Hamilton County once again froze new work on a $3.2 billion project that will retrofit Cincinnati’s sewers because of a dispute concerning the city’s established bidding requirements. City Council in 2012 passed and in 2013 further adjusted rules that require companies bidding for lucrative sewer contracts to meet specific local hiring and training standards. City Council says the requirements will produce more local jobs, but Hamilton County commissioners argue that the rules favor unions and cost too much for businesses. Councilman Chris Seelbach and Commissioner Chris Monzel were originally working on a compromise, but prospects fell through after City Council rejected the deal. CityBeat covered the conflict in further detail here.
Covington, Ky., is publicly welcoming Pure Romance to the other side of the Ohio River, which could cost Cincinnati and Ohio up to 120 jobs and $100 million in revenue. Pure Romance was initially planning to move from Loveland, Ohio, to downtown Cincinnati with some tax support from the city and state, but after the state’s tax credit agencies rejected the plan, the company has been getting better offers from out-of-state sources, including Covington. Ohio officials say they denied Pure Romance because the company isn’t part of a target industry such as biotech, energy or logistics, but emails have suggested that the Republican state government is worried about the deal coming off as politically embarrassing because some of Pure Romance’s products include sex toys.
Ohio coal officials repeatedly complained about the state’s water pollution rules to Gov. John Kasich, whose administration then carried on the complaints to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Kasich’s office insists it was just trying to collect “different viewpoints and then work together to challenge each other to do the best job possible,” but environmental advocates say the governor was putting unfair pressure on a state agency just trying to do its job. The conflict might explain why the Ohio EPA’s top water-quality official, George Elmaraghy, was forced to resign after claiming that coal companies are pursuing permits “that may have a negative impact on Ohio streams and wetlands and violate state and federal laws.”
The tea party-backed pension reform effort on Thursday sued to change ballot language approved by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The lawsuit says the current ballot language is making “conjecture and partisan argumentation” by claiming the pension amendment will force the city to raise taxes, fees or other revenues to cope with stricter requirements for paying back Cincinnati’s $872 million pension liability. If it’s approved by voters, the amendment would effectively privatize the city’s pension system so future city employees, minus police and firefighters, would be required to contribute to and manage an individual 401k-style plan; currently, the city pools city employees’ retirement funds, makes its own contribution and invests the funds through an independent board. CityBeat covered the tea party-backed pension amendment in further detail here.
Hamilton County sheriffs are rolling out a three-phase plan to move homeless squatters out of county buildings and especially the Hamilton County Courthouse, where much of the city’s homeless population has been sleeping and defecating. Sheriffs will first set up bathrooms, such as portable potties, and try to identify the needs of the squatters and whether they should be connected to mental health or other services; during the month of the first phase, homeless people will be allowed to remain in the buildings. Then sheriffs will get more strict and forcibly remove people but still connect them to special services. Finally, the affected buildings will be cleaned up.
An upcoming report will likely place legislators and police and fire officials in conflict over the state’s police and fire pension system. Supporters of the pension system claim it’s financially stable, but a state consultants predicted that an actuarial report will soon show the pension system is failing to make its required commitments and will be unable to play for health care benefits beyond 15 years. Despite the problems, pension officials say they want to avoid more changes until the most recent changes are in place for one year. The most recent reforms will be officially in place for one year on July 2014, but they won’t show up on actuarial reports until late 2015, which means further changes would have to be held off until 2016 at the earliest under pension officials’ suggestion.
A lengthy, scathing report from the state’s independent prison watchdog found skyrocketing violence and drug use, high staff turnover and low staff morale at the Toledo Correctional Institution.
Two private organizations and the city of Cincinnati are working to place 21 bike share stations with 10 bicycles each in Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati by spring 2014.
The reason reported mayoral primary results seemed to stall midway through counting: a memory card mix-up. Hamilton County Board of Elections Director Amy Searcy says the memory cards were never in an insecure environment, but some memory cards were locked up and left behind, while others were accidentally taken to a warehouse instead of the Board of Elections.
At four times their usual number, bats are forcing health officials to recommend rabies vaccinations and other disease-avoiding precautions to people in Kenton County in northern Kentucky.
Cincinnati’s largest mall, currently known as Forest Fair Village and previously named Cincinnati Mall, Cincinnati Mills and Forest Fair Mall, is apparently not for sale, despite early reports from The Business Courier.
Social robots can easily replace humans as dogs’ best friend, according to a new study in Animal Recognition.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The last debate for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat took place last
night. The debate between Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and
Republican challenger Josh Mandel mostly covered old ground, but the
candidates did draw contrasting details on keeping Social Security
solvent. Mandel favored raising the eligibility age on younger generations, while Brown favored
raising the payroll tax cap. Currently, Brown leads
Mandel in aggregate polling by 5.2 points.
