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by German Lopez 01.21.2013

Morning News and Stuff

Local governments hopeful, Kasich state of state in Lima, Union Terminal needs repairs

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On this day, it’s worth re-watching his I Have a Dream speech.

Local governments are hopeful they won’t see big budget cuts in Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget. Townships, municipalities and counties were economically hit by big cuts in the last budget. The local government cuts added up to $1 billion on a state level, and Hamilton County shared $105 million — more than 10 percent — of the cuts, according to Cuts Hurt Ohio. Education saw $1.8 billion in cuts statewide, with Hamilton County taking $117 million of those cuts.

Gov. Kasich announced that his state of the state address will take place in Lima, Ohio. Kasich’s speech last year was labeled “bizarre” by outlets like The Hill. During the speech, Kasich imitated a person with severe Parkinson's disorder and called Californians “wackadoodles.”

Union Terminal is falling apart. Cincinnati Museum Center executives say they need nearly $180 million for repairs. The damages are largely due to how the building was constructed. Its design lets moisture get behind bricks, which then causes supporting steel beams to rust.

The judge in the Miami University rape flier case gave a deposition Jan. 15. The document outlines Judge Robert Lyons reasoning for letting the rape flier case go: “What I remember about him is that there was certainly concern about his, say, his mental health and there were grounds stated on the record for the necessity of sealing the record. It had to do with his — probably as I recall, more so mental well-being than anything else.”

Former governor Ted Strickland is tired of raising campaign money, but that didn’t stop him from joining City Council candidate Greg Landsman Friday. Landsman was Strickland’s field director for his congressional campaign, and when Strickland was governor, Landsman was director of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Rumor has it the Carew Tower will be going residential, but the owners are denying it all. The denial letter, which assured current tenants they won’t be kicked out, makes reference to a “softness in the general downtown office market.”

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation made $1.3 million in grants. The grants will help a variety of businesses and groups. A $225,000 grant will go to Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator, which helps local businesses owned by minorities.

Garbage collection will be delayed by a day this week due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Will the first neanderthal in 30,000 years be given birth by a human mother? A Harvard geneticist says he’s close to making it possible.

by German Lopez 09.11.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Economy, Education at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

President Barack Obama will visit Cincinnati Monday. No details were given for the event. Last time Obama was in Cincinnati, he held a town hall meeting to tout his support for small businesses and the LGBT community. Ohio is considered a vital swing state for the presidential election, and it’s widely considered a must-win for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. However, after the Democratic National Convention, aggregate polling at FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics hugely favors Obama, establishing many paths for the Democrat to clinch the presidency. Obama could lose Ohio, Virginia and Florida and still win the election, which shows how many options he has to victory.

A new index lists Cincinnati’s economy as one of the strongest in the nation. The On Numbers Economic Index ranked Cincinnati No. 15 out of 102 metro areas with a score of 67.65. Oklahoma City was No. 1 with a score of 91.04. Cincinnati also touts a lower unemployment rate than the U.S. and state average. The area’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July in comparison to the state’s 7.4 percent unadjusted rate and the country’s 8.6 percent unadjusted rate.

The 2013 Hamilton County budget process is “challenging,” says Commissioner Greg Hartmann. He says the county is dealing with a $200 million budget instead of the $300 million budget of six years ago, which is presenting new problems. Hamilton County Sheriff Si Leis said budget cuts could lead to up to 500 jail bed cuts. CityBeat previously covered the county commissioners’ inability to tackle challenging budget issues — sometimes at the cost of the taxpayer.

State Auditor Dave Yost says his investigation into attendance fraud at Ohio schools could last well into the year. The investigation, which began after Lockland Schools in Hamilton County were found of attendance fraud, is slowed down by the state’s data-reporting system, according to Yost. Schools may falsely alter their attendance reports to improve grades in the state report card.

Secretary of State Jon Husted has been sued again. This time he’s being sued by the Democratic Montgomery County election officials he fired. The officials tried to expand in-person early voting hours in Montgomery County to include weekend voting, but the move violated Husted’s call for uniform hours across the state.

