Gov. John Kasich’s administration in 2012 privately discussed a public relations campaign to help bring fracking to three state parks. The plan was apparently abandoned. But ProgressOhio, which released documents showing the discussions, says the plan highlights a trend in the Kasich administration of looking out for business interests first. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. In the past couple years, the technique has been credited with bringing about a natural gas production boom in much of the United States, including Ohio. But environmentalists worry the poorly regulated practice contaminates air and water. CityBeat covered fracking in greater detail here.
Mayor John Cranley and Enroll America today plan to announce a partnership to get people enrolled in Obamacare. The goal is to fill the insurance pool with healthier, younger enrollees, many of whom qualify for financial assistance through HealthCare.gov, to help keep costs down. CityBeat previously interviewed Trey Daly, Ohio director of Enroll America, about the outreach efforts here.
The two Republicans in charge of City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee want to know why the city decertified a flood levee surrounding Lunken Airport, instead of bringing it up to federal standards, without consulting City Council. The decertification forced property owners around the airport to buy costly flood insurance. City officials say they made the decision because the city did not have the $20-$100 million it would cost to bring the levee up to standards.
The W. Va. chemical spill cost Greater Cincinnati Water Works about $26,000 in treatment chemicals, or about 11 cents per customer.
Getting ex-prisoners enrolled in Medicaid as they are released could save Ohio nearly $18 million this year, according to state officials.
Duke Energy plans to sell 13 power plants, including 11 in Ohio. The company says the move is necessary because of the state’s increasingly unpredictable regulatory environment for electricity generators. Last week, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio rejected Duke’s request for a $729 million rate increase.
With algorithms now capable of breaking CAPTCHA 90 percent of the time, companies might need to find other anti-spam email@example.com.
State Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, now faces 69 felony counts
and increasing pressure to resign. Beck is accused of helping mislead
investors into putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into an
insolvent West Chester startup company and putting some of the funds
from the company into his own campaign. Beck says he's innocent, but
that hasn't stopped top Ohio Republicans from calling for him to resign
to avoid a potential scandal and losing a seat in the Ohio legislature.
Ohio ranked No. 8 in the nation for solar jobs in 2013, with solar employment growing by roughly 31 percent over the year, according to the latest census from the Solar Foundation. The report found that U.S. solar jobs grew 10 times faster than overall employment across the country. Environment Ohio applauded the numbers, praising Cincinnati in particular for its own solar-friendly efforts. But the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate is looking into ways to weaken or undo the law that makes many solar projects possible across the state. A report from the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy indicates that repealing the law could end up costing Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014 and 2025.
The federal government reported slightly better enrollment numbers in January for Obamacare's once-troubled website, but Ohio and the nation still fell short of key demographic roles previously perpetuated by the federal government. Specifically, monthly enrollment actually beat projections for the first time since HealthCare.gov launched. But the cumulative amount of young adults signing up through January only reached 25 percent in the country and 21 percent in Ohio — far below the 39 percent goal the White House previously deemed necessary to avoid filling the insurance pool with older, less healthy enrollees who tend to use more resources and drive up costs.
With Obamacare's online marketplaces mostly fixed, some groups are now doubling efforts to get the uninsured, particularly young adults, enrolled. CityBeat interviewed Trey Daly, Ohio state director of one of those groups, here.
Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a Democrat-backed petition that would create a statewide ballot initiative for a Voter Bill of Rights, but proponents of the initiative say they'll come back with tweaked language. In a statement, DeWine said the proposal ran afoul of federal law in two places. Even if DeWine approved the language from a legal standpoint, supporters would still need to gather roughly 385,000 valid signatures before a July deadline to get the issue on the ballot in November. CityBeat covered the Voter Bill of Rights in greater detail here.
Following the large amount of charter school closures last year, State Auditor Dave Yost is launching an investigation into three Ohio charter school sponsors and the Ohio Department of Education.
The Cincinnati area could get 2 inches of snow.
A Ky. auditor says the former finance director of Covington stole nearly $800,000.
Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes posted pictures of downtown Cincinnati circa 1968 here.
Sam Adams is pouring millions into a Cincinnati brewery.
Grizzly bears could offer a better solution for weight loss.
