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by German Lopez 02.18.2013
Posted In: Budget, Governor, News, Education, Economy, Taxes at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

PUCO appointment criticized, poll supports school funding, superintendent investigation

Gov. John Kasich appointed a former Republican to a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) seat that must go to a Democrat or Independent, according to The Plain Dealer. M. Beth Trombold will finish her term as the assistant director in Kasich’s Ohio Development Services Agency in April, when she will then take up the PUCO position. The appointment immediately drew criticism from some Democrats. State Rep. Mike Foley of Cleveland called the appointment “another example of Kasich cronyism running rampant.”

A poll from Innovation Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, found Kasich’s budget proposals aren’t popular with most Ohioans. The poll found 62 percent of Ohioans prefer prioritizing school funding over reducing the state income tax, while only 32 percent prefer tax reduction. When asked what Ohio lawmakers should prioritize in the coming months, 56 percent said job creation, 38 percent said school funding, 24 percent said keeping local property taxes low and 18 percent said cutting the state income tax.

A school superintendent from Warren County may face prosecution for misusing public resources after he wrote a letter to parents urging them to campaign against Kasich, reports Dayton Daily News. Franklin City Schools Superintendent Arnol Elam was apparently angry with Kasich’s new school funding formula, which did not increase funding for poor school districts like Franklin Cities, but did give increases to Springboro, Mason and Kings — the three wealthiest districts in Warren County. County Prosecutor David Fornshell said he will be investigating Elam for engaging in political activity with public resources.

Kasich will give his State of the State Tuesday. The speech is expected to focus on the governor’s budget and tax reform plans.

As part of an agreement with the city, Duke Energy is suing over the streetcar project, according to WLWT. The lawsuit is meant to settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar. CityBeat covered the agreement between the city and Duke here and how the streetcar will play a pivotal role in the 2013 mayor’s race here.

Thousands of people in Butler County, mainly students, are benefiting from Judge Robert Lyons’ criminal record seals, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Lyons’ practice of sealing cases came to light after he sealed the case for the Miami University student who posted a flyer on how to get away with rape. In the past five years, Lyons has sealed 2,945 cases — more than a third of the new misdemeanor cases filed.

Ohio’s casinos are falling far short of original revenue projections, according to The Columbus Dispatch. It’s uncertain why that’s the case, but some are pointing to Internet-sweepstakes cafes. Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which will open March 4, was spurred by the original projections.

StateImpact Ohio reports that many Ohio teachers are concerned with new teaching evaluation rules.

Two Cincinnati Republicans will begin reviewing the effects of legislation that deregulated phone companies in Ohio, reports Gongwer. State Rep. Peter Stautberg, who chairs the House Public Utilities Committee, and State Sen. Bill Seitz, who chairs the Senate Public Utilities Committee, will hear testimony from PUCO Tuesday.

Downtown’s Chiquita center has landed in bankruptcy, reports WCPO. The building lost its major tenant last year when Chiquita Brands relocated to Charlotte, N.C.

“Star Trek” is becoming reality. University of Cincinnati researchers are developing a tricorder device to help users monitor their own health, reports WVXU.

Are you worried about space rocks recently? Popular Science says NASA is concerned as well.

by Danny Cross 05.29.2012

Morning News and Stuff

The Ohio Supreme Court late last week dismissed a legal challenge by the Campaign to Protect Marriage, which had filed a motion challenging the attorney general’s authority to verify a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow same-sex marriage. The Freedom to Marry coalition is collecting the necessary signatures to put a repeal of the state’s 2004 amendment that only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman on the ballot in 2013.

City Councilman Wendell Young says there’s nothing secret about a plan to combine the region’s water and sewer agencies even though most people assumed to be needed for approval know little about it. The Enquirer today detailed a plan to integrate the Metropolitan Sewer District, Stormwater Management Utility and Greater Cincinnati Water Works, potentially by September, in an attempt to save money. The plan will reportedly be shared with Council June 20.

Mitt Romney’s campaign plans to go after the stimulus, while Dems want to know why he won’t renounce questions about Obama’s citizenship (maybe because they came from Donald Trump?).

Seems like the John Edwards trial is never going to end. Day seven of deliberations begins today.

The U.S. could be one of the countries to benefit from the growth of natural gas use during the next 20 years, potentially reducing the importance of Middle East energy production.

