During Gov. John Kasich’s term as governor, local government funding has fallen by nearly half — from nearly $3 billion to about $1.6 billion — and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading an effort to get that funding back. With the support of Democratic officials from around the state, Sittenfeld is launching a website called ProtectMyOhio.com, which is gathering petition signatures that will eventually be sent to Kasich and members of the Ohio General Assembly.
Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler extended the temporary restraining order on the city’s parking plan yesterday, potentially delaying any ruling on the city's plan to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority for another two weeks. In response, the city said it’s approaching a “pressure point” for budget cuts for fiscal year 2014, which must be executed by July 1.
Ohio House Republicans are looking to bolster education funding to poor districts in response to criticisms of Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal. A previous CityBeat analysis found Kasich’s budget proposal disproportionately benefits the wealthy in a few ways, including education funding.
City Council did not vote on funding for a feasibility study for Westwood Square Wednesday, but the vote could happen as early as next week. The delay came after the Westwood Civic Association said in a letter that the plan needs more discussion.
The controversial election bill moved through the Ohio House yesterday despite calls for more time for debate. The bill, which will now head to Kasich to be signed into law, limits the referendum process by giving referendum and ballot initiative petitioners 10 days to get more signatures if the initial batch is found to be inadequate. Under current law, petitioners can continually search for more signatures while the secretary of state and ballot board sort through signatures. Republicans argue the change makes the petition process fair and uniform, but Democrats say it goes too far in weakening ballot initiative and referendum powers.
The state’s $7.6 billion transportation budget, which includes plan to fund transportation projects around the state with Ohio Turnpike funds, breezed through the Ohio Senate Wednesday. It will reach the House for a scheduled vote today.
Attorney General Mike DeWine announced new efforts to help sexual assault victims around Ohio by ensuring each county has adequate services. The efforts are in response to a survey that found 59 percent of counties don’t have comprehensive services and eight counties have very few or no services. “It is our goal to ensure that a quick and compassionate emergency response is available to any victim of sexual assault at any time of the day, any day of the week and in any area of the state,” DeWine said in a statement.
The federal government released data that shows serious safety violations in hospitals that occurred since Jan. 1, 2011, and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Christ Hospital are both on the list.
Hamilton County ranked No. 65 out of Ohio’s 88 counties for health in a new survey from Patrick Remington at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. The study found suburban counties fare much better than urban counties, and premature death is at a 20-year low.
Accusations of inappropriate teacher behavior in Ohio are on the rise.
Voyager 1 is or may soon become the first object humanity has ever sent out of the sun’s reach.
Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed an early voting ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling by the appeals court said all Ohioans must be allowed to vote on the three days before Election Day. Previously, only military personnel and their families were allowed. The appeals court ruling also passed the final decision on whether voting should be allowed during those three days to the county boards of elections and Husted.
Husted also sent out a directive Thursday telling board of elections employees that they can only notify absentee voters about mistakes on their ballots through first-class mail. Previously, email and phone notifications were allowed.
Rev. Jesse Jackson was in Cincinnati yesterday in part to criticize Husted and other Republicans. Jackson accused Ohio’s state government of engaging in voter suppression. The reverend’s claims have some merit. In moments of perhaps too much honesty, Republican aides have cited racial politics as a reason for opposing the expansion of in-person early voting. In an email to The Columbus Dispatch published on Aug. 19, Doug Preisse, close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, said, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
In a new video, Josh Mandel, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, dodged answering a question about whether he would support the auto bailout for five straight minutes.
More preliminary data for Ohio’s schools and school districts will be released next week. The data gives insight into how Ohio’s education system is holding up.
The Ohio Board of Education also promised to pursue the state auditor’s recommendation of making the student information database in-house, which Auditor Dave Yost says could save $430,000 a year.
“We are holding our own feet to the fire,” promised Bob McDonald, CEO of Procter & Gamble, at P&G’s annual meeting. The Cincinnati-based company had a rocky year, and the harsh questions at the meeting reflected the troubles. McDonald promises he has a plan for growth.
President Barack Obama and opponent Mitt Romney were in
Ohio yesterday. Obama drew significant crowds at Ohio State University,
while Romney drew a new chant of “four more weeks.” Ohio is considered a must-win for Romney, but Obama is currently up by 0.8 points in the state.
A new report from the left-leaning Urban Institute says Obamacare will lower health care costs for small businesses and have minimal impact on large businesses. But another report says Obamacare will raise costs for mid-size businesses.
A new ad shows that the presidential election has probably jumped the shark:
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The vice presidential debate between Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan took place last night. The general consensus among pundits is the debate was a draw, with perhaps Biden edging out ahead. Regardless of who won, political scientists say debates have little-to-no electoral impact in the long term, especially vice presidential debates.