Watch Dale Hansen, a Texas sports anchor, take on the NFL and Michael Sam’s anti-gay haters:
In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to hit key demographic targets for young adults in Ohio and across the nation. White House officials say about about 39 percent of those who sign up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov and state-run marketplaces must be young adults. The idea is to get enough young, healthy enrollees to hold down costs as an older, sicker population signs up for health insurance made more easily available through Obamacare’s systems and regulations. But in December, only 19 percent of signups in Ohio and 24 percent of signups nationwide were young adults.The Ohio Department of Education will recalculate report card data and investigate whether to punish staff after Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and six other Ohio school districts that scrubbed student attendance data. By manipulating the data, schools can appear to be performing better, but the actions obviously jeopardize the authenticity of Ohio’s school accountability system. CPS says its internal investigations found no evidence of deliberate manipulation and the data errors shouldn’t be enough to alter the school’s standing in state report cards. For CPS and the six other school districts, the issues began after the state auditor in 2012 launched an investigation into school data scrubbing.
To avoid contamination from a W. Va. chemical spill, Cincinnati Water Works will shut down its water intake system along the Ohio River and instead rely on the water intake system at the groundwater treatment facility in Fairfield. Mayor John Cranley said the shutdown will last two days, or more than twice the roughly 20 hours required for the chemical slick to pass by. Consumers shouldn’t notice a difference, according to Water Works officials.In the coming weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard will decide whether to allow fracking wastewater to travel along the Ohio River and other federal waterways and how strictly regulated the shipments should be. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves, but the process produces a lot of wastewater as a result. CityBeat previously covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
With legislation repealing Ohio’s energy rules now stalled, Champaign County residents are challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s in-state renewable energy requirements in court. Supporters of the law claim the rules help foster a green energy sector in the state, while opponents argue the rules increase costs for businesses and consumers. CityBeat previously covered State Sen. Bill Seitz’s legislative attempts to repeal the rules here.
Another tea party-backed candidate might challenge Gov. John Kasich in the Republican primary. The reveal comes just days after a tea party leader abruptly dropped his challenge against the incumbent governor.
If state legislators approve, Gov. Kasich will hold his state of the state address this year at Medina, Ohio, on Feb. 24.Three judges will cover for Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter while she fights felony charges in court.
State Rep. Pete Beck of Mason, who was indicted on 16 felony counts for alleged fraud and theft, is facing a primary challenger.Cincinnati repaved 130 lane miles of road in 2013, according to city officials.
Duke Energy cut a check for the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority today to help redevelop Bond Hill and Queensgate.A blind student is suing Miami University for alleged discrimination that prevented her from completing coursework.
One vote made the difference in 43 of Ohio’s 2013 elections, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.Ky. developers are still pursuing the Noah’s Ark theme park, despite troubles raising funds for the project.
Today is the last day to vote for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.
An infection can turn swarming locusts into solitary grasshoppers, a study found.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
Prior to the launch of HealthCare.gov, the Obama administration said it needs to enroll about 2.7 million young adults out of 7 million projected enrollees — nearly 39 percent of all signups — for the law to succeed.
The reasoning: Because young adults tend to be healthier,
they can keep premiums down as sicker, older people claim health
insurance after the law opens up the health insurance market to more Americans.
But the numbers released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Monday — the first time the agency provided demographic information — show the law missing the target both nationally and in Ohio.
Roughly 19 percent of nearly 40,000 Ohioans who signed up for Obamacare were young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the report. Not only does that fall below the 39 percent goal, but it also lags behind the national average of 24 percent.
In defense of the demographic numbers, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a blog post Monday that enrollments are demographically on pace with the 2007 experience of Massachusett, where state officials implemented health care reforms and systems similar to Obamacare through Romneycare.
Indeed, a report from The New Republic found just
22.6 percent of enrollees through the third month of Romneycare were young adults. That number rose to 31.7
percent by the end of the law’s first year.
If Obamacare ends up at Massachusetts’ year-end rate, it will still fall behind goals established by the White House. Still, Obamacare would be in a considerably better place than it finds itself today.
The disappointing demographic figure comes after months of technical issues snared HealthCare.gov’s launch. Most of the issues were fixed in December, which allowed Obamacare to report considerably better enrollment numbers by the end of the year.
But the enrollment numbers — nearly 2.2 million selected a plan between Oct. 1 to Dec. 28 — still fall below the administration’s projections to enroll 3.3 million by the end of December.
It’s also unclear how many of those signing up for Obamacare actually paid for their first premium, which is the final step to becoming enrolled in a health insurance plan.
Given how Romneycare worked out in Massachusetts, it’s possible signups for Obamacare could pick up before open enrollment closes at the end of March. Based on previous statements from the White House, Obamacare’s success could depend on it.
