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by 04.22.2009
 
 

Re-Integrating Millions

Considering that the United States has incarcerated more of its citizens than any other country in the world, we’ve created a problem we can’t avoid – re-integrating millions of people into mainstream society. With restrictions on employment that bar former felons from even submitting an application for an open position, we’re creating conditions that, at best, force former offenders into lying to get jobs or returning to crime in order to survive.

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by 02.09.2009
 
 

Shafting the Poor: It's What We Do

Cincinnati is once again planning to reduce, limit and even eliminate services for the most vulnerable in our community as a time when people with money are struggling. Those people who called “less fortunate” at religious services are supposedly preventing downtown from developing to its full potential.

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by 02.18.2010
Posted In: Climate Change, Environment, Public Policy at 02:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Clean Energy Day of Action

A coalition of groups participated in the "Clean Energy Day of Action" event Monday. Despite the heavy snowfall, attendees gathered on downtown's Fountain Square to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive clean energy and climate plan this spring.

The event -- part of the Cincinnati for Clean Energy Campaign -- was organized by members from the Blue Green Alliance, a partnership between environmental organizations and labor unions.

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by 10.29.2008
Posted In: Public Policy at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Not in Our Backyard…Yet

The White House "drug czar," John Walters backed a Mexican government proposal to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

"I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but John Walters is right," says Rob Kampia, executive director of MPP. "We heartily second his support for eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana users in Mexico and look forward to working with him to end such penalties in the U.S. as well."

The group cites an Oct. 22 New York Times report that references “Walters' public support for a drug decriminalization proposal by Mexican President Felipe Calderon.”

Calderon's proposal, if approved, would mean no jail sentence or fine and no criminal record of arrest or possession if the individual completes drug treatment, in the case of addiction, or a drug education program

“The Mexican president's proposal would also decriminalize possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine,” says a statement by MPP.

"It's fantastic that John Walters has recognized the massive destruction the drug war has inflicted on Mexico and is now calling for reforms there, but he's a rank hypocrite if he continues opposing similar reforms in the U.S.," Kampia says. "The Mexican proposal is far more sweeping than MPP's proposals to decriminalize marijuana or make marijuana medically available, both of which John Walters and his henchmen rail against."

Policy watchers will be watching to see if Walters changes his tune in the United States.

“In a March 19, 2008, press release from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy,” the MPP statement says, “Deputy Director Scott Burns called a New Hampshire proposal to impose a $200 fine rather than jail time for a small amount of marijuana ‘a dangerous first step toward complete drug legalization.’ ”

It’s probably a good idea that MPP and others not expect too much. We have a for-profit prison system to keep in business, and with 2007 marijuana possession arrests at 872,720, those laws are needed to keep beds filled. After all, arrests for all violent crimes combined only totaled 597,447.

The last record set for marijuana arrests was 829,627 in 2006.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.21.2012
Posted In: Homelessness, Public Policy, Poverty, Washington at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
homelessness

Homeless Programs Awarded $2.6M

Federal funding will be divided among five groups

Federal officials this week awarded more than $2.6 million to a local nonprofit agency that oversees various programs aimed at reducing homelessness.

The money, allocated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was given to Strategies to End Homelessness, which was formerly known as the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Continuum of Care.

In total, HUD awarded nearly $201 million to 731 programs focused on addressing homelessness. The funding will help provide critically needed rapid re-housing, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals and families.

Locally, Strategies to End Homelessness coordinates such federal funding. It will divide the money as follows:

** Center for Independent Living Options (permanent housing) —  $854,432

** Salvation Army (rapid re-housing for homeless families) — $526,797

** Prospect House (homeless housing and treatment) — $126,000

** Freestore Foodbank (rapid re-housing for homeless individuals) — $739,858

** Lighthouse Youth Services (permanent supportive housing) — $409,122

HUD awards such funding based on outcomes achieved by the local homeless services system.

“Our community received this funding because we have been successful at doing two things: helping homeless people move into housing, and also increase their income, specifically through employment,” said Kevin Finn, Strategies’ executive director, in a prepared statement.

According to the latest data reported by more than 3,000 cities and counties throughout the United States, homelessness declined 2.1 percent between 2010 and 2011 and dropped 12 percent among military veterans.

Founded in 2007, Strategies to End Homelessness coordinates services and funding toward the goal of ending homelessness. The organization works to prevent at-risk households from becoming homeless, assist people who are homeless back into housing, and to reduce the recurrence of homelessness.

The organization has created a single, coordinated system that includes the use of homelessness prevention services, street outreach, emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, transitional and permanent supportive housing, and services-only programs.   

