Warren County delays action on awarding $700K in federal grants

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 11:45 AM


            Lebanon hoped to fix Cambridge Court with federal funds through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Staff photo by Lawrence Budd
            Lawrence Budd
Lebanon hoped to fix Cambridge Court with federal funds through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Staff photo by Lawrence Budd(Lawrence Budd)

The Warren County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday postponed approval of $700,000 in federal funding this year for a variety of projects due to questions about the funding program’s future.

The board closed the second public hearing required before designating which projects are to be funded through community development block grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

MORE: County adds loop bus service

“At this point, HUD has not told us what our allocation is,” Susanne Mason, the county’s grants administrator, said during the hearing, required by federal law.

RELATED: No federal grant for Franklin museum

Typically local governments hear from HUD by February about how much money will actually be available for the block grants, Mason said.

This year, Mason said there was no word on funding or whether the Trump administration would cut this HUD program, as proposed during the presidential election.

RELATED: Block grant funding requests top $1 million in Warren County

If funded, Lebanon would receive the most, $277,900 for road work on Cambridge Court, Georgetown Drive, Raintree Trail and Winding Way.

Franklin Twp. is to receive $160,000 for Harriet and Olive avenues and Mentz Road repairs.

The county planned to use $90,000 for program administration.

In addition, the county planned to provide through HUD:

$64,500 for housing and feeding the homeless through the Interfaith Hospitality Network;

$60,000 to Deerfield Twp. for engineering on Davis Court and Rich Road;

$42,000 to the Abuse and Rape Crisis Shelter of Warren County for housing assistance for victims of domestic violence;

$19,145 to the Village of Butlerville for a playground update.

In response to a question from Commissioner Shannon Jones, Mason said she had notified the proposed recipients of the status of their application for funding.

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“They know what our intentions are,” Mason said.

With Commissioner Dave Young absent, Jones and Commissioner Tom Grossmann gave the nod to support plans by the county’s economic development office to lobby for the program.

Last month, the Trump administration proposed budgets for federal agencies including HUD.

“The blueprint reflects the President’s commitment to support HUD’s critical functions that provide rental assistance to low-income and vulnerable households and to help work-eligible families achieve self-sufficiency. It also recognizes a greater role for State and local governments, and the private sector to address community and economic development needs. ” according to a press release.”A more detailed program-by-program budget proposal will be announced in May.”

In addition to the block grants, HUD which has a budget of about $50 billion, provides rental assistance and promotes home ownership through the Federal Housing Administration. FHA underwrites about one in six mortgages issued in the U.S. and enforces federal fair housing laws.

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6 Dayton locations where companies want to grow medical marijuana

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 4:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 4:00 PM

A harvester examines marijuana buds from a trimming machine near Corvallis, Oregon. Researchers complain the government marijuana consists of leaves and unsmokable stems. ANDREW SELSKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Staff Writer
A harvester examines marijuana buds from a trimming machine near Corvallis, Oregon. Researchers complain the government marijuana consists of leaves and unsmokable stems. ANDREW SELSKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS(Staff Writer)

Six locations in Dayton are potential sites for marijuana cultivation, according to city records obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

City zoning records list six companies that also appear on the list released by the Ohio Department of Commerce of 185 companies that applied for licenses to grow medical cannabis in Ohio. The state will issue only issue a dozen each of level 1 and 2 licenses, allowing the recipient to grow initially up to 25,000-square-feet and 3,000-square-feet, respectively.

One of the companies is listed in state records as Agrogenius LLC, but company representative Adam Goldie said the company name is actually Agrogenics LLC.

A seventh company named Sriven Farms LLC filed zoning forms for four different properties in Dayton, but that company is not listed as having applied for a license from the state.

RELATED: State identifies medical pot applicants

The city records, required as part of each company’s state application, simply says there are no prohibitions against a medical marijuana facility at that location.

If they get a license from the state, each company would still have to go through formal zoning approval.