The Ohio EPA will host a workshop in Cincinnati on Sept. 25. The workshop will focus on the Ohio Clean Fund and other tools and incentives to help individuals and groups embrace clean energy.

For the first time since December, Ohio's tax collections were lower than expected. The state was $43 million below estimates in August.

Eighteen percent of Ohio mortgages are underwater, according to a new survey.

A study found wind power could meet the world’s energy needs. Wind currently supplies 4.1 percent of the United States’ energy needs. Obama greatly boosted the production of wind energy with tax credits. Romney vowed to repeal the tax credits in a brief moment of substance.

by German Lopez 11.19.2012
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Plan Cincinnati hearing tonight, fiscal cliff threatens schools, Kasich declines exchanges

City Council’s Livable Communities committee is expected to hear about and likely vote tonight on the city’s first master plan in more than 30 years. The plan, which CityBeat previously covered, seeks a renewed emphasis on Cincinnati’s urban core through new infrastructure and transportation options. It was put together largely based on public feedback.

The “fiscal cliff,” which is really more of a self-induced austerity crisis from the federal government, could seriously hurt Ohio schools. Educators around the state, including Cincinnati schools, are expecting a cut of about 8 percent in federal funding. A Cincinnati Public Schools levy was recently renewed after a decade of cuts and problems at the school district.

Gov. John Kasich has finally made a decision for Obamacare: The state will not run the health exchanges that are a big part of the plan. With the governor’s decision, managing the health exchanges now falls to the federal government. Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, defended the governor’s decision by pointing out that even if the state managed the exchanges, the federal government would always have the final say, creating an arrangement “just doesn’t make sense for the state.” Exchanges are subsidized, heavily regulated insurance markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace.

Cincinnati’s economy is being carried largely by manufacturing, and that looks likely to continue.

Business schools at the University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Xavier University and Northern Kentucky University were found to be among the nation’s best, according to the Princeton Review. Still, none of the schools made the top 10 rankings for the review’s 11 categories.

City Council is holding a public hearing today to find out what the city should do with casino revenue. Some of the council members already have plans, but City Council wants public feedback to shape the final decision.

In other council news, the Human Services Advisory committee recommended funding for 56 out of 58 programs. The two programs left out are the Over-The-Rhine Kitchen and a social education program offered by the Starfire Council of Greater Cincinnati.

Cincinnati’s Metro bus service will be getting a revamp in the next few years. The company released a comprehensive plan with short-term and long-term goals that focus on increasing travel speed and reach.

Charter schools are where a large amount of Ohio kids are getting their education. This is despite the fact that, in general, traditional public schools perform better than charter schools, according to state standards.

Food stamps for Ohio families are getting reduced by about $25 a month. The good news is the cut is lower than expected.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction released a “re-inspection report” for the Lake Erie prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America. According to the new report, CCA has come a long way and corrected many of the violations the state originally found in the private prison. The last report found the prison, which CCA bought in 2011, was riddled with problems. CityBeat looked at private prisons, their problems and the shady connections between state officials and CCA in an in-depth report.

A report found more Ohioans are taking advantage of a national settlement that lets households refinance their mortgages. In total, more than 4,500 Ohioans have refinanced for $165 million in consumer relief. Still, many eligible Ohioans are not taking advantage of the opportunity.

Here are pictures of a tiny octopus, fighting female robots and an orange-powered battery.

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 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 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 09.25.2012

Morning News and Stuff

City Council approved a $29 million plan that will shift $15 million from the Blue Ash airport deal to move utility lines and pipes in order to accommodate for streetcar tracks. The money will be reimbursed if a conflict with Duke Energy is settled in the city’s favor. The city is currently trying to resolve the conflict over who has to pay for moving utility lines and pipes. If the city wins out, Duke will have to pay up, and the money from the Blue Ash airport deal will be put back where it belongs. If Duke wins out, that money could be lost forever — a worry Chris Smitherman voiced in the public City Council session. Smitherman, Charlie Winburn and P.G. Sittenfeld voted against the plan, and Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas, Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach voted for it.

