by German Lopez
87 days ago
City says official details, contracts will be ready before City Council vote
City Hall will host public hearings about the city manager’s
parking and economic development plan today, but the hearings will take
place before the public knows all the official details. Meg Olberding,
city spokesperson, says the legal documents and contracts for the deal
aren’t ready to be released yet, but they will be ready before City
Council holds a vote.
“We’re still finalizing the documents,” Olberding says.
“These are long, complicated documents, so we want to make sure they’re
done right, and we’ll put them online as soon as they’re available.”
When the documents are released, they will include
Cincinnati’s deal with the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development
Authority, but they will not divulge specifics on the Port Authority’s
contracts with AEW, Xerox, Denison and Guggenheim — the four private
companies partnering with the Port Authority to manage city’s parking
Without the full details, mayoral candidate John Cranley,
who opposes the parking plan, says he’s concerned the public is going
into the deal blind: “Why are they having public hearings before giving
the contract to the public and giving us the exact details? What they do
is sit back and selectively give information.”
The lack of details has already led to some surprises since the parking proposal was announced to the public. On Feb. 21, Olberding told CityBeat
the city will be able to bypass the so-called cap on parking meter rate
increases through unanimous vote from a five-person advisory committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from
the Port Authority. The process, which begins with an advisory committee that will include four members appointed by the Port Authority and one selected by
the city manager, will allow the city to raise and lower the cap in case of changing economic needs, says Olberding.Under the initial plan, parking meter rates will be
set to increase annually by 3 percent or the rate of inflation on a
compounded basis, with any increases coming in 25-cents-an-hour increments. That
should translate to 25-cent increases every three years for Downtown and
every six years for neighborhoods, says Olberding.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his parking
proposal on Feb. 19, promising $92 million upfront and an additional $3
million a year to pay off the city’s budget deficits for 2014 and 2015,
build a 30-story high-rise Downtown with a grocery store and 300 luxury
apartments, renovate Tower Place Mall and complete the I-71/MLK
Interchange project (“City Manager Proposes Parking, Economic Development Plan,” issue of Feb. 20).
by German Lopez
90 days ago
Paper looks into commuting patterns, mobility to identify access to food
Food deserts are a big problem for many of Hamilton
County’s impoverished families, but ongoing research suggests officials may
be overlooking mobility when attempting to pinpoint neighborhoods that lack access to healthy foods.
University of Cincinnati professor Michael Widener is
heading research that looks into how mobility can alter perceptions
about food deserts. So far, his findings have suggested that some people
may have access to healthy foods throughout their daily commute despite
being classified as living in a food desert.
Widener explains the research is necessary to make
identifying food deserts more accurate. “In previous work and when I was
doing my dissertation, I was noticing how a lot of food desert research
failed to take into account the dynamics of everyday urban life,” he
says. The observation led Widener to incorporate those dynamics,
particularly people’s movements throughout the day, to see how they
impact people’s access to food.
Still, Widener cautions that his findings
don’t dismiss the problems caused by food deserts: “Of
course, there are a lot of assumptions being made, like are (these
commuters) totally drained after work? The biggest (assumption) is of course that
(someone has) a car.”
Widener says his findings could impact how public
officials approach food desert policies. He points to potential stopgap
measures, such as better access to public transportation, that could
alleviate the pains of living in a food desert while a more permanent
solution is put in place. Widener argues these policies could make financial sense: Considering
how many potential costs a food desert can bring on a community, it
might be cheaper for a city to build a bus route and encourage better
ways to load groceries into buses. Widener knows these aren’t perfect
solutions, but he thinks they could provide some aid in a bogged-down
political climate that often results in sluggish policy changes.
There is a caveat: Widener acknowledges research
has so far been inconsistent as to whether access to healthier food
actually leads to healthier results. Eventually, he wants to research
what actually causes healthier results and whether broader economic
factors, such as poverty, play a more important role. That could give officials a clearer picture on which policies work and which don’t.
The first part of Widener’s research came out in a January paper that looked at auto
commuters’ access to food, and the next part will look at public transportation’s impact. The research project is using local transportation data from The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana
Regional Council of Governments.
Food deserts are neighborhoods that
lack access to fresh, healthy foods. In Hamilton County, many of the
identified food deserts are in neighborhoods on the city’s west side,
including Price Hill and Queensgate. Cincinnati’s food deserts are just
one problem being addressed by Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master
plan in more than 20 years (“Core Future,” issue of Sept. 5).
