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by Andy Brownfield 08.29.2012
Posted In: News, Education at 03:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
miami-university-logo

Suspended Frat Sues Miami U. for $10M

Phi Kappa Tau claims university unconstitutionally suspended it

UPDATE: 5:11 p.m. Updated with comment from Miami University spokeswoman.

A Miami University fraternity that was suspended after an alleged fireworks battle led to police finding drugs when executing a search warrant has filed a lawsuit with the frat demanding $10 million from the university.

The Phi Kappa Tau chapter at Miami university alleges in their lawsuit that university officials improperly suspended the fraternity, damaged its business and property and made libelous allegations out of “malice, hatred and ill will.”

The frat is suing for compensation as well as $10 million in punitive damages and attorneys fees. The Tuesday court filing demanded a trial by jury.

The fraternity was suspended after members of the Phi Kappa Tau and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternities allegedly threw lit fireworks between their two frat houses. 

When Oxford police officers tried to investigate, students refused to let them into the houses without warrants. So the police got warrants.

According to the filing, inside the Phi Kappa Tau house police found fireworks, a baggy of marijuana and two pipes.

The lawsuit alleges that the university improperly suspended the fraternity because it did so in the absence of any written complaint. It claims that there are no police complaints or charges as of the lawsuit’s filing.

The suit also alleges that the university recklessly made false statements damaging the reputation of the fraternity and causing some of its members “severe emotional distress.”

Miami University spokeswoman Claire Wagner declined to comment on the lawsuit. However, she said the school's student code allows the Dean of Students or a designee to issue a summary suspension without a written complaint if there is a pending investigation. She said the university, as well as Oxford fire and police, are investigating the incident.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.22.2012
Posted In: News, Media Criticism, Education at 11:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
gregwilliams

Why Did UC’s President Step Down?

Williams out after three years, 'Enquirer' publisher/UC board member doesn't know why

University of Cincinnati President Greg Williams stepped down yesterday. According to reports, Williams walked into a UC Board of Trustees meeting, announced he was resigning effective immediately and left.

Greg Hand, spokesperson for UC, said Williams resigned for “personal reasons.” No further explanation was provided by Williams.

Santa Ono, UC provost, is taking over temporarily as interim president. In a tweet, he promised to give the university 150 percent.

Williams was at UC since 2009. A year after arriving, he introduced his UC2019 plan. The plan seeks to make the university into a top school by 2019. The plan also implied Williams had long-term plans for UC, making his abrupt resignation even stranger.

The Board of Trustees seemed happy with Williams — at least happy enough to give him a raise. On Sept. 20, 2011, the Board gave Williams a $41,000 raise, bringing his salary up to $451,000. He also got a $102,500 bonus.

The news took UC students by surprise. Lane Hart, student body president at UC, told the school's independent student newspaper, The News Record, he was “shocked” when he heard the news. 

To give credit where credit is due, when The Cincinnati Enquirer first reported the story, the newspaper mentioned that Margaret Buchanan, president and publisher at The Enquirer, is on the UC Board of Trustees. However, The Enquirer did not mention asking Buchanan about the resignation — an omission that raised questions for Jim Romenesko, a popular journalism blogger. Since then, The Enquirer emailed Romenesko saying Buchanan did not know any extra information.

Buchanan's ties to local groups the newspaper frequently covers have failed to be disclosed in the past. Previously, CityBeat found in stories related to 3CDC, which Buchanan is also involved in as a member of the executive committee, The Enquirer overwhelmingly failed to report the possible conflict of interest. The newspaper only reported the connection one out of 32 times, although the number could be inflated due to The Enquirer’s system of posting duplicate articles. In one particular story, The Enquirer praised 3CDC but failed to bring up Buchanan’s role overseeing publicity and marketing there.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.20.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Government, News, Education at 08:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Morning News and Stuff

Update: This blog incorrectly said Doug Preisse is the chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party. He is the chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party.

“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, told The Columbus Dispatch in an email over the weekend. The admission to outright racism came at the height of a controversy regarding weekend voting in Montgomery County. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is trying to enforce uniform in-person early voting hours with no weekend voting across the state to avoid any discrepancies that caused a previous controversy, but county Democrats in Dayton wanted to have weekend voting anyway. When county Democrats refused to back down in a Board of Elections meeting, Husted, the state official who is supposed to empower voters as much as possible, suspended them from the Board. The move sparked criticism from state Democrats, which eventually led to Preisse’s admission to playing racial politics.

The Ohio Board of Education is meeting today and is expected to discuss its search for a new superintendent of public instruction. Former Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner had to leave after an investigation found he had been misusing state resources and encouraging legislation that benefited an employer.

Taxpayers could be paying $300,000 so county officials can avoid a tough decision. The move would preserve the property tax rollback and let the county hold off on making a payment on the stadiums this fiscal year. Two out of three county commissioners told the Enquirer they like the idea.

Schools in the Greater Cincinnati area seem to be using different grading scales. The disparity could put some students in a worse spot when applying to college.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is suing a Cincinnati man over a Craigslist scam.

