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by German Lopez 04.26.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Health, Environment at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio may allow open containers, Medicaid may be on ballot, pollution afflicts region

State Sen. Eric Kearney, a Cincinnati Democrat, introduced a bill in the Ohio Senate yesterday that would allow opened alcoholic beverages in “entertainment districts,” which must have populations of more than 50,000 within one-half mile by one-half mile. Kearney said Over-the-Rhine would be an ideal benefactor of the new bill. “Senate Bill 116 will promote tourism and business development across the state,” Kearney said in a statement. “By modifying Ohio’s law, this will provide an opportunity for developments such as the Over-the-Rhine Gateway in Cincinnati and The Flats in Cleveland to create an entertainment experience and attract more customers.”

Supporters of the Medicaid expansion say they may attempt to put the issue on the November ballot if the Ohio General Assembly fails to take action by fall. Republicans in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate have so far rejected Gov. John Kasich’s pleas for an expansion, instead moving toward asking the federal government for a Medicaid waiver that would allow the state to make broader reforms. At least 90 percent of the expansion would be funded by the federal government. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.

The Greater Cincinnati region and Hamilton County ranked among the worst in the nation in the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report. The report, which used 2009-2011 U.S. EPA data, found Greater Cincinnati to be No. 10 worst for year-round particle pollution and No. 14 for ozone pollution. Still, the report did find overall improvement around the nation, with Greater Cincinnati making some advances in pollution reduction in the past few decades.

A new Ohio law going into effect today will require school coaches to acquire additional concussion awareness training. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross says the training will make it easier for coaches to identify symptoms of concussions and get help for students.

A University of Cincinnati study found it could be cost-effective to screen at-risk populations for hepatitis C.

A vegetarian lifestyle may fit some of CityBeat’s most beautiful employees, but Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble says pets need a more expansive diet.

Not only do they have multiple cultural traditions, but humpback whales also learn new tricks by watching their friends.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.15.2013
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

GOP questions Medicaid expansion, Qualls' streetcar concerns, council backs efficiency

State legislators, particularly Republicans, have a lot of questions regarding Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion. Legislators are worried the state won’t be able to opt out of the expansion if the federal government reneges its funding promise, raising potential financial hurdles. As part of Obamacare, the federal government pays for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years, and the share phases down to 90 percent after that. Kasich’s budget includes a trigger — called a “circuit breaker” — in case the federal government ever funds less than currently promised. A study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the Medicaid expansion could insure nearly 500,000 people and generate $1.4 billion by raising revenue and shifting funding burdens from the state to federal government.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a longtime supporter of the streetcar, is getting concerned about some of the problems surrounding the project. In a memo to the city manager, Qualls suggested putting the streetcar project through “intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The memo was in response to streetcar construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget — a setback that could cause further delays or more funding problems.

With Councilman Chris Seelbach’s strong support, City Council passed a resolution urging the state government to maintain its energy efficiency standards. State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, sent out a memo Feb. 1 that pledged to review the state’s standards, causing much concern among environmental groups.

Tolls for the Brent Spence Bridge could be as low as $2, according to financial consultants involved with the project. The tolls will help pay for the massive rehabilitation project, which gained national attention when President Barack Obama visited Cincinnati to support rebuilding the bridge.

State Democrats and Republicans have some questions about the governor’s Ohio Turnpike plan. Some Democrats are concerned the state government won’t actually freeze toll hikes at the rate of inflation for EZPass users. Others are worried about language in the bill. The plan leverages the Ohio Turnpike to fund a statewide construction program.

The man accused of dumping fracking waste into the Mahoning River in Youngstown was arrested and charged with violating the Clean Water Act.

Dayton wants to help illegal immigrants who are victims of crime. The Dayton City Commission approved a $30,000 contract with a law firm to help potential victims. CityBeat previously covered the recent struggles of children of illegal immigrants in Ohio.

A Dayton Daily News report found Ohio overpays unemployment compensation claims by millions of dollars.

The University of Cincinnati is launching a technology incubator for mobile apps.

In his State of the County address yesterday, Commission President Chris Monzel said Hamilton County is “on the move and getting stronger.”

Attorney General Mike DeWine and officials from other states announced a $29 million settlement with Toyota over the unintended acceleration debacle. Ohio will get $1.7 million from the settlement.

A meteor flew over Russian skies and exploded with the strength of an atomic bomb Friday, causing a sonic blast that shattered windows and injured nearly 1,000 people.

Scientists engineered mice that can’t feel the cold. Certain people on CityBeat’s staff would probably do anything for this superpower, but scientists are probably going to use it to make better pain medication.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.29.2014
Posted In: Environment at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
voices_wwe_johnkasich

Kasich to Sign Bill Delaying Renewable Energy Standards

Ohio would become first of 37 states to roll back such standards

Gov. John Kasich says he'll sign a bill that would freeze the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards for two years and then weaken them after that.

