by German Lopez
Council approves raise amid deficit, GOP versus Planned Parenthood, puppy mills regulated
It’s official: Cincinnati’s budget proposal will arrive Nov. 26.
The budget will seek to close a deficit estimated to be between $34
million and $40 million. Part of the budget plan was revealed when the
city manager’s office suggested privatizing parking.Despite the deficit the city is facing, City Council pushed forward a $21,000 raise and a one-time $35,000 bonus
for City Manager Milton Dohoney in a 6-3 vote. It’s the first raise
Dohoney is getting since 2007, but some are unhappy with the decision in
light of the deficit, which could lead to job cuts. “The city manager
is a good man, he is a hard worker, but to me this just feels out of
touch with the economic reality that we are in right now,” Councilman
P.G. Sittenfeld told Fox 19. “You don't give the highest paid employee
in the city a raise, a significant raise, when you're facing a
potentially huge budget deficit. Plus, you know, there's a very real
possibility of layoffs.”Ohio Republicans are pushing forward
with HB 298, a bill that cuts funds to Planned Parenthood. The
organization has become a popular target for Republicans
because it provides abortions, but abortion services only make up 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood offers. The move is just one of many recent moves in the Republican agenda against abortion rights.
They recently advocated renewing the heartbeat bill, and Gov. John
Kasich recently appointed two anti-abortion advocates to government
positions.The Ohio House overwhelmingly approved a bill
that will put large-scale puppy mills under more scrutiny with new
state standards and yearly inspections. Animal rights activists have
argued Ohio has become a haven for bad breeding practices due to lax
laws and regulations. CityBeat previously covered the puppy mills issue and how it enables Ohio’s dog auctions.But that’s not all
the Ohio legislature got done. The Ohio House passed a bill that
further regulates “pill mills” — doctors, pharmacies or clinics that
distribute narcotics inappropriately or for non-medical reasons — and a
bill that cracks down on “cyber stalking.” The Ohio Senate passed a bill
that essentially lowers taxes for companies that increase payroll by 10
percent.A new study
highlighted the success of some Ohio schools, including Robert A. Taft
Information Technology High School in Cincinnati. The research found the
schools succeeded despite high poverty and tight budgets. The study
indicated some key attributes of success: principals play pivotal roles,
teachers and administrators are obviously engaged and invested, school
leaders provide major incentives to teachers, data is used to measure
progress and teachers and administrators do not see a lack of parent or
community engagement as an insurmountable barrier to success. The report
also made some recommendations: establish clear transitional protocols
in case a principal leaves, engage teachers, hire teachers that are
on-board with the school’s goals, leverage great reputations and
celebrate success.Hamilton County could issue securities to raise revenue.
County commissioners are currently working on ways to close a $20
million deficit. The securities idea comes from Todd Portune, the lone
Democrat on the Board of Commissioners.The investigation into U Square worker payments is ongoing.
A City Council committee wants to see if the workers are being paid
what they are supposed to be paid. Under Ohio law, workers on
city-funded projects must get a prevailing wage, which is equivalent
to the wage earned by a union worker on a similar project. But City
Solicitor John Curp argues developers do not have to pay prevailing
wages for parts of the project that aren’t getting public funding. City
Manager Dohoney also argued that overzealous requirements could drive
businesses out of Cincinnati.Despite the pleas of more than 500,000, it does not look like Cincinnati-based Macy’s will dump Donald Trump.
The billionaire has gained recognition as a big-name Republican and
“birther” — someone who ignores all facts to call into question
President Barack Obama’s country of origin. Brian Williams, news anchor
at NBC News, described Trump aptly during election night: “Donald Trump,
who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and peered into
something closer to irresponsible here, is tweeting tonight.”Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is leading a new efforts to stop the use of synthetic drugs, including bath salts.To fill a vacancy, a new interim chair has been named at the Ohio Board of Regents: Regent Vinny Gupta.