Common painkillers might help protect against skin cancer. Bring on the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen!

There was a face-chewing attack in Miami over the weekend. And the chewer was naked. Seriously.

Google Chrome was the world’s top browser in May. Thought you knew.

If commercial space flights are going to be basting up onto the moon, NASA says they’ll have to stay off the spots where historical things happened.

by German Lopez 02.04.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Economy, Governor, Taxes at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Kasich Budget Expands Medicaid, Cuts Taxes

Governor proposes health care expansion despite opposing Obamacare

Gov. John Kasich released his 2014-2015 budget plan today, and it has a few surprises — some pleasant, some not — for progressives. Despite his vocal opposition to Obamacare, Kasich will be taking up the federal laws incentive to expand Medicaid, the health care program for low-income families. But instead of taking back past cuts to social services, education and local governments, the governor is pushing ahead with income and sales tax cuts.

The Medicaid expansion would add more Ohioans to the state-federal health care program by raising the eligibility threshold to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, up from 90 percent. The budget summary claims the expansion makes financial sense for the state as long as the federal government picks up most of the tab. As part of Obamacare, the federal government takes all the costs for newly insured Medicaid recipients for the first three years. After that, the federal government’s share is brought down to 95 percent and ultimately phased down to 90 percent. If the federal government reneges on its promise to pay for the bulk of the share, Kasich’s budget has a trigger to wind down the Medicaid expansion.

The budget also proposes income and sales tax cuts, which would come with some trade-offs. The state income tax would be brought down by 20 percent across the board, and the sales tax would be cut from 5.5 percent to 5 percent. To balance the cuts, Kasich has proposed broadening the sales tax to include other “economic activity,” while keeping exemptions for education, health care, rent and residential utilities.

In another slew of tax changes, Kasich’s plan proposes revamping the oil and gas severance tax. It would eliminate the tax for “small, conventional natural gas producers,” but imposes a 4 percent tax for bigger oil and gas producers.

In the past, liberals have voiced opposition to tax cuts — instead favoring investments elsewhere. Policy Matters Ohio released its own budget proposals Jan. 31, which emphasized “education, health care and human services.” The plan would also increase the income tax for top earners.

City Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld released a statement criticizing Kasich’s budget for not using the extra revenue to scale back local government and education cuts enacted in the 2012-2013 budget: “At a time when local governments around the state are being forced to slash basic services, lay off safety personnel, raise taxes, and sell off assets just to stay afloat, it's out of touch for Gov. Kasich not to reverse his raid on our local government fund. We don’t pay taxes to pad the governor’s soundbites, we pay them to maintain our roads and keep cops on the street. This should not be a partisan issue. It's simply illogical governance to make the state look good while in the process hurting Ohio's cities.”

The budget proposal also includes Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan and education reform plan.

by Kevin Osborne 02.23.2012
Posted In: Economy, Financial Crisis, Congress, Public Policy at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Don't Believe the Hype About Jobs

There is an old saying that goes, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." It’s alternately been credited to writer Mark Twain and British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

No matter where it originated, though, the quote applies well to unemployment figures released by the U.S. Labor Department.

Earlier this month the Labor Department reported the nation’s unemployment rate dropped for the fifth consecutive month in January to 8.3 percent, its lowest level in three years. That is good news, but not quite as good as it first appears.

Using that measure, 12.3 million people are unemployed, which is a decline of 0.2 percent from December.

The number of long-term unemployed — those jobless for six months or more — was 5.5 million people, accounting for 42.9 percent of the unemployed.

Critics of how the government calculates the unemployment rate, however, say it’s misleading because it doesn’t count so-called “discouraged workers.” Those are people who are jobless and have looked for work sometime in the past year but aren’t currently looking because of real or perceived poor employment prospects. In other words, they’ve given up.

Federal data shows a disproportionate number of young people, African-Americans, Hispanics and men comprise the discouraged-worker segment.

Including those workers, the unemployment rate was 16.2 percent in January. Some analysts, however, believe that grossly understates the numbers. (The highest the rate got during the Great Depression was 25 percent in 1933.)

Here’s some context. In the modern era (1948-present), the U.S. unemployment rate averaged 5.7 percent — reaching a record high of 10.8 percent in November 1982 and a record low of 2.5 percent in May 1953.

As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has noted, “we started 2012 with fewer workers employed than in January 2001 — zero growth after 11 years, even as the population, and therefore the number of jobs we needed, grew steadily.”

