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by German Lopez 03.14.2013
Posted In: Bailout, Economy, News, Governor, Prisons, Budget at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio senator goes after big banks, governors clash, Ohio reduces prison re-entry

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is putting forward legislation that would break up the big banks to avoid what has been colloquially dubbed “too big to fail.” The liberal senator is teaming up with Sen. David Vitter, a very conservative Republican from Louisiana, to put together the bill, which Brown says will make the economy safer, secure taxpayer money and help create jobs. In his push, Brown has compared the big banks to Standard Oil, which was broken up by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1911 after the oil giant breached antitrust laws.

Indiana Gov. Mike Spence fired back at Ohio Gov. John Kasich for insulting Indiana in recent remarks: “Indiana is the best state in the Midwest to start a business, grow a business and get a job. … With the Hoosier state consistently winning the competition for fiscal responsibility and reform, somebody should remind the governor of Ohio that trash talk usually comes before the game.” In a speech Monday, Kasich said, “This is not Indiana where you go to Indianapolis … and then say, ‘Where else are we going to go? Gary?’ ”

Ohio is a leader in reducing prison re-entry, and that’s translating to millions of dollars for the state’s taxpayers. Ohio’s recidivism rate, which measures how many prison convicts are returning to prison after being released, dropped to 28.7 percent in 2009, from 39.5 percent in 2003. The latest data is from 2009, so it’s before Gov. John Kasich took office and passed measures to further reduce prison recidivism, which provide new ways for criminals to get records expunged, allow released criminals to obtain a certificate of qualification from courts for employment and offer sentence-reduction incentives for prisoners to get job training and education programs while in prison.

The Ohio House approved a bill that would effectively shut down Internet sweepstakes cafes, which state officials claim are havens for gambling and other criminal activity, by limiting their prize payouts to $10. The bill received support from law-enforcement groups, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, some charity organizations and the state’s casino operators.

Mayoral candidate John Cranley says the city should redirect funding meant for the streetcar to the MLK/I-71 Interchange project, but the funding is set up through federal grants that are highly competitive and allocated specifically to the streetcar project.

Opponents of the city’s parking plan briefly celebrated yesterday when they assumed Graeter’s had joined their efforts, but the ice cream company says it was all a misunderstanding. Graeter’s is allowing opponents to gather petition signatures in front of its stores because the sidewalks are public property, but the company says it didn’t give permission to gather signatures within the stores.

Cincinnati’s Findlay Market earned a glowing review in The Boston Globe, sparking a wave of celebration on social media.

The Smale Riverfront Park is forging ahead largely thanks to the help of private funders, who have made up for an unexpected drop in state and federal funds.

The Ohio Senate paved ahead with legislation that will raise the speed limit on some highways, particularly in rural areas, to 70 miles per hour. The bill contains obvious time benefits for drivers, but environmental groups say higher speed limits mean worse fuel efficiency and insurance groups say it will make roads more dangerous.

A West Chester trucking company is cutting 250 jobs.

Popular Science has nine reasons to avoid sugar to save your life.

by German Lopez 02.25.2014
Posted In: News, Marijuana, LGBT, Governor, Parking at 09:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich gives annual speech, Ohioans move left on social issues, OTR gets parking plan

Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State speech last night, promising to combat Ohio’s heroin epidemic, cut taxes and create jobs across the state. The speech didn’t promise any new, huge proposals; instead, it focused on expanding the approach Kasich has taken to governing Ohio in the past four years. Democrats criticized the speech for failing to note Ohio’s recent economic struggles, with the state now among the worst in the nation for job growth. Meanwhile, a recent analysis from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio found Kasich’s proposed tax cut would benefit the wealthy.

Ohioans are moving left on marijuana and same-sex marriage, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday. The poll found 87 percent of Ohioans now support legalizing marijuana for medical uses, and 51 percent support allowing adults to legally possess a small amount of the drug. Meanwhile, half of Ohio voters now support same-sex marriage, compared to 44 percent who do not. Whether the widespread support translates to ballot issues remains to be seen. CityBeat covered Ohio’s medical marijuana movement here and same-sex marriage efforts here.

