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

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new solution to climate change: artificial floating islands.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.03.2012
Posted In: News, Governor, Taxes, Economy, Government at 08:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio has a lot of natural gas resources accessible by fracking, but are they worth $1 trillion? Gov. John Kasich seems to think so. Unfortunately for Kasich, prominent geologists have no idea how he got that number, and one geologist estimated Kasich is off by a “couple of zeroes.”

The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent as the economy added 163,000 jobs in July. Economists have been calling for the Federal Reserve to help turn the economy around, but the Federal Reserve decided it will not take action in its latest meeting.

Cincinnati City Council is using words to try to push Cincinnati Bell to not outsource jobs. But Cincinnati Bell seems more interested in profits, not words.

An Ohio Inspector General report found Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner misused state resources and was in conflict of interest when testifying to the Ohio legislature. Some Ohio Democrats are now calling for the superintendent to resign and face criminal charges. The news continues a rocky past few weeks the Ohio Department of Education, which is now being investigated by the state auditor after reports of fraudulent data reporting.

The Ohio Libertarian Party is asking Democrats what took them so long to support same-sex marriage rights. My guess is politics.

In related news, same-sex couples will be making out at Chick-fil-A today. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee OKed the movement in the most passive aggressive way possible.

Prison companies are making big profits from illegal immigrants. Some opponents of private prisons say the system creates an enormous conflict of interest, but Republicans disagree. Prison companies are big campaign contributors for Republicans.

President Barack Obama will be speaking about taxes today. The president opposes the Republican plan to keep tax rates lower for the wealthy. Republicans say the president’s plan would raise taxes on small businesses, but the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that claim doesn’t check out with reality. The president will be broadcasting his comments at 11:45 a.m. here.

Some McDonald’s chains have started serving breakfast after midnight. The intoxicated will probably approve.

The Curiosity rover will be hitting Mars Monday. The rover is NASA's most ambitious endeavor in Mars yet.

In a discovery that changes everything, scientists have found it’s better for sperm to be slow than it is for them to be fast.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2012
Posted In: News, Governor, Government, Education at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stanheffner

State Superintendent Abused Position

Inspector General finds misuse of state resources, conflict of interest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2012
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Morning News and Stuff

The audio for the 911 call Councilmember Chris Seelbach made to report being assaulted has been released to the public. During the call, Seelbach admits to drinking alcohol that night. Apparently, people are shocked that Seelbach is a human being that drinks alcohol.

City Council voted yesterday to put a ballot initiative before voters that, if approved, would let councilmembers remain in power for four years, up from two years under current law. The initiative would let local policymakers worry more about passing good policy and less about getting reelected every other year.

City Council also approved an ordinance that bans wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of wastewater produced during fracking, within city limits. But the ordinance is little more than politics at this point, considering the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has received no permit requests for injection wells in southwestern Ohio, and ODNR spokesperson Heidi Hetzel-Evans says southwestern Ohio’s geology makes injection wells unfeasible.

There are more benefits to legalizing same-sex marriage than just giving a bunch of people basic rights without hurting anyone. A new study found that Ohio could gain $100-126 million in economic growth from same-sex marriage legalization. The study is being used by Freedom to Marry Ohio to promote the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment, which the organization hopes will be on the November 2013 ballot.

Comair Inc. disclosed that 1,194 employees will be losing their jobs when the airline halts operations on Sept. 29. The airline, which is owned by Delta, is headquartered at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Mayor Mark Mallory and local attorney Stan Chesley announced yesterday that 10 Cincinnati pools will remain open for one whole extra week — keeping them open until the beginning of the school year. Since the city can’t pay for the entire extra week, Chesley raised $25,000, which the Cincinnati Recreation Foundation matched with another $25,000, to keep the pools open. All pools but one will also have free admission for the rest of the year. The one exception is Otto Armleader Pool at Dunham, which will have $2 admission, down from $5.

In a surprising show of bipartisanship, the Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich passed the “second chance” law. The law will make it easier for convicted criminals to continue on with their lives after their time is served.

More good news for Ohio Democrats: A new poll says Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is leading challenger Josh Mandel, Ohio’s state treasurer, by 12 points. Mandel is known for excessively lying in campaign attacks.

President Barack Obama was in Akron yesterday.

Glenn Beck says he is planning a big event in Ohio for the week of Sept. 12. Beck is known for literally crying on national television and disapproving of most of what Obama does.

In completely unsurprising news, temperatures in July broke heat records.

But worries about excessive heat may be a thing of the past. Scientists have invented a shirt that can lower a person's body temperature.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.01.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, City Council, Government at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Cincinnati Voters to Decide on Four-Year Terms

City Council approves ballot measure for non-staggered option

Cincinnati voters will decide in November whether to double the length of their council members' terms.

