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by German Lopez 10.25.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Economy, Budget, News at 08:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
josh_mandel headshot

Brown, Mandel Meet for Final Debate

Candidates detail Social Security plans

Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel met once again Thursday night for a debate to see who is more qualified for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat. The candidates were a bit less feisty in their final debate, but the substance behind their words was fairly similar to the past two debates.

Mandel spent a bit less time attacking Brown for “Washington speak,” and Brown spent a bit less time attacking Mandel for dishonesty. However, Mandel did spend a bit more time attacking Brown for being a “career politician,” and both candidates criticized each other for voting along party lines.

For the most part, the debate treaded ground covered in the first debate and second debate. CityBeat covered those face-offs in-depth here: first debate and second debate.

Some new details did emerge when Brown and Mandel discussed Social Security. Mandel clarified he would raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare for those around his age — 35 — and younger. To justify the raise, he said life expectancy has grown since those laws were first put into place. He also claimed, “If we maintain the status quo, which is the way of Washington, there will be no Medicare or Social Security.”

Brown responded by saying he wouldn’t raise the eligibility age or reduce benefits, but he would increase the payroll tax cap. 

In the case of Mandel’s proposal, there is some important context missing. While it’s true life expectancy has increased in the U.S., it has not increased at the same level for everyone. A 2008 study by the Congressional Budget Office found life expectancy is lagging for low-income individuals, while it’s steadily rising for the wealthiest Americans. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology had similar findings. These studies show increases in the average life expectancy may not be reflective of what’s actually happening within the poor and even middle class. In other words, raising the eligibility age to match the rise in life expectancy could disproportionately hurt the lower classes.

There are also some holes in gauging the eligibility age for entitlement programs with a rise in the average life expectancy. Social Security was enacted in 1935. Between the law passing and 2007, the U.S. child mortality rate dropped about 3.3 percent per year for children between the ages of one and four, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This large drop in child mortality rate could be exaggerating gains in life expectancy, which is an average that takes into account the age of deceased children.

Mandel’s implication that raising the eligibility age is the only way to keep Social Security solvent is also misleading. Currently, the payroll tax is set up so it only taxes the first $110,100 of everyone’s income. A Congressional Research Service study from 2010 found eliminating the cap would keep the Social Security Trust Funds solvent for the next 75 years. The downside is this would raise taxes for anyone making more than $110,100. Still, the fact eliminating the cap would extend the trust funds’ solvency shows there are other options, and it shows Brown’s idea of increasing the cap has some fiscal merit.

However, Mandel would not be able to take Brown’s approach because it would mean raising taxes, which Mandel vowed to not do under any circumstance when he signed lobbyist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.

For the final debate, Mandel and Brown followed similar paths as before and even recited some of the exact same lines. At this point, the candidates have painted clear contrasts. With three debates and a year of campaigning behind them, it’s now clear Brown is mostly the liberal, Democratic choice and Mandel is mostly the conservative, Republican choice.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.08.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Economy, Government, News, Voting, Prisons, Budget at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here. Tomorrow is also the last day to register to vote.

A federal appeals court upheld the decision to allow in-person early voting for everyone during the three days prior to the election. The decision comes as a big win to President Barack Obama’s campaign, which filed a lawsuit to restore in-person early voting on the weekend and Monday before Election Day. Republicans in the state have repeatedly pushed against expanded early voting, citing racial politics and costs. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said Friday he will decide what to do with the ruling after the weekend. The court ruling means Husted could close down all boards of election on the three days before Election day, eliminating early voting for everyone — including military voters. If Husted doesn’t act, individual county boards of election will decide whether to stay open or closed.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is discussing the budget today. It has a few options, but all of them involve cuts.

A recently released audit by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) found the private prison sold to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has some serious problems. The prison only met 66.7 percent of Ohio’s standards, and 47 violations were found. CCA says it’s working with ODRC to resolve the problems. The news mostly confirmed the findings of CityBeat’s in-depth look into private prisons.  

