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by German Lopez 04.03.2013
Posted In: Budget, News, Economy, Education at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mark mallory

Morning News and Stuff

Ruling kills project, council members ask for alternatives, Kasich's school formula scrapped

Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler’s ruling last week has already led to the dissolution of one project, according to Mayor Mark Mallory. The Kinsey Apartments project fell through after City Council was unable to expedite a change in the building’s classification that would have enabled access to state tax credits. Winkler’s ruling effectively eliminated the city’s use of emergency clauses, which the city used to remove a 30-day waiting period on passed laws, by ruling that all Cincinnati laws are open to referendum. The ruling means the city can no longer expedite laws even in extreme cases, such as natural disasters. The city is appealing the ruling.

Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld are calling for a special session of City Council to get the city administration to answer questions about budget alternatives to laying off cops or firefighters. Mallory and other city officials claim the only way to balance the budget is to carry out Plan B, which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make cuts to other city services. But Sittenfeld and Seelbach have proposed alternatives with casino revenue and cuts elsewhere.

The Ohio House may scrap Republican Gov. John Kasich’s school funding formula to use a “Building Blocks” model championed by former Republican Gov. Bob Taft. The legislators say the formula will give more certainty to local officials by always providing a base of funding based on the average cost to educate a student, but the governor’s office says the approach neglects recent increases in school mobility. Kasich’s formula has come under criticism for disproportionately benefiting wealthy districts, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.

Ohio’s per capita personal income rose at one of the fastest rates in the nation last year, according to an analysis from Dayton Daily News. The news is another sign of Ohio’s strong economic recovery, but it remains unclear whether the rise will bring down the state’s income inequality.

The Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus (ODWC) is criticizing Attorney General Mike DeWine’s efforts to exempt more health providers from providing contraceptive coverage based on religious grounds. “DeWine wants to allow all employers to deny crucial health care services like birth control, cancer screenings and vaccines if they disagree with the services due to their personal or political beliefs,” Amy Grubbe, chairwoman of the ODWC, said in a statement. As part of Obamacare, health insurance companies are required to provide contraceptive coverage — a measure that may save insurance companies money by preventing expensive pregnancies, according to some estimates. But DeWine and other Republicans say the requirement violates religious liberty.

Ohio and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are partnering up to use technology to crack down on fraud in the federal food stamp program that costs the U.S. taxpayer millions of dollars a year.

A public Ohio school is taking down a portrait of Jesus after being threatened with a lawsuit for allegedly violating separation of state and church.

Duke Energy reached a settlement that will allow the company to raise the average electric bill for its Ohio customers by $3.72 per month.

Hamilton County’s SuperJobs Center and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ Veterans Program are partnering with 28 employers, ranging from the University of Cincinnati to Coca Cola, to host the annual veteran hiring event at the SuperJobs Center, located at 1916 Central Parkway, on April 4 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The Midwest Homeschool Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center will bring former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and 15,000 visitors to Cincinnati.

President Barack Obama says he wants to fund a research project that would map the human brain.

By 2020, scientists estimate the world’s solar panels will have “paid back” the energy it took to produce them.

Scientists are growing immune cells in space to study how astronauts’ immune systems change in space.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.03.2013
Posted In: Budget, News, Congress, Gun Violence, Energy, Education, Economy at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
capitol hill

Morning News and Stuff

Fiscal cliff averted despite local politicians, defense cuts delayed, wind tax credit renewed

The fiscal cliff was averted, but some Greater Cincinnati politicians didn’t do much to help. U.S. Speaker John Boehner voted for the final fiscal cliff deal, but Republican U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot, Jean Schmidt and Mike Turner voted against the deal. Ohio’s U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, voted in favor of the deal.

U.S. Congress may have averted the fiscal cliff, but the spending cuts were only delayed for two months. For jobs at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, that means another congressional showdown in March could decide the fate of thousands of jobs. On the other hand, no one is surprised Congress reacted to a crisis by kicking the can down the road.

As part of the fiscal cliff deal, Ohio’s wind industry should feel a little safer thanks to the extension of wind energy tax credits. Still, advocates are frustrated funding for wind energy is part of a “stop-and-start policy” that can suddenly continue or end depending on last-minute congressional deals.

The Buckeye Firearms Association is training and arming 24 teachers through a pilot program in the spring. A previous CityBeat analysis found no evidence that arming teachers would help stop gun violence; in fact, armed people tend to be in greater danger of violence.