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) plans to alleviate parking problems in Over-the-Rhine by adding a parking meter to every parking space in the neighborhood and asking City Council to allow residential parking permits in neighborhoods that mix commercial and residential. (Today, the city code allows residential parking permits only in neighborhoods that are 100 percent residential.) The plan would add 162 metered spaces to the 478 currently metered spaces, and 637 spaces would be designated for residents.

City Council could move to officially dissolve the parking privatization plan as soon as Wednesday. What will replace the plan is still unclear, but CityBeat compared Mayor John Cranley’s proposal to the parking privatization plan here.

Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell says officers responded appropriately to an incident in which police shot and killed a suspect. Blackwell said police had to respond with deadly force when the suspect came out of his house with a rifle.

Cincinnati-based Kroger could buy supermarket rival Safeway.

An alarming video shows old arctic ice vanishing as a result of global warming, even though old ice is more resistant to melting.

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by German Lopez 10.17.2013
Posted In: Governor, Abortion, News at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

State Could Force Local Abortion Clinic to Close

Governor signed new anti-abortion restrictions into law with state budget in June

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) could order the Lebanon Road Surgery Center, a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic, to shut down after a hearing examiner upheld ODH’s decision to revoke the clinic’s license because the clinic failed to establish a transfer agreement with a nearby hospital.

Abortion rights advocates touted the closure as another example of how new regulations in the recently passed state budget will limit access to legal abortions across the state. But ODH handed down its original decision for the Cincinnati-area abortion clinic in November 2012, more than half a year before Gov. John Kasich in June signed the state budget and its anti-abortion restrictions into law.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio decried “the closure of an abortion provider in the Cincinnati area despite an exemplary record of medical safety.”

“Just as we feared when Gov. Kasich enacted medically unnecessary regulations on abortion providers, officials at the Ohio Department of Health have launched a regulatory witch hunt against Ohio’s abortion providers and have recommended the closure of an abortion clinic in Cincinnati,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement.

Ohio Right to Life, which opposes abortion rights, celebrated the decision.

“We are gratified to see yet another late-term abortionist shutting down,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, in a statement. “As a result of this Health Department order, Martin Haskell, a strong proponent and former practitioner of the controversial and deadly partial-birth abortion procedure, will no longer be able to abort children and jeopardize womens health in Hamilton County.”

Ohio law classifies abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities and requires they establish transfer agreements with nearby hospitals, where clinics can send patients for more comprehensive care in case of an emergency. The 2014-2015 state budget also barred abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals, which abortion-rights advocates say greatly hinders the clinics because private hospitals are generally religious and oppose abortion rights.

The Cincinnati-area clinic is just one of five Ohio clinics in the past year to either close down or face the threat of closing down, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Without the five, Ohio would be reduced to just nine abortion clinics.

On Oct. 9, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio announced a lawsuit against Ohio’s newest anti-abortion restrictions. The ACLU claims the regulations went beyond the budget’s purpose of appropriating funds and therefore violated the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject” rule, which requires each individual law keep to a single subject to avoid complexity and hidden language.

The hearing examiner’s decision:

by German Lopez 02.06.2014
Posted In: News, Marijuana, MSD, 2014 election, Governor at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Medical marijuana effort underway, MSD battle continues, FitzGerald challenger questioned

The Ohio Rights Group could get medical marijuana legalization on the ballot this November, but the group first must gather enough petition signatures. Although the campaign has medical research and polling in its favor, it’s also struggled to raise a significant amount of cash to support a statewide campaign. At the same time, many entrepreneurs see the legalization of medical marijuana as inevitable; over the past weekend, Comfy Tree Cannabis Collective held a seminar to advise potential businesses on the inner workings of selling legalized marijuana.

Commentary: “Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts.”

Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel says the county is willing to go to court to fight Cincinnati’s “responsible bidder” rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. The county says the rules are illegal, burden businesses and favor unions. But city officials, particularly Councilman Chris Seelbach, says the rules help train workers and create local jobs. The rules impose stricter job training requirements on MSD contractors and require them to fund pre-apprenticeship programs that would help train new workers in different crafts.

Larry Ealy, a Dayton-area man, could challenge gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald in a Democratic primary, but the chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party cautions that Ealy consistently fails to gather enough signatures for his election bids. In the past, Ealy attempted to run for various offices in Dayton.