Schools responded to the state auditor’s recent report that found five school districts were scrubbing data and the Ohio Department of Education did not have enough safeguards. The five school districts generally objected, saying they did not purposely alter any data provided to the state.  

Humana will be hiring for 200 full-time jobs in Greater Cincinnati.

The University of Cincinnati is turning up its search for a new president this week. First up for consideration: Provost and Interim President Santa Ono.

The Associated Press says Cincinnati is a changed city thanks to recent development funding.

There will be a bar crawl to support the Anna Louise Inn on Oct. 13. The bar crawl, hosted by Ohioans United to Protect Abused Women, will last from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets will be sold for $10 with all proceeds going to the Anna Louise Inn. Participating bars will be Milton's Prospect Hill Tavern, Neon's, The Drinkery, MOTR, JAPS and Arnold's Bar.

Mayor Mark Mallory challenged San Francisco’s mayor to a chili cook-off to benefit the city that wins the Reds-Giants playoffs. Mallory touted some fighting words in a statement announcing the friendly bet: “I sure hope San Francisco Chili is as good as Mayor Lee says it is, that way it raises lots of money for Cincinnati’s youth, after the Reds send the Giants packing in the first round.”

Meet the chair of the U.S. House Science Committee's panel on investigations and oversight. He says evolution and the big bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.27.2012
Posted In: Homelessness, News, Economy, Business, Courts, Prisons at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
scioto jcf

Morning News and Stuff

Youthful prisons get mixed report, Leis to stay on public payroll, shelter move approved

Despite problems with staff and records, a report is calling changes to Ohio’s youth prisons system a model for the nation. The report from a court-appointed monitor praised the Ohio Department of Youth Services for reducing the number of offenders in secure confinement and spreading services for youthful offenders around the state. However, the report also points out staff shortages, inadequate teachers and inconsistent medical records. Advocates for youthful offenders claim the bad findings show a need for continued court supervision.

There’s a new sheriff in town, and the old one is becoming a visiting judge. Simon Leis, who served as sheriff for 25 years, is best known for going after an allegedly obscene Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and prosecuting pornographer Larry Flynt. As visiting judge, he will take on cases other judges are assigned but can’t get to due to full dockets.

An appeals court is allowing City Gospel Mission to move to Queensgate. The special assistance shelter wants to move from its current Over-the-Rhine property to Dalton Avenue, but businesses and property owners at Queensgate oppose the relocation. In its opinion, the Ohio First District Court of Appeals said opponents to the relocation “have not raised any genuine issues of material fact in support of their constitutional attack upon the notwithstanding ordinance in their capacity as neighboring businesses and property owners.”

Butler County nonprofit services are worried that a greater need for their services in 2013 will force more budget tightening.

U.S. retailers did not have a good Christmas. Holiday sales were at the lowest they’ve been since 2008. The disappointing sales have forced retailers to offer big discounts in hopes of selling excess inventory.

Former president George H.W. Bush is in intensive care “following a series of setbacks including a persistent fever,” according to his spokesperson.

The Food and Drug Administration says FrankenFish, a giant, genetically modified salmon, is environmentally safe.

Fun fact: More Iranians worry about global warming than Americans. 

Colleges are now helping students scrub their online footprints.

Antifreeze now tastes bitter to deter animals and children from eating it.

Scientists have developed a highly advanced robot boy capable of doing chores. Keep its face in mind, for you could be looking at the first of our future robot overlords.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.13.2012
Posted In: News, Education, Economy, Transportation, Casino at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4

School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on schools, passed the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it for it to become law. In an early simulation of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools dropped 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 governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in 2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge project.

The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.

Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected.

Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition.

With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in 2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here.

The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end.

Ohio gained approval on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs.

But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February. As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that, federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020 and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives. Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care.

Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today.

With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws.

Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways.

Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.

Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.26.2012
 
 
foreclosure1

Morning News and Stuff

A study by a housing advocacy group found that foreclosures in Hamilton County dropped by 13 percent compared to the previous year. But representatives with Working In Neighborhoods, the group that did the research, said the figures don't necessarily mean that homeowners aren't being affected by the economic downturn. Rather, they note that many large banks were delaying foreclosures due to the so-called “robo-signing” crisis, waiting until they struck a settlement deal with the federal government. In fact, many observers expect foreclosures to increase this year.