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

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 11.10.2010
Posted In: Public Policy, Public Transit, Urban Planning at 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Streetcar Tours End Today

A sample of the streetcars that will be running on Cincinnati streets soon has been parked at Fountain Square for tours, but this afternoon is your last chance to check it out. The company that built it, United Streetcar of Clackamas, Ore., will be packing it up tonight and shipping it off for similar sightseeing visits to Salt Lake City and Fort Worth, Tex.

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by 03.18.2009
Posted In: Government, Public Policy, Environment, News, Community at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Stealing Elections and the New Ohio Economy

Ohio, like every other state, has “issues.” When it comes to the political kind we’ve had more controversial elections than most in the recent past. On the other end of the spectrum – how we’re like everyone else – the “new economy” is supposed to be here any minute and it’s all green.

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by Ben L. Kaufman 12.26.2012
 
 
enquirer

Curmudgeon Notes 12.26.2012

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

How a small weekly responds to an unimaginable disaster and scores a world scoop is a lesson in the best of journalism. Poynter online’s Julie Moos described what happened after Newtown Bee associate editor Shannon Hicks heard the initial call over her police scanner. 

Hicks drove the mile and a quarter and arrived behind the first dozen police officers. She started taking photographs through her windshield and captured her image of a line of children being led away from the slaughter. “I’m conflicted,” Hicks said about her photo. “I don’t want people to be upset with me, and I do appreciate the journalists, especially, who have commented, saying ‘We’re just documenting the news.’ It’s harder when it’s in your hometown and these are children we’re gonna watch grow up, the ones who made it. I know people are gonna be upset, but at the same time I felt I was doing something important.”

Fellow editor John Voket explained what was behind that image. “Police and school system have a protocol” for evacuation. “Children get into a conga line, shoulder to shoulder, and the only person that’s allowed to keep their eyes open is the locomotive at the front of the line, usually an adult. And every other kid has to keep their eyes closed from the minute they were exiting the classroom to when they got about a couple hundred yards into the parking lot.”

Voket arrived about 20 minutes later and colleague Hicks “passed the baton” to him. Hicks also is a volunteer firefighter. The firehouse is next to the school. “I literally put on my firefighter gear . . . I was there as a firefighter probably for not even more than 20 minutes before my editor said he wanted me back in the office to work with him to coordinate coverage from there.”

Voket continued reporting, but “We operate a little differently because our job is to take care of the community so we were inside helping to comfort victims and trying to provide human support without necessarily making reporting the No. 1 priority. The publisher came down to comfort some of the families a little later in the day.” R. Scudder Smith has been Bee publisher since 1973; he is the fourth member of his family to run The Bee since they founded it in 1877. The paper, which has a full-time editorial staff of eight, circulates to about two-thirds of the community of about 29,000. 

It was Friday and the weekly Bee front page was ready to print. It couldn’t be changed.  “We’ve been putting everything on our website,” publisher Smith told AP.  

Voket added that the traffic surge repeatedly crashed the website until the Bee acquired “an intermediary service to supersize our bandwidth . . . We got back up and running this (Saturday) morning.” The staff used social media to spread information about school lockdowns, re-routed traffic, and grief counseling. “Facebook and Twitter accounts have been a lifeline to our community and it shows because 20 percent of the community are following us.” The Bee also was  “looking at doing a special extra to be on the newsstands Monday.” 

For those of us outside Newtown, Conn., we can turn to the renewed duel over gun control. If it were a song, tired and familiar gun control lyrics would be among “Worst Hits Ever.” It didn’t take long for gun control advocates to embrace the Sandy Hook massacre and the bellicose NRA to opt for rare silence.  Obama renewed his unredeemed calls for gun control although he and Mitt Romney dodged the issue in the just-ended campaign. It was a hornets’ nest neither man opted to kick and reporters apparently were unable to raise with the candidates. 

After the Sandy Hook slaughter, fair and balanced Fox News banned discussion of gun control from the cable network. Maybe Fox News feared we really would decide if they really reported. New York magazine said the ban spotlights the “growing chasm between Rupert Murdoch and [Fox News president] Roger Ailes.” Ailes reportedly is a gun enthusiast. Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., which owns Fox News, had tweeted a call for stricter gun control, imploring for “some bold leadership action” from Obama. 