Mitt Romney was in town yesterday. In his speech, he
criticized the president’s policies and campaign rhetoric and touted
support for small businesses. The Cincinnati visit was the first stop of
a two-day tour of Ohio, which is the most important swing state in the
presidential race. But senior Republican officials are apparently
worried Romney has leveled off in the state, which could cost Romney the
Electoral College and election. President Barack Obama is
expected to visit Cincinnati on Halloween. In aggregate polling, Obama
is ahead in Ohio by 2.1 points, and Romney is up nationally by 0.9
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio says the
use of seclusion rooms in Ohio schools should be phased out
by 2016. The Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Board of Education
are currently taking feedback on a new policy draft that says schools
can only use seclusion rooms in cases of “immediate threat of physical
harm,” but the policy only affects traditional public schools, not
charter schools, private schools or educational service centers.
Seclusion rooms are intended to restrain children who become violent,
but recent investigations found the rooms are used to punish children or
as a convenience for staff. Currently, Ohio has no state laws
overseeing seclusion rooms, and the Department of Education and Board of
Education provide little guidance and oversight regarding seclusion
The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati and a City Council task force have a plan to make Cincinnati’s water infrastructure a little greener.
A study found Cincinnati hospitals are good with heart patients but not-so-good with knee surgery. The names of the hospitals that were looked at were not revealed in the study, however.
An economist at PNC Financial Services Group says 10,000 jobs will be added in Cincinnati in 2013.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble has new details about its effort to reduce costs and make operations more productive. The company announced a “productivity council” that will look at “the next round of productivity improvements.” The company also said it will reach 4,200 out of 5,700 job cuts by the end of October as part of a $10 billion restructuring program announced in February.
The world just got a little sadder. Chemicals in couches could be making people fatter.
On the bright side, we now know how to properly butcher and eat a triceratops.
A new interactive map shows hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is flourishing in U.S. areas where water is already scarce — a potentially bad sign for Ohio counties that are allowing the water-intensive drilling process within their own borders.
The map from advocacy group Ceres shows northeast Ohio counties with fracking activity are made up of low, medium-to-high and high stress areas, with most of the identified fracking wells in medium-to-high and high stress areas.
The website explains Ohio's experience is actually better than the national trend: "In the map below, one can see that almost half (47 percent) of shale gas and oil wells are being developed in regions with high to extremely high water stress. This means that more than 80 percent of the annual available water is being withdrawn by municipal, industrial and agricultural users in these regions. Overall, 75 percent of wells are located in regions with medium or higher baseline water stress levels."
Fracking is a relatively new drilling process that involves pumping millions of gallons of water underground to fracture shale and reveal oil and gas reserves. CityBeat previously covered Ohio's fracking boom in further detail here.
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December, down from 6.8 percent in November, according to new numbers from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. In comparison, the U.S. unemployment rate was at 7.8 percent in December. The amount of unemployed dropped from 391,000 to 388,000. Unfortunately, the amount of employed also dropped, indicating that some people are leaving the labor force.
The Republican State Leadership Committee admitted the only reason Republicans kept a House majority was politicized redistricting. The admission from a memo titled “How a Strategy of Targeting State Legislative Races in 2010 Led to a Republican U.S. House Majority in 2013.” The report even singled out Ohio as a state that benefited Republicans due to redistricting. CityBeat previously covered the issue in-depth here.
Cincinnati is among three finalists in the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Earth Hour City Challenge. The contest judges efforts to combat global warming. Cincinnati, Chicago and San Francisco were chosen by WWF and global management consultancy Accenture for preparing their cities for a “climate-friendly future,” according to a statement from WWF.
At this point, it’s looking like Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposals will take months for legislators to sort through. The proposals include major changes to taxes, the Ohio Turnpike, education and Medicaid.
Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky signed a landmark water agreement to leverage Greater Cincinnati’s water technologies. The agreement seeks to spur legislation, according to the Business Courier.
The Cincinnati Zoo may need a levy to stay afloat.
Ohio hospitals spent $3.1 billion in free health care in 2010, up from $2.9 billion in 2009, according to an Ohio Hospital Association report.
On the bright side, overall crime is down in Cincinnati.
Bad news, everyone. Chipotle is likely to raise prices this year.
To avoid Obamacare’s health care requirements for businesses, some businesses may begin cutting jobs.
Some in the scientific community want to establish national parks on Mars.
Mayor Mark Mallory and local attorney Stan Chesley announced in a press release that they will be speaking later today about the city’s pool season. The unusually hot summer has sparked some calls that the city should keep pools open for longer, and it looks like the mayor may be ready to meet demands. Mallory and Chesley will make their announcement at 1 p.m.