Ohio and Kentucky are still in the bottom half of Forbes’ ranking for businesses, but they’re showing improvement.

The Ohio Liberty Coalition, a tea party group, is not happy with Gov. John Kasich. The group is upset Kasich supposedly violated the state’s Health Care Freedom Amendment by signing legislation that compels all Ohioans with health care insurance to buy autism coverage. If even conservatives are angry at Kasich, who’s happy with him?

Cincinnati-based Macy’s is closing six stores, but none of them are in the Cincinnati area.

Surprise! Research has linked being overweight (but not obese) with lower risk of mortality.

During her final days as commander, Sunita Williams of NASA recorded a tour of the International Space Station. 

A new study found newborn babies know the difference between their native language and a foreign one.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.09.2013
Posted In: Casino, Education, News, Government, Economy at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

JobsOhio holding bond sale, schools get casino profits, rape flier case remains sealed

Despite challenges to its constitutionality, JobsOhio is moving forward with a bond sale. The agency, which is meant to create jobs, is holding a bond sale Jan. 23 to raise money for economic development. But ProgressOhio, which is suing Gov. John Kasich’s administration over JobsOhio, says the governor should halt the sale until legal issues are resolved: “There are serious legal questions about the funding of JobsOhio. Gov. Kasich's own commerce director said his duty to uphold the Ohio Constitution was stopping him from moving JobsOhio forward until these questions were resolved.”

Ohio will give schools $37.9 million in casino profits. When casinos were approved by voters, one of the caveats was that some of the tax revenue raised would go into improving the state’s education system. Cincinnati will get its own casino in March 2013.

To avoid rules regarding how to properly seal a case, charges have been dropped in the rape flier case. That’s despite the fact the student who allegedly posted the “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” previously pleaded guilty. Judge Robert Lyons, who was presiding over the case, was previously criticized by The Enquirer for not following proper procedure, but dropping the charges and letting the student withdraw his guilty plea may put the judge in the legal clear. Lyons says he regularly seals cases for students.

The old building for the School for the Creative and Performing Arts will be converted into 170 apartments.

Northern Kentucky University could soon ban smoking on campus. Several other schools in Kentucky are already tobacco-free. The Ohio Board of Regents encouraged Ohio campuses to ban smoking on July 23. 

Applications for Gov. Kasich’s worker training vouchers are going fast. The program is meant to improve Ohio’s business climate. It reimburses businesses for eligible employee training expenses in an effort to make Ohio companies more competitive and improve workers’ skills.

A portrait of Jesus will remain in an Ohio school after 300 people showed up in support at a school board meeting. An atheist group is already planning on suing the school over the portrait. In a letter, Freedom from Religion Foundation claims that “if a district were to promote a religion over non-religion, it would impermissibly turn any non-believing student, parent, or staff member into an outsider.”

With former governor Ted Strickland dropping out of the governor’s race, The Washington Post posted an early look at whether Gov. Kasich can survive re-election. At this point, Kasich’s most likely opponent is Ed FitzGerald, former mayor of Lakewood and Cuyahoga County’s executive.

Apparently, Australia is so hot meteorologists had to add two new colors to heat maps to properly show the country’s temperature. Americans can probably relate, considering 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded for the United States.

The cure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be panda blood. Will pandas abuse their newfound powers to take over the world?

 
 
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 03.13.2013
Posted In: Education, News, Budget, Economy, Development at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
richard ross

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich adviser named superintendent, bridge costs may change, educators protest budget

The Ohio Board of Education named Richard Ross, one of Gov. John Kasich’s top education advisers, to the state school superintendent position. Ross’ appointment links the Ohio Department of Education more closely with Kasich, according to StateImpact Ohio. Ross is replacing Stan Heffner, who resigned in August after an ethics investigation found he had misused state resources for personal matters and testified in favor of legislation that could have benefited a company he planned to work for.

In a study that should be out next month, Ohio and Kentucky officials are reviewing the Brent Spence Bridge project to make it more affordable. Many officials want to use tolling to help pay for the bridge, but northern Kentucky residents and elected officials have pushed back because they’re concerned tolls will divert traffic to other bridges in Ohio and hurt the local economy.

In a press conference in front of the Ohio Statehouse yesterday, more than 100 educators and members of the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools (CORAS) asked Kasich to rework his education reform proposal in a way that would raise per-pupil funding, fully fund transportation, career technical and special education programs and pay for new initiatives like the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Under Kasich’s current proposal, the state is reducing aid from $5,700 for each student to $5,000, but CORAS says funding should be increased to $6,270. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal, which includes his education reform plan, here.

