the Kasich administration has argued the cuts
were necessary. When previously asked about cuts to education and other
state funding, Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, told CityBeat, “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. … We had to fix that.”
But the 2014-2015 budget is not under the fiscal pressures Kasich experienced when he took office, and the governor is pursuing $1.4 billion in tax cuts over the next three years,
which he argues will help spur small businesses around the
state. During the phone conference, local officials said the revenue going to tax cuts
would be better used to return funds to local governments.
Sittenfeld says the cuts have left Cincinnati with $12
million less per year. “That is the difference between us having our
first police recruit class in nearly six years versus not having it,” he
said. “It’s the difference between enduring dangerous fire engine
brownouts versus not having to do so.”
Klein, who represented Columbus in the call,
said the cuts have amounted to nearly $30 million for his city, which he
said is enough money to help renovate nearly all the city’s recreation
centers, parks and pools.
“No one is spared,” Klein said. “Everyone is getting cut
across the state, and every neighborhood — no matter if you’re in a
small village or in a large city like Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo or
Dayton — (is) at some level feeling the effects of the cuts, whether
it’s actual cuts in services or what could be investments in
Klein said the cuts, which have been carried out by a
Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature, contradict
values espoused by national Republicans. At the federal level,
Republicans typically argue that states should be given more say in
running programs like Medicaid, but Ohio Republicans don’t seem to share
an interest in passing money down to more local governments, according
Some state officials have previously argued that it’s not
the state’s responsibility to take care of local governments, but
Sittenfeld says it’s unfair to not give money back to the cities:
“Cincinnati is a major economic engine for the entire state. We’re
sending a lot of money to Columbus, so I think it’s fair to say we would
like some of that money back. John Kasich doesn’t have to fill the
potholes, and John Kasich doesn’t have to put a cop on the street.”
Whaley, who represented Dayton in the call, said, “There’s
a county perspective on this as well. The counties would certainly say
that the unfunded mandates that the state legislature brings down daily
are covered by those local government funds. While (state officials)
keep on making rules for the counties to administer services and make
those efforts, it’s pretty disingenuous to say that (county officials)
don’t get a share of the income.”
A Policy Matters Ohio report found the state has cut $1.4 billion from local government funding
— nearly half of total funding — during Kasich’s time as governor. The report pinned much of that drop on the estate tax,
which was phased out at the beginning of 2013 and would have provided
$625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget. The estate tax was
repealed in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and
Cincinnati had structural deficit problems before Kasich
took office, but local officials argue the state’s cut have made matters
worse. When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City Manager Milton
Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost Cincinnati $22.2
million in revenues for the year.
Kasich’s office did not return CityBeat’s phone calls for this story.
Kasich’s latest budget proposal has also been criticized by Republicans and Democrats
for tax cuts and education funding plans that benefit the wealthy and
expanding Medicaid (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).
by German Lopez
65 days ago
Ohio senator goes after big banks, governors clash, Ohio reduces prison re-entry
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is putting forward legislation
that would break up the big banks to avoid what has been colloquially
dubbed “too big to fail.” The liberal senator is teaming up with Sen.
David Vitter, a very conservative Republican from Louisiana, to put together the bill, which Brown says will make the economy safer, secure taxpayer
money and help create jobs. In his push, Brown has compared the big
banks to Standard Oil, which was broken up by the U.S. Supreme Court in
1911 after the oil giant breached antitrust laws.
Indiana Gov. Mike Spence fired back
at Ohio Gov. John Kasich for insulting Indiana in recent remarks:
“Indiana is the best state in the Midwest to start a business, grow a
business and get a job. … With the Hoosier state consistently winning
the competition for fiscal responsibility and reform, somebody should
remind the governor of Ohio that trash talk usually comes before the
game.” In a speech Monday, Kasich said, “This is not Indiana where you
go to Indianapolis … and then say, ‘Where else are we going to go?
Ohio is a leader in reducing prison re-entry,
and that’s translating to millions of dollars for the state’s
taxpayers. Ohio’s recidivism rate, which measures how many prison
convicts are returning to prison after being released, dropped to 28.7
percent in 2009, from 39.5 percent in 2003. The
latest data is from 2009, so it’s before Gov. John Kasich took office
and passed measures to further reduce prison recidivism, which provide
new ways for criminals to get records expunged, allow released criminals
to obtain a certificate of qualification from courts for employment and
offer sentence-reduction incentives for prisoners to get job training
and education programs while in prison.