The Greater Cincinnati area could soon host more film, television and video game production thanks to new tax incentives.

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland could be making an appearance at the Democratic national convention. The convention is a time for parties to show off their new candidates and party platforms.

Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin of Missouri told KTVI-TV, “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The extremely offensive, factually incorrect comment was quickly picked up by media outlets, and the senatorial candidate is now saying he “misspoke.” But misspeaking typically means messing up one or two words. Misspeaking does not mean making a clearly spoken argument with a very clear point.

Lack of funding could be hurting national parks.

Here is a spider with claws.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.17.2012
Posted In: News, Economy, Education, Environment, President Obama at 08:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_fracking

Morning News and Stuff

Carbon dioxide emissions fell to a 20-year low this year, largely thanks to natural gas that was made cheaper and more plentiful due to the fracking boom in Ohio and other states. The news is a surprising turnaround for climate change activists, but critics worry that methane — a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — emitted from natural gas operations could still pose a significant climate threat. Environmental groups are generally opposed to fracking, but supporters, like Gov. John Kasich, insist it can be made safe with enough regulations. CityBeat previously covered the concerns and questions behind fracking here.

The Ohio Department of Education has had a rough year, and in a few ways, it’s back to square one. On top of the search for a new superintendent of public instruction, the Department of Education has had to deal with budget cuts and layoffs, a new Board of Education member with no college degree or known resume, and the department is now being investigated by the state auditor.  

The White House has announced a $30 million manufacturing hub for Ohio that will act as a model for the rest of the United States. The hub will bring together universities and businesses in order to increase growth and collaboration and decrease risk.

Ohio has seen an uptick of businesses requesting to work in the state, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Estimates show 6,137 new entities applied to work in the state during July, up from 5,472 during July 2011. The state has also seen 52,728 new business requests so far in 2012, up from 49,460 during the same January-to-July period in 2011. The news shows some signs of strengthening economic growth in Ohio.

But Ohio’s unemployment rate barely moved in July. The unemployment rate remained at 7.2 percent, the same as June’s unemployment rate, even though 2,000 jobs were added.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. EPA, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and energy companies met yesterday to work out how Ohio will enforce new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The new standards will greatly reduce toxic pollutants given off by power plants, according to the National Resources Defense Council.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor claims there’s a funding shortage for courts. The shortage could make it difficult for some cases and people to see their day in the courtroom.

Environmental groups are asking for more rules for wastewater injection wells, the wells used to dump wastewater produced during fracking. But state regulators aren’t sure more rules are necessary.

Fifty-eight state Republican lawmakers have never broken from the very conservative Ohio Chamber of Commerce in a vote.

Sen. Rob Portman will be speaking at the Republican national convention. The convention will make Mitt Romney’s nomination as the Republican presidential candidate official. Conventions are also a time for political parties to show off their new party platforms.

President Barack Obama is coming back to Ohio next Tuesday. The president will be staying in Columbus this time around.

Tax Policy Center to conservative critics: No matter what you say, Romney’s tax plan is still mathematically impossible.

Americans love computers, but they hate the oil and gas industry.

It’s taking more than three days, but the famous Jesus statue is rising again.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.14.2012
Posted In: Education, News, 2012 Election, Economy, Republicans at 08:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
christiansigman

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 08.07.2012
Posted In: News, Government, Education at 08:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
voters first

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Monday that Ohio Voters First has gathered enough petitions for its redistricting amendment, and the amendment will appear on the Ohio ballot. If the amendment is approved by voters, redistricting will be taken up by an independent commission without politicians and lobbyists. If it is not successful, then state officials and politicians will continue drawing district boundaries. CityBeat has previously covered the redistricting issue and how redistricting has been abused by politicians in a process known as “gerrymandering.” Cincinnati’s district was redrawn by the Republican-controlled committee to include Warren County, giving an edge to Republicans in the district.

Music Hall’s renovation is likely to see another delay. The conflict has been ongoing as Mayor Mark Mallory refuses to transfer ownership of Music Hall from the city to the nonprofit group doing the renovations.

Four Greater Cincinnati colleges appeared in Forbes’s top college list. The University of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky University ranked toward the bottom of the list, and Miami University and Xavier University ranked closer to the top.

The city of Cincinnati is considering letting Blue Ash rescind the purchase of the Blue Ash Airport to strike a new agreement. The move would free up $11 million for the streetcar and $26 million for other municipal projects.

Lincoln Educational Services is closing down branches around Cincinnati. Oh well. For-profit colleges are a rip-off.

A program to rebuild infrastructure at Ohio schools is about halfway done. The program started in 1997 and was originally supposed to finish in 2012, but rising construction costs, school funding problems and the bad economic climate held the project down. The program seems to be picking up again, however.

Ohio Democrats are upset Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner is getting away without criminal charges after abusing his position and potentially breaking the law.

Another study has found a correlation between earthquakes and wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of wastewater produced during fracking. The study does not draw a direct link, but study author Cliff Frohlich of the University of Texas at Austin says it’s possible the injection of water could trigger earthquakes if a nearby fault is “experiencing tectonic stress.” Earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio, around New Year’s Eve were linked to wastewater injection wells.