Krugman added, “at January’s pace of job creation it would take us until 2019 to return to full employment.”

In a little noticed report, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated last week that the rate of unemployment in the United States has exceeded 8 percent since February 2009, making the past three years the longest stretch of high unemployment in this nation since the Great Depression.

Additionally, the CBO — which is the official, objective analyst for the federal government — estimates that the unemployment rate will remain above 8 percent until 2014.

If that’s not depressing enough, consider this: The share of unemployed people who have been looking for work for more than a year — referred to as marginally-attached workers— topped 40 percent in December 2009 and has remained above that level ever since.

The CBO stated the high unemployment rate’s primary cause is weak demand for goods and services as a result of the recession and its aftermath, which results in weak demand for workers.

To produce the largest increases in employment per dollar of budgetary cost, the agency recommended reducing the marginal cost to businesses of adding employees; and targeting people most likely to spend the additional income — generally, people with lower income.

“Policies primarily affecting businesses’ cash flow would have little impact on their marginal incentives to hire or invest and, therefore, would have only small effects on employment per dollar of budgetary cost,” the CBO’s report stated.

“Despite the near-term economic benefits, such actions would add to the already large projected budget deficits that would exist under current policies, either immediately or over time,” it added. “Achieving both short-term stimulus and long-term sustainability would require a combination of policies: changes in taxes and spending that would widen the deficit now but reduce it later in the decade.”

Let’s make that clear — economic stimulus for poor people who would actually spend the money is most effective, and to have an impact the federal deficit needs to increase in the short-term.

Republicans, are you listening?

by German Lopez 06.23.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Budget at 07:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Report: Government "Megadeals" Fail to Produce Jobs

Ohio ranks No. 3 for massive subsidy deals with corporations

Ohio is No. 3 in the nation for “megadeals” — massive government subsidies to corporations that are meant to encourage in-state job creation — but a new report found many of the deals rarely produce the kind of jobs initially touted by public officials.

In the Good Jobs First report released on June 19, Ohio tied with Texas as No. 3 for megadeals, which Good Jobs First defines as subsidies worth $75 million or more. Michigan topped the list with 29 deals, followed by New York with 23.

In the Cincinnati area, local and state agencies agreed to pay $196.4 million to Convergys in 2003 and $121 million to General Electric in 2009 to keep and create jobs in the area.

It’s no secret the deal with Convergys went sour for Cincinnati. In December 2011, the company, which provides outsourced call center services, agreed to pay a $14 million reimbursement to the city because the company’s downtown employment fell below 1,450 — the number of jobs required under the initial deal. The reimbursement deal also calls for the company to pay an additional $5 million if its downtown employment falls below 500 before 2020.

The Good Jobs First report finds this kind of failure is not exclusive to the Convergys megadeal or Cincinnati; instead, the report argues that megadeals are expensive and often fail to live up to expectations.

“Despite their high costs, some of the deals involve little if any new job creation,” said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy in a statement. “Some are instances of job blackmail, in which a company threatens to move and gets paid to stay put. Others involve interstate job piracy, in which a company gets subsidies to move existing jobs across a state border, sometimes within the same metropolitan area.”

For the jobs that are kept and created, states and cities end up paying $456,000 on average, with the cheapest deals costing less than $25,000 per job and the most expensive costing more than $7 million per job.

The report finds the number of megadeals per year has doubled since 2008, on top of getting more expensive in the past three decades. Each megadeal averaged at about $157 million in the 1980s, eventually rising to $325 million in the 2000s. The average cost dropped to $260 million in the 2010s, reflecting the price of deals made in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which strapped city and state budgets.

“These subsidy awards are getting out of control,” said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report, in a statement. “Huge packages that used to be reserved for ‘trophy’ projects creating large numbers of jobs are now being given away more routinely.”

Ultimately, the report aims to increase transparency for such subsidies, reflecting an ongoing goal for Good Jobs First. To do this, the organization has set up a database (www.subsidytracker.org) that anyone can visit to track past, present and future subsidy deals.