Mitt Romney made a bit of a flub yesterday. He told The Columbus Dispatch, “We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack.’” However, that’s not completely accurate. Research shows the uninsured are a lot more likely to die from a heart attack, mostly because they get substantially less preventive health care.
PolitiFact Ohio says Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is wrong about Issue 2. Specifically, Husted said if a member of the independent commission was bribed, the member could not be kicked out of office. PolitiFact says the claim is false because methods for removing unelected officials from office exist outside of the redistricting amendment. If Issue 2 passed, redistricting would be handled by an independent citizens commission. Currently, elected officials redraw district boundaries, but they often use the process for political advantage. The Republican majority redrew the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, to include Warren County, giving Republicans an advantage by giving them more rural voters that are more likely to vote for them.
But Husted did have some good news yesterday. A federal appeals court judge upheld a decision requiring election officials to count provisional ballots that were brought about due to poll worker mistakes. Husted didn’t much care for that part of the ruling. However, the judge also said a legal signature must be required on every provisional ballot, overturning that part of the previous decision. A very small win, but Husted seemed happy in a statement: “I am extremely pleased that the Court of Appeals agreed with me that we must have a valid, legal signature on all provisional ballots.”
The mayor and Cincinnati Public Schools announced a new joint effort that won a $40,000 grant yesterday. The effort will go to 50 tutors, who will help 100 students meet the state’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
However, a loophole in the Third Grade Reading Guarantee may allow third-graders to skip tests to move onto the fourth grade.
Out of 12 similar regions, Cincinnati ranks No. 10 on 15 indicators including jobs, cost of living and population. Cincinnati did fairly well in terms of just jobs, though; the city was No. 6 in that category. The ranks come from Vision 2015 and Agenda 360.
With the support of Gov. John Kasich, Ohio is trying to do more with university research. The theme of the push is to build stronger links between universities and the private sector to boost stronger, entrepreneurial research.
Josh Mandel, state treasurer and Ohio’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, is in trouble again for not answering questions. A testy exchange on live radio started when Ron Ponder, the host, asked Mandel about potential cronyism in the treasurer’s office, and Mandel replied by implying Ponder is with the Brown campaign. Ponder got so fed up he eventually ended the exchange by saying, “Hang up on this dude, man.”
Does eating more chocolate earn a nation more Nobel prizes? Science says no. I say yes.
The Ohio Senate will not take up the heartbeat bill and a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in the lame-duck session. The heartbeat bill was called the most radical anti-abortion legislation in the country when it was first proposed. It sought to ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy. However, there have been some rumblings of bringing a new version of the heartbeat bill to the Ohio legislature, and recent moves by Ohio Republicans show a clear anti-abortion agenda. In a statement, Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio cautioned the bills will come up again next year: “Make no mistake about it, the threat to women’s health may be delayed, but it remains. We fully expect anti-choice forces to reintroduce these dangerous attacks on women’s health when the legislature reconvenes in January.”
In a 4-3 ruling, the Ohio Supreme court upheld the state’s redistricting map. Democrats claimed the Ohio House and Senate districts were unconstitutional, while Republicans insisted the map was fine. The Republican-controlled government redrew the districts in a way that favors Republican candidates for public office. The Ohio Supreme Court is skewed heavily in favor of Republicans; six justices are Republicans, while only one is a Democrat.
Ohio high schools have a bit of work to do, according to federal data. Apparently, the state has worse graduation rates for blacks than all but five other states and the District of Columbia. Ohio did manage to improve its graduation rates by more than 2 percent over four years, as required by the federal program Race to the Top.
To avoid an estimated $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, a coalition wants to speed up the Brent Spence Bridge project. If the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition is successful, the project will begin in 2014 — four years ahead of schedule. But the organization is pushing a public-private relationship that would likely involve tolls, and Kentucky lawmakers oppose that idea.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County were picked to participate in a program that puts the long-term unemployed back to work. The program was originally started in southwest Connecticut in 2011 by WorkPlace with some success. It placed 70 percent of participants in jobs, with 90 percent moving to full-time employment.
Tourism is boosting Greater Cincinnati’s economy. An impact study from the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network found tourism is responsible for one in 10 local jobs. Visitors to Cincinnati spent $4.1 billion in the area last year.
Another good sign for the economy: Personal income went up in Greater Cincinnati and nationwide. In Cincinnati, personal income went up by 4.6 percent in 2011, lower than the nationwide rise of 5.2 percent.
Unfortunately, Greater Cincinnati still has a lot of vacant homes. On Numbers ranked the area No. 31 out of 109 in terms of vacant homes.
The Cincinnati Police Department is encouraging fitness through intra-department competition.
The University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning is one of the five best design schools in the world.