While funding in Kasich’s plan is mixed for traditional public schools, charter schools will get 4.5 percent more funding, according to the Legislative Service Commission. Conservatives typically tout charter schools for providing more “school choice,” but in a previous report, Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, found more choices may bring down results from teachers and students.

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan and friends and family of fire victims are pushing for a review of Cincinnati’s fire ordinance codes to avert fire deaths. The proposed changes include more required fire exits, annual inspections, a mandatory fire drill at the beginning of each school semester, the removal of all exceptions in the code and a measure that would prevent air conditioning units from being placed on windows that are supposed to act as exits. Quinlivan is also encouraging the University of Cincinnati to restart a certified list of preferred rental locations around campus, which would only include housing properties that pass fire safety inspections.

The first public hearings on Kasich’s budget proposal to expand Medicaid contained mixed testimony, with supporters touting greater accessibility to health care and improved health results and opponents claiming that Medicaid leads to worse outcomes and will discourage people from improving their economic situation. Previous studies, which CityBeat covered along with the rest of Kasich’s budget proposal here, found Medicaid expansions led to lower mortality rates and better health outcomes in certain states. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio says the Medicaid expansion will save the state money in the next decade and provide health insurance to 456,000 Ohioans by 2022.

The Cincinnati Enquirer has posted the full lawsuit filed against the city’s parking plan, which is set to have a hearing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on Friday. CityBeat wrote more about the lawsuit here.

Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled that Elmwood Place can’t collect on tickets from speed cameras that he recently deemed a violation of motorists’ due process. The city and police are filing an appeal to the initial ruling, which halted the use of the cameras.

Eighteen percent of Greater Cincinnati’s chief financial officers plan to hire for new professional-level positions in the second quarter, while 66 percent say they will only fill jobs that open in the next three months.

Ohio joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in a $7 million settlement with Google yesterday that is expected to net $162,000 for the state. The case centered around Google collecting data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide and taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010.

The effort to effectively ban Internet sweepstakes cafes passed an Ohio House committee.

The federal government may not need to balance its budget at all, according to Bloomberg.

Trained Soviet attack dolphins with head-mounted guns are on the loose.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.17.2012
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

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

The second presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took place last night. The general consensus from the media is Obama won. Although the victory will likely inspire an Obama comeback narrative for some political pundits, keep in mind political scientists say debates typically have little electoral impact. But debates can reveal substance, and The Washington Post has an article “footnoting” the policy specifics from the debate. As of today, aggregate polling shows Obama up in Ohio by 2.2 points and Romney up nationally by 0.4 points. Ohio is widely considered a must-win for Romney. Obama and Romney will have their final debate next Monday. CityBeat will be hosting an event at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine during the debate. More info can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

The Ohio Department of Education released its remaining school report card data today. The data is meant to give Ohioans a clear picture as to whether schools are improving. The data was delayed due to an ongoing investigation into attendance rigging at Ohio schools. In the new report card data, Cincinnati Public Schools was downgraded from “Effective” in the 2010-2011 school year to “Continuous Improvement” in the 2011-2012 school year. The new mark is still positive, but it is a downgrade.

Down goes Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s early voting appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. With the Supreme Court refusing to take up Husted’s appeal, Ohio must allow all voters to vote on the weekend and Monday before Election Day. Husted also sent out a directive enforcing uniform voting hours for the three days. On Saturday, booths will be open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. On Monday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

It seems City Council action was not enough to get Duke Energy to budge on the streetcar. The local energy company says it wants an operating agreement before it starts construction work. On Sept. 24, City Council passed a funding deal that shifted $15 million from the Blue Ash airport deal to the streetcar and established $14 million through a new financing plan. The city says it will get the $15 million back if it wins in the dispute with Duke. The city claims it’s Duke’s responsibility to pay for moving utility pipes and lines to accommodate for the streetcar, but Duke insists it’s the city’s responsibility. 

The University Board of Trustees is expected to approve Santa Ono as UC’s new president. Ono has been serving as interim president ever since Greg Williams abruptly resigned, citing personal reasons.

The Horseshoe Casino is really coming along. Casino owners are already booking meetings and events for spring 2013.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital announced a big breakthrough in combating muscular dystrophy. The hospital claims it successfully installed a device in a patient with Duchenne muscular dystrophy that allows the patient’s heart to pump blood to the body in the long term.