After a lengthy trial, former Bengals player Nathaniel “Nate” Webster was convicted Wednesday of having sex with an underage girl. A jury acquitted Webster on three charges, but found him guilty on four others. Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph “Ted” Winkler ordered Webster jailed until his June 6 sentencing, when he could be sent to prison for up to 20 years. Webster signed a five-year, $11.3 million contract with the Bengals in 2004, but played only in a few games.

City commissioners in Dayton are considering an ordinance to establish a domestic partnership registry which could be used by unmarried, same-sex couples. The registry is voluntary, and a couple doesn't need to live within the city. The ordinance says the registry will assist “businesses and universities in the recruitment of a talented and diverse workforce.” The registry would help area businesses that extend benefits to the partners of employees, straight or gay, by having a formal registry of such committed relationships. Local bloggers and others have been pushing for such a registry in Cincinnati for the past few years, but groups like Equality Cincinnati have said the time is not right.

What were the odds of that happening? A Columbus police officer who investigated a four-vehicle accident Tuesday that involved Gov. John Kasich is the same person that the governor had called “an idiot” in an earlier encounter. Officer Robert Barrett responded to the mishap on Interstate 71 in downtown Columbus that happened in stop-and-go traffic and did not result in any serious injuries. Shortly after taking office last year, Kasich recalled the citation he received from Barrett in 2008 for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle, calling Barrett an idiot during a meeting with state employees.

State lawmakers removed a proposal this week to enact a priority funding system for federal family planning dollars that would've essentially blocked funding for Planned Parenthood affiliates across Ohio. The Republican-controlled House Finance and Appropriations Committee pulled an amendment to Kasich’s mid-biennium budget review that was inserted last week. A committee chairman said the amendment mirrored that of House Bill No. 298, which is being worked in the House Health and Aging Committee. About $1.6 million of the $4.3 million in federal family planning money the state received last year went to Planned Parenthood affiliates.

In news elsewhere, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) is lowering expectations that the GOP will retain control of the House after this fall's elections. At a closed door meeting with rank-and-file Republicans, Boehner reiterated his concerns the party could lose seats in the House in November, according to The Los Angeles Times. "We’ve got a fight on our hands," Boehner said. Some observers wonder if Boehner believes the gloomy forecast or if it's a scare tactic to get unruly Tea Partiers to toe the party line.

After he scored victories in five primary elections this week, the Republican National Committee formally embraced Willard Mitt Romney as the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee on Wednesday. Reince Priebus, the RNC's chairman, said in a statement that the party organization and its resources were now at the disposal of Romney’s campaign. Also, the campaign staffs of the RNC and Romney will merge and begin coordinating their efforts. Game on.

George Zimmerman received firearms training and bought a gun on the advice of an animal control warden, as a method for dealing with a belligerent neighborhood dog. That's one of many revelations in interviews with Zimmerman's relatives and neighbors conducted by Reuters News Service. Zimmerman is awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in Sanford, Fla.

It's beginning to look like Israel's military isn't in as big of a rush to start a war as the nation's politicians. Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Israel’s military chief, said Wednesday that he believes Iran will choose not to build a nuclear bomb, an assessment that contrasted with the statements of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Gantz said international sanctions have begun to show results and could relieve pressure on the Obama administration, undercutting efforts by Israeli political leaders to urge the United States to consider a potential military strike on Iran.

International judges have found former Liberian leader Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war, at his trial in The Hague, the BBC reports. Taylor has been on trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for almost five years. He was accused of backing rebels who killed tens of thousands during Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.20.2012
Posted In: Budget, Development, Economy, News, Energy, Environment at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
feature_banks_lede

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Dayton man allegedly robbed the same bank twice.