Councilman Chris Smitherman was re-elected to the presidency of the local chapter of the NAACP.
Seven AIDS activists protested nude in U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s office yesterday. The protesters were part of ACT-UP, and they were protesting federal budget cuts to HIV programs that are set to kick in next year.
The bill regulating puppy mills passed the Ohio Senate. Animal advocates claim lax regulations and oversight have made Ohio a breeding ground for poor practices. CityBeat previously covered puppy mills and how they lead to Ohio’s dog auctions.
The Ohio inspector general released a report criticizing the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for mismanaging stimulus funds going to southwest Ohio. The findings echoed a lot of what was found in previous reports for other regions of the state.
The Earth’s core may have clues about our planet’s birth.
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 project’s 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.
In-person early voting begins in Ohio today. Find your nearest polling booth here.
Cincinnati could change how it gathers trash in the future. City officials, under the request of City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., are looking for a way to make trash collection more automated and reduce the amount of manual labor required to pick up trash. Michael Robinson, director of public services, described the possible changes to WVXU: “Implement a new cart system using semi-automated trucks as well as automated units to reduce our workers compensation claims.” The changes would save the city money.
For the second year in a row, statewide college enrollment declined. The two-year drop is the first time college enrollment has dropped since the 1990s.
Casinos are popping up around Ohio — including the Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati — but Ohioans do not have a gambling problem. A new survey, which seeks to establish a baseline to find out the impact of new casinos around the state, found problematic gambling is fairly uncommon in Ohio with about 250,000 Ohio adults, or nearly 3 percent of Ohioans, reporting problems.
Cincinnati-based Macy’s will be hiring 80,000 new employees for the holidays.
Several Ohio testing centers will be partnering up with the GED Testing Service to allow taking GED tests online. The GED test, which is accepted by most U.S. employers and colleges, gives a second chance to adults who did not get a high school diploma.
JobsOhio, Gov. John Kasich’s privatized economic development program, suffered a serious setback Friday when an Ohio Supreme Court ruling dismissed efforts to clarify the program’s legal status. Critics of JobsOhio say the program is unconstitutional and illegal, and their complaints have often been legitimized by lower courts. State officials hoped the Ohio Supreme Court would put the issue to rest, but the court said a decision would have to be given by lower courts first.
Josh Mandel, state treasurer and Republican U.S.
senatorial candidate, doesn’t seem to be handling the stress of the
campaign very well. In a newly released video, Mandel is seen on an
elevator in an awkward confrontation that gets a little physical with a
campaign tracker. The tracker’s story was confirmed by a reporter at The Columbus Dispatch, who was also on the elevator and can be seen and heard in the video.
The amount of abortions in Ohio is down 12 percent, according to a new report by the Ohio Department of Health.
A Xavier study found trust in government and business is on the rise. The increase is typical in a growing economy.
U.S. home prices rose the most they have in six years. The year-over-year increase of 4.6 percent is a potential sign of a recovering economy.
Want to increase your productivity? Look at cute kitties.
State Rep. John Becker, a Cincinnati Republican, is pushing to expand the death penalty to include some sex-related crimes. His proposal, made Friday, would allow the state to consider execution in cases of rape, sexual battery and improper sexual contact if the suspect has a previous sex crime conviction and there are aggravating circumstances. Becker says he was inspired to propose the death penalty expansion after hearing about three Cleveland women who were kidnapped, held and raped for years by Ariel Castro before they escaped in May. But Castro, who was convicted earlier this month, wouldn’t have been eligible for the death penalty under Becker’s plan because he didn’t have a previous sex crime conviction.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) officials are developing a 10-year plan for the school district, following in the footsteps of the Columbus and Cleveland systems and their unique plans. The school district is asking for more community support and $29 million from the state to, among other plans, boost its community learning center initiative, a nationally recognized program that turns schools into community hubs with extra services such as dental care and college preparation; expand early education, which is often heralded as one of the best economic investments; and provide more options through charter schools, which have generally performed worse than public schools but provide more choices for students. Unlike the other big city systems, CPS has posted decent academic ratings in the past few years, so the changes might not be as drastic or require legislative involvement.The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was found to be the busiest central library in the country for the second year in a row by a report from the Public Library Association. Overall, the report found the Cincinnati system is the seventh busiest public library system in the country and second busiest in Ohio right after Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland.