Let me be churlish when everyone else is sympathizing with families, survivors and first responders. Slaughtering 20 children is awful, but reporters and editors are familiar with how badly Americans treat urban, suburban, small town and rural children every day. In Obama’s Chicago and many other urban areas, gunfire is an omnipresent fact of childhood. Possibly one-fourth of all American children live in poverty as defined by federal guidelines. For these kids, federally funded school meals might be more than a complement to home meals. Health care for poor and malnourished children isn’t much better than their educations. Medicaid is among the anti-poverty programs high on the GOP priorities for absolute cuts and/or reduced annual increases. And let’s not even get into continuing coverage of physical and sexual child abuse, trafficking minors and lifelong handicaps from poor or nonexistent prenatal care or maternal drug and alcohol abuse. 

Only foolish or ignorant reporters credit pious assertions that legislation can prevent disturbed individuals from obtaining guns and killing as many people as they can. There are more than 310 million people in this country. Some are or will become seriously mentally disturbed and obtain one or more of the hundreds of millions of firearms Americans own. A Columbine or Sandy Hook could happen again any day. 

Focusing on the shooting victims rather than shooters might reduce any copycat effect. Stories and photos elevating killers to celebrity have been blamed for further rampages. Even though the killer never was identified, that was the inference drawn from Tylenol poisonings 30 years ago; copycats tried to poison Tylenol capsules. When coverage began to fade, so did copycat crimes. 

NRA leaders realized years ago that traditional (and valuable) Eddie Eagle gun safety comics and courses were insufficient to motivate and keep members and their dues. Fear and anger would be more effective. Real and imagined government controls became NRA’s cause. Few modern American movements have been as durable and effective as the NRA. 

NRA is powerful because we are a democracy. It can mobilize more than 4 million members and fellow travelers as voters, donors and voices in the news media. Elected representatives who want to keep their jobs quite reasonably try to avoid the NRA’s opposition.  Gun control advocates evince nothing like this single-minded devotion to their cause. 

In 1994, the Clinton administration won a10-year limit on the sale of assault-style weapons and large capacity magazines for their ammunition. I went to a gun store in Hamilton to cover a rush to beat the ban. Chinese assault-style rifles and curved high-capacity magazines were selling as fast as staff could pry open crates. As I watched, the price rose $10 with each new crate: demand and supply. Men who talked to me said they were buying because of the imminent controls on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines. A few admitted fear of civil unrest or some undefined federal assault. Most said they wanted a military-style rifle for shooting targets or empty beer cans and this might be their last chance.That 10-year ban died in 2004 when Republicans owned all three branches of federal government and didn’t seek renewal. However, recent killings that required assault-style weapons with large-capacity magazines might prompt reconsideration of the ban. Adam Lanza reportedly carried hundreds of rounds of ammunition in high-capacity magazines. No one knows why he didn’t use them.

Any gun control measure that’s not DOA will have to respect millions of long guns — rifles and shotguns — used by hunters, farmers and others.  That distinction is an important part of this story already handicapped by the paucity of journalists who hunt or otherwise own firearms. 

In addition to an unfamiliarity with firearms, partisan hyperbole also handicaps writing about guns and gun control. It can be hard to find neutral sources who share reporters’ interest in accurate coverage. Stenographic reporting giving “both sides” isn’t good enough; journalists must know enough to challenge obvious partisan misstatements. We are not obligated to report what we know to be untrue or to label it as such. 

Unfamiliarity with gun control cropped up in a recent Enquirer story about a failed armed robbery attempt inside a suburban Sunoco station. Employees with a handgun and a shotgun fatally wounded the would-be bandit. The Enquirer story said it was unclear whether the employees had conceal-carry licenses for those firearms. Unless someone somehow cloaked a shotgun’s 18-28” barrel, no conceal/carry permit is required. Unless the other Sunoco clerk carried the pistol under his clothes, he didn’t need a permit. Wearing it openly or storing it under the counter does not require a conceal/carry permit. So what was the point of that line in the story? Just because a cop might have said it doesn’t mean the reporter had to share it. That’s what I’m talking about.

Missing in much gun control coverage is Congress’ inability to craft sensible, workable bipartisan gun control specifics that can survive NRA opposition and Supreme Court scrutiny. Firearm confiscation is out of the question. So is universal registration which raises NRA-orchestrated fear of confiscation — by ATF, the UN or some other demon de jour —  to hysteria. Moreover, the court affirmed an individual Second Amendment right to own guns in 2010 but it did not rule out federal, state or local regulations governing firearm use.  

Reporters faced with new rage over shootings should remind partisans that we have gun control already. Forty nine states issue conceal/carry permits but specify where those handguns may not be carried.  Illinois — State No. 50 — is under court order to replace its ban with  a conceal/carry permit system. Many if not most municipalities bar gun owners from firing their weapons within city limits with the exception of self-defense. States commonly limit when hunters can use rifles and/or shotguns and they can require a certain size bullet for large-game hunting. Landowners may bar hunters from their property during state-sanctioned hunting seasons.