With Gov. John Kasich's recommendation, Ohio universities will have cheaper, quicker options for students. A new provision will require 10 percent of bachelor’s degrees from public universities to be completable in three years instead of four.

Ohio’s attorney general wants help in solving an unsolved double homicide in Cincinnati. Attorney General Mike DeWine has recently fixated on cold cases — previously unsolved cases that could be solved with new information and tools.

Scientists found an earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest to our solar system.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.12.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Education, Police at 08:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jeffrey blackwell

Morning News and Stuff

Police investigate cruiser crash, council holds last finance meeting, achievement gap widens

The Cincinnati police officer who struck a pedestrian with his cruiser on Saturday was apparently driving 50 mph in a 25 mph zone, which violates the Cincinnati Police Department's guidelines that limit officers from driving more than 20 mph above the posted limit. Officer Orlando Smith was responding to a call to help an officer when he struck Natalie Cole of Dayton, Ky. She remains in critical condition at University Hospital Medical Center following the incident. CPD is conducting an investigation that is expected to be completed within two weeks. But Smith's cruiser camera mysteriously failed to record for three minutes as the events unfolded; the latest recording available prior to the incident shows Smith leaving a grocery store parking lot with his lights and sirens on, as required by department policy when responding to help an officer. Witnesses told WCPO that Smith was actually driving in excess of 60 mph without his siren on and the victim flung 40 feet after she was struck. Smith is on paid administrative leave as the investigation finishes, which is routine police procedure.

City Council's Budget and Finance Committee will hold its final scheduled meeting today, less than three weeks before the new mayor and council are sworn in on Dec. 1. The committee's agenda is fairly packed after council canceled so many meetings throughout September and October for election season, but most of the items are uncontroversial incentive packages that aim to bring jobs and develop more housing opportunities in the city.

The achievement gap between white and black students in Ohio grew in the past two years, according to the results from a series of tests known as "the Nation's Report Card" from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Chad Aldis, the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Fordham Institute, told StateImpact Ohio the results are disappointing because the achievement gap between black and white students in Ohio was already way too big and above the national average in math and English, the two categories in which the gap widened. Overall, Ohio's students ranked slightly above the national average in all areas but showed no significant improvement since 2011. Aldis says Ohio's adoption of Common Core standards, a set of stricter expectations for students embraced by 45 states, should help challenge students and lead to improvement.

Here is an interactive map of marijuana seizures in Ohio this year, which were down from a record high in 2010. Some experts say marijuana and other drugs should be legalized following the failure of the decades-long war on drugs to seriously curtail supply and demand, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.

Mayor-elect John Cranley on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. will answer questions from readers and the editorial board at The Cincinnati Enquirer.

The two chairmen of the Hamilton County Democratic Party and Republican Party will on Nov. 21 switch roles and argue the other side's position on alleged voter fraud as part of the "Beyond Civility" debate series. The initiative seeks to bring public officials together in a less partisan environment.

The Cincinnati area's most prominent white-collar crime case will start hearings in December after a jury is picked by the end of the month in the trial of Matt Daniels, the former Kenwood Towne Place developer who's accused of various charges of fraud. Daniels' attorney talked to the Business Courier here.

Ohio homeschoolers can now join public schools' sports teams.

President Barack Obama will stop in Ohio on Thursday to discuss U.S. manufacturing.

Boy choirs are having a more difficult time filling roles as boys hit puberty earlier.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
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by German Lopez 09.03.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Barack Obama, Education at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Charter schools fail, Obamacare lowers costs, Medicaid expansion could help thousands

Ohio charter school have largely failed to live up to their promises, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Charter schools were originally pursued by Ohio lawmakers to help find a suitable alternative to the state’s struggling urban public schools. But in the latest school report cards, charter schools performed just as poorly as urban public schools. Charter schools are allowed to run a profit and skip on certain state rules and regulations, which was supposed to give them some leniency in implementing successful academic models.

Obamacare will lower average health care costs in Ohio’s individual market, according to a study from RAND Corporation, a reputable think tank. Although premiums will rise as a result of the law, the tax credits offered in Obamacare will be more than enough to offset the increases. The numbers only apply to the individual marketplaces; anyone who gets insurance through an employer or public program falls under different rules and regulation. Still, the findings are good news for Obamacare as the federal government aims to insure 7 million people — and 2.7 million young, healthy adults among those — to make the individual marketplaces work. As part of Obamacare, states and the federal government will open online enrollment for new, subsidized individual insurance plans on Oct. 1, and the plans will go into effect at the start of next year.