City Council moved to ban wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose wastewater that is produced during fracking, within city limits. Studies have linked the injection wells to earthquakes, including a series of tremors felt in Youngstown, Ohio around New Year’s Eve.
Today is Marriage Equality Day and Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. Which one will you take part in?
The Public Library Association says the downtown branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was the busiest library in North America in 2011. The ranking compared 1,300 public libraries from the United States and Canada.
Councilman Chris Seelbach was allegedly assaulted by an unidentified man Monday night when exiting a downtown bar. Seelbach was reported to be in good condition, and he said the incident will not deter him from spending time downtown in the future.
Cincinnati manufacturing slumped during July, according to the Cincinnati Purchasing Management Index. It’s the first time the index has shown economic contraction since late 2009.
Gov. John Kasich is still planning to cut the state’s income tax, and his next target for paying for it seems to be the state sales tax. Kasich wants to limit tax credits, deductions and exemptions in the sales tax to pay for the income tax reduction.
President Barack Obama reached 50 percent support in key swing states in the latest Quinnipiac poll. The poll put him at 50 percent and Mitt Romney at 44 percent in Ohio. Without Ohio, Romney would have a very rocky — if not impossible — road to the White House.
Ohio Democrats are telling Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to keep quiet about his opinions of the Voters First redistricting amendment while his office verifies the signatures. Husted called the request “absurd.”
Rep. Steven LaTourette, an Ohio Republican, announced his retirement from politics yesterday. The congressman blamed his retirement on the lack of bipartisanship in Congress. LaTourette was one of the few Republicans to support labor unions, and he was known for criticizing Republicans for being completely unwilling to raise taxes.
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt told the Financial Times he sees little future in nuclear power. Immelt argued that the future of energy is natural gas, which is now largely obtained from fracking, and renewable resources like solar power, hydropower and wind power.
The psychological abuse of children is common but underreported, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Scientists have invented pills that electronically remind health-care providers when a patient needs to take his/her meds.
With a set of initiatives unanimously approved last week, City Council is looking to join the state in combating Cincinnati’s human trafficking problem. The initiatives would evaluate local courts’ practices in human trafficking and prostitution cases and study the need for more surveillance cameras and streetlights at West McMicken Avenue, a notorious prostitution hotspot. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who spearheaded the initiatives, says the West McMicken Avenue study will serve as a pilot program that could eventually branch out to other prostitution hotspots in Cincinnati, including Lower Price Hill and Camp Washington.
Medicare data released yesterday revealed charges and payments can vary by thousands of dollars depending on the hospital, including in Cincinnati. Health care advocates and experts attribute the price disparity to the lack of transparency in the health care system, which allows hospitals to set prices without worrying about typical market checks. CityBeat previously covered the lack of health care price transparency in Ohio here.Duke Energy is the No. 1 utility company polluter in the nation, according to new rankings from Pear Energy. The rankings looked at carbon dioxide emissions, which directly contribute to global warming. Pear Energy is a solar and wind energy company that competes with utility companies like Duke Energy, but the methodology behind the rankings was fairly transparent and based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.
City Council approved form-based code yesterday, which Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls has been working on for years. In a statement, Qualls’ office called form-based code an “innovative alternative to conventional zoning” that will spur development. “Cincinnati now joins hundreds of cities that are using form-based code to build and reinforce walkable places that create value, preserve character and are the bedrock of Cincinnati neighborhoods’ competitive advantage,” Qualls said in the statement.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner is looking to amend the Ohio budget bill to add a $100 million voucher program that would cover preschool for three- and four-year-olds. The details of the program are so far unclear, but Lehner said she might put most of the funding on the second year of the biennium budget to give the state time to prepare proper preschool programs. If the amendment proceeded, it would join recent efforts in Cincinnati to open up early education programs to low- and middle-income families. CityBeat covered the local efforts and many benefits of quality preschool here.
Gov. John Kasich says he would back a ballot initiative for a mostly federally funded Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in the next decade. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in further detail here.
Policy Matters Ohio released a lengthy report yesterday detailing how the state could move towards clean energy and electric cars and calling for more state incentives for clean energy. The report praises Cincinnati in particular for using municipal policies to build local clean energy and keep energy jobs in the city.
The last tenant at Tower Place Mall is moving out.
Scientists are working on a microchip that could be implanted into the brain to restore memories.
They also found proof that seafloor bacteria ate radioactive supernova dust.
Ohio's new concealed-carry law will take effect tomorrow, allowing Second Amendment lovers the opportunity to reach into their pocket and feel the cold, smooth feel of safety while enjoying a non-alcoholic beverage at a bar or restaurant in Ohio. Seriously, y'all better not be drinking or the liberals will tell on you before you can get buzzed enough to go outside and fire a couple of funny shots up into the air.