City Council yesterday decided Cincinnati will get a streetcar after all. After securing the six votes necessary to overturn a mayoral veto, Mayor John Cranley conceded that the $132.8 million streetcar project will restart following a two-week pause. It was a surprising journey for the project, which largely seemed like the underdog ever since the new mayor and council took office earlier in the month. In the end, the project gained its sixth vote from Councilman Kevin Flynn after the philanthropic Haile Foundation signed onto contributing $900,000 a year for 10 years to help underwrite part of the streetcar’s annual operating costs.
Advocacy group FreedomOhio yesterday announced it has enough signatures to place same-sex marriage on Ohio’s 2014 ballot. The group declined to tell Cleveland.com exactly how many signatures it had collected so far, but the organization says it’s aiming to collect 1 million before the July filing deadline. At the same time, FreedomOhio released a poll that found Ohioans are still split on the issue of same-sex marriage. But the poll also found that a good majority of Ohioans support FreedomOhio’s gay marriage legalization amendment, which provides exemptions for religious groups.
Gov. John Kasich yesterday signed a bipartisan Medicaid overhaul bill that seeks to control costs by establishing an oversight commission and a target for spending growth. The legislation also sets a focus on health care outcomes to ensure quality standards in the government-run program. Both parties pursued the bill to tamp down on health care costs that have been taking up more of the state’s budget in the past few years.
A new report from the state attorney general’s office found nearly half the businesses who received state aid in 2012 did not fulfill their end of the deal in terms of producing new jobs and other promises.
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.4 percent in November, down from 7.5 percent the month before. But the number was well above the 6.8 percent rate from November 2012, indicating a decline in job growth in the past year.
Police arrested the mother of a 3-year-old for falsification and the mother’s boyfriend for accidentally shooting the child on Tuesday.
Today is Homeless Memorial Day, a day meant to commemorate those who died in 2013 while experiencing homelessness. The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is gathering at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of 14th and Elm streets to honor the occasion.
Bike Share plans to come to Cincinnati next summer and allow residents to rent out bikes around multiple parts of town.
Miami University is the second most efficient university in the nation in terms of delivering a good education for relatively low cost, according to a study from U.S. News and World Report.
Cincinnati’s housing market marked 29 consecutive months of increased sales last month with a 5-percent rise. The measure indicates the local economy is recovering after the Great Recession crippled housing markets around the nation.
A new product that claims to translate dogs’ thoughts to human speech is bogus.
After today, Morning News and Stuff will take a vacation until Dec. 26. Happy holidays!
CityBeat is participating in a City Council candidate forum on Oct. 5. Have any questions you would like to ask candidates? Submit them here.
Ohio legislators appear ready to weaken environmental and energy regulations after months of lobbying by Akron, Ohio-based utility company FirstEnergy. The utility company argues the regulations, particularly energy efficiency standards that require customers use less electricity, cost businesses and customers too much money. But environmental groups and other supporters of the rules say FirstEnergy is just looking out for its own self-interests while putting up a front of caring about others. A study by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy coalition found eliminating the energy efficiency standards would cost Ohioans $3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the next 12 years. State Sen. Bill Seitz, who’s spearheading the regulation-weakening efforts, formally introduced his bill yesterday, and business groups say it’s a backdoor way to eliminate energy efficiency standards and the in-state renewable business by weakening them so much.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati on Tuesday announced it won a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of local efforts to draw down dirty energy production and replace it with clean sources. The Cincinnati area currently produces nearly 408 million kilowatt-hours through green energy sources, which is enough to cancel out nearly 60,000 cars’ emissions and meet 14 percent of the community’s purchased electricity use, according to city officials. To commemorate the award, Mayor Mark Mallory unveiled a Green Power Community sign at the Cincinnati Zoo, which installed solar panels on its parking lot in 2011 and became one of the region’s leading clean energy producers.Raw health insurance premiums for Obamacare’s online marketplaces will be 16 percent lower than previously projected, according to the latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released less than one week before marketplaces open on Oct. 1. In Ohio, the average family of four making $50,000 a year will have to pay $282 a month after tax credits for the second cheapest “silver” plan, or $486 less than the plan would cost without tax credits. Under Obamacare, online marketplaces will allow consumers to compare and purchase subsidized health insurance plans in the individual market. The plans only apply to the individual market, which means the majority of Americans, who are currently getting insurance through an employer or public programs, will be under a different insurance system and won’t qualify for the online marketplaces’ tax subsidies. CityBeat covered outreach efforts for the online marketplaces — and Republican attempts to obstruct them — in further detail here.