RELATED: Ohio-based retailer partnering with Canadian medical marijuana company

The companies and addresses listed in city records are: 

1. Ohio Medical Holdings LLC,

5031-5059 Riverton Drive, Dayton

Level 1 application

2. Certified Cultivators, LLC

1654 Springfield Street, Dayton

Level 1 application

3. Ohio Clean Leaf, LLC

2046 Valley Street, Dayton

Level 2 application

4. Pure Medicinal Co

660 Milburn Ave, Dayton

Level 2 application

5. Bickshaw Investment Group

5732 Webster Street, Dayton

Level 2 application

6. Agrogenics LLC

1516 Stanley Ave., Dayton

Level 1

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Cities can turn red light cameras back on, court rules; state threatens to fight back

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 9:11 AM
Updated: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 10:19 AM

Whaley reacts to legal victory

The Ohio Supreme Court said in a 5-2 decision issued Wednesday that the 2015 state law that makes it all but impossible for local governments to use traffic cameras is unconstitutional because it conflicts with cities’ home-rule authority.

The decision impacts Ohio’s 8 million licensed drivers, gives cities the green-light to start using traffic cameras again and delivers a win to municipalities that have seen an erosion of home-rule powers in other court decisions. It also is an invitation for lawmakers opposed to traffic cameras to look for other ways to curtail their use.

The city of Dayton filed the legal challenge against the state of Ohio after legislators passed the law that curtails local authority to use traffic enforcement cameras.

Dayton challenged three elements of the law, which took effect in March 2015:

• that a full-time police officer be posted at each camera in operation;

• that cities conduct a three-year traffic study before deploying a camera;

• that speeders be given “leeway” — 6 miles per hour over in a school zone and 10 mph over elsewhere — before issuing tickets.

Related: Return of Dayton’s red light cameras uncertain after Supreme Court arguments

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said residents want traffic cameras in their neighborhoods to make roadways less dangerous for motorists and pedestrians.

“We get asked regularly by neighborhoods to please put cameras in,” Whaley said.

Dayton still has fixed traffic cameras along various roadways and at intersections across the city, but the city no longer has a contract with the company that previously operated the devices.

Dayton officials said they will review the Supreme Court’s decision to decide how to proceed, and plans for traffic cameras are expected to change considerably.

The city wants to establish a thoughtful and effective camera program that improves community safety while not taxing law enforcement’s limited resources, Whaley said.

“We’ll go back and will be very forthright with the community about what we’re going to do, just like we’ve been the entire time,” Whaley said. “I’m very pro camera, but this ruling just came down.”

State may not be done targeting cameras

Even as city officials look at turning the cameras back on, state lawmakers are vowing to look for ways to shut them down again.

State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, the architect of the law declared unconstitutional, said the ruling only applies to home-rule cities and the law is still in place for Ohio’s 1,300 townships and 88 counties as well as villages. When lawmakers return from summer recess in September, Seitz said they’ll consider requiring photo-enforcement tickets go through municipal courts instead of an administrative process.

The state may withhold local government fund money from cities that receive money from traffic cameras, he said. “Since they’re getting money that way, they obviously don’t need our money. I think those two things would have a very salutary effect in taking the profit out of the policing for profit equation and render the decision today a pyrrhic victory for those folks like Dayton and Toledo that think they are above the law.”

Seitz said an outright ban could be put in place through a constitutional amendment — something he said is not being considered at this time.

Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said “I think the people of Ohio overwhelmingly oppose red light cameras. The Legislature tends to feel the same way.”

Obhof said he has yet to review the ruling in the Dayton case. He noted that he would consider a ban bill if he believes it has a chance of withstanding a constitutional challenge. “It doesn’t do us any good for us to pass another law that we expect to be struck down. So anything that we would do from here out, as when we worked on it the first time, we’ll take our time, try to be thoughtful about it and come up with a result that maybe the courts will agree with, maybe they won’t, but one that we think going in will withstand scrutiny.”

Before the law took effect, Dayton asked the common pleas court to declare elements of the law unconstitutional. The trial court agreed with the city but the Second District Court of Appeals overturned that decision. The city then took it to the supreme court.

The ruling

The Ohio Constitution, adopted in 1912, gives municipalities “home-rule” powers of self-governance as long as local ordinances don’t conflict with the state’s general laws.

Justice Patrick Fischer, writing the majority opinion, said that the law “infringes on the municipality’s’s legislative authority without serving an overriding state interest and is therefore unconstitutional.”

The supreme court ruled that the requirement that an officer be present while cameras are operating contradicts the purpose of deploying cameras to conserve police resources. It also said prescribing a “leeway” improperly dictates to cities how they must enforce speed limits within the city limits and it operates “as a de facto increase in speed limits in the limited areas covered by a traffic camera.”