In-person early voting in Hamilton County has a minimum cost estimate: $18,676. The number represents about 0.009 percent of the county’s 2012 budget. Unfortunately, The Cincinnati Enquirer never bothered putting the number in any context, so its story read like the $18,676, or $406 an hour, will be a big expense for Hamilton County.Ohio is a “middle-of-the-road” state when it comes to early voting. Several states — including New York, a fairly liberal state — have more restrictive voting rules.
Money Magazine named West Chester, a Greater Cincinnati suburb, in its top 100 list for best small cities to live in the United States. West Chester was No. 97 on the list.The Washington Post has a good analysis on why natural gas produced from fracking could help combat global warming. The big concern for environmentalists is methane leaks during the fracking process. If methane leaks are too high and can’t be contained, natural gas could be worse for the environment than coal, at least in the short term. The analysis concludes that natural gas could be positive by itself in fighting climate change, but a much broader plan that includes more than natural gas will be necessary to reach scientifically suggested goals. It also points out there’s a lot of uncertainty behind natural gas and fracking, echoing CityBeat’s recent in-depth look at the issue.
The Ohio Board of Education made two big decisions at its meeting yesterday. First, it will delay the 2011-2012 report card, which grades different schools and school districts, until the state auditor finishes an investigation looking into school attendance reports. The attendance report scandal, which involves schools doctoring attendance reports to earn better grades, began at Lockland schools in Hamilton County. Second, the Board has officially launched its national search for a new superintendent of public instruction. The previous superintendent — Stan Heffner — resigned after a state auditor report found he was misusing state resources and advocating for legislation that benefited his other employer.
An auto manufacturer is laying off 173 workers in Blanchester, Ohio.But Kings Island is looking to hire more than 500 workers for its Halloween season.
President Barack Obama has cleared some Ohio counties for federal disaster funding. Ohio lawmakers had previously asked for federal support after a wave of severe storms hit the state earlier in the summer. The storms were estimated to be the worst in Ohio since 2008, when the remnants of Hurricane Ike caused more than $1 billion in damage.
Miami University has been ranked a top 10 party school.
Newsweek is getting a ton of criticism for running a cover story this week filled with factual inaccuracies. Among many claims, the story makes the false implication that the Affordable Care Act increases the federal budget deficit. The story was written by Niall Ferguson, a conservative Harvard professor known for being consistently wrong.
NASA has already planned its next interplanetary mission: a robot drill for Mars.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, continues comparing Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency law to Stalinism and other extreme Soviet-era policies.
Seitz’s latest comparison, according to Columbus’ Business First, claims Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell didn’t need “Stalinist” mandates to pursue their inventions.
“It was not some Stalinist government mandating, ‘You must buy my stuff,’” Seitz said.
It’s not the first time Seitz made the comparison. In March, he said Ohio’s Clean Energy Law reminds him of “Joseph Stalin’s five-year plan.”
Seitz, a director of the conservative, oil-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), remains unsuccessful in his years-long push to repeal Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. He says the law picks winners and losers in the energy market by favoring Ohio-based efficient, renewable sources.
Environmentalists and other supporters of the law claim it helps combat global warming and encourages economy-boosting innovations in the energy market, including the adoption of more solar power in Cincinnati.
Seitz’s references to Stalin continue the long-popular Republican tactic of comparing economic policies conservatives oppose with socialism, communism and other scary-sounding ideas.
While Seitz’s argument makes for catchy rhetoric, there are a few key differences between Stalinism and Ohio’s Clean Energy Law:
Stalinism is a framework of authoritarian, communist policies pursued in the 20th century by Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin. It involves a state takeover of various aspects of private life and the economy.
The Clean Energy Law is a policy established in 2008 by the democratic state of Ohio. The law sets benchmarks requiring utility companies to get 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, hydro, biomass and solar, and save 22 percent of electricity through new efficiency efforts by 2025.
Stalinism pushes out private markets and replaces them with an authoritarian government’s total command.
The Clean Energy Law sets standards and regulations for existing private businesses.
Stalinism saves Ohioans no money.
The Clean Energy Law will save Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills over the next 12 years, according to a 2013 report from the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy.
To enforce his policies, Stalin killed millions of people — a number so high that historians have trouble calculating exactly how many died under the Soviet leader’s reign.
To enforce the Clean Energy Law, Ohio officials have killed zero people.
Stalinism and other communist policies are widely considered unsustainable by economists and historians and a primary reason for the Soviet Union’s downfall.
The differences are pretty clear. Ohio’s Clean Energy Law might require some refining, and there might be better solutions to global warming, such as the carbon tax. But comparisons to Stalinism go too far.