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

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

 
 
by German Lopez 02.13.2013
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

Obama gives State of the Union, archdiocese defends LGBT firing, Qualls against HUD sale

President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union speech yesterday. During the speech, Obama outlined fairly liberal proposals for the economy, climate change, gun control and immigration. He also suggested raising the minimum wage to $9 and attaching it to rising cost of living standards. The Washington Post analyzed the proposals here. To watch a bunch of old people clap too much while the president outlines policy proposals that will likely never pass a gridlocked Congress, click here.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is standing firm in its firing of Purcell Marian High School administrator Mike Moroski. The termination came after Moroski publicly stated his support for same-sex marriage on his blog — a position that contradicts the Catholic Church’s teachings. CityBeat covered Moroski’s case in this week’s news story, and gay marriage was covered more broadly in a previous in-depth story.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls wants to stop the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from selling 768 housing units in Walnut Hills, Avondale and Millvale. Qualls says the sale is “eerily similar” to a sale dating back to 2007, which resulted in dropping property values and blighted buildings. She argues local buyers should get a chance to take up the properties before HUD makes the sale to a New York company.

State Treasurer Josh Mandel is up to his old tricks again. In a letter to Ohio legislators Monday, Mandel, a Republican, opposed the Medicaid expansion, claiming, “There is no free money.” But for the state, the Medicaid expansion is essentially free money. The federal government will cover all the costs of the expansion for the first three years, then phase down to paying 90 percent of the costs by 2020 — essentially, free money. Gov. John Kasich, another Republican, has backed the Medicaid expansion, claiming it makes financial sense in the long term. In 2012, Mandel lost the race for Ohio’s Senate seat after he ran a notoriously dishonest campaign against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Financing details for the Brent Spence Bridge are due in March. The details will provide much-wanted information for local residents cautious about the new tolling scheme, which will help pay for the bridge’s reconstruction.

Cincinnati officials and residents celebrated the work completed near the Horseshoe Casino at an event yesterday. Mayor Mark Mallory highlighted the infrastructure improvements made to accommodate the casino, calling the work a successful collaboration between city government, the casino and residents.

The Ohio Resource Center has a new website for K-12 digital content. The website, ilearnOhio, is supposed to provide parents and students with the tools needed for online distance learning.

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill is being sued for not paying rent. The restaurant claims it’s financially viable, but it’s holding the rent in escrow after its landlord allegedly violated the leasing agreement. The establishment was one of the first to open at The Banks.

A public Ohio school district is fighting a lawsuit in order to keep its portrait of Jesus. The school district claims the portrait is owned by a student club and is “private speech,” but opponents argue the portrait violates separation of church and state.

Update on the Alamo situation at Tower Place Mall: Only one tenant remains.

The unofficial spokesman of Heart Attack Grill, the infamous Las Vegas restaurant, died of a heart attack.

Americans expect a human mission to Mars in the next 20 years, but that’s probably because they don’t know how little funding NASA gets.

An asteroid will barely miss Earth on Feb. 15. If it were to hit, it would generate the explosive equivalent of 2,500 kilotons of TNT. In comparison, the nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima during World War 2 generated a measly equivalent of 17 kilotons of TNT.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.07.2013
Posted In: Economy, Budget, Media, News, Privatization, Parking at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Judge halts council's parking plan, city's deficit options, gun records could be sealed

City Council approved a plan to lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, but the plan is now being held up by a judge’s temporary restraining order (TRO). The plan was passed with an emergency clause, which is meant to expedite the plan’s implementation, but it also makes the law immune to referendum. The judge’s TRO, which will delay implementation for at least one week, will provide enough time to process a lawsuit filed by Curt Hartman, an attorney who represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), on behalf of local activists who oppose the plan and argue it should be subject to referendum. The parking plan will lease the city’s parking assets to fund development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown grocery store, and help balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years. Opponents say they’re concerned about the plan leading to parking rate hikes, and they say the plan will not fix the city’s structural deficits.