City officials and the Cincinnati Public Schools Board plan to announce a new collaboration today. The initiative intends to align and better implement the city and school district’s shared policy goals. “We want to establish the framework and make sure the right culture is there,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who announced the collaboration, previously told CityBeat. “Then people can do what elected officials are supposed to do: roll up your sleeves and come up with smart, viable policies.”

Following the demolition of the University of Cincinnati’s Wilson Auditorium, it’s unclear what, if anything, will replace the building.

The Ohio Supreme Court reminds state judges that the conditions for jailing people over unpaid fines are limited.

As people turned up the heat to deal with the polar vortex, they also drove gas prices — and future bills — up.

LED lights make cities look cooler on camera.

A new mind-controlled robotic hand comes with a sense of touch.

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by Hannah McCartney 07.05.2013

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich receives presidential bid endorsement, a bionic duck, 105.75 hot dogs

Plunderbund Ohio reports that Gov. John Kasich has picked up his first endorsement for a presidential bid from Citizens for Community values president and executive director and self-professed former porn addict Phil Burress, following Kasich's signing of some of the country's most archaic and restrictive anti-abortion provisions in the nation. This week’s news story by CityBeat’s most glamorous misanthrope, German Lopez, explains how the recently passed state budget caters to Republicans by lowering taxes for the rich, tries to block health care for the poor and effectively defunds Planned Parenthood and its valuable health services.

Eleven school buses were hijacked from the Petermann Bus Company bus lot in Golf Manor. All but one of the buses has been recovered. Ralph Brown, who supervises the company, speculated some kids just wanted to take a "joy ride."

Columbia Parkway is open again after massive flash flooding and landslides inundated the road, but this weekend's wet forecast could cause it to flood again.

SPCA Cincinnati is adopting out cats and kittens for just $5 through this weekend in honor of Independence Day. Visit the Northside or the Sharonville location. 

"God buried fossil fuels 'because he loves to see us find them.'" No. 5 on Rolling Stone's top 10 list of the dumbest things ever said about global warming comes from Bryan Fischer, director at the American Family Association.

Men can eat a lot more weiners than women. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas ate 36.75 hot dogs yesterday in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Coney Island's 98th annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, earning first place in the women's division, while male title winner Joey Chestnut ate 69 dogs IN 10 MINUTES.

Here's why hot temperatures sometimes can make you cranky

Women in Egypt are at a staggeringly high risk to become victims of sexual assault. More than 80 women were raped, sexually harassed or sexually assaulted during Wednesday night’s mob celebration of the forced departure of president Mohamed Morsi on Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. 

Buttercup, a duck born with his left foot twisted backward, is now on top of the world after his owner used 3D printing to create a brand new foot for Buttercup. Here is a video for good measure.

by Danny Cross 05.31.2012
music hall

Morning News and Stuff

The Enquirer today offered a dramatic headline on its front page story, asking the figurative question, “Who will blink first on Music Hall deal?” Although Mayor Mark Mallory is able to literally blink, such involuntary action will not directly affect his stance on giving away Music Hall, which he is still opposed to.

Cincinnati's outstanding stadium tax bonds were downgraded by Moody's Investor Services, partially as a result of the county's sale of Drake Hospital last year and its unwillingness to cut the property tax rollback that helped convince rich people to vote for the tax in the first place.

Gov. John Kasich this week signed an executive order allowing the Ohio Lottery Commission to expedite new rules allowing slot machines at racetracks. The state's seven racetracks are expected to begin submitting applications for the 17,500 machines within the next few months.

Condoleeze Rice endorsed Mitt Romney, as the Republican presidential candidate struggles to differentiate his foreign policy from Obama's.

A Seattle man yesterday killed five people before shooting himself as authorities closed in on him. Various security cameras caught footage of the suspect entering a cafe, where he allegedly shot and killed four people. He reportedly killed another person during a carjacking. According to The Seattle Times, the suspect is Ian Lee Stawicki, 40, of Seattle, whose brother says he is mentally ill.

Florida Democrats are wondering what's up with Republican Gov. Rick Scott's effort to purge illegal voters from the state's rolls before this year's elections, partially in response to legal voters being booted.