Part of the parking plan proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. on Feb. 19 (“City Manager Proposes Parking, Economic Development Plan,” issue of Feb. 20) would also build a modern grocery store with access to fresh fruits and vegetables in Downtown.
by German Lopez
90 days ago
City could raise rate cap, Cranley's website against parking plan, superintendent pays up
While fact checking an interview, CityBeat
discovered it will be possible to circumvent the parking plan’s cap
on meter rate increases through a multilayer process that involves
approval from a special committee, the city manager and the Port of
Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. The process adds a potential
loophole to one of the city manager’s main defenses against fears of
skyrocketing rates, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says raising
the cap requires overcoming an extensive series of hurdles: unanimous
approval from a board with four members appointed by the Port Authority
and one selected by the city manager, affirmation from the city manager
and a final nod from the Port Authority. Olberding says the process is
necessary in case anything changes during the 30-year time span of the
parking deal, which CityBeat covered in detail here.
Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley launched DontSellCincinnati.org to prevent the city manager’s parking plan, which
semi-privatizes the city’s parking assets. The website claims the plan
gives for-profit investment companies power over enforcement, guarantees
3-percent rate increases every year and blows through all the money
raised in two years. The plan does task a private company with
enforcement, but it will be handled by Xerox, not a financial firm, and
must follow standards set in the company’s agreement with the Port
Authority. While the plan does allow 3-percent rate increases each year,
Olberding says the Port Authority will have the power to refuse an
increase — meaning it’s not a guarantee.
Arnol Elam, the Franklin City Schools superintendent who
sent an angry letter to Gov. John Kasich over his budget plan, is no
longer being investigated for misusing county resources after he paid $539 in restitution. CityBeat
covered Elam’s letter, which told parents and staff about regressive
funding in Kasich’s school funding proposal, and other parts of the
governor’s budget in an in-depth cover story.
To the surprise of no one, Ohio’s oil lobby is still against Kasich’s tax plan, which raises a 4 percent severance tax on oil and wet gas from high-producing fracking wells and a 1 percent tax on dry gas.
Local faith leaders from a diversity of religious backgrounds held a press conference
yesterday to endorse the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom
Amendment, an amendment from FreedomOhio that would legalize same-sex
marriage in the state. Pastor Mike Underhill of the Nexus United Church
of Christ (UCC) in Butler County, Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp of Temple
Sholom, Pamela Taylor of Muslims for Progressive Values and Mike
Moroski, who recently lost his job as assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School for standing up for LGBT rights all attended the event. CityBeat covered the amendment and its potential hurdles for getting on the 2013 ballot here.
Vanessa White, a member of the Cincinnati Public Schools board, is running for City Council.
White is finishing her first four-year term at the board after winning
the seat handily in 2009. She has said she wants to stop the streetcar
project, but she wants to increase collaboration between the city and
schools and create jobs for younger people.
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ (BMV) policy on providing driver’s licenses to the children of illegal immigrants remains unclear. Since CityBeat
broke the story on the BMV policy, the agency has shifted from internally pushing
against driver’s licenses for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
(DACA) recipients to officially “reviewing guidance from the federal
government as it applies to Ohio law.” DACA is an executive order from
President Barack Obama that allows the children of illegal immigrants to
qualify for permits that enable them to remain in the United States
without fear of prosecution.
A survey from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments found locals are generally satisfied with roads, housing and issues that affect them everyday. The survey included 2,500 people and questions about energy efficiency, infrastructure, public health, schools and other issues.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine revealed 7,000 Ohioans
have received more than $280 million in consumer relief as part of the
National Mortgage Settlement announced one year ago. The $25 billion
settlement between the federal government and major banks punishes
reckless financial institutions and provides relief to homeowners in the
aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
Ohio received a $3 million federal grant to continue improving the state’s health care payments and delivery programs.
Cincinnati home sales reached a six-year high after a 27-percent jump in January.
CityBeat’s Hannah “McAttack” McCartney interviewed yours truly for the first post of her Q&A-based blog, Cinfolk.