Before the final vote on the parking plan, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave a presentation to City Council that showed options for reducing Cincinnati’s structural deficit, including a reduction or elimination of lower-ranked programs in the city’s Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, a reduction in subsidies to health clinics that are getting more money from Obamacare, the semi-automation of solid waste collection or the introduction of new or increased fees for certain programs, among other changes.

Ohio senators are pushing a law that would make records of people licensed to carry concealed firearms in Ohio off-limits to journalists. The senators say they were inspired to push the law after a New York newspaper published the names and addresses of permit holders in three counties. Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, says the law will decrease government transparency and limit rights: “I wish the pro-gun forces would be as respectful of the First Amendment as they are of the second, and they should be fearful of excessive government secrecy.”

The superintendent and treasurer of the Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy, a charter school, were indicted after allegedly using school funds to go to “Girls weekends” in Chicago, sightseeing tours through California and Europe and a trip to Boston to see Oprah — allegedly costing taxpayers more than $148,000. Dave Yost, state auditor, said in a statement, “The audacity of these school officials is appalling. The good work by our auditors and investigators has built the strongest possible case to ensure they can never use the public treasury as their personal travel account again.”

The Ohio Department of Transportation and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet are working together to make the case that any delays in the Brent Spence Bridge project will hurt Greater Cincinnati’s economy. Most people involved in the issue agree the bridge needs rebuilding, but not everyone agrees on how the project should be funded. Northern Kentucky politicians in particular have strongly opposed instituting tolls — one of the leading ideas for funding the project.

In public hearings yesterday, service industry officials said Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan, which will expand the state’s sales tax to apply to more service, would drive some service providers out of Ohio and make the state less competitive. Among other complaints, Carter Strang, president of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, said the plan could make it harder for Ohioans to access legal counsel by increasing costs and reducing employment in the legal sector. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here.

State Auditor Yost filed a subpoena to get JobsOhio’s financial records after the agency failed to turn them over. The subpoena puts Yost at odds with Kasich, a fellow Republican who established JobsOhio, a nonprofit company, in an attempt to bring more jobs to the state and replace the Ohio Department of Development.

Hamilton County is launching the Hamilton County Community Re-entry Action Plan, which will help integrate ex-convicts back into society. Commissioner Todd Portune told WVXU the plan will help with overpopulation in jails and prisons: “When you build (jail and prison) facilities, the population in them always seems to rise to meet whatever the (capacity) level is in the facility. You never seem to have enough space. The real answer beyond facilities is that we've got to turn around the lives of the individuals who are in our corrections system that have made bad choices.”

The University of Cincinnati says it won’t block an outdoor display of vagina pictures on campus.

Yesterday, Kentucky’s U.S. Sen. Rand Paul held a nearly 13-hour filibuster to protest any possible use of drone strikes on American soil. Paul was joined by senators from both sides of the aisle in his opposition to using the strikes, which were used in Yemen in 2011 to kill Anwar al-Aulaqi, an American citizen accused of being a high-ranking al-Qaeda official.

The same Cleveland judge who made a woman hold an “idiot” sign for driving around a school bus is making a 58-year-old man hold another sign for threatening officers in a 911 call. The sign will apologize to officers and read, “I was being an idiot and it will never happen again.” The man will also go to jail for 90 days.

There used to be camels in Arctic Canada, but that shouldn’t be too surprising — camels currently reside in the Gobi Desert, which can reach -40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.17.2013
 
 
nina turner

Morning News and Stuff

Secretary of state race underway, bridge may need private funding, sewer policy dismissed

Is the race for Ohio secretary of state already underway? Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, who is considering a run against Secretary of State Jon Husted in 2014, says she will introduce legislation to protect voters against Republican efforts to limit ballot access. She also criticized Husted for how he handled the 2012 election, which CityBeat covered here. Husted responded by asking Turner to “dial down political rhetoric.”

Build Our New Bridge Now, an organization dedicated to building the Brent Spence Bridge, says the best approach is private financing. The organization claims a public-private partnership is the only way to get the bridge built by 2018, rather than 2022. But critics are worried the partnership and private financing would lead to tolls.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners threw out a Metropolitan Sewer District competitive bidding policy yesterday. The policy, which was originally passed by City Council, was called unfair and illegal by county commissioners due to apprenticeship requirements and rules that favor contractors within city limits. Councilman Chris Seelbach is now pushing for compromise for the rules.