Job creation: light. Unemployment claims: slightly up. Economy: growing a little slower than expected. Details here

Ever ordered a medium soda only to realize that the giant cup doesn't fit in a normal car cup holder? New York City could soon ban large sodas and other sugary drinks.

by German Lopez 02.05.2013
Posted In: Casino, News, Budget, Economy, Governor, Education at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Casino revenue estimates drop, Kasich's budget unveiled, fraternity's lawsuit dismissed

New casino revenue numbers are well below 2009 estimates. State officials previously estimated Ohios casinos would bring in $1.9 billion a year once they were built and functional, but the latest state budget cuts that prediction by half. The new estimates are due to competition with racinos and lower-than-expected performance at casinos that are already up and running. 

Gov. John Kasich announced his 2014-2015 budget, unveiling a few pleasant and unpleasant surprises for progressives. As part of the budget, Ohio is going ahead with expanding Medicaid to meet Obamacare’s financial incentives, despite Kasich’s past criticism of the national health care program. But the budget also directs higher revenues to cutting taxes, instead of making up for past spending cuts enacted by Kasich.

A Miami University fraternity’s $10 million lawsuit has been dismissed. The lawsuit accused the university of “malice, hatred and ill will” for the suspension of Phi Kappa Tau after it had a fireworks battle with another fraternity. The battle led to police discovering marijuana inside the fraternity.

Looks like Ohioans are returning to school. Some universities, including Miami, have seen a spike in the number of applications recently, despite Ohio having fewer high school graduates in the past few years. The spike is likely due to out-of-state recruiting.

City Council will vote tomorrow on whether to provide tax breaks for neighborhood projects in Walnut Hills and Linwood. The projects are focused on buildings that are apparently uninhabitable, according to the developer.

PNC Bank is set to announce a “major gift” to Smale Riverfront Park. The gift would continue a stream of private contributions to the park. Last year, Procter & Gamble donated $1 million to fund the P&G Vibrant Playscape.

Cincinnati’s tree fee will not change this year. The tree fee is paid by homeowners so the city can take care of trees in public rights of way.

Cincinnati was awarded the Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award from the National Community Development Association for contributing to the renovations of the Villages at Roll Hill.

An unhappy defendant punched his own lawyer in court. 

The 3-D print revolution has taken an unexpected turn: Scientists can now print human embryonic cells. The researchers hope to use the cells as ink for printed organs and tissues.

by German Lopez 01.06.2014
Posted In: News, City Council, Budget, Governor, State Legislature at 03:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

State Cuts Contribute to Local Budget Gap

Republican state officials slashed local government funding in previous budgets

Cincinnati might not be facing an operating budget gap in 2015 if it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments.

Following cuts approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature, Cincinnati officials estimate the city is getting $26 million less in state funding in 2015 than the city did in 2010.

At the same time, the city is facing a $21 million operating budget gap in 2015.

The reduction in state aid helps explain why the local budget gap remains after several years of council-approved spending cuts and tax hikes.

“It sounds like the city is doing a good job,” said Democratic Councilman Chris Seelbach at Monday’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting. “Where we’re seeing these obstacles is these outside sources.”

Independent Councilman Christopher Smitherman countered that the cuts to the local government fund and the elimination of the estate tax, both of which drove the reduction in state aid, have been known since 2011 and 2012.

“Public policy makers have, in my opinion, continued to make decisions as if those public policy decisions from the governor’s chair or from the state … weren’t in play,” Smitherman said. “This is not new information.”

Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn agreed. He said it’s time to stop blaming the governor for the city’s problems and face the reality of reduced revenues.

Still, Winburn acknowledged he would be willing to meet with state officials to bring more revenue back to Cincinnati.

“Maybe Republicans will be willing to meet with a Republican like me and see if we can bring some money back to Cincinnati,” Winburn said.

Republicans at the state level passed cuts to the local government fund as a way to balance the 2012-2013 budget, which faced a projected gap of nearly $8 billion in 2011. They then approved the elimination of the estate tax — often labeled the “death tax” by opponents — in 2012.

But with Ohio’s economy slowly recovering from the Great Recession, the state budget looks to be in much better shape. The 2012-2013 budget ended with a $2 billion surplus because of higher-than-expected revenues.