Commentary: “Let Them Eat Nothing?”
The Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s unofficial third party, yesterday endorsed Roxanne Qualls for mayor. The endorsement comes as little surprise to most election-watchers, considering the Charter Committee has endorsed Qualls four times over the years.
The Cincinnati Enquirer is displeased it couldn’t cover a private mayoral debate between Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley because the group hosting the debate closed its doors to the public.
Ohio Democrats yesterday made their endorsements for 2014: Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald for governor, former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper for attorney general, State Sen. Nina Turner for secretary of state, State Rep. Connie Pillich for state treasurer and Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell for the Ohio Supreme Court.
This infographic released by an anti-privatization group shows the negative impact of private prisons. CityBeat covered Ohio’s own privately owned prison and the problems it’s faced, including rising violence, in further detail here.
A federal grand jury charged a North Canton man for allegedly making illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. Both candidates returned the campaign contributions after they became public in stories published by the Toledo Blade and The New Republic.
A 43-year-old Hamilton man allegedly used a poison-laced knife to stab his brother-in-law.
A supposedly sexist gorilla is getting kicked out of the Dallas Zoo after 18 years.
Health insurance premiums for the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) marketplaces will be 16 percent lower than previously projected, according to the latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The report, released on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), comes less than one week before online marketplaces are set to open on Oct. 1.
In Ohio, the average 27-year-old making $25,000 a year will have to pay $145 a month after tax credits for the second cheapest “silver” plan, the designation given to the middle-of-the-pack plans under Obamacare. Without tax credits, the second cheapest silver plan would cost the 27-year-old $212 a month.
Meanwhile, the average Ohio family of four making $50,000 a year will have to pay $282 a month after tax credits for the second cheapest silver plan, or $486 less than the plan would cost without tax credits.
Under Obamacare, online marketplaces will allow consumers to compare and purchase health insurance plans in the individual market. Participants with an annual income between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or individuals making between $11,490 and $45,960, will also be eligible for tax subsidies, with the highest incomes getting the smallest subsidies and the lowest incomes getting the largest.
The plans only apply to the individual market, which means the majority of Americans, who are currently getting insurance through an employer or public programs, will be under a different insurance system and won’t qualify for the online marketplaces’ tax subsidies.
HHS estimates the average Ohioan will be able to choose between 46 different plans, excluding catastrophic options.
Some states will be less fortunate, with Alabamians in particular only having an average of seven plans to choose from.
The plans will be designated as bronze, silver, gold or platinum, with bronze covering less services but costing the least and platinum covering more services but costing the most.
The federal government was originally expecting states to set up most of the online marketplaces, but it’s had to carry some or the entire burden in 36 states, including Ohio, after state governments refused the full task.
Beating projections doesn’t necessarily make Obamacare a success. That’s why outreach campaigns plan to advertise the law’s benefits to Ohioans and others across the nation through March, after which enrollment will temporarily close until October 2014.
The outreach efforts are important to the law’s success because the federal government estimates it will need to enroll 2.7 million young adults out of the 7 million it expects to sign up overall. Otherwise, Americans who are older — and therefore less likely to be healthy — will fill up the marketplaces, exhaust health services and drive up costs.
At the same time, Republican legislators in Ohio and other states have put restrictions on some of the outreach efforts to avoid what Republicans call potential abuses and conflicts of interest. In Cincinnati, the state-level restrictions have blocked Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center from participating as a “navigator,” or a group that will help guide the uninsured and others through the enrollment process.
CityBeat covered the outreach efforts and Republican efforts to obstruct them in further detail here.
Update: Clarified metal-based classifications for different health care plans.
As the Oct. 1 opening date approaches for the Affordable Care Act’s (“Obamacare”) online marketplaces, outreach campaigns are beginning to take root and aim at states with the largest uninsured populations, including Ohio and its more than 1.25 million uninsured. But the campaigns have run into a series of problems in the past few months, with many of the issues driven by regulatory changes and opposition from Republican legislators at the state and federal level. So far, none of the state’s “navigators” — the federally financed organizations that will participate in outreach campaigns and help enroll people into marketplaces — have been certified by the Ohio Department of Insurance as they await completion of 20-hour federal training courses. Meanwhile, some organizations have been shut out of the process entirely, including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, because of regulations enacted by state Republicans.