He will be replacing James Tuschman, who successfully pushed a ban on
smoking in Ohio’s college campuses. Gupta’s term will run through March
2013.Meet the loneliest planet of them all. It’s an orphan that drifted away from its parent star.
by Andy Brownfield
Committee members want to change way contracts are written to ensure fair wages
A City Council committee wants Cincinnati’s leadership to
investigate whether workers in a Clifton Heights development project are being paid
what they’re supposed to.
The Strategic Growth Committee on Wednesday passed a motion
asking the city administration to report back on wage payments to workers on
the U Square development. The project includes a parking garage as well as
residential and commercial units.
Under Ohio law, workers on projects funded by cities must be paid
a prevailing wage, which is equivalent to the wage earned by a union worker on
a similar project.
The city only has money invested in the garage, and the state of Ohio recently ruled that
workers on other parts don’t have to be paid prevailing wage.
Council members Wendell Young, Cecil Thomas and Laure Quinlivan
produced a video in which they interviewed carpenters who said they were being
paid less than the prevailing wage.
At issue is a letter from developer Towne Properties that says
the company will pay all workers prevailing wage anyway. Arn Bortz with Towne
Properties said his company cuts a check to subcontractors respecting that
agreement, so if workers aren’t being paid the proper amount it’s their fault.
City Solicitor John Curp told members of the Strategic Growth
Committee that under city and state law, the subcontractors are not required to
pay workers a prevailing wage on parts of the project that are not getting
public funding. He said the letter from the developer does not hold the weight
as a legal contract.
Young, Thomas, Quinlivan and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld all
expressed the need to overhaul the way the city enters into development
contracts to better protect workers.
However, City Manager Milton Dohoney hinted that overzealous
requirements for high wages could chase off some development projects.
He said that a project like U Square is tied to the Clifton
location because of its proximity to the University of Cincinnati, but the city
can’t be too restrictive when it comes to businesses that could expand
Dohoney said the city also doesn’t currently have the manpower to
do the kind of aggressive enforcement that the council members were asking for.
Councilman Young countered that he would like to see the city be
as aggressive with enforcement as they are with making economic development
“We want to change the rules of the game to make sure everyone is
treated equal,” Young said.
City applies for federal loan to move homeless shelters as dispute over relocation continues
1 Comment · Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Cincinnati City Council on Nov. 7 took a
step toward moving two homeless shelters out of the Washington Park
area, but not all council members or homeless advocates are sure that is
the right move.
by German Lopez
OTR more popular, E.W. Scripps' record revenues and tax break, GOP against abortion
People are feeling better about downtown and Over-the-Rhine, according to a new survey. Out of respondents who said they visited downtown, about 83 percent said their opinion of Over-the-Rhine was more favorable now than it was in the last year. Bars and parks topped activities, while dining and events on Fountain Square topped attractions.The E.W. Scripps Company posted its best TV revenues ever
thanks to the presidential election. The company’s consolidated
revenues rose 31 percent to $220 million. The company recently netted a $750,000 tax break from Cincinnati City Council to hire for 125 new local jobs and retain 184 current employees.
The University of Cincinnati’s Women's Health Center will open a branch in West Chester in spring 2013. The new offices will have 47 exam rooms, large and small conference rooms, a retail store and a café.Ohio Republicans are renewing their anti-abortion agenda.
Much to the dismay of pro-choice groups, Gov. John Kasich appointed two
people from Ohio Right to Life to important positions, and the Ohio
Senate is now looking into a new version of the heartbeat bill. Starting
with a hearing Wednesday, Ohio Republicans will also move to defund Planned Parenthood.
In his post-election presser, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted suggested basing Ohio’s electoral vote on congressional districts.
Due to how Republicans redrew district boundaries, that would have
given Mitt Romney most of Ohio’s electoral votes even though Romney lost
the popular vote. Districts were redrawn by the Republican-controlled
process to give Republicans an advantage in congressional races. The
First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn to
include Republican-leaning Warren County, which shifted the district in
favor of Republicans and diluted Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning
urbanites. The proposal seems like another attempt at voter suppression
from a secretary of state that has been heavily criticized for how he and his party handled the run-up to the election.