The Ohio House approved a bill
that would effectively shut down Internet sweepstakes cafes, which
state officials claim are havens for gambling and other criminal
activity, by limiting their prize payouts to $10. The bill received
support from law-enforcement groups, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine,
some charity organizations and the state’s casino operators.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says the city should redirect funding meant for the streetcar to the MLK/I-71 Interchange project,
but the funding is set up through federal grants that are highly
competitive and allocated specifically to the streetcar project.
Opponents of the city’s parking plan briefly celebrated
yesterday when they assumed Graeter’s had joined their efforts, but the
ice cream company says it was all a misunderstanding.
Graeter’s is allowing opponents to gather petition signatures in front
of its stores because the sidewalks are public property, but the company says it didn’t give permission to gather signatures within the stores.
Cincinnati’s Findlay Market earned a glowing review in The Boston Globe, sparking a wave of celebration on social media.
The Smale Riverfront Park is forging ahead largely thanks to the help of private funders, who have made up for an unexpected drop in state and federal funds.
The Ohio Senate paved ahead with legislation that will raise the speed limit
on some highways, particularly in rural areas, to 70 miles per hour.
The bill contains obvious time benefits for drivers, but environmental
groups say higher speed limits mean worse fuel efficiency and insurance
groups say it will make roads more dangerous.
A West Chester trucking company is cutting 250 jobs.
Popular Science has nine reasons to avoid sugar to save your life.
by German Lopez
66 days ago
Federal grants tied to streetcar, transit projects
The MLK/I-71 Interchange project is supposed to be funded through the city’s parking plan, but mayoral candidate John Cranley, who opposes the parking plan and streetcar, says the city should instead use federal funding that was originally intended for the streetcar project.
Between 2010 and 2011, the streetcar project was awarded about $40 million in federal grants — nearly $25 million through
the Urban Circulator Grant, $4 million through the Congestion Mitigation
and Air Quality (CMAQ) Grant and nearly $11 million through TIGER 3. The grants are highly competitive and allocated to certain
projects. In the case of Cincinnati, the grants were specifically
awarded to the streetcar after it was thoroughly vetted as a transit, not highway, project.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) website explains why the Urban Circulator Grant is only meant for transit projects like the streetcar:
“Urban circulator systems such as streetcars and rubber-tire trolley
lines provide a transportation option that connects urban destinations
and foster the redevelopment of urban spaces into walkable mixed-use,
The CMAQ Grant’s main goal is to fund projects that
curtail congestion and pollution, with an emphasis on transit projects,
according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The website explains, “Eligible activities include transit
improvements, travel demand management strategies, traffic flow
improvements and public fleet conversions to cleaner fuels, among
The DOT website says TIGER 3 money could go to a highway project,
but one of the program’s goals is promoting “livability,” which is
defined as, “Fostering livable communities through place-based policies
and investments that increase transportation choices and access to
transportation services for people in communities across the United
States.” TIGER 3 is also described as highly competitive by the DOT, so only a few programs get a chance at the money.When asked about the grants’ limitations, Cranley said, “I
believe … the speaker of the house, the senator, the congressman, the
governor and the mayor could petition and get that changed. Just because
that may have been the way they set the grants in the first place
doesn’t mean they can’t change it.”
The parking plan would lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and allocate a portion of the raised funds — $20 million — to the MLK/I-71 Interchange project, but the plan is currently being held up by a lawsuit seeking to enable a referendum.
The streetcar is one of the few issues in which Cranley
and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a streetcar supporter who is also running for mayor, are in stark contrast (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
Cranley’s opponents recently accused him of originally
supporting the streetcar when he was a council member through two 2008 City
Council motions, but Cranley says those motions,
which he co-sponsored, only asked the city administration to study the
merits of a streetcar plan, not approve of it. Cranley voted no on the
first streetcar resolution in October 2007 and the motion to actually
build the streetcar in April 2008.
“I’ve never said that I’m against the (streetcar) concept
in all circumstances,” Cranley says. “I wanted to know if there was a
way that they could pay for it in a way that wouldn’t take away from
what I thought were more important priorities.”
3 Comments · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
City plans to create bike lanes on Spring
Grove Avenue from near Hopple Street to Bank Street are facing some
opposition from the Camp Washington Business Association.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave a
presentation to City Council March 6 explaining how Cincinnati could
work to reduce its structural budget deficits.
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
66 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
67 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
71 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.