But the report claims much of this work should already be done by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which “has been long-negligent in failing to promulgate regulations for how state and local governments should account for tax-based economic development expenditures,” according to a policy sidebar from LeRoy. “If GASB were to finally promulgate such regulations — covering both programs and deals — taxpayers would have standardized, comparable statistics about megadeals and could better weigh their costs and benefits.”

by German Lopez 10.04.2012

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

The first presidential debate took place last night. Most of the “liberal media” says Mitt Romney beat President Barack Obama, but the impact of the relatively dull debate is probably being overstated as the media tries to sensationalize some sort of comeback narrative for Romney. Although the debates are important for capturing a candidate’s policies and speaking ability, they don’t matter much in political terms. Policy-wise, it seems Romney ran to the center last night.  If last night’s debate wasn’t enough debate for you, here are the three most awkward presidential debate moments in history.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus held a conference call with Ohio reporters yesterday in response to Vice President Joe Biden’s comments that the middle class has been “buried” in the past four years. Priebus claimed the Republican ground game in Ohio will “crush” Democrats. But that’s going to require a lot of work. As it stands, Obama and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown are beating their respective Republican opponents pretty badly in aggregate polling. 

PolitiFact says Republican claims that Issue 2 will create a redistricting commission that will have a blank check to spend our money are false. While there is no cap on spending designated in Issue 2, that does not mean the redistricting commission will get infinite funding. If Issue 2 is approved by voters, redistricting will be handled by an independent citizens commission. If Issue 2 is rejected by voters, redistricting will continue being handled by politicians that commonly use the system in politically advantageous ways. A Republican majority redistricted the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, to also include Warren County. The new boundaries give Republicans an advantage by putting more emphasis on rural voters, which typically vote Republican, instead of urban voters, which typically vote Democrat. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting process and Issue 2 here.

An analysis by the Ohio Office of Budget and Management found Issue 2 would cost the state about $11-$15.2 million over eight years. That’s about $1.4-$1.9 million a year, or about 0.005-0.007 percent of Ohio’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year.

To put the cost of Issue 2 in further context, state tax revenues were $39 million above estimates in September.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) and the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice and Policy Center (OJPC) have settled out of court in a case involving health care in prisons. OJPC brought the case forward with a lawsuit in 2003, arguing that inmates were not receiving adequate health care as required by the Ohio Constitution. Courts agreed in 2005, and they created an oversight committee to ensure medical standards rose. Today, health care in prisons is much better. With the settlement, OJPC and ODRC will continue watching over medical policies and procedures for the next two years, but courts no longer have an oversight mandate.

City Council unanimously approved six projects for historic tax credits yesterday.

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank reclaimed its top spot for local bank deposits this year, although data released by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) shows it might never have lost the top spot to U.S. Bank.

U.S. service firms, which employ 90 percent of Americans, grew at their fastest rate in six months. The boost was brought about due to rising consumer demand. 

Ever curious about why politicians use similar body language in all their public appearances? The New York Times has an explanation.

A new, strange dinosaur was recently identified.

by German Lopez 08.14.2012
Posted In: Education, News, 2012 Election, Economy, Republicans at 08:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

A Hamilton County budget shortfall could force officials to cut more than 300 county jobs, according to Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman. If the county doesn’t fix its problems, it could fall into “fiscal emergency.” Officials are worried some cuts could jeopardize functions required by state law. A recent study found that the national unemployment rate would be at 7.1 percent if it wasn’t for government job cuts.

More than $85 million has been awarded to local transportation projects by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. The funding will go to Metro buses, roads, traffic signals and more.

City Councilmember Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, is thinking about running for mayor in 2013. Mayor Mark Mallory is currently serving his last term, so he will not be able to run again.

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan will visit Miami University Wednesday. Ryan graduated from Miami in 1992. Even though he graduated from a public university, Ryan would massively slash education funding if he got his way. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has endorsed Ryan’s budget.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said he is considering establishing uniform early voting hours statewide. Recently, Democrats have been accusing Republicans of a statewide conspiracy to extend voting hours in Democratic counties and shrink voting hours in Republican counties.

Ohio was the 13th fattest state in 2011, according to a new report from the Center of Disease Control. Fortunately, Ohio managed to stay under a 30 percent obesity rate, unlike the 12 fattest states.

In the future, Ohio will be the ninth worst state to live in, according to a new Gallup analysis. Ohio still beat Kentucky, which ranked third worst. Not so fortunately, Utah topped the ranks. I’ve been to Utah, and I prefer Ohio. I don’t trust your math, Gallup!