Transgender people are now protected under Obamacare. The U.S. Department of Human Health and Services now considers discrimination based on “gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity” to be illegal, according to a memo obtained by BuzzFeed from the agency. With these new rules, companies obtaining federal funds will no longer be able to discriminate against transgender people.

The U.S. government is still making money back from the bank bail-out.

Apparently, those junk-mail checks can actually be worth something. For one man, one of the checks ended up being worth $95,093.35.

A new solution to climate change: artificial floating islands.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.06.2012
Posted In: News, Education, City Council at 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
stanheffner

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner announced Saturday that he will be resigning. An Inspector General report released Thursday found Heffner abused his position when he testified in front of the Ohio legislature in favor of legislation that benefited his employer. Heffner also allegedly misused state resources by using his state-issued cell phone and office email to get in contact with his employer. Heffner will officially step down on Aug. 10, and Deputy Superintendent Michael Sawyers will take Heffner’s position until the Board names a new state superintendent.

Greg Landsman is running for City Council. Landsman has previously worked for former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi. He promises to focus on “jobs and growth.”

A report from The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio revealed some Ohio schools — including some local schools in the Greater Cincinnati area — use seclusion rooms to punish children with disabilities. Most research has shown seclusion rooms do not benefit children and, in fact, hurt them. The report claims the rooms are often used as a “convenience for frustrated employees.” Critics are calling the practice “primitive and traumatic.” However, some educators say seclusion rooms can be good for dealing with violent tantrums.

Ohio gas prices are up sharply this week. Apparently, problems at Great Lakes refineries have increased prices for the region.

Cincinnati officials are looking into a plan to make trains quieter. The plan could help residents in neighborhoods with a lot of train traffic get better sleep.

Gov. John Kasich will be speaking at the Republican convention this month. He’s expected to talk about Ohio’s relatively low unemployment rate and stronger economic growth.

Mitt Romney has been caught lying again. On Friday and Saturday, Romney and aides said President Barack Obama’s lawsuit to restore all early voting in Ohio is trying to take away in-person early voting from military personnel. The lawsuit is actually trying to make it possible for everyone, including military personnel, to vote early.

Obama’s team released a tax calculator that calculates a person’s taxes under Obama’s plan and under Romney’s plan. Obviously, the calculator might be biased in Obama’s favor, but the important takeaway is that Romney’s plan would cut taxes for the wealthy, while Obama’s plan would cut taxes for the middle class. Romney’s tax plan has been criticized by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center for being “mathematically impossible.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was attacked by bees Monday.

Charlie Sheen gave $50,000 to a Cincinnati Reds charity fund after seeing Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman shave his head on Friday as part of a fundraising campaign that also raised $50,000.

The Curiosity rover has touched down on Mars. The Curiosity’s mission is NASA’s most ambitious Mars mission yet.

Soon, we could all be like Wolverine. Scientists have come up with experimental spray-on skin that could promote wound healing.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2012
Posted In: News, Governor, Government, Education at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stanheffner

State Superintendent Abused Position

Inspector General finds misuse of state resources, conflict of interest

Another day, another corrupt politician. Ohio's Inspector General released a report today stating that Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner was found to be in a conflict of interest when he testified to a legislative committee in favor of increased educator testing.

Heffner had secured a position at Educational Testing Service (ETS) prior to the testimony. ETS is a Texas-based company that provides testing services to schools. The report found the bill Heffner testified for "ultimately did benefit" ETS.

In other words, Heffner, as the head of the Department of Education, testified in front of the Ohio legislature to secure a deal that benefited a company he was working for.

As if that wasn't enough, the investigation also found that Heffner was using state resources to negotiate his employment with ETS. According to the report, Heffner told John Oswald, vice president of K-12 Assessment Solutions for ETS, to contact him through his office email and state-issued cell phone.

So not only did Heffner testify in the Ohio legislature to benefit ETS, he also used taxpayer resources for employment negotiations with ETS.

The offices of Gov. John Kasich did not seem pleased with the development.

“He is doing a very good job as superintendent, but using official resources the way he did and demonstrating that kind of bad judgment is unacceptable," says Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Kasich. "The governor is confident that the State Board of Education understands that and will take the right steps.”

Debe Terhar, president of the State Board of Education of Ohio, released a statement in reaction to the investigation.

“I appreciate the Inspector General’s thorough report and am disturbed by its findings," Tehrar said. "State Superintendent Stan Heffner is a dedicated educator who is committed to the education reforms Ohio needs for our children, but in this matter he demonstrated a woeful lack of judgment."

In a different statement, Heffner apologized for his "lack of judgment."

The State Board of Education will discuss the results of the investigation in its scheduled Sept. 10 and 11 meetings.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.31.2012
Posted In: Mayor, News, Education, Governor at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mallory

Morning News and Stuff

Mayor Mark Mallory announced a trade deal between the small Greater Cincinnati-based Solutions Plus, Inc. and the giant Saudi Arabia-based Diversified Lines Petroleum Company. The deal will produce $20 million in business in the next two to five years, said Solutions Plus President Charlie Weaver. The deal is largely due to a trade mission to Saudi Arabia Mallory led in January.