Ohio Democrats point to the surplus as evidence the Republican-controlled state government could undo the $1 billion in cuts to local government funding. They argue the cuts have hurt local governments and forced cities to slash basic services, including public safety.

by German Lopez 02.24.2014
Posted In: News, Voting, Governor, Economy at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Board of Elections to move, Kasich repeals one early voting week, income inequality on rise

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday ruled that the Hamilton County Board of Elections can move to a former hospital site at Mount Airy after the 2016 election, but whether early voting moves along with the Board of Elections needs to be resolved separately. The decision does little to resolve the dispute between local Democrats and Republicans about which location — downtown or Mount Airy — is better for early voters. Democrats argue downtown, as the central hub of local public transportation, best meets the need of most early voters. Republicans argue the Mount Airy facility is closer to the center of the whole county and provides free parking, which Republicans say should make up for the few bus routes that go to the neighborhood.

Gov. John Kasich on Friday signed two controversial election bills that reduce the time allotted for early voting by one week and restrict counties’ ability to send out unsolicited absentee voting applications. The reduction of early voting in particular raised claims of “voter suppression” from Democrats because the bill eliminates the Golden Week in which early voters can register to vote and actually vote on the same day. Republicans say the bills are necessary to establish uniform early voting hours and rules across the state. In general, both sides acknowledge Democrats benefit from more early voting access and Republicans benefit from less early voting access.

Income inequality rose in Ohio between 1979 and 2011, but Ohio fared better than most states, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute and the Economic Analysis and Research Network. Ohio’s top 1 percent make roughly 18.1 times the annual income as the bottom 99 percent. In comparison, the average nationwide rate is 24.4 and the rate in the two worst performing states — New York and Connecticut — is 40.

Contrary to faulty reports from Councilman Charlie Winburn and The Cincinnati Enquirer, the city extensively warned residents about its decision to decertify the flood levee around Lunken Airport. In fact, Winburn in 2010 actually voted in favor of an ordinance that supported the decertification. The decision means residents in the area need to purchase flood insurance.

Mayor John Cranley and other city officials plan to boost minority- and women-owned business contracts through aspirational inclusion goals set between the city and contractors. Since the city can’t force businesses to meet the goals, Cranley acknowledges the city could fail. But contractors who worked on the Horsehoe Casino said a similar policy was effective in boosting minority rates for that project.

Two people died in Walnut Hills today after a stabbing and police-involved shooting, according to Cincinnati Police.

Cincinnati plans to increase efforts to get more solar panels on city rooftops. A more specific announcement should come in the next few weeks. Just a couple weeks ago, the Solar Foundation ranked Ohio No. 8 in the nation for solar jobs.

Ohio gas prices continued rising this week.

Watch a robot 3-D print with metal here.

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by German Lopez 01.23.2014
Posted In: News, Governor, Democrats at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Portune Flounders on Campaign Announcement

Supposed gubernatorial candidate continues leading on Ohioans

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune on Thursday declined to announce whether he will challenge gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald in a Democratic primary after all, despite previously telling The Cincinnati Enquirer he already made a decision.

While CityBeat will certainly cover Portune’s announcement once it finally comes, it’s all with the acknowledgement that his chances of getting the Democratic nomination are slim to none. Portune has no credible organization, his name recognition is low outside southwest Ohio and he apparently can’t find a candidate for lieutenant governor, which all gubernatorial candidates must do prior to collecting and filing 1,000 signatures before a February deadline.

The weak indicators surrounding Portune’s campaign help explain why, when asked by reporters, FitzGerald said he’s not worried about Portune.

“I respect him. He’s an elected official. He’s been an elected official for a long time,” FitzGerald said. “I think he’s not being entirely realistic. It’s very difficult to run a legitimate statewide campaign.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern put it more forcefully in his comments to media outlets.

“Every two years, we get excited about the Cincinnati Bengals and Todd Portune talks about running for an office,” he told WVXU.

Still, Portune continues clinging on to his gubernatorial ambitions.

“To end it now would be inconsistent with the message I have given around the state, which is to not give in the diversity,” Portune told The Enquirer. “And while it may appear improbably today… I can’t say it’s impossible.”

In the meantime, FitzGerald will keep running a serious statewide campaign to defeat Republican Gov. John Kasich this November.