Justices William O’Neill and Patrick DeWine dissented on the ruling, saying that the law promotes the uniform application of traffic regulations across the state.

In his dissent, DeWine said justices in the majority were over-stepping into legislators’ roles.

New restrictions force an officer to be present if drivers are ticketed for speeding or running red lights

Related: Dayton to reboot its traffic camera program

“But today, the plurality in essence says we know what is in the sate’s interest better than those 132 representatives of the people do. And if we don’t think a law is a good idea, then it must not be a general law, and we can strike it down,” DeWine wrote.

The decision only strikes down the three elements of the law that Dayton challenged. Other provisions remain in effect, including a requirement that camera manufacturers provide maintenance records to local authorities and a prohibition on insurance companies using camera-caught violations to set motorists’ policies and rates.

Dayton began using traffic cameras in 2002, first to enforce red-light traffic violations and later to catch speeders. Accidents decreased where cameras operated. Other cities and villages across the state also used traffic cameras to catch violators.

While Dayton was the lead on the case decided Wednesday, Springfield, Akron, East Cleveland, Toledo and the Ohio Municipal League weighed in with briefs supporting Dayton’s argument. The Municipal League represents 700 cities and villages.

In oral arguments held in January before the high court, Dayton said that the General Assembly specifically wrote the law to block local jurisdictions from using the cameras. Dayton had more than 36 cameras operating when the law took effect.

The state argued that municipalities could still use cameras to issue citations as long as they followed the law and local ordinances didn’t conflict with the state statute. The state said the law provides a statewide framework on the use of traffic cameras.

Meanwhile, Dayton city officials approved a plan to bring back cameras to catch speeding and red light violations. The city plans to use 10 fixed camera systems, six hand-held devices and two portable trailer units. Officers will be present when any of these devices are in operation and documenting traffic violations.

Related: Traffic cameras coming back to Dayton at these locations

RELATED: Middletown, New Miami: High court ruling won’t change stance on cameras

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TIMELINE OF THE CASE

July 14, 2017: Dayton traffic cameras: What’s really going on?

July 12, 2017: Traffic cameras are coming back to Dayton in these locations

April 20, 2017: Dayton plans to bring back traffic cameras

March 5, 2017: Return of traffic cameras uncertain after arguments in case before Supreme Court

Jan. 10, 2017: 5 things to know about Dayton’s traffic camera case

Jan. 3, 2017: Supreme Court announces it will hear Dayton’s red light camera case

May 17, 2016: Dayton wants to restart traffic camera program

Aug. 7, 2015: Court sides with state in Dayton traffic camera case

March 4, 2015: Cities fear rise in traffic accidents as camera use ends

Developer to get sales tax break on new Warren County facility

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 3:26 PM


            Another warehouse and distribution facility is proposed in Park North in Monroe. NICK DAGGY / STAFF
Another warehouse and distribution facility is proposed in Park North in Monroe. NICK DAGGY / STAFF

The Warren County Port Authority is expected to sign leases with a developer on a 1.3 million square foot warehouse and distribution facility with the operators of an industrial park in Monroe.

On Thursday, the port authority board is scheduled to vote on leases and agreements with Park North 6, an affiliate of Industrial Developments International.

RELATED: Industrial park to get new tenant

The leases would enable Park North 6 to avoid sales tax on materials purchased for the project.

It was unclear how much the developer would save as a result or how much the port authority was charging for closing or legal fees.

RELATED: Industrial park developer gets sales tax break

Park North 6 is a 70-acre industrial park off Ohio 63, east of Interstate 75.

The operators are soliciting contracts for the project and seeking the leases and agreements with the port authority, much like those on other buildings in the industrial park, according to documents to be voted on Thursday.

Congressmen Jordan, Davidson pushing welfare reform plan

Published: Sunday, July 23, 2017 @ 2:45 PM
Updated: Sunday, July 23, 2017 @ 2:45 PM

Freedom Caucus former Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, speaks to reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Washington Bureau
Freedom Caucus former Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, speaks to reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)(Washington Bureau)

More than 20 years after Bill Clinton, John Kasich and Newt Gingrich reformed “welfare as we know it,” two Ohio lawmakers are vowing to do it again, saying the government must do more to encourage people to work rather than live off of federal largesse.