The Medicaid expansion could insure more than 42,000 people in Hamilton County, according to the Ohio Poverty Law Center. As part of Obamacare, states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($15,856 for a single-person household). If states accept, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion for the first three years then phase down its payments indefinitely to 90 percent of the expansion’s total cost. Earlier this year, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio released an analysis that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade.

Gov. John Kasich says he wants to slow down Attorney General Mike DeWine’s facial recognition program and work with the Ohio legislature to review if changes are necessary. Kasich compared the program to federal surveillance programs like the NSA and FISA, which have come under scrutiny in the past few months after leaks unveiled broader snooping and data collection of Americans’ private communications than previously expected. The facial recognition program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases. The program was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union because knowledge of the program’s existence was withheld from the public for two-plus months and an independent group never reviewed the program’s privacy-protecting protocols.

Democratic City Council candidate Greg Landsman backed the second phase of the streetcar in a column Friday. The endorsement could be vital to the projects future because Landsman is widely considered a favorite in this year’s City Council race.

JobsOhio’s leaders plan to launch a public relations offensive to repair the agency’s image. The privatized development agency has been criticized for its lack of transparency after media outlets uncovered that it was handing out tax credits to companies with direct financial ties to JobsOhio board members. Democrats argue the agency needs more transparency and checks on its recommendations, while Republicans, who created the agency to replace the Ohio Department of Development, claim the agency’s privatized, secretive nature allows it to move more quickly with job-creating development deals.

The University of Cincinnati was named public university of the year by The Washington Center. The award recognizes UC for supporting experiential education through its partnership with The Washington Center, an independent academic organization that serves hundreds of colleges and universities by providing internships and other opportunities in Washington, D.C., for school credit.

Police busted a $1 million shoplifting ring in Ohio that targeted discount retail stores along the Interstate 75 corridor, such as Walmart, Meijer, CVS and Family Dollar.

State law will soon require vaccine immunizations against several diseases for children attending school.

Cincinnati-based Kroger is cutting health care benefits for employees’ spouses on Jan. 1, but the plan will also increase pay, stabilize the company’s pension fund and provide more benefits for part-time employees. Obamacare apparently played a role in the decision to cut spousal benefits, but Kroger says the most influential factor was rising health care costs all around the nation — a trend that has been ongoing for decades.

Here is a visualization of the urban heat island effect, which will make cities warm up much faster as global warming continues.

Could you survive the end of the universe? io9 tackles the question here.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.09.2012
 
 
toddportune

Morning News and Stuff

Today is the last day to register to vote, and in-person early voting is underway. Register to vote and vote at your nearest board of election, which can be located here.

Hamilton County commissioners agree on not raising the sales tax. That effectively rules out two of three plans laid out by the county administrator. The one plan left would not cut public safety, but it would make cuts to the courts, criminal justice system, administrative departments, commissioner departments and the board of elections.

It seems other news outlets are now scrutinizing online schools. A Reuters report pointed out state officials — including some in Ohio — are not happy with results from e-schools. Even Barbara Dreyer, CEO of the e-school company Connections Academy, told Reuters she’s disappointed with performance at e-schools. A CityBeat look into e-schools in August found similarly disappointing results. 

Ohio Democrats are asking federal and state officials for an investigation into Murray Energy, the Ohio-based coal company that has been accused of coercing employees into contributing to Republican political campaigns. In the statement calling for action, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, “Thanks to this report, now we know why coal workers and miners have lent themselves to the rallies, ads, and political contributions. They’ve been afraid.”

Councilman Chris Seelbach is following up on information obtained during public safety meetings. The most consistent concerns Seelbach heard were worries about loitering and young people breaking curfew.

The state auditor says the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) could save $430,000 a year if it moved its student information database in-house. Current law prohibits ODE from having access to the data for privacy reasons, but State Auditor Dave Yost says it’s unnecessary and “wastes time and money.”

It seems Duke Energy is quickly integrating into its recent merger with Progress Energy. The company's information technology, nuclear and energy-supply departments are fully staffed and functional.

The Cincinnati Art Museum is renovating and restoring the Art Academy on the building’s west side.

It might not feel like it sometimes, but parking in Cincinnati is still pretty cheap.