The Cincinnati streetcar project is moving forward. On Wednesday, City Council will be voting on a routine ordinance to transfer $3 million to the streetcar project.

Cincinnati is studying the feasibility of a bike share program. If enacted, the program would begin next summer in Over-the-Rhine and Uptown.

Kings Island is taking down the Son of Beast. The attraction, which was originally advertised as the only wooden roller coaster with a loop, has been closed since 2009 due to a series of problems.

Gov. John Kasich announced the approval of 25 new economic projects by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority. The approval should pave the way to 2,003 new jobs and $212 million in investment in Ohio, according to the announcement. Three of the projects will be in the city of Cincinnati: Integra LifeSciences Corporation, Southern Air Incorporated and Corbus, LLC.

Kasich wants answers. Yesterday, the governor gave his opinion on the ongoing investigation into the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio schools for fraudulent data reporting. Kasich said both schools and the Ohio Department of Education should be held accountable if necessary.

Democrats are setting the groundwork to endorse same-sex marriage in the official party platform for the 2012 election. The news would echo President Barack Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage earlier this year.

Medical marijuana is heading to court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will be hearing whether or not the federal government is right to classify marijuana as having no medical value.

James Holmes was charged with 24 counts of murder in the case for the Colorado theater massacre.

Mitt Romney praised Israel’s health-care system, which does a lot of what he’s opposing in Obamacare.

Japanese developers have built a real-life mech robot. The robot can be piloted, and it can shoot 6,000 BBs in a minute.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.27.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Education, President Obama at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stanheffner

Morning News and Stuff

The Ohio Department of Education is caught in a bit of a mess. This morning, the state auditor’s office announced it would be conducting a probe into the Ohio Department of Education over school test and attendance data. Yesterday, Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner said the Ohio Department of Education will be investigating more schools for possible instances of fraudulent data reporting. The superintendent’s announcement came on the same day Lockland School Districts were found to be reporting false attendance data for better test results.

Delta Airlines announced it will be closing down Comair, which is headquartered in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. The move could have a significant impact on jobs in the region.

Only 6,000 out of 140,000 eligible Ohioans have initiated a foreclosure review process, according to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. The review could potentially save Ohioans a lot of money.

The Ohio Supreme Court still thinks Ohio’s smoking ban is constitutional.

Skype is making chat and user data more accessible to police.

There is now a reason to be jealous of Kansas City. Google will be offering its ultra-fast Internet service in the area for only $70 a month.

Nearly one in five voters thinks President Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Mitt Romney had a bad couple days during his trip to London: An aide allegedly made racist comments about Obama’s commitment to “Anglo-Saxon heritage,” Romney questioned if London is ready to host the Olympics, and he talked about meeting with the leader of MI6, the British intelligence agency. And he said he’s excited to return the “bust of Winston Churchill” to the Oval Office. Whatever that means.

Nobody has a case of the Mondays, according to a new study in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

Scientists have found a way to temporarily restore eyesight in blind mice. But it requires a direct chemical injection into the eyes.

 
 

 

 

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by German Lopez 02.13.2014
Posted In: News, Poverty, Education, MSD at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover_poverty

Morning News and Stuff

City’s poor struggle to break free, CPS gains nationwide praise, city and county head to court

With Cincinnati’s child poverty and economic mobility rates among the worst in the country, it’s clear the city’s poor can get stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty. Although the impoverished trend afflicts more than half of the city’s children, every level of government has in some way cut services to the poor. The end result: Many Cincinnati neighborhoods show little signs of progress as poor health and economic indicators pile up. Read CityBeats in-depth story here.

Following the adoption of community learning centers, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) continue receiving praise for establishing a workable model for educating low-income populations. Locally, independent data shows the model has pushed CPS further than the traditional approach to education, even though the school district continues struggling with impoverished demographics. A few hundred miles away, newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he will implement the Cincinnati model in the biggest city in the nation.

Hamilton County and Cincinnati are heading to court to decide who can set policy for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. The conflict came to a head after Hamilton County commissioners deliberately halted federally mandated MSD projects to protest the city’s job training rules for contractors. The Republican-controlled county argues the rules favor unions, burden businesses and breach state law, but the city says the rules are perfectly legal and provide work opportunities for city workers.

Commentary: “Legalizing Marijuana Is Serious Business.”

With HealthCare.gov mostly fixed, CityBeat interviewed Trey Daly, who is leading the Ohio branch of an organization reaching out to the uninsured to get them enrolled in Obamacare.

Explainer: Everything you need to know about Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan.

University of Kentucky researchers found tolls would, at worst, reduce traffic on a new Brent Spence Bridge by 2 percent.

After raising concerns over teacher pay and missed classroom time, Republicans in the Ohio House delayed a vote on a bill that would add school calamity days. Gov. John Kasich called for the bill to help schools that have already exhausted their snow days during this winter’s harsh weather.

Ohio regulators fined Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino $75,000 for providing credit to early patrons without running the proper background checks.