CORRECTION: This blog originally said the entire $29 million plan will be reimbursed by Duke. Only the $15 million from the Blue Ash airport deal will be reimbursed if the city wins in the dispute.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted received a failing grade from Voters First Ohio and the Ohio Unity Coalition for the way he's handled the 2012 election. The left-leaning groups criticized Husted for taking away in-person early voting hours that were available in 2008 and issues regarding provisional ballots, wrongful terminations and misleading language on the November ballot.

Stan Heffner, former state superintendent of public instruction, won’t face criminal charges. Heffner stepped down after an investigation found he improperly lobbied legislators in favor of legislation that benefited a private company Heffner was employed under. Prosecutors claim Heffner acted inappropriately, not criminally.

The Controlling Board unanimously approved $4 million Monday to conduct a study to determine possible funding for the Brent Spence Bridge. The study will look at tolls and the viability of various public-private partnerships to see how the bridge will be paid for.

Jungle Jim's is opening an Eastgate location today, and people are apparently really excited for it.

The state launched a new website to connect Ohio job seekers and opportunities in the energy industry. The website presents opportunities in advanced energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency and gas and oil.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will be in southwest Ohio today, and Obama will be in other parts of the state. The state is typically considered a must-win for Romney and Ryan, but aggregate polling has looked worse lately for the Republican duo. 

Speaking of Romney, he indirectly admitted he’ll have to raise taxes on what he considers middle income. Remember when Republicans ran on tax cuts?

Another problem with global warming: Hotter days make people less productive, which greatly hurts economic output.

A Cincinnati research team found NFL players die often to Alzheimer’s disease and Lou Gehrig's disease. The two diseases kill NFL players four times more often than the average U.S. population, and other neurodegenerative diseases kill them twice as often as the norm.

Having sex once a week instead of once a month is the “happiness equivalent” of making an extra $50,000 a year. Do not try that line at home.

by German Lopez 01.28.2013
Posted In: Economy, Education, Drugs, News, Budget, Prisons at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

School funding changes soon, prison union wants more security, drug abuse costs employers

School superintendents will hear about Gov. John Kasich’s school funding proposal Thursday. The proposal, which will change how all of Ohio’s schools are publicly funded, will be released to the wider public Feb. 4. Many school officials are bracing for the worst, according to Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. Rob Nichols previously told CityBeat that the proposal is “a big undertaking”: “Many governors have tried before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something we have to take our time with and get it done right.”

Ohio’s largest prison staff union is asking Kasich’s administration to increase the amount of prison security officers following a late December report from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The report found a correlation between rising prison violence and a decrease in prison security staff, affirming a position the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association has held for years.

A Journal News report found substance abuse comes at a heavy loss for Ohio employers, including more workplace injuries, higher medical costs, more absenteeism and reduced productivity. Some experts advocate for drug testing to lower the costs, while others argue drug testing can often affect innocent, responsible drug users. Employers are much more likely to test for marijuana over alcohol, even though multiple studies show cannabis is less addictive and harmful.

The flu epidemic may be leveling off in Ohio. The state health department revealed the amount of hospitalizations involving the flu have plateaued, but the department cautions the calm could be temporary.

The women’s sections of county and regional jails are facing higher levels of overcrowding. The overcrowding is a result of a 2011 law that enables fourth- and fifth-degree felons to be held at county jails instead of state prisons.

A new online tool reveals the salaries of public school teachers and staff.

The extensive audit of Ohio schools and their attendance information will be released Feb. 11. The preliminary reports found Cincinnati Public Schools were clean. The investigation into attendance fraud began when Lockland schools in Hamilton County were caught falsifying attendance data.

A new poll found an overwhelming majority of Kentucky parents favor raising the school dropout age to 18, up from the current age of 16.

Ohio gas prices are still rising.

Researchers made super-realistic lung tissue with levitating cells. The development allows researchers to better study how toxins affect the lungs.

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

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.