Redistricting also helped Ohio Republicans take Congress.
Last-minute negotiations may push Ohio’s puppy mills bill to the finish line.
The state currently has a reputation as one of the worst for abusive
puppy mills, and the bill would try to place some additional regulations on the
mills. CityBeat previously covered the puppy mill and dog auction problem in Ohio.
A new study found Ohio may be one of the worst states to retire in.
The state did poorly in terms of property crime and life expectancy of
seniors, but it was found to have good economic conditions, a
relatively low tax burden and lower-than-average cost of living.
Ohioans’ food stamp benefits will drop by $50 a month next year. The change is coming due to a shift in how the federal government calculates utility expenditures for food stamp recipients.
Ohio’s Third Grade Guarantee, which requires holding back
third-graders who do not meet state reading standards, now has some research
supporting it. A new study
found girls who struggle to read early on are more likely to become
teen mothers. However, other research shows holding kids back hurts more
than helps. After reviewing decades of research, the National
Association of School Psychologists found grade retention has “deleterious long-term effects,” both academically and socially.
In response to President Barack Obama’s re-election, the
infamous boss of Ohio-based Murray Energy fired more than 150 workers
around the country. One of those workers decided to leak a letter from the boss. The letter blames the firings on Obama’s supposed “war on coal,” but it’s likely the coal industry would be facing trouble even if Obama wasn’t in office.
Climate change just got a lot worse. It might make some coffee beans go extinct.
Two gay penguins became dads at the Odense Zoo in Denmark.Ever wanted a microscopic glimpse at a Pop Tart? Well, you're getting it anyway.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Some members of City Council during a
special joint committee meeting Nov. 1 agreed that the city needs to
take a hard look at the way it inspects projects done with taxpayer
money, but they took no action other than discussing allegations that
workers were being underpaid at the University Square development in
by Andy Brownfield
Council members urge city to investigate worker wages
Some members of city council agreed that the city needs to
take a hard look at the way it inspects projects done with taxpayer
money, but they took no action during a special joint committee meeting
Thursday to discuss allegations that workers were being underpaid at the
University Square development in Clifton.
Council members Laure Quinlivan, Cecil Thomas and Wendell
Young presented a video investigation they conducted, which included interviews
with workers on the project who claim they were being taken advantage of
by the University Square developers.
Under Ohio and Cincinnati law, workers on projects funded
by taxpayers must be paid a so-called “prevailing wage” (the same as a
unionized worker) and be given benefits.
In Cincinnati, that wage is $23.17 an hour for the carpentry work done by the workers interviewed for the video.
The workers in the video claimed they were paid $500 for working a 60-hour week.
“Five-hundred dollars a week to me when you don’t have a
job, that’s a lot,” said Garrick Foxx, a construction worker on the
“But actually when you average it out, it’s not. Like to
the hour-wise it’s probably like 9-something, so like I could actually
make that working at McDonalds.”
The University Square developer — a collaboration between
Towne Properties and Al. Neyer, Inc. — is building a complex with a
parking garage, residential units and retail space.
The City of Cincinnati has $21 million invested in the
parking garage. The State of Ohio recently ruled that the prevailing
wage provisions apply only workers constructing the garage that the city
has money invested in.
Arn Bortz with Towne Properties said the controversy was
ginned up by unions and it hasn’t been proven that workers are being
“All of this was started by the unions themselves because
they became very unhappy when the State of Ohio said a sizeable portion
of our project was not subject to prevailing wage,” Bortz said. “They
tried then to discredit and intimidate anyone who is on the other side
of the table.”
Bortz said he agreed to pay a prevailing wage even to
workers who worked on parts of the project not subject to the law. He
said he cuts a check to the subcontractors based on that agreement.
“Whether any of those subcontractors might have been
unfair to the workers, we do not know,” Bortz said. “If they were, they
should be made to be fair.”