Scientific research is increasingly pointing to lead as an explanation for people’s crazy grandparents. Research indicates even small programs cleaning up lead contamination can have massive economic and education returns.

Kings Island is selling off pieces of the Son of Beast. The troubled roller coaster was torn down after years of being shut down.

The “Jeopardy!” Ohio Online Test is today. If you’re ever on the show, give a shout-out to CityBeat.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.06.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, Redistricting, Education, Economy, Taxes at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
yesonissue2

Morning News and Stuff

Redistricting deal in works, pro-Obama group fights locally, commissioners raise taxes

Redistricting reform may have died in front of voters, but will the state legislature pick up the pieces? Ohio Sen. Keith Faber, a Republican, and Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat, say a deal is close. The senators say the task force in charge of finding a way to reform the state’s redistricting system could release a report later this week, and a public hearing is scheduled for next week. The congressional redistricting process has scrutiny for decades as politicians have redrawn districts for political gain. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County. The change was enough to dilute Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban core, shifting the district from politically mixed to safely Republican.

A group in favor of President Barack Obama is taking the federal fight over taxes to a local level. Ohio Action Now is planning a Friday rally in front of U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s office demanding that he accept tax hikes on individuals making more than $250,000. Chabot, who represents Cincinnati’s congressional district, and other Republicans oppose the plan because it taxes what they like to call “job creators.” However, research has shown taxing the wealthy is economically better than taxing the lower and middle classes. The International Monetary Fund also found in an extensive study that spending cuts hurt economies a lot, but tax hikes barely make a negative impact. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is also criticizing Republicans for not accepting Obama’s tax proposal.

Hamilton County commissioners did not agree to raise the sales tax; instead, they will reduce the property tax rollback. For residential property owners, the tax hike adds $35 per $100,000 of a home’s valuation. Commissioners say either a reduction in the rollback or a sales tax hike is necessary to balance the county stadium fund, which has undergone problems ever since the county made a bad deal with the Reds and Bengals. None of the current commissioners were in office when the original stadium deal was made.

The city of Cincinnati and a city union have reached a deal on privatizing parking services. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) agreed not to oppose the plan after the city promised not to lay off union employees. As part of parking privatization, 25 union members will lose their current jobs, but they’ll be transitioned into other city jobs. City Manager Milton Dohoney insists parking privatization is necessary in his budget plan if the city wants to avoid 344 layoffs. The public will be able to weigh in on the budget proposal today at 6 p.m. at City Hall and Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at Corryville Recreation Center.

Cincinnati City Council approved a resolution asking the state government for local control of fracking operations. But the resolution has no legal weight, so the state will retain control. Fracking has been criticized by environmentalists who see it as a possible cause of air pollution and water contamination. Critics also want to know what’s in the chemicals used during the fracking process, but, under state law, companies are not forced to fully disclose such information.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will meet Dec. 12 in Covington to discuss a study funding the Brent Spence Bridge overhaul. Some, including Greater Cincinnati’s Port Authority, have pushed for tolls to help fund the bridge project, but northern Kentucky lawmakers are strongly against the idea. The bridge, which links downtown Cincinnati and Covington, has been under heavy scrutiny due to deteriorating conditions and over-capacity.

The city of Cincinnati and web-based SoMoLend are partnering to provide crowd funding to the city’s small businesses and startups. The partnership, which was approved by the Small Business Advisory Committee, is meant to encourage job and economic growth.

The Ohio Senate will rework a bill that revamps the school report card system. The bill seeks to enforce tougher standards on schools to put more pressure on improvement, but some Democrats have voiced concerns the new standards are too tough as the state replaces old standardized tests. A very early simulation from May showed Cincinnati Public Schools dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.

The Ohio House passed a bill banning Internet sweepstakes cafes, but it’s unsure whether the Ohio Senate will follow suit. State officials say the cafes are ripe for criminal activity.

More Ohioans are seeking help for gambling problems.

A bill seeking to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure has cleared the Ohio Senate. Proponents say the bill stops double-dipping from victims, but opponents say it will make legitimate claims all the more difficult.

The Ohio Supreme Court declared the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to be in contempt for not following a court order requiring the state agency to compensate 87 landowners in Mercer County for flood damage. As a result, ODNR must complete appraisals within 90 days and file all appropriation cases within 120 days.

We’re all going to die... eventually. Someday, the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy, and scientists want help in finding out more about the galaxy.

 
 

 

 

 
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