Crows have a sense of fairness, a new study found.
by German Lopez
92 days ago
Kasich gives State of the State, Dohoney's parking plan, county rejects bridge tolls
Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State speech
yesterday. Kasich focused on his budget proposal and jobs, and he
urged lawmakers to take up the Medicaid expansion. Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer has a thorough report on the speech here. CityBeat gave an in-depth look at Kasich’s budget in this week’s cover story here.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. proposed an ambitious parking and economic development plan
yesterday. The 30-year plan, which Dohoney called a “public-public
partnership,” will lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of
Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to fund more than $100 million
in projects around the city, including the I-71/MLK Interchange, Tower
Place Mall and a high-rise that will house a downtown grocery store. As
part of the deal, the city will retain control over parking rates,
operation hours and the placement of meters.
The Kenton County Fiscal Court unanimously voted against tolls
to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project, reports WVXU. County
residents are concerned the tolls will be a financial drain for
commuters and travelers, but finding other sources of funding for the project has been an ongoing struggle.
An Ohio woman claims she was fired after voting for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, reports Dayton Daily News.
Patricia Kunkle’s lawsuit claims her former employer, Roberta “Bobbie”
Gentile of Q-Mark Inc., threatened to fire workers if Obama won election
and that Obama supporters would be first on the list.
John Cranley, former Democratic council member, will
formally launch his mayoral campaign today. The kick-off will be at 20th
Century Theater in Oakley at 5:30 p.m. Cranley’s main opponent will
most likely be Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a fellow Democrat. The two
Democrats have split on one issue: the streetcar. Qualls supports it,
while Cranley is against it. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the mayor’s race here.
The University of Cincinnati is conducting research for how to locate food deserts, reports the Business Courier.
Professor Michael Widener is looking at where people live and work,
with a focus on how many people are able to stop by a grocery store
after a workday.
Failing to yield caused 37,475 crashes in 2012,
according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Altogether, the crashes
killed 187 people and injured 23,353. Young drivers, aged 16 to 25, were at
fault for 30 percent of the crashes — nearly twice as high as those aged
26 to 35, who caused 16 percent of accidents. The full county-by-county
report is available here.
UC will spend $2 million on design work for Nippert Stadium, reports WLWT. UC hopes the work will attract an Atlantic Coast Conference invitation.
Popular Science has a demonstration of scientists teaching language to a childlike robot.
How the new streetcar’s story will differ from the one that ended 60 years ago
1 Comment · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
After signing a utility relocation
agreement with Duke Energy on Feb. 1, Cincinnati City Manager Milton
Dohoney, Jr. declared, “The streetcar is happening.”
by German Lopez
100 days ago
More than 700 units being sold to New York company
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is asking the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to stop the sale of 748 housing
units to a New York company — potentially preventing a repeat of a
similar sale back to 2007 that led to dropping property values in the area.
In a press release Tuesday, Qualls argued that locals should be given the
opportunity to purchase the project-based Section 8 housing in Walnut
Hills, Avondale and Millvale. Currently, HUD is bypassing local
communities with plans to sell the housing to a corporation controlled
by the Puretz family of Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Cincinnati’s residents are still recovering from the
massive disinvestment that was allowed to occur with an eerily similar
situation in 2010,” Qualls said in the release, referring to a
similar sale that culminated in a huge drop in property values between
2007 and 2010.
In 2007, HUD sold 618 subsidized housing units to NY Group
OH 1 LLC, a company with no previous housing experience in Cincinnati,
according to Qualls’ release. As the 2008 financial crisis and Great
Recession pulled down the global economy, property values dropped all
around the nation, but things went particularly south in NY Group’s
Cincinnati buildings. The owner eventually defaulted on the housing
units, and Fannie Mae foreclosed in 2010. Property values went from $21.5
million to $7 million between 2007 and 2010, when the units were sold in a sheriff’s sale. In that time period, the
buildings blighted, with residents complaining about
deteriorating structures, broken lighting, bed bugs, cockroaches and mold. In one case, an
apartment’s restroom ceiling reportedly collapsed.
Qualls is focused on preventing more blighted buildings:
“Preservation of the housing in good condition is vital to the
improvement of our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods cannot afford to
have more blight brought on by an absentee owner. Because these
properties are supported by government funding, it is vitally important
that HUD get public input from the City of Cincinnati and Avondale,
Walnut Hills and Millvale residents and stakeholders about this proposed
new transfer of HUD funded properties before making any further
Qualls has invited the local HUD field office director to
the Feb. 26 Livable Communities Committee meeting to discuss the sale.