There are federal limits on how short a “sawed off” shotgun or rifle barrel may be. There are laws limiting ownership of silencers and fully automatic machine guns and submachine guns. Federally licensed firearms dealers must run background checks on prospective buyers and turn away those who fail or won’t comply. Dealers can deny convicted felons a gun under federal and many state laws. A legal purchaser may not buy a firearm for someone who would fail a federal background check. Mentally-ill customers can be turned away by dealers. 

Few of the roughly 12,000 Americans shot to death annually are killed with shot with shotguns or rifles. They’re shot with pistols. So when gun control is promoted, reporters should press advocates to say what they mean: handguns. 

• Before reporters share the lunacy of arming teachers, ask local cops how many rounds typically are fired from their handguns in an armed encounter . . . and how many of those bullets hit their target. Not many. It's very, very difficult for someone trained even at the level of police to accurately fire when adrenaline is pumping. The teacher might end up shooting more students than the intruder. Better to count on the low probability of an armed intrusion. Think about how rare this is. Awful when it happens, but very, very rare, even in communities where other shootings are far more frequent.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.21.2012
 
 
naming rights1

Morning News and Stuff

One day a few years from now Cincinnati motorists might drive their vehicles across the Procter & Gamble Bridge. Ohio's transportation officials are considering ways to create public-private partnerships to help pay for large, expensive projects like the planned replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge, which is estimated to cost $2 billion. The Ohio Department of Transportation has formed a new Division of Innovative Delivery to ponder new methods for raising revenue, which might include selling the naming rights to bridges and roads or using more tolls. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Corporate States of America.

The expansion of Cincinnati's recycling program is yielding good results. 2011 was the first full year for the expanded program that included larger containers and the use of the RecycleBank rewards program. The amount of recycled material increased 49 percent when comparing 2011 to 2009, while participation jumped by 75 percent. As a result, the city saved more than $900,000 in dumping fees and related costs. Each ton of refuse shifted from the landfill to recycling saves the city about $100.

A transgender student at Miami University in Oxford is challenging campus officials for not allowing him to serve as a resident assistant in an all-male residence hall. Instead, he was offered a position in a suite living with female students. Kaeden Kass, who was born a female but dresses and identifies as male, filed a complaint against the dean of students and the university council.

Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order this week creating an “employment first” policy requiring case managers for disabled people to first look for job placement at private businesses rather than turning to more typical sheltered workshop environments, where nearly all the employees are disabled. The new policy applies to the state departments of Developmental Disabilities, Mental Health and Education; the Rehabilitation Services Commission; and school districts.

Cincinnati firefighters are investigating the cause of a series of fires that occurred early this morning in the city's Carthage neighborhood. Crews had to extinguish blazes involving at least three garages and two vehicles in separate incidents. Officials are calling the fires suspicious and are working to find a possible suspect. Damage is estimated at $20,000.

In news elsewhere, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney easily won the Illinois primary Tuesday. Romney received 46.7 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for Rick Santorum. Oh, yeah: Ron Paul got 9.3 percent and Newt Gingrich got 8 percent. (That's right, Paul beat Gingrich.) The results give credibility to GOP fears that Santorum's appeal is limited to the Deep South and conservative areas in the West.

The next primary is Saturday in Louisiana, which is causing some controversy. A super PAC that supports Romney has started sending mailers to Louisiana voters but didn't quite get the details correct. Restore Our Future told voters in the mailer they should vote for Romney on Tuesday, March 24. But the 24th is actually a Saturday, not Tuesday. The super PAC has said the mixup was accidental, but some Santorum supporters suspect it was intentional to confuse voters.

A detailed study shows increased oil drilling in the United States doesn't affect gasoline prices at the pump. A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by the Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and gas prices. If more domestic oil drilling worked as some politicians allege, motorists would now be paying about $2 a gallon for gas. Hey, Mitt and Rick: It's time to try a new scare tactic.

French police were locked in a standoff this morning and exchanged gunfire with an Islamic militant barricaded in an apartment who is suspected of being the gunman who killed three French soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi over the past eight days. Authorities identified the suspect as Mohammed Merah, 24, a French citizen who has spent time with Islamic groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

At least 11 boys were castrated while in the care of the Dutch Roman Catholic church in the 1950s to rid them of homosexuality, a newspaper investigation reports. One person, who was 18 at the time, was castrated in 1956 after telling police he was being sexually abused by a priest. Dutch officials ordered an investigation after the report was published in the NRC Handelsblad newspaper.
 
 

 

 

 
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