Reps. Jim Jordan, R–Urbana, and Warren Davidson, R–Troy, want to start by looking at some 92 federal means-tested programs — they include everything from cash aid to food aid to housing — and consolidating them. They say any social worker would be daunted by finding the best out of 92 programs, and many of them are duplicative.

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, a member of the Freedom Caucus, leaves a meeting with the conservative coalition on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 23, 2017, after their trip to the White House. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)(Washington Bureau)

They want to do this through a bipartisan panel comparable to the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission: A bipartisan group would spend a year taking a hard look at all 92 programs, consolidating and eliminating where necessary and Congress would have to vote for those recommendations on and up-or-down basis.

RELATED: $2M welfare fraud investigation ends in arrests, police say

Davidson said it’s not a matter of reducing benefits. It’s far easier for a social worker trying to help a family in need if he or she is familiar with the programs available, he said. It’s hard to be fluent in 92 different government programs.

But more broadly, Jordan, who, like Davidson is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, would like to beef up work requirements in order to receive federal benefits. While the Clinton-era welfare package created work requirements through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, such requirements weren’t instituted for other means-tested federal programs.

While the 1996 welfare overhaul “did what it was supposed to do, it really applied to one program,” said Davidson. “It didn’t have as broad an effect as it could have.”

The federal government has made it optional for states to impose work requirements on food stamps, but it hasn’t really forced them to, say analysts.

Success stories

Davidson and Jordan argue that the states that did impose work requirements are success stories. In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage in 2014 instituted work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents in order for them to receive food stamps. Three months after he instituted that policy, the number of able-bodied adults without dependents receiving food stamps had plummeted by 80 percent, according to the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“I think at the federal level, we ought to say, ‘these are federal dollars. Do what you want to with your own state, but for the federal dollars, you only get them if you expect able-bodied adults to work,” Davidson said.

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Jordan said the 1996 overhaul worked relatively well until the financial crisis, when then-President Barack Obama lifted some of the work requirements to receive TANF. During the meltdown, Obama allowed states to seek a federal waiver from work participation rules that allowed welfare recipients to also engage in one of 12 work activities, such as job training. In order to receive the waiver, states had to come up with a plan to better promote ways to help people find work.

Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the moderate Brookings Institution and a former senior advisor to President George H.W. Bush, said Obama may have loosened the work requirements during the Great Recession, but the move was temporary.

“I’m not aware of a permanent change in the law because of the recession,” he said. “I certainly do not think President Obama deliberately undermined the work requirements. If he did, it didn’t work very well because they’re still pretty strong.”

Haskins said the larger problem is that states, over time, have figured out how to meet the work requirements without requiring people to work.

“Work programs are very difficult to run,” he said. “They are administratively complex and states have never been especially good at it…they play all these games and it’s the games that need to stop.”

‘We’re not doing enough of that’

Robert Doar — a former commissioner of social services in New York during part of the welfare implementation who is now with the conservative American Enterprise Institute — said the federal government has not done enough to encourage and promote work in food stamps, public health insurance, housing assistance or Medicaid.

He said the policy of “giving benefits and saying, ‘see you in a year’” “is not really helpful in my opinion.”

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“What a person seeking assistance really wants, really needs is a pathway to a job, and we’re not doing enough of that,” he said. “In the new administration, the focus is more on work and less on just providing assistance. I think that’s good.”

Doar said the 1996 effort worked, with the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps and public health insurance also helping to improve the poor’s standard of living. The poor, he said, “are much better off than they were in 1993 or 1994.”

“That doesn’t mean it solved all the problems or that we don’t have a lot more to do in helping poor Americans, but it certainly did what it set out to do.”

Counter view

Melissa Boteach, vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity program at the left leaning Center for American Progress disputes the notion that the 1995 welfare reform was a success. Twenty years after TANF was created, “it helps very few struggling families with children,” she said.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, while the program served 4.4 million families in 1996, it served 1.6 million in 2015, even as the number of families with children rose to more than 7.1 million by 2016.

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She said Temporary Assistance to Needy Families also was not effective in responding to the Great Recession. Hardship went up, the unemployed went up, and so did food stamps and other programs for the poor.

TANF, Boteach said, “remained flat” even as unemployment and poverty rose.

She disputes the philosophy that a work requirement will motivate someone to work, saying taking a person’s food away is not going to make them a more productive job applicant.

“Work requirements don’t create jobs,” she said. “Work requirements punish people while they’re looking for jobs.”