City Council voted 6-3 on Wednesday to put the ballot initiative before voters. The measure would have all nine members run at the same time, instead of a competing ballot initiative that would have staggered their terms.

“We are the only major city in Ohio that still has two-year terms for its leaders, and the cities that we compete with are also moving to four-year terms, including Louisville and as far as St. Louis, Minneapolis, Denver and Atlanta,” said Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who spearheaded the effort.

If approved by voters, the change wouldn’t affect council members serving currently and would go into effect in 2013.

Not every council member was thrilled with the idea.

“I think accountability is paramount, and I don’t see going from two-year terms to four-year terms as increasing the accountability citizens want,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who was one of three new faces to join council in last year's election, which saw four Republican incumbents booted from City Hall.

“I’m sure it’s not lost on my colleagues that last November the electorate was craving change and wanted change, and if we had been in the middle of a four-year cycle they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make that change and a substantial portion of this council … wouldn’t be sitting up here today.”

Sittenfeld equated an election to a job evaluation. He, along with councilmembers Chris Smitherman and Charles Winburn, voted against the ordinance.

Quinlivan has said her rationale for pushing four-year terms would be to eliminate the cycle that currently has sitting council members spending half of their terms campaigning.

Councilman Cecil Thomas said four-year terms would allow council members to focus on longer-term projects as well.

“Four years gives us plenty of time to gel together, to work together,” Thomas said.

Councilman Chris Seelbach attended all four public hearings council held throughout the city and called the number of people who support four-year terms “unbelievable.” Seelbach said he himself was “semi-conflicted” over the proposed changes, but was not conflicted over whether voters should have that choice: He voted in favor.

Mayor Mark Mallory was sure to remind councilmembers before their vote that they are forbidden from using city resources to campaign for a ballot initiative.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.30.2012
Posted In: News, Government, Governor at 08:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
voters first

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio Voters First turned in a total of 750,000 signatures for its redistricting amendment to the Secretary of State by the end of Saturday. If 385,000 of those signatures are approved, the amendment will be put on the November ballot. On July 3, the organization turned in 450,000 signatures, but the office of Secretary of State Jon Husted said not enough signatures were valid, and the organization would have to turn in 130,000 more. In May, CityBeat covered the amendment in-depth when We Are Ohio joined forces with Voters First.

Gov. John Kasich announced the Ohio Medicaid program is being made into its own agency by July 1, 2014. Currently, it is part of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services as the Office of Ohio Health Plans. The change is meant to improve the performance of the $18.8 billion Medicaid program. The 2014-2015 budget will include more information and changes to finalize the agency’s creation.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan will visit Cincinnati tomorrow. Donovan and Mayor Mark Mallory will speak with homeowners about how President Barack Obama’s refinancing plan could benefit them.

The first 2012 case of West Nile Virus was reported in Clermont County Friday. According to Ohio Department of Health officials, this year has an extraordinary amount of mosquitoes carrying the disease due to drought conditions.

A former Chick-Fil-A employee is suing the notoriously anti-gay restaurant chain for sexual discrimination. The lawsuit claims Brenda Honeycutt was fired by manager Jeff Howard so Honeycutt could become a “stay home mother.”

President Barack Obama is coming to Ohio again. On Wednesday, he’ll be making stops at Akron and Mansfield.

The U.S. economy slowed down in the first quarter of 2012 with a measly 1.5 percent growth rate.

Epidemiologists now have a crystal ball of sorts. A new algorithm scans tweets to predict when Twitter users will get the flu.
 
 
by Hannah McCartney 07.12.2012
Posted In: Republicans, State Legislature, News, Government at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
congressional_districts5-592x447

Attempt to Overturn GOP Redistricting Moves Forward

Organization submits 450,000 petition signatures to Ohio Secretary of State

Ohio's House Bill 369 has been causing fuss across the state since it was signed into law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich last December, and opponents of the bill are close to getting an amendment onto the November ballot that would redesign the congressional districts instituted by the bill. 

On July 3, Voters First, a coalition established after HB-369's inception to combat the bill's Republican-led efforts to deliberately have congressional and legislative districts drawn in their favor, submitted 450,000 petition signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State — significantly more than the 385,000 signatures necessary to obtain a spot on the November ballot. At the end of the month, the Secretary of State will review the signatures and determine which are eligible, after which the coalition will have another set period to obtain more signatures, should the 385,000 not be met.