Deputy City Solicitor Aaron Herzig said if the contract
required a particular wage be paid and it wasn’t, the city can bring a
breach of contract action against the developers. But to start an
investigation, a complaint must first be made.The council members asked that their investigation be considered a formal complaint.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Imagine if you had to take every other
year at your job off to defend all your career decisions. Every other
year would be completely unproductive. Essentially, you would be
unproductive half the time.
by German Lopez
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
A City Council committee approved $13.5 million that will
be going to Over-the-Rhine development. Of that money, $6 million will
go to the second phase of the Mercer Commons project, which is being
developed by Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The
rest will help 3CDC redevelop 18 different buildings that are mostly
around Washington Park. City Council will vote on the funding
Cincinnati’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent, but
the drop was mostly attributed to people leaving the labor force.
Between September 2011 and September 2012, Cincinnati’s labor force has
actually shrunk. Still, more people were employed in September 2012 than
were employed in September 2011.
The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is
asking Cincinnati for $8.5 million to secure a Jordan Crossing shopping
center project at Bond Hill. The funds would pay for the demolition,
site preparation, marketing and redevelopment of the project.
In the second wave of interim results from an ongoing
investigation into Ohio schools’ attendance data reporting, State
Auditor Dave Yost found no evidence of attendance scrubbing in schools
with levies on the 2012 ballot. The investigation included Cincinnati
Public Schools, which means CPS was found to be clean. In a statement,
Yost said, “I’m surprised and pleased. To have zero incidents of
‘scrubbing’ is encouraging news.” The full findings for both interim
reports can be found here.
Clifton is set to get a neighborhood grocery store soon.
The neighborhood has been without one since January 2011. City Council’s
Budget and Finance Committee helped spur the new project with a tax
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners held a budget
hearing yesterday, but not much new information came out. Board
President Greg Hartmann insists public safety is a priority, but he says
the sheriff’s office will have to deal with some across-the-board cuts.
The cuts won’t include closing the jail, decreasing courtroom security
or eliminating contracts with townships for patrols. The board has two more public meetings on Oct. 29 and 30.
The controversial billboards accused of attempting to
suppress voters are being taken down by Norton Outdoor Advertising, the
Cincinnati company that hosted the billboards. Meanwhile, P.G.
Sittenfeld and Lamar Advertising Company, a different billboard company,
are putting up 10 billboards that read, “Hey Cincinnati, voting is a
right not a crime!” The new billboards are supposed to encourage voting.
The University of Cincinnati has a new president: Santa
Ono. The official promotion was unanimously approved by the UC Board of
Trustees. Ono has been serving as interim president since Aug. 21, when
former President Greg Williams suddenly resigned due to “personal
The Cincinnati Enquirer is being accused of age
discrimination in a recently amended lawsuit. In the lawsuit, eight
former employees claim they were fired and replaced with younger, less
A new rumor is going around that says it’s possible to
tamper with voting results, but fact checkers and election officials are
saying it’s not possible. The rumors started due to the Romneys’
investments in an electronic voting company.The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is celebrating
its 40th anniversary. Here is a list of some of the department’s
accomplishments: The amount of rivers meeting aquatic life standards
went from 21 to 89 percent between the 1980s and today, carbon monoxide
in the air is down 80 percent since the 1970s, sulfur dioxide is down 71 percent, lead
is down 95 percent and 99 percent of community public water systems now
meet health standards, up from 85 percent in 1993.
Miami University says it will discipline two students
responsible for putting up an offensive flyer about getting away with
rape in a coed dorm bathroom.
Metro revealed its plans for an Uptown Transit District.
The district, which will cost Metro $6.9 million, is meant to better
suit the needs and growth of Uptown.
Two Democratic state lawmakers are planning legislation to
slow down the privatization of the Ohio Turnpike. Gov. John Kasich’s
administration is currently paying $3.4 million to KPMG, a private
consulting and accounting firm, to study whether leasing the turnpike to
the highest private bidder would benefit the state. Kasich says he
could use the money saved for transportation projects all around the
state. But northern Ohio residents do not seem happy with giving up a
valuable asset they helped invest in, especially if the revenue from the
Ohio Turnpike goes to regions outside of northern Ohio.There's more evidence sushi sucks. Popular Science has an article and graph showing how raw food kept primates stupid.
by Andy Brownfield
Measures front Duke $15 million, add utility responsibility to move lines to city code
Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday approved a set of
measures to alter funding of the $110 million streetcar project in order
avoid further delaying its 2015 opening.