She has also written to other HUD officials, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, U.S. Sen.
Rob Portman and Rep. Steve Chabot to prevent the sale.
by German Lopez
98 days ago
Streetcar construction bids come over budget
The latest batch of bad streetcar news provoked a harsh
memo to the city manager’s office from Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who has long supported the $125
million transit project. In the memo, Qualls wrote about “serious
concerns” regarding the project’s costs and timetable.
“Whether people support or oppose the streetcar project,
everyone has a vested interest in getting the most for our public
dollars and in having the highest confidence in the management of the
project,” Qualls wrote. “While a council majority has continued to
support the project, council has not given the administration a ‘blank
The memo suggested putting the streetcar project through
“intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and timetable back in
line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major
League Baseball All-Star Game.
The memo is in response to streetcar construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over
budget. Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says the bids leave the city with
two options: The city could take up the current bids, which could have their costs brought down upon further review, or the city could reject the
bids and rebid the project, which would cause delays. But Olberding also cautions that the administration is still working on fully reviewing the bids — a process that could take weeks or longer.
Qualls is running for mayor against John Cranley, a former
Democratic council member. Cranley has been a vocal opponent of the
streetcar project — creating a strong contrast between the two candidates that has placed the streetcar
in the center of the 2013 mayoral race.
Earlier today, Cranley held a press conference asking the
city to halt the streetcar project. In a statement, he argued it is “irresponsible” to continue work on the streetcar in light of the higher
CityBeat previously covered the streetcar and how it relates to the race between Qualls and Cranley (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
by German Lopez
98 days ago
Council resolution embraces Cincinnati’s past clean energy successes
With a resolution passed Wednesday, City Council is urging state legislators to maintain the energy efficiency standards that helped drive Cincinnati’s clean energy growth.State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, sent out a memo
Feb. 1 that suggested “a meaningful review” of the state’s energy
efficiency standards, which were previously established by Senate Bill
221 in 2008 and Senate Bill 315 in 2012. In the memo, Seitz wrote he was open
to freezing and weakening some of the established standards.Environmental groups responded by calling on local governments to defend the standards. In Cincinnati, the
call was picked up by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who touted
the city’s past clean energy efforts in a statement: “Cincinnati has
made great strides in energy efficiency by seeking cost savings while
boosting our city’s green image. Energy efficiency is helping Cincinnati
support a double bottom line of environmental and economic
sustainability, and we endorse full implementation of our state
efficiency law.”The city estimates it saves $1 million a year on energy bills
because of the law’s efficiency programs, which includes upgrades and
Christian Adams, a clean energy associate of Environment Ohio,
praised Cincinnati for passing the resolution in a statement: “From
efficiency to solar, Cincinnati [is] a state leader on clean energy, and it’s
proving to be a win-win-win for consumers, the environment and the
economy. If state lawmakers want to change our clean energy law, they
should follow Cincinnati’s lead and double-down on wind, solar and
energy efficiency.”In a previous report, Environment Ohio claimed Cincinnati could become the solar energy capital of the region. CityBeat covered the report and Cincinnati’s — particularly the Cincinnati Zoo’s — success with solar energy (“Solar Cincinnati,” issue of Dec. 19).
by German Lopez
99 days ago
Obama gives State of the Union, archdiocese defends LGBT firing, Qualls against HUD sale
President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union speech
yesterday. During the speech, Obama outlined fairly liberal proposals for the economy, climate change, gun control and immigration. He also suggested raising the minimum wage to $9 and attaching it to rising cost of living standards. The Washington Post analyzed the proposals here. To watch a bunch of old people clap too much while the
president outlines policy proposals that will likely never pass a
gridlocked Congress, click here.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is standing firm
in its firing of Purcell Marian High School administrator Mike Moroski.
The termination came after Moroski publicly stated his support for
same-sex marriage on his blog — a position that contradicts the Catholic
Church’s teachings. CityBeat covered Moroski’s case in this week’s news story, and gay marriage was covered more broadly in a previous in-depth story.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls wants to stop
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from selling
768 housing units in Walnut Hills, Avondale and Millvale. Qualls says
the sale is “eerily similar” to a sale dating back to 2007, which
resulted in dropping property values and blighted buildings. She argues local buyers should get a chance to take up the properties before HUD makes the sale to a New York company.