Strategies to End Homelessness yesterday released its first annual progress report detailing how the organization intends to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County by half from 2012 to 2017. The main strategies, according to the report: prevention, rapid rehousing that lasts six to 12 months, transitional housing for up to 24 months and permanent supportive housing that targets the chronically homeless and disabled. The goal is to reduce homelessness by using supportive services to get to the root of the issue, whether it’s joblessness, mental health problems or other causes, and ensure shelter services aren’t necessary in the first place.
A new study found Ohio school performance is strongly tied to student poverty. Damon Asbury of the Ohio School Boards Association says the results shouldn’t make excuse for low-performing schools, but he claims there are other factors the state government should consider when grading schools, including whether low-performing schools actually need more, not less, funding to make up for a lack of resources. Greg Lawson of the conservative Buckeye Institute seems to agree, but he says his organization, which supports school choice and vouchers, will soon release a study showing no correlation between state and local funding and student performance.
The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday held its endorsement interviews with mayoral candidates Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, with some of the highlights posted here. Also, check out CityBeat’s previous Q&A’s with the candidates: Qualls and Cranley.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says the state’s Identity Theft Unit has received 600 complaints and helped adjust $250,000 in disputed charges since its creation last year.
Libertarian Charlie Earl yesterday announced he’ll run in the 2014 gubernatorial race. Earl served in the Ohio House from 1981 to 1984 and ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2010.
Cincinnati State is getting a $2.75 million federal grant to expand the school’s manufacturing program in the region.
Cincinnati Children’s is testing a new bird flu vaccine.
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County received the Auditor of State Award with Distinction for a clean audit report.
A new study suggests people act more selfishly when interacting with wide-faced men.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley focused most of their disagreement on the streetcar and parking lease at yesterday’s first post-primary mayoral debate. No matter the subject, Cranley repeatedly referenced his opposition to the streetcar project and his belief that it’s siphoning city funds from more important projects and forcing the city to raise property taxes to pay for debt. Qualls argued the streetcar project will produce economic growth and grow the city’s tax base, which the city could then leverage for more development projects; that claim has been backed by studies from consulting firm HDR and the University of Cincinnati, which put the streetcar’s return on investment at three-to-one. On the parking lease, Qualls claimed money raised through the lease could be used to leverage economic development projects, while Cranley said the lease would hurt an entire generation by shifting control of Cincinnati’s parking assets from the city to the unelected Port Authority and private companies.
State Rep. Denise Driehaus and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, both of Cincinnati, called on the state government to reverse its decision to not give local company Pure Romance tax credits. Pure Romance, a $100 million-plus company whose product lineup includes sex toys, was planning on moving from Loveland to downtown Cincinnati with local and state support, but because the state declined the tax breaks, the company is now considering moving to Covington, Ky. Gov. John Kasich’s administration has said Pure Romance doesn’t fit into the traditional industries the state invests in, but Democratic legislators argue Kasich’s social conservatism is getting in the way of keeping jobs in Ohio.
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder says he has “literally no thoughts” about the possibility of the state expanding Medicaid without the legislature and through the state Controlling Board — a possibility that Kasich hinted at earlier in the week. Kasich has been pleading with the Ohio General Assembly to take up the federally funded Medicaid expansion, but Republican legislators have so far refused. If the Controlling Board does expand Medicaid, Batchelder said the state legislature will likely pass some protections in case the federal government reneges on its funding proposal. Under Obamacare, states are asked to expand Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level; if they accept, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion through 2016 then phase its payments down to an indefinite 90 percent.
Documents uncovered by USA Today further show the IRS, particularly through its offices in Cincinnati, targeted tea party groups by looking at “anti-Obama rhetoric,” inflammatory language and “emotional” statements made by nonprofits seeking tax-exempt status.
The Cincinnati area’s economy grew by 2.7 percent in 2012, slightly higher than the country’s 2.5-percent growth in the same year.
In perhaps another sign of growing local momentum, venture capitalists appear to be investing more in Cincinnati’s entrepreneurs.
Following two high-profile suicides at Ohio’s prisons, an expert on inmate suicides will inspect the state’s facilities and protocols.
Saks Fifth Avenue might move to Kenwood Collection.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble and TriHealth are among the top 100 companies for working mothers, according to the magazine Working Mother.
A very rare genetic mutation makes subjects immune to pain.