Opponents of HB-369 argue the drawing of last year's new congressional districts represents gerrymandering — when district boundaries are deliberately manipulated to favor a specific political party, grouping certain demographics strategically and distorting voter representations. According to Voters First, last year's secretive redistricting process was led exclusively by Republicans who deliberately disregarded public input.

They've been working to amass support for a new bill that would bring transparency and fairness to the redistricting process, which typically occurs every ten years following a census.

According to Dan Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor and member of the Voters First coalition, the issue is one that crosses all party lines. "This is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. [Gerrymandering] has been done by both parties. The opposition has been trying to characterize this as a Democrat-led effort."

What has happened, explains Tokaji, is that in Ohio the Republicans currently hold political control, so it just so happens that they jumped on the redistricting opportunity to create districts that specifically advantage them.

"You could throw a bucket of paint on the wall and it wouldn't be as ugly as these maps," says Tokaji.


In Cincinnati, the redistricting included more suburban and rural areas in the city's Congressional district, potentially giving Republicans greater weight in the district (CityBeat reported on the situation May 30 in response to We Are Ohio joining the effort to overturn the GOP-drawn maps.)

Voters First has proposed an amendment for the November ballot that would bring transparency and fairness to the redistricting process by establishing a 12-member "Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission" that would be made up of non-partisan Ohio citizens. According to Tokaji, members would have to go through an application process that would specifically eliminate politicians, lobbyists and large political donors.

Tokaji says the commission would bring to the redistricting process four key components that were deliberately absent in the 2011 process, including fairness, encouragement of competition, respect for community boundaries and compactness of districts.

"Ohioans across the political spectrum are just tired of politics as usual. They're sick of leaders acting in a selfish way. We need to change that.

To read the full text of Voters First’s proposed amendment, click here. For more information about Voters First or to sign the petition, click here.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.25.2012
Posted In: Republicans, Democrats, News, Public Policy, Government at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Republicans Back Down on Voting Restrictions

Ohio GOP to repeal parts of its own passed legislation

This week, Republicans are moving forward with a partial repeal of HB 194, a bill that was blasted by voting rights groups for eliminating opportunities to vote early and disallowing pollworkers to guide voters to the correct precinct. The bill was also criticized by Democrats for curtailing voting rights in a way that made it harder for mostly Democratic constituents to vote.

The good news first: Most of HB 194 is being repealed. It’s good to see Republicans follow the advice of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a moderate Republican who called or the repeal of HB 194 earlier this year.

The bad news: Some new limits on voting rights are going to remain in place, and the entire repeal process, which involves the passing of SB 295, might be unconstitutional.

While it’s good to see HB 194 repealed, it’s not the only voting law Republicans enacted last year. The Ohio legislature also passed HB 224, which prohibited voting the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before election day.

For Democrats, this poses a bit of a problem. Democrats are happy to see most of the restrictions on voting repealed, but they want to see all of the restrictions repealed. If SB 295 passes, Democrats worry that the rest of the restrictions won’t be repealed because Republicans will think they have done enough.

Even the Obama team spoke on this issue. In an email to Obama supporters Tuesday, Greg Schultz, the Ohio State Director on the Obama team, urged voters to speak up: “This bill could mean an end to our last three days of early voting this November — and would change the rules, right in the middle of an election year. It's an unambiguous attack on our voting rights.”

The other problem is the repeal could be unconstitutional. After HB 194 passed, voters were quick to speak out against the new law and put it up for referendum in the November 2012 ballot. So Republicans are repealing a law that is already up for referendum. This is the first time that’s happened in the Ohio legislature, and Democrats claim it might be unconstitutional.

But a lot of that opposition may be pure political posturing. After all, Democrats were sure they were going to win the referendum on HB 194, and they were sure they could use it to get more supporters out to vote. With SB 295, the referendum of HB 194 could potentially be taken off the ballot, and state Democrats will lose one issue to hammer Republicans with in an election year.


In a sense, Democrats aren’t just upset about a “change of rules in the middle of an election year,” as Schultz put it in his email. They’re upset about a change in politics in the middle of an election year.


Regardless, SB 295 does have some legitimate problems. It’s good to see most of the draconian restrictions on voting repealed, but if Republicans really want to admit their mistake, they’ll repeal the rest of the restrictions as well.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.19.2012
 
 
streetcar

Rebuilding Cincinnati: City vs. Kasich

Cincinnati is moving forward, despite the better attempts of state Republicans

In his State of the City address last week, Mayor Mark Mallory called on Cincinnati to continue pushing for improvements. After years of stalling, projects like Washington Park’s renovation, the Horseshoe Casino and the streetcar are finally moving forward, and Mallory wants to make sure that work continues.