Cincinnati-based Kroger faces a lawsuit claiming stores deceived customers by labeling chickens as humanely raised when the animals were brought up under standard commercial environments.

Cincinnati-based crowdfunding startup SoMoLend settled with Ohio over allegations that it sold unregistered securities and its founder misled investors. Candace Klein, the founder, resigned as CEO of the company in August.

Comcast intends to acquire Time Warner Cable, one of two major Internet providers in Cincinnati, through a $45 billion deal.

U.S. physicists pushed fusion energy closer to reality with a breakthrough formally announced yesterday.

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by German Lopez 02.07.2014
Posted In: News, Education, MSD, The Banks at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City, schools to collaborate, protesters call for MSD work, some question The Banks’ success

Cincinnati officials and Cincinnati Board of Education leaders yesterday announced a new collaborative that aims to share and align the city and Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) policy goals. The initiative will focus on five areas: population growth, workforce development, safe and livable neighborhoods, wellness and access to technology. City and school officials say the collaborative alone won’t hit their budgets, but future joint initiatives could obviously carry their own costs.

Councilman Chris Seelbach and union supporters yesterday gathered outside the Hamilton County Administrations Building to call on county commissioners to open bidding on several Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. County commissioners blocked the work in protest of Cincinnati’s “responsible bidder” rules, which require MSD contractors to meet more stringent job training requirements and pay into a pre-apprenticeship fund that will train new workers in different crafts. The Republican-controlled county says the rules are illegal, favor unions and burden businesses, but the Democrat-controlled city says the standards help train local workers and create local jobs.

Meanwhile, county commissioners appear ready to take the city-county dispute to court. If the conflict isn’t resolved by the end of the year, the federal government could impose fines to force work on a mandatory overhaul of the local sewer system to fully continue, according to Commissioner Chris Monzel.

Cincinnati’s riverfront has come a long way, but The Cincinnati Enquirer and others seem unhappy The Banks is taking so long to fully develop. A lot was promised with the initial plan for the riverfront, but the Great Recession and other hurdles slowed down the development of condos, office and retail space and a hotel. For some business owners, the slowdown has made it much harder to get by unless a major event — a Reds or Bengals game, for example — is going on, particularly during bad winters. In particular, struggling Mahogany’s owner Liz Rogers says she “would like to see more retail, a hotel, a movie theater.”

Following Councilman Charlie Winburn’s warnings that the city wastefully bought too much road salt, the city is actually running low on salt and waiting on an order of 3,500 tons. Over the past couple months, Winburn accused the city of wasting money when he “discovered” a pile of unused road salt. Despite Winburn’s attempts to make saltgate into a thing, it turns out the city bought the salt when it was cheaper and planned to use it in the future.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center plans to reopen a pediatric health clinic that abruptly closed down when Neighborhood Health Care Inc. shut down operations. The clinic expects to see 500 needy children and teenagers each month.

Local Republicans are still looking to host the Republican National Convention in 2016.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald asked Republican Gov. John Kasich to pledge he would serve his full four years if he won re-election, meaning Kasich would be unable to run for president in 2016.

Doctors say technology must prevent texting while driving.

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by German Lopez 01.29.2014
Posted In: News, Barack Obama, Infrastructure, Education at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

Obama lays out agenda, Ky. governor defends bridge tolls, reading ability falls with income

President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union speech yesterday, outlining an ambitious progressive agenda that will be largely ignored and rebuked by Congress. But Obama promised at least seven major policies that he can pursue without legislators, including a $10.10-per-hour minimum wage for federal contractors and some action on global warming. Obama’s full speech is viewable here, and the Republican response is available here. The Associated Press fact checked the speech here.

Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear says tolls are necessary to fund the $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge project. Officials and executives claim the bridge replacement is necessary to improve safety, traffic and economic development through a key connector between Kentucky and Ohio, but many Kentucky officials refuse to accept tolls to fund the new bridge. But without federal funding to pay for the entire project, leading Ohio and Kentucky officials say they have no other option.

There is a 32-point achievement gap in reading between Ohio’s lower-income and higher-income fourth-graders, with higher-income students coming out on top. The massive gap speaks to some of the challenges brought on by income inequality as Ohio officials implement the Third-Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires most Ohio third-graders to test as “proficient” before they advance to the fourth grade. Previous studies also found Ohio’s urban schools might be unfairly evaluated and under-funded because the state doesn’t properly account for poverty levels.

Attempting to move the Hamilton County Board of Elections offices from downtown to Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs, could provoke a lawsuit from the NAACP, Board Chairman Tim Burke, a Democrat who opposes the move, warned in an email to county commissioners. With the Board of Elections split along party lines on the issue, the final decision to move or not to move could come down to county commissioners or Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted. CityBeat covered the issue in further detail here.

Greater Cincinnati added 6,600 jobs between December and December 2012.

Temperatures could hit the 30s and 40s this weekend, offering a reprieve to the extreme cold.

Ohio’s auditor of state found a “top-down culture of data manipulation and employee intimidation” at Columbus City School District.

Cincinnati-based Kroger plans to add 227 stores with its acquisition of Harris Teeter.