State Treasurer Josh Mandel is up to his old tricks again. In a letter to Ohio legislators Monday, Mandel, a Republican, opposed the Medicaid expansion,
claiming, “There is no free money.” But for the state, the Medicaid
expansion is essentially free money. The federal government will cover
all the costs of the expansion for the first three years, then phase down to paying 90 percent of the costs by 2020 — essentially, free
John Kasich, another Republican, has backed the Medicaid expansion, claiming it makes
financial sense in the long term. In 2012, Mandel lost the race for Ohio’s Senate seat after he ran
a notoriously dishonest campaign against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Financing details for the Brent Spence Bridge are due in March.
The details will provide much-wanted information for local residents
cautious about the new tolling scheme, which will help pay for the bridge’s
Cincinnati officials and residents celebrated
the work completed near the Horseshoe Casino at an event yesterday.
Mayor Mark Mallory highlighted the infrastructure improvements made to
accommodate the casino, calling the work a successful collaboration
between city government, the casino and residents.
The Ohio Resource Center has a new website for K-12 digital content. The website, ilearnOhio, is supposed to provide parents and students with the tools needed for online distance learning.
Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill is being sued
for not paying rent. The restaurant claims it’s financially viable, but
it’s holding the rent in escrow after its landlord allegedly violated the
leasing agreement. The establishment was one of the first to open at
A public Ohio school district is fighting a lawsuit in order to keep its portrait of Jesus.
The school district claims the portrait is owned by a student club and
is “private speech,” but opponents argue the portrait violates
separation of church and state.
Update on the Alamo situation at Tower Place Mall: Only one tenant remains.
The unofficial spokesman of Heart Attack Grill, the infamous Las Vegas restaurant, died of a heart attack.
Americans expect a human mission to Mars in the next 20 years, but that’s probably because they don’t know how little funding NASA gets.
An asteroid will barely miss
Earth on Feb. 15. If it were to hit, it would generate the explosive
equivalent of 2,500 kilotons of TNT. In comparison, the nuclear bomb
that hit Hiroshima during World War 2 generated a measly equivalent of
17 kilotons of TNT.
by German Lopez
105 days ago
Top 1 percent to get more than $10,000 a year from cuts
Gov. John Kasich says he’s cutting everyone’s
taxes in his 2014-2015 budget, but an analysis released Thursday found the plan is actually raising taxes for the poor and middle class. The Policy Matters Ohio report
reveals the poorest Ohioans will see a tax increase of $63 from Kasich’s budget plan,
while the top 1 percent will see a tax decrease of $10,369.
For the poorest Ohioans, the new
tax burden comes through the sales tax. On average, the bottom 20 percent of the income ladder will have their income taxes reduced by $8, but the sales tax
plan will actually increase their average sales tax burden by $71.
The middle 20 percent fares slightly better. Under the budget proposal, they will get
a $157 income tax cut on average, but their sales tax burden will go up by
$165 — meaning they'll end up paying $8 more in taxes.
The top 1 percent get the most out of Kasich’s tax plan.
Their income taxes will be reduced by a whopping $11,150. The top 1 percent
do see the highest sales tax increase at $781, but it’s nowhere near
enough to make up for the massive income tax cut.
Kasich says his budget is all about creating jobs and spurring the economy, but the regressive tax system defies economic research. A previous analysis from the Congressional Budget
Office (CBO), which measures the budgetary and economic impact of
federal policy, found
letting tax cuts expire on the wealthy would barely dent the economy. The same report also found the economy greatly benefits from tax and social welfare programs that
disproportionately benefit the lower and middle classes.
Another report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) also concluded tax hikes on the rich would have negligible economic
impact. The findings made national Republicans so angry that they
pressured CRS to pull the report. CRS later re-released the study — except this time it had nicer language to appease politicians that can’t handle reality.
Kasich’s plan proposes cutting the state income tax by 20
percent across the board and lowering the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5
percent. To pay for the cuts, the proposal broadens the sales tax so it
applies to additional services — including cable TV services, coin-operated video games and admission to sports events
and amusement parks —
while keeping exemptions for education, health care, rent and
For more analysis of Kasich’s budget, check out CityBeat’s other coverage:
CPS Still Loses Funding Under Kasich AdministrationGovernor’s Budget Ignores Troubled PastKasich Budget Expands Medicaid, Cuts Taxes