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican who is also running against Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senate, is scheduled to appear with presidential candidate Mitt Romney today. Mandel is also famous for earning the “Pants on Fire” crown from Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer for his excessive lying in campaign ads.

The Medicaid expansion does not have to be permanent, according to federal officials. States can expand then scale back, although it will cost federal funds. Medicaid expansions have been proven to save lives and boost health, but Gov. John Kasich is still undecided about the expansion.

The Cincinnati Museum Center earned top accreditation.

Unmanned drones could soon be flying in domestic skies.

by German Lopez 09.19.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, Economy, Transportation at 08:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
mark mallory

Morning News and Stuff

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann wants Mayor Mark Mallory to live up to past promises of county-city collaboration. In a letter to Mallory, Hartmann criticized the mayor for failing to stick to his pledge of supporting the City-County Shared Services Committee. The committee seeks to streamline county and city services to end redundancies and make the services more competitive and efficient.

Cincinnati Economic Development’s director asked City Council to create a “mega incentive” for “huge impact” development. He also asked City Council to pledge $4 million of casino revenue a year to a local neighborhood project. If City Council agrees, casino revenue will be used to boost local businesses.

Metro is looking at the world’s quickest-charging electric bus. It supposedly can charge in 10 minutes and travel 40 miles.

The day before Pennsylvania’s voter ID law faced trouble in court, Secretary of Jon Husted suggested a “more strict” voter ID law for Ohio. Husted said the current ID system needs to be streamlined and simplified. Democrats criticized the suggestion for its potential voter suppression.

Sept. 22 will be the “Global Frackdown,” a day where activists will protest around the world in a push to ban hydraulic fracturing — or fracking. Cincinnati will have its own “Frackdown” at Piatt Park. Activists are generally against fracking because it poses too many risks, which CityBeat covered here. But Gov. John Kasich and other supporters of fracking insist it can be made safe with proper regulations. Some have also suggested that natural gas, which is now plentiful due to the spread of fracking, can be used as part of a bigger plan to stop global warming.

A new survey says Cincinnati companies will continue hiring through the fourth quarter. 

It wasn’t as good as last year, but it was better than the month before. A new state report says 7,341 new businesses filed to do work in Ohio in August, down from 7,423 in August 2011.

A state commission approved $1.5 million for the Cincinnati Art Museum and a $600,000 reimbursement for the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

More than half of Ohioans could be obese by 2030, a new report found. The rise in obesity could push up medical costs by $23.8 billion.

But screw worrying about weight. Taste of Belgium (writer’s note: best restaurant in the land) is thinking about expanding.

In other restaurant news, it seems Chick-Fil-A may stop its anti-gay donations. Maybe Kermit and friends will be forgiving.

The full footage for Mitt Romney’s controversial comments at a May 17 fundraiser has become available here. The footage shows why Romney prefers to be dishonest most of the time. More importantly, Romney’s comments about Obama voters are not accurate. The Onion, a satirical newspaper, has an explanation for why Romney insists on unleashing gaffe after gaffe.

One astrophysicist says there is no such thing as time.

by German Lopez 01.16.2013

Morning News and Stuff

New restrooms stalled, Medicaid expansion saves money, there is no “climate debate”

City Council wants to do more research before it proceeds with freestanding public restrooms in downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The vote has been delayed. Critics say the restrooms are too expensive at $130,000, but supporters, particularly Councilman Chris Seelbach, insist the restrooms will not be that expensive. A majority of City Council argues the restrooms are necessary because increasing populations and growth in downtown have made 24-hour facilities necessary.

A new report found Ohio’s budget would benefit from a Medicaid expansion. The expansion would mostly save money by letting the federal government pick up a much larger share of the cost for Ohio’s population, particularly prison inmates. A previous study found Medicaid expansions were correlated with better health results, including decreased mortality rates, in some states. Another study from the Arkansas Department of Human Services found the state would save $378 million by 2025 with the Medicaid expansion. Most of the savings from the Arkansas study would come from uncompensated care — costs that are placed on health institutions and state and local governments when uninsured patients that can’t and don’t pay use medical services.

The Dayton Daily News has a wonderful example of how not to do journalism. In an article on the supposed “climate debate,” the newspaper ignored the near-unanimous scientific consensus on global warming and decided to give credence to people who deny all scientific reasoning. To be clear, there is no climate debate. There’s the overwhelming majority of scientists, climatologists and data on one side, and there’s the pro-oil, pro-coal lobby and stubborn, irrational conservatives who will deny anything that hurts their interests on the other side.