The University of Cincinnati expects to demolish its Campus Services Building at Reading Road and Lincoln Avenue — formerly a Sears department store — this summer.

A Republican congressman from New York City physically threatened a reporter after an interview.

Birmingham, Ala., really can’t handle snow.

A lawsuit alleges NASA is failing to investigate alien life.

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by German Lopez 01.28.2014
Posted In: News, Education, Poverty at 03:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
states reading proficiency

Report: Reading Proficiency Falls With Income

Lower-income fourth-graders much more likely to fail standards

Ohio’s lower-income fourth-graders were much more likely than higher-income fourth-graders to fall below reading proficiency standards in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Four in five lower-income fourth-graders were declared below reading proficiency standards in 2013, the report found. Only 48 percent of higher-income fourth-graders fell below proficiency.

Ohio mostly matched the national trend: About 80 percent of lower-income fourth-graders and 49 percent of higher-income fourth-graders across the country read below proficient levels last year.

The report also found Ohio’s overall reading proficiency improved by 5 percent between 2003 and 2013, a notch below the nation’s 6 percent improvement.

The report comes as state officials implement the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires most Ohio third-graders to test as “proficient” before they advance to the fourth grade. Preliminary results showed one-third of Ohio students failing to pass the test, putting them at risk of retention.

“Ohio needs to do whatever it takes to get all children — especially low income and children of color — on track with this milestone,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund of Ohio, in a statement. “The long-term prosperity of Ohio and our nation depends upon improving crucial educational outcomes such as reading proficiency.”

The report also speaks to some of the challenges Ohio and other states face in evaluating schools, teachers and students as the nation struggles with high levels of income inequality.

A Jan. 22 report from Policy Matters Ohio found high-scoring urban schools tend to have lower poverty rates than low-performing urban schools. In Cincinnati, nine of the 19 top-rated urban schools served a lower percentage of economically disadvantaged students than the district as a whole.

Another study from three school advocacy groups found Ohio’s school funding formula fails to fully account for how many resources school districts, including Cincinnati Public Schools, need to use to serve impoverished populations instead of basic education services. In effect, the discrepancy means Ohio’s impoverished school districts get even less funding per student for basic education than previously assumed.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.28.2014
Posted In: News, Education, Voting, Death Penalty at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Early voting location debated, schools could get more snow days, execution investigated

Local early voting could move from downtown to Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs, following a split, party-line vote from the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Democrats oppose the move because they say it will make early voting less accessible to people who rely on public transportation to make it to the ballot box. Republicans support the move as part of a plan to consolidate some county services, particularly a new crime lab, at the Mount Airy facility. With the board split, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, could step in to break the tie vote.

But Husted's spokesperson said the secretary of state might encourage the Board of Elections to "take another look" at the issue, and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel says the county will not move the Board of Elections without a majority vote.

Gov. John Kasich called for a one-time increase in the number of school calamity days to cope with the unusually severe winter weather this year. Under state law, schools are normally allowed five calamity days before extra days off start chipping into summer break. The state legislature must approve legislation to enact the temporary increase.

Ohio officials found no substantial evidence that a public defender coached convicted killer Dennis McGuire to fake suffocation during his execution. Eye-witness accounts report McGuire visibly struggled, snorted and groaned as he took 26 minutes to die — the longest execution since Ohio restarted using the death penalty in 1999.

Despite what a local state senator says, there are a lot of differences between Ohio's Clean Energy Law and Stalinism.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Senate continues working on a proposal that would weaken Ohio's renewable energy and efficiency standards. But it's unclear if the new attempt will be any more successful than State Sen. Bill Seitz's failed, years-long crusade against the Clean Energy Law.

Local Democrats endorsed Christie Bryant for an open seat in the Ohio House, even though five interviewed for the position and could run in the Democratic primary. Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke previously told CityBeat local Democrats endorse prior to a primary in some special situations. In this case, the party wanted to guarantee a black candidate, and Bryant is the most qualified, according to Burke.

A new report found Ohio's prison population ticked down by nearly 2 percent since 2011, but the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) says it is now trending back up. To address the recent rise, ODRC Director Gary Mohr says legislators need to provide more opportunities for community-based drug treatment, mental health care and probation programs to help reduce prison re-entry rates.

More than 112,000 Ohio students dropped out of high schools between 2006 and 2010.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority will shape plans this year to remake some of Queensgate and Camp Washington into manufacturing, engineering and laboratory hubs with high-paying jobs.

Hamilton County might sell some of its six downtown buildings.

Former Mayor Mark Mallory took a job with the Pennsylvania-based Chester Group, which provides "energy, water and wastewater solutions to public and industrial clients across the United States and internationally," according to a press release.

Councilman Chris Seelbach's vegan chili won the Park+Vine cook-off.

Confirmed by science: Walking while texting or reading a text increases chances of injury.

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by German Lopez 01.24.2014
Posted In: News, Guns, Gun Violence, Education at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
ohio statehouse

School Employees Could Soon Carry Concealed Guns

Research indicates the Republican-backed proposal might fail to improve school safety

The Republican-controlled Ohio House on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow school boards to designate some school employees to carry concealed firearms and prohibit school boards from releasing the names of those employees.