The Over-the-Rhine Foundation will use an $8,000 grant from the Ohio Development Services Agency and Ohio Historic Preservation Office to help revitalize approximately 13 buildings in the neighborhood. The grant will allow the Over-the-Rhine Foundation to research and apply for federal designation on the National Register of Historic Places, which would unlock more tax credits for the buildings and area. The rest of the money for the project will come from private funds. “Exciting things are happening in Over-the-Rhine,” said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, in a statement. “Helping the neighborhood receive this historic designation will allow the continued revitalization of this growing community.”With a state ban lifted, Ohio is getting more online schools for the first time in eight years. Three e-schools were approved to open this fall, and five more could be approved this year. The moratorium on new e-schools was held until the state approved e-school standards, which were drafted by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, an association funded in part by e-schools, and include no mention of proper budgeting or attendance tracking. A CityBeat look at e-schools last year found e-schools generally perform much worse but get more state funding than traditional public schools.
Five Miami University students helped install a wheelchair-accessible swing in Hanover Township.
Ohio gas prices are rising but still below the national average.
Ohio is among 24 states asking the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drone manufacturers to test unmanned flying vehicles within state borders.
The Western & Southern Open had record attendance this year, with nearly 200,000 people turning up.
A 12-year-old electronics prodigy and teacher is working on a plan to revamp the U.S. education system to make it more fun.
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Also, take our texting while driving survey here.
With a $3.2 billion price tag and 15- to 20-year time scale, Cincinnati’s plan to retrofit and replace its sewers is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the city’s history, but the program is experiencing hurdles as the city and county clash over how to reward contracts and whether the government should have a say in training employees. Cincinnati recently passed and modified a “responsible bidder” law that sets rules for apprenticeship programs and a fund for pre-apprenticeship programs, which Councilman Chris Seelbach says help promote local jobs and job training. But critics, backed by county officials and business organizations, say the law puts too much of a burden on contractors.
The Ohio Senate budget bill would restore $717 million in education funding, but it wouldn’t be enough to overcome $1.8 billion in education funding cuts carried out in the last biennium budget. The funding increase also disproportionately favors the wealthy, with the property-poorest one-third of school districts getting 15 percent of the funding increases and the top one-third getting the vast majority. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill today.
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns didn’t hand out “free marijuana plants” at a campaign event Wednesday, instead admitting to multiple media outlets that he was misleading the public to raise awareness of his campaign and marijuana legalization platform. Berns handed out tomato plants instead, which look similar to marijuana plants.
With 8-0 support from City Council, Mayor Mark Mallory appointed Stan Chesley to the city’s Human Relations Commission yesterday. Chesley retired from practicing law after he was disbarred in Kentucky for allegedly keeping millions of dollars that should have gone to clients involved in a lawsuit about phen-fen, a diet drug. Mallory and Chesley have worked together in the past, particularly to raise money for the city’s swimming pools.
Ohio lawmakers are considering two laws that would tighten rules about who can carry guns in schools and encourage religious education. The changes related to guns would involve local law enforcement in deciding who can carry guns, but it would also allow schools to conceal the names of who can carry a firearm and protect those individuals from liability for accidents unless there was “reckless and wanton conduct.” The changes for religious education would allow public high schools to give credit to students who take religious courses outside of school.
Ohio senators scrapped a plan that would have raised vehicle registration fees.
Ohio gas prices jumped above $4 this week.
NASA is building an intergalactic GPS.
Sleep-deprived men are apparently really bad at judging who wants to sleep with them.
Urban schools spend considerably less on basic education for a typical student than previously assumed after accounting for miscellaneous expenditures related to poverty, according to a Nov. 19 report from three school advocacy groups.
If it’s accepted by state officials and taxpayers, the report could give way to a reorientation of how school funds are allocated in Ohio — perhaps with a more favorable approach to urban and rural school districts.
The report’s formula acknowledges that some students, particularly those in poverty, take more resources to educate, typically to make up for external factors that depress academic performance. After those higher costs are taken into account, the report calculates how much money schools have left over for a typical student.
“If under-funded, districts with concentrations of poverty will not have the resources left over for the educational opportunities we want to see for all students,” said Howard Fleeter, the report’s author, in a statement.
The report finds urban school districts like Cincinnati
Public Schools (CPS) and Lockland Schools spend considerably less on basic education for a typical student than wealthy suburban school districts like
Indian Hill Schools and Sycamore Community Schools.
After weighing spending on poverty and other miscellaneous programs, major urban school districts lose more than 39 percent in per-pupil education spending and poor rural school districts lose nearly 24 percent, while wealthy suburban schools lose slightly more than 14 percent.
Following the deductions, CPS drops from a pre-weighted rank of No. 17 most per-pupil funding out of 605 school districts in the state to No. 55. Lockland Schools falls from No. 64 to No. 234.
The report similarly drops New Miami Schools, a poor rural district in Butler County, from No. 327 to No. 588.
Indian Hill actually gains in overall state rankings, going from No. 11 to No. 4. Sycamore Community Schools also rise from No. 22 to No. 14.
The Ohio School Boards Association, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials commissioned the report through the Education Tax Policy Institute, an Ohio-based group of researchers and analysts.