Believe it or not, Cincinnati’s economy will continue outpacing the national economy this year, says Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.

Three Cincinnati-area hospitals are among the best in the nation, according to new rankings from Healthgrades. The winners: Christ Hospital, Bethesda North Hospital and St. Elizabeth Healthcare-Edgewood.

Democrat David Mann, former Cincinnati mayor and congressman, may re-enter politics with an attempt at City Council.

In its 2013 State of Tobacco report, the American Lung Association gave Ohio an F for anti-smoking policies. The organization said the state is doing a poor job by relying exclusively on federal money for its $3.3 million anti-tobacco program. The Centers for Disease Control says Ohio should be spending $145 million.

The Air Force is gearing up for massive spending cuts currently set to kick in March. The cuts will likely affect Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Dennis Kucinich, who used to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, will soon appear on Fox News as a regular contributor.

For anyone who’s ever been worried about getting attacked by a drone, there’s now a hoodie and scarf for that.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.08.2013
 
 
capitol hill

Morning News and Stuff

Federal unemployment down, state joblessness up, Tower Place Mall renovations detailed

In February, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, from 7.9 percent in January, and the nation added 236,000 jobs. Many of the new jobs — about 48,000 — came from construction, while government employment saw a drop even before sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts, began on March 1. Economists seem quite positive about the report.

In January, Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent, from 6.7 percent in December, with the number of unemployed in the state rising to 399,000, from 385,000 the month before. Goods-producing and service-providing industries and local government saw a rise in employment, while jobs were lost in trade, transportation, utilities, financial activities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, state government and federal government. In January, U.S. unemployment rose to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in December.

A new report outlined renovations for the city-owned Tower Place Mall, which is getting a makeover as part of Cincinnati’s parking plan. A lot of the retail space in the mall will be replaced to make room for parking that will be accessed through what is currently Pogue’s Garage, but two rings of retail space will remain, according to the report. The parking plan was approved by City Council Wednesday, but it was temporarily halted by a Hamilton County judge. The legal contest has now moved to federal court, and it’s set to get a hearing today.

Meet the mayoral candidates through CityBeat’s two extensive Q&As: Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley. Qualls spoke mostly about her support for immigration, the parking plan and streetcar, while Cranley discussed his opposition to the parking plan and streetcar and some of his ideas for Cincinnati.

A Hamilton County court ruled against the controversial traffic cameras in Elmwood Place, and the Ohio legislature is considering a statewide ban on the cameras. In his ruling, Judge Robert Ruehlman pointed out there were no signs making motorists aware of the cameras and the cameras are calibrated once a year by a for-profit operator. The judge added, “Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-card Monty. … It is a scam that motorists can’t win.” Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced to prohibit traffic cameras in Ohio.

JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit corporation, quietly got $5.3 million in state grants, even though the state legislature only appropriated $1 million for startup costs. JobsOhio says it needed the extra funds because legal challenges have held up liquor profits that were originally supposed to provide funding. In the past few days, State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, has been pushing Republican Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio to release more details about the nonprofit corporation’s finances, but Kasich and JobsOhio have been pushing back.

Advocates for Ohio’s charter schools say Kasich’s budget amounts to a per-pupil cut, with funding dropping from $5,704 per pupil to $5,000 plus some targeted assistance that ranges from hundreds of dollars to nothing depending on the school. A previous CityBeat report on online schools found traditional public schools get about $3,193 per student — much less than the funding that apparently goes to charter schools.

Fountain Square will be getting a new television from Cincinnati-based LSI Industries with the help of Fifth-Third Bank and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The new video board will have better image quality and viewing angles, but it will also come with more screen space for sponsors.

Ohio’s casino revenues rose in January. That could be a good sign for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which opened Monday.

In light of recent discussion, Popular Science posted a Q&A on drones.

 
 

 

 

 
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