As part of the designation, school employees would have to participate in “active shooter training” established by the state attorney general. School boards and employees could also consult with local law enforcement to establish stronger standards and training.

If a gun-toting teacher injures or kills someone, the rules exempt the school board and employees from liability “unless the injury, death or loss resulted from the employee’s reckless or wanton conduct.”

The bill would also allow off-duty officers to carry firearms in schools.

There are some restrictions: A school board could not force an employee to carry a gun, and gun-carrying rights could not be part of a collective bargaining agreement.

While a Republican majority supports the rules to increase safety in schools, some research indicates the plan could backfire.

A review from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found states and countries with more guns tend to have more homicides. Specifically, men and women in places with more firearms are exposed to a larger risk of gun-related homicide.

University of Pennsylvania researchers found similar results in a 2009 study.

“On average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault,” the study concluded. “Although successful defensive gun uses occur each year, the probability of success may be low for civilian gun users in urban areas. Such users should reconsider their possession of guns or, at least, understand that regular possession necessitates careful safety countermeasures.”

A 2009 ABC News special found even trained gun-wielders fail to properly react in the event of a shooting. In multiple simulations that placed trained and armed students in a classroom, none of the participants succeeded in stopping an unexpected shooter from landing fake rounds that would have been deadly in a real shooting.

Local state representatives split along party lines on the bill. Democrats Denise Driehaus, Connie Pillich and Alicia Reece voted against it, while Republicans Peter Stautberg and Louis Blessing voted for it.

The bill now needs to move through the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich to become law.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.21.2014
Posted In: 2014 election, News, Education, Death Penalty at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cps offices

Morning News and Stuff

Tea party lands school board seats, death penalty scrutinized, AG campaigns spar over role

Fiscal conservatives and tea party activists won more seats on local school boards last year, putting them in the awkward position of supposedly looking out for the school’s best interests while rejecting property tax levies that could boost schools’ resources and outcomes. As one example, a member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) now sits on the board for Kings Schools in Warren County that she once sued for public records.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sunday called on Gov. John Kasich to immediately halt the death penalty across the state, following the botched, 26-minute execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire. The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted using capital punishment again in 1999, utilized a new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United States. It’s unclear whether state officials will use the same drugs for the five other executions planned for the year.

David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, says Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop defending court-rejected, unconstitutional voting and ballot restrictions. DeWine argues that it’s the attorney general’s job to defend Ohio and its laws, regardless of his opinion on constitutionality. But DeWine actually stepped aside and assigned a separate attorney to a case involving restrictions on “false statements” in political campaigns because, according to him, the law’s constitutionality is questionable.

Martin Luther King Jr. and modern Republicans would likely stand in opposition on numerous issues, including voting rights, the death penalty and reproductive rights.

A top policy aide for Gov. Kasich says local governments should share more services. But some municipal officials argue the Kasich administration is just trying to deflect criticisms regarding local government funding cuts carried out by his Republican administration and the Republican-controlled legislature over the past few years.

The Justice Department is investigating a former chief judge of Cincinnati’s federal appeals court for nearly $140,000 in travel expenses he took during his four and a half years on the bench.

Fewer Ohio students need remedial college classes following high school graduation.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called a fellow Republican an asshole, according to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Seven out of 10 people will live in cities by 2050, according to Popular Science.

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by German Lopez 01.16.2014
Posted In: News, Preschool, Education at 04:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
preschool promise

Preschool Promise Seeks Volunteers

More than 40 "Promise Ambassadors" trained so far; goal is 100 by Feb. 17

As the campaign to provide universal preschool in Cincinnati kicks into gear, organizations involved in the Preschool Promise are seeking more volunteers to train as “Promise Ambassadors” who will help raise awareness and gather feedback for the proposal.

Although there’s no major resistance to universal preschool at a local level, the big question is how the city will fund it. Will it take a hike in property or income taxes? Will city and school funds be involved? Will it rely on philanthropic channels? What about a mix of all the options?

As an ambassador, volunteers will gather feedback on the big questions facing the campaign and raise awareness on the study-backed benefits of preschool.

“As an ambassador you can engage however you feel comfortable: hosting house parties, speaking at meetings and events, organizing community forums or simply helping generate awareness about the importance of quality preschool for every child in our city,” the campaign said in a release.

Greg Landsman, executive director of the education-focused Strive Partnership, said on Facebook that more than 40 ambassadors have been trained so far. The goal is to train 100 by President’s Day, Feb. 17.

The policy would mirror a program in Denver that provides tuition credits to families on an income-based sliding scale, so low-income parents would get the most help while the wealthiest would get the least.

Among other benefits, a study from consulting firm Augenblick, Palaich and Associates found the Denver program gives low- and middle-income families more opportunities to climb the economic ladder.

Landsman previously told CityBeat the measure should end up on the November ballot.