The three measures set up $15 million to front to Duke
Energy to move utility lines out of the proposed path; changes the
source of funding to repay some $25 million in bonds used to pay for the
streetcar; sells $14 million in bonds for streetcar improvements; and
changes the municipal code to clarify that it is the responsibility of a
utility to relocate its structures.
The $15 million comes from the $37 million sale of city-owned land near the former Blue Ash Airport.
Council voted 6-3 to approve the front money, improvement
bonds and bond repayment, a vote that largely mirrored a Monday Budget
and Finance Committee vote. Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole
“no” vote on the ordinance to change the municipal code.
Councilmembers Cecil Thomas, Wendell Young, Roxanne
Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson voted to pass
funding, while Councilmembers Smitherman, P.G. Sittenfeld and Charles
Winburn voted against.
“My concern with all of these votes … in particular the
Blue Ash Airport dollars, these were promises that you made to the
neighborhoods and I don’t have the confidence that the legal battle
against Duke Energy is going to yield a 100 percent win for the city of
Cincinnati, so there’s no assurance that these dollars are going to come
back,” said Councilman Chris Smitherman, one of the most vocal
opponents of the streetcar.
“I want to be clear that it’s something that I don’t support.”
The $15 million would be fronted to Duke to move its lines
while the city and utility work out who is responsible for funding the
Duke estimates the full cost at $18 million and argues
that the lines would not have to be moved if the streetcar wasn’t being
built. The city maintains that it has always been the responsibility of
utilities to move or upgrade their structures — which the third measure
clarified in the municipal code. If the city loses a legal battle against Duke, it will not
recoup the $15 million.
The second proposal switches the source of funding for
streetcar bonds from money coming into city coffers from southern
downtown and the riverfront area to a 1995 fund set up to collect
service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks. The measure wouldn't use any additional new money for the streetcar.
That downtown area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as
expected but the city hopes to repay the other fund once the downtown
district — which includes the Banks and the casino — rebounds.
by Andy Brownfield
Project would still open in 2015
Cincinnati City Council plans to move $29 million in funds to avoid further delays for the streetcar
project, but the city is still looking at a 2015 opening date. City officials announced Wednesday that a council
committee will vote Monday on three pieces of legislation to keep the
$110 million project in line with the recently announced delayed opening.One measure would front $15 million to help Duke Energy
move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar
route. That money comes from the recent $37 million sale of land near
the former Blue Ash Airport.
The city thinks it will get this money back once a dispute with Duke is resolved. The city contends that Duke is responsible for moving the
lines, which the utility estimates will cost $18.7 million. Duke
counters that the lines only have to be moved because of the streetcar
construction, so the city should foot the bill.
“We’re fronting money for the Duke work until we can work
out who pays for it with Duke,” city spokeswoman Meg Oldberding said.
“It’s to keep the project on time and on budget. Delays would escalate
Another ordinance would change the municipal code to
“confirm the city’s existing rights” and clarify that utilities pay for
the cost of relocating facilities unless otherwise negotiated, according
to a news release.
Oldberding said Cincinnati has always maintained that it is the
utility’s responsibility to relocate their facilities, so it is not a
change in the city’s position.
The final ordinance would change the funding source that
is repaying $25 million in bonds sold as part of the original plan to
fund the streetcar.
Those bonds were originally being repaid with money coming into city coffers from southern downtown and the riverfront area.
That area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as expected, so
the ordinance would have $14 million of the bonds repaid from a 1995
fund set up to collect service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and
Oldberding said once the downtown district rebounds — it includes the Banks and the casino — it would repay the other fund.
The ordinances would not add to the project’s cost. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year.