Kasich announced his intention to sign SB310 shortly after the bill passed the Ohio House yesterday, paving the way for Ohio to become the first state to roll back already approved energy-efficiency standards. 37 states have passed some form of renewable energy standards.

Conservatives in Ohio's state house have taken to disliking the standards, even though the state passed nearly unanimously in 2008. Most memorably, Bill Seitz, a Republican state senator from Cincinnati, called them Stalinist last year.

Kasich yesterday called the current standards “unrealistic” and costly for Ohio’s economy.

But others, including conservative-leaning business groups, say the standards freeze will actually be more costly.

The Ohio Manufacturer’s Association says it fears the measure will increase energy costs and make Ohio less competitive industrially.

Honda, one of Ohio’s biggest employers, has also come out against the freeze.

Several last-minute provisions inserted during debate on the bill in the state Senate could make it harder for renewable energy companies to get loans or increase capacity. Another last-minute change jettisons requirements that power companies get half their renewable energy in the state of Ohio.

Ohio ranks fifth nationally in green jobs, a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics study says. Nearly 140,000 Ohioans work in industries related to renewable energy or environmental conservation.

Environmental groups have also criticized SB310. An analysis by the Ohio Sierra Club says that the average Duke Energy customer in the Cincinnati area will spend $117 more for energy over the next two years thanks to the standards freeze.

Ohio's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards aim to reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels in favor of greener renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy.

That law originally called for a 5.5 percent increase in the use of renewable sources of energy by 2017. Overall, the law aims to have 12.5 percent of all energy sold by power companies in the state coming from renewable sources by 2025.

SB310 will pause upcoming standards increases and keep them at their current levels until 2017, when a smaller, 3.5 percent increase will kick back in.

Ed FitzGerald, Kasich’s Democratic opponent for the governor’s office, blasted Kasich over his support of the pause.

“Tonight, Governor Kasich's office announced that he intends to move Ohio's economy, families and environment backwards,” Fitzgerald said in a statement yesterday.

Kasich acknowledged that alternative energy is a big part of Ohio’s economy but said there are problems with the standards that needed to be ironed out.

Americans for Prosperity, the big-money conservative group backed by petroleum and gas magnates the Koch Brothers, has been a cheerleader for the standards delays. The group released statements today applauding SB310’s passage. Also supporting the bill were coal and gas powered utilities throughout the state.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.14.2014
Posted In: News, Health care, Education, Environment at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
obamacare navigators

Morning News and Stuff

Obamacare misses target, state to investigate CPS staff, chemical spill forces local measures

In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to hit key demographic targets for young adults in Ohio and across the nation. White House officials say about about 39 percent of those who sign up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov and state-run marketplaces must be young adults. The idea is to get enough young, healthy enrollees to hold down costs as an older, sicker population signs up for health insurance made more easily available through Obamacare’s systems and regulations. But in December, only 19 percent of signups in Ohio and 24 percent of signups nationwide were young adults.

The Ohio Department of Education will recalculate report card data and investigate whether to punish staff after Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and six other Ohio school districts that scrubbed student attendance data. By manipulating the data, schools can appear to be performing better, but the actions obviously jeopardize the authenticity of Ohio’s school accountability system. CPS says its internal investigations found no evidence of deliberate manipulation and the data errors shouldn’t be enough to alter the school’s standing in state report cards. For CPS and the six other school districts, the issues began after the state auditor in 2012 launched an investigation into school data scrubbing.

To avoid contamination from a W. Va. chemical spill, Cincinnati Water Works will shut down its water intake system along the Ohio River and instead rely on the water intake system at the groundwater treatment facility in Fairfield. Mayor John Cranley said the shutdown will last two days, or more than twice the roughly 20 hours required for the chemical slick to pass by. Consumers shouldn’t notice a difference, according to Water Works officials.

In the coming weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard will decide whether to allow fracking wastewater to travel along the Ohio River and other federal waterways and how strictly regulated the shipments should be. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves, but the process produces a lot of wastewater as a result. CityBeat previously covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.

With legislation repealing Ohio’s energy rules now stalled, Champaign County residents are challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s in-state renewable energy requirements in court. Supporters of the law claim the rules help foster a green energy sector in the state, while opponents argue the rules increase costs for businesses and consumers. CityBeat previously covered State Sen. Bill Seitz’s legislative attempts to repeal the rules here.

Another tea party-backed candidate might challenge Gov. John Kasich in the Republican primary. The reveal comes just days after a tea party leader abruptly dropped his challenge against the incumbent governor.

If state legislators approve, Gov. Kasich will hold his state of the state address this year at Medina, Ohio, on Feb. 24.