The Ohio Board of Education approved policies for seclusion rooms. The non-binding policy requires parents to be notified if their children are placed in a seclusion room, and the Ohio Department of Education can also request data, even though it won’t be made public. More stringent policies may come in the spring. Seclusion rooms are supposed to be used to hold out-of-control kids, but an investigation from The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio found the rooms were being abused by teachers and school staff for their convenience. 

If the city wants to buy Tower Place, the mall will have to be cleared out, according to City Manager Milton Dohoney. Last week, the remaining businesses at Tower Place were evicted, and Dohoney said the city did not sign off on the eviction orders. Apparently, the city really didn’t agree to or enforce eviction orders, but the city’s buyout requires evictions. Dohoney said the eviction notices should signify the deal to buy Tower Place is moving forward.

Dohoney appointed Captain Paul Humphries to the assistant chief position for the Cincinnati Police Department. Humphries has been on the force for 26 years, and he currently serves as the chief of staff to Chief James Craig.

Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP) is targeting Mt. Airy and Carthage. Starting March 1, police, businesses and civic groups will begin putting together accelerated revitalization and reinvestment plans for the communities. NEP emphasizes building code enforcement, crime, neighborhood cleanup and beautification.

Good news, everyone. Cincinnati is no longer the bedbug capital.

Bob Castellini, owner of the Reds, was named the region’s master entrepreneur by Northern Kentucky University.

The Ohio Department of Transportation released a website that has real-time traffic information.

Some people really suck at political slogans.

Oh, science. Apparently, particle physics could improve Netflix’s suggestions.

by German Lopez 11.20.2012
Posted In: Budget, Development, Economy, News, Energy, Environment at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Plan Cincinnati set for approval, Hamilton County's budget delayed, waste wells return

Plan Cincinnati is expected to be approved by City Council Wednesday, according to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. The plan was unanimously approved by the Livable Communities committee last night. Plan Cincinnati, which is Cincinnati’s first comprehensive plan in 30 years, emphasizes the city’s urban center through new infrastructure, transportation options and goals to make downtown residents stay in the area. CityBeat previously covered the plan in greater detail here.

At the request of the sole Democrat on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, a vote on the 2013 budget is being delayed by one week. Commissioner Todd Portune asked Commission President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, for the vote delay to address funding to juvenile courts and plans for future financial stability. Hartmann agreed to the delay, noting consensus is important for budget issues. The budget won’t raise taxes, but it could put 150 Hamilton County employees out of jobs.

Wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of fluids used during the fracking process, will soon be popping up around Ohio again. The wells are the first to get state approval since earthquakes around Youngstown in December were blamed on nearby wastewater injection wells. It’s clear little — not even earthquakes — will stop Ohio’s fracking boom, but at what cost? It is generally accepted switching from coal to natural gas would bring down pollution that causes global warming, but some findings from Australia suggest problems still lay ahead. One study found an abnormal amount of greenhouse gases around an Australian fracking site. Methane leakage in particular is a problem at natural gas sites because over 100 years methane is 25 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Cincinnati home sales shot up in October, according to the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors. The report paints a great picture for the city’s housing economy. Housing was one of the biggest sectors hit by the financial crisis of 2007-2008, so a recovery in housing is a sign the economic downturn could soon be a thing of the past.

University of Cincinnati researchers want to know if testing emergency-room patients for HIV makes sense. ER doctors worry about longer wait times, disrupted operations and possible interference with emergency services, but the health benefits could outweigh the negatives.

FirstGroup America is looking into moving from its Cincinnati headquarters. The company originally got a million-dollar tax incentive from the city for moving to downtown.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich hopes his rejection of Obamacare’s health exchanges will ignite some re-election fundraising. Kasich is up for re-election in 2014. Exchanges are subsidized, heavily regulated insurance markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace. With Kasich’s rejection, the federal government will manage Ohio’s exchange.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted finally had a good day in court on Saturday. In a reversal from the lower court’s ruling, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said ballots without proper identification should not be counted. It’s estimated that, at most, the ruling will affect about 2,000 votes.

A Dayton man allegedly robbed the same bank twice.

Behold, the greatest thing the internet has ever created: The Spice Kittens livestream.

With a nose cell transplant, paralyzed dogs are walking again.