Politically and economically, it makes sense. Not only have voters approved of both the casino and the streetcar, but the projects will create jobs. Casino developers have already begun to fill what they promise will be 1,700 permanent jobs, and city estimates show the first segment of the streetcar will create 300 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs.


But while voters and local politicians may approve, some state Republicans are doing their very best to tear the projects down. Gov. John Kasich, who dismantled Ohio’s passenger rail project, tried his hardest to continue his anti-transit rampage by railing against the streetcar in public speeches last year. He even ripped away more than $50 million in state funds from the project.


The casino has been a little luckier, but not by much. Kasich has claimed both neutrality and approval of casinos, but he has made building the Horseshoe Casino more difficult. Despite the fact Ohio has the highest casino tax in the nation, Kasich pushed for renegotiations for higher taxes and fees last year, ultimately delaying the casino’s opening from late 2012 to spring 2013.


For the governor, such actions probably make sense. Kasich has been an ardent supporter of tax cuts — sneaking them into every single budget even when Ohio had a reported $8 billion deficit. When he found massive education and health care cuts weren’t enough to close the gap he helped create, he moved onto casinos and transit projects.


Still, the projects move forward. Kasich and other state Republicans have not been successful in killing them off, largely thanks to local voters and local politicians pushing back.


Last year, voters rejected Issue 48, which tried to ban all investments in rail transportation for the next decade. Last week, Mallory announced CAF USA was already drawing up designs for the streetcar, and the first car could be finished as soon as 18 months from now.


Meanwhile, the casino’s construction is 35 to 40 percent complete, according to developers. This is despite an accident in January that resulted in the injury of 20 workers after a steel beam fell and caused a floor to partially collapse.


But what needs to be clear is that these developments are in spite of state Republicans like Kasich. When these job-creating projects are said and done, it’s important credit goes where credit is due — straight to local voters and local politicians.
 
 
by Danny Cross 04.18.2012
Posted In: Police, Social Justice, Government at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
5344029

Estate of David 'Bones' Hebert Files Wrongful Death Suit

Lawsuit against Sgt. Andrew Mitchell filed one day before anniversary of shooting

The estate of David “Bones” Hebert filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Cincinnati Police Sgt. Andrew Mitchell alleging wrongful death and battery in the April 18, 2011, shooting death of the 40-year-old musician. The plaintiff in the case is listed as Paul Carmack, administrator of the estate of David Hebert.

The lawsuit claims that Hebert was complying with instructions given by an investigating officer when he was shot and killed by Mitchell. The suit claims excessive force was used and that Mitchell “acted intentionally, recklessly, wantonly, and with deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of Mr. Hebert.”

Hebert was shot and killed by Mitchell after officers responded to a 911 call around 3 a.m. during which an intoxicated man alleged to have been robbed by Hebert and assaulted with a pirate sword. Hebert was located sitting on a sidewalk on Chase Avenue in Northside about 10 minutes later. During subsequent questioning, officers say Hebert drew a knife and moved toward an investigating officer, causing Mitchell to believe the officer’s life was in danger. Mitchell shot Hebert twice, killing him. Toxicology reports found Hebert to have a blood alcohol content of 0.33 at the time of his death, along with marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms in his system.

Three investigations cleared police of any wrongdoing, but Friends of Bones says the facts from the investigations show Hebert complied with police orders during the encounter.

The lawsuit demands a trial by jury and compensatory and punitive damages, along with attorney’s fees, costs, disbursements and additional relief as the court deems proper. The suit, which is embedded below, was published on the “Friends of Bones” website (www.friendsofbones.org).

The incident has drawn considerable media attention, especially this week in conjunction with the anniversary of the shooting.

The Cincinnati Enquirer on Monday published a story titled “Reports: Cops came too close in killing of David 'Bones' Hebert” comparing accounts of the incident in public records to standard Cincinnati Police Department guidelines, which concluded that “police officers got dangerously close and failed to have a plan before approaching Hebert, who police thought was carrying a sword or large knife.”

Cincinnati Magazine’s May issue will feature a story, “Salvaging Bones,” which is subtitled: “David Hebert was a lot of things: the dreadlocked maker of burritos; a punk rocker; a womanizing, tatted-up former Jesus freak with a kind heart and a wild streak. What he wasn’t was a guy you’d expect to find dead at the end of a police standoff.”

CityBeat on Sept. 14, 2011 published a story titled “Digging Up Answers for Bones” in which friends and family of Hebert alleged that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters’ closing of the investigation was politically motivated.

CityBeat on May 4, 2011 published a story titled “A Shot in the Dark,” detailing the early questions that surrounded the incident.

 
 

 

 

 
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