The campaign is offering several training sessions, which can be attended with an RVSP to BooneS@strivepartnership.org:

• Jan. 22, 6–7:30 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana Ave., Cincinnati.
• Jan. 28, 2:30–4 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana
Ave, Cincinnati.
• Jan. 29, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 5, 6–7:30 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana Avenue, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 6, 2:30–4 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 7, 9-10:30 a.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 10, 10:30 a.m.-noon at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 11, 2:30-4 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.

CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.14.2014
Posted In: News, Health care, Education, Environment at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
obamacare navigators

Morning News and Stuff

Obamacare misses target, state to investigate CPS staff, chemical spill forces local measures

In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to hit key demographic targets for young adults in Ohio and across the nation. White House officials say about about 39 percent of those who sign up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov and state-run marketplaces must be young adults. The idea is to get enough young, healthy enrollees to hold down costs as an older, sicker population signs up for health insurance made more easily available through Obamacare’s systems and regulations. But in December, only 19 percent of signups in Ohio and 24 percent of signups nationwide were young adults.

The Ohio Department of Education will recalculate report card data and investigate whether to punish staff after Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and six other Ohio school districts that scrubbed student attendance data. By manipulating the data, schools can appear to be performing better, but the actions obviously jeopardize the authenticity of Ohio’s school accountability system. CPS says its internal investigations found no evidence of deliberate manipulation and the data errors shouldn’t be enough to alter the school’s standing in state report cards. For CPS and the six other school districts, the issues began after the state auditor in 2012 launched an investigation into school data scrubbing.

To avoid contamination from a W. Va. chemical spill, Cincinnati Water Works will shut down its water intake system along the Ohio River and instead rely on the water intake system at the groundwater treatment facility in Fairfield. Mayor John Cranley said the shutdown will last two days, or more than twice the roughly 20 hours required for the chemical slick to pass by. Consumers shouldn’t notice a difference, according to Water Works officials.

In the coming weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard will decide whether to allow fracking wastewater to travel along the Ohio River and other federal waterways and how strictly regulated the shipments should be. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves, but the process produces a lot of wastewater as a result. CityBeat previously covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.

With legislation repealing Ohio’s energy rules now stalled, Champaign County residents are challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s in-state renewable energy requirements in court. Supporters of the law claim the rules help foster a green energy sector in the state, while opponents argue the rules increase costs for businesses and consumers. CityBeat previously covered State Sen. Bill Seitz’s legislative attempts to repeal the rules here.

Another tea party-backed candidate might challenge Gov. John Kasich in the Republican primary. The reveal comes just days after a tea party leader abruptly dropped his challenge against the incumbent governor.

If state legislators approve, Gov. Kasich will hold his state of the state address this year at Medina, Ohio, on Feb. 24.

Three judges will cover for Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter while she fights felony charges in court.

State Rep. Pete Beck of Mason, who was indicted on 16 felony counts for alleged fraud and theft, is facing a primary challenger.

Cincinnati repaved 130 lane miles of road in 2013, according to city officials.

Duke Energy cut a check for the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority today to help redevelop Bond Hill and Queensgate.

A blind student is suing Miami University for alleged discrimination that prevented her from completing coursework.

One vote made the difference in 43 of Ohio’s 2013 elections, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Ky. developers are still pursuing the Noah’s Ark theme park, despite troubles raising funds for the project.

Today is the last day to vote for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.

An infection can turn swarming locusts into solitary grasshoppers, a study found.

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by German Lopez 12.20.2013
Posted In: News, Poverty, Education at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Cincinnati Ranks No. 2 for Highest Child Poverty

Three Ohio cities make Children Defense Fund’s top five

Cincinnati ranked No. 2 for highest child poverty out of 76 major U.S. cities in 2012, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) of Ohio said Friday.

The numbers provide a grim reminder that more than half of Cincinnati’s children lived in poverty in 2012, even as the city’s urban core began a nationally recognized revitalization period.

With 53.1 percent of children in poverty, Cincinnati performed better in CDF’s ranking than Detroit (59.4 percent) but worse than Cleveland (52.6 percent), Miami (48 percent) and Toledo (46 percent), which rounded out the top five.

The data, adopted from the U.S. Census Bureau, also shows Ohio’s child poverty rate of 23.6 percent exceeded the national rate of 22.6 percent in 2012, despite slight gains over the previous year.

“When three of the top five American cities with the highest rates of child poverty are in Ohio, it is clear that children are not a priority here,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of CDF of Ohio. “Significant numbers of our children do not meet state academic standards because their basic needs are not being met.”

With the contentious streetcar debate over for now, some local leaders are already turning their attention to Cincinnatis disturbing levels of poverty.

Mayor John Cranley on Thursday told reporters that he intends to unveil an anti-poverty initiative next year. A majority of council members also told CityBeat that they will increase human services funding, which goes to agencies that address issues like poverty and homelessness, even as they work to structurally balance the city’s operating budget.

Outside City Hall, the Strive Partnership and other education-focused organizations are working to guarantee a quality preschool education to all of Cincinnati’s 3- and 4-year-olds. The issue, which will most likely involve a tax hike of some kind, could appear on the 2014 ballot.

 
 
 
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