Three judges will cover for Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter while she fights felony charges in court.

State Rep. Pete Beck of Mason, who was indicted on 16 felony counts for alleged fraud and theft, is facing a primary challenger.

Cincinnati repaved 130 lane miles of road in 2013, according to city officials.

Duke Energy cut a check for the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority today to help redevelop Bond Hill and Queensgate.

A blind student is suing Miami University for alleged discrimination that prevented her from completing coursework.

One vote made the difference in 43 of Ohio’s 2013 elections, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Ky. developers are still pursuing the Noah’s Ark theme park, despite troubles raising funds for the project.

Today is the last day to vote for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.

An infection can turn swarming locusts into solitary grasshoppers, a study found.

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by German Lopez 01.27.2014
Posted In: News, Voting, Guns, Fracking, Environment at 09:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Elections board could move, bill allows armed teachers, fracking waste could move on river

The Hamilton County Board of Elections plans to decide today whether it will move its offices and early voting from downtown to Mount Airy. The two Democrats on the board argue moving the offices would push early voting away from public transportation options and the city’s core, while the two Republicans claim it’s “good government” because the Mount Airy site consolidates county services with the coroner’s office and includes free parking. In the event of a tie between Democrats and Republicans, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, will break the tie. Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, proposed an alternative site downtown on Thursday, but at least one Republican county official said it wasn’t enough to meet the county’s needs.

One of the Republicans on the board resigned as the city’s lobbyist to avoid a conflict of interest prior to today’s vote.

The Republican-controlled Ohio House last week approved a bill that would allow school boards to designate school employees to carry concealed firearms and prohibit school boards from releasing the names of those employees. Republicans argue the proposal will help make schools safer against would-be shooters. But several studies indicate more guns lead to more gun-related violence. A 2009 ABC News special also found even trained gun-wielders fail to properly react in the event of a shooting.

Fracking waste could soon move through barges on the Ohio River, depending on an incoming decision from the U.S. Coast Guard. During the fracking process, drillers pump millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. But some of that water returns to the surface, and that wastewater needs to be dumped somewhere. Oil and gas companies support the allowance of river barges as a potentially cheaper transportation option for the wastewater. But environmentalists, emergency response experts and other critics argue a spill on the Ohio River could cause widespread damage as toxic wastewater flows down a river many communities tap into for drinking water.

Citing research from Pennsylvania fracking sites, some advocates argue Ohio officials should take another look at whether radiation from Ohio’s fracking operations is affecting surrounding landfills and aquifers.

Work at The Banks continues despite a debate over buildings’ heights.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center significantly improved outcomes for teens with asthma, according to a Pediatrics study.

Warning: Some Ohioans have been targeted by utility bill scams.

Ohio gas prices remained relatively steady at the start of the week.

Popular physicist Stephen Hawking argues there are no black holes, but other physicists appear skeptical of Hawking’s claims.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
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• News: @CityBeat_News
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by Nick Swartsell 10.16.2014 4 days ago
Posted In: News, Environment at 04:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
green_composte

City Will Drop Big Bucks to Clean Up Big Mess

As interest in sustainability increases, officials are at odds over who is to blame and what can be learned from Compost Cincy

It’s probably safe to call 80,000 tons of rotting meat and vegetables a big mess. In fact, I don’t want to live in a world where such a thing doesn’t qualify for “big mess” status. The deeper issue is what can be learned from such a mess and who will be held responsible.

Council voted Oct. 15 to spend $300,000 to clean up Compost Cincy, a former composting company created in Winton Hills in 2012 with the help of the city’s Office of Environment and Sustainability (OES).

Neighbors of the site have complained for the past year of unbearable odors. The company closed its doors in October 2013, but the smell remained. Now, the city is left with the bill for cleaning it up.

Composting takes food waste, and by rotating it and controlling its decomposition, converts it into soil. San Francisco was the first city to institute a municipal program when it started collecting compostable waste in 1996. Today, the city collects more than 600 tons of waste a day for composting. A number of other cities, including Portland, Ore., Seattle, Boulder, Colo., and other generally progressive places also have programs. If composting isn’t done correctly, though, allowing for the correct mixture of air to reach the refuse, you just end up with a progressively worse smell.

That seems to be what happened with Compost Cincy. Since 2012, the company accumulated 45 code violations from the city and two EPA citations. The city refused to renew its lease last year due to complaints about odor. One factor at play may have been the fact the company was doing outdoor composting. Many compost facilities are located indoors as a way to mitigate odor creation.

The OES will cover $220,000 of the cost of clean up with its budget, with another $80,000 coming from city contingency account. Mayor John Cranley pinned a good deal of the blame for the project’s failure on the city office.

“The origin of this entire organization is to combat odor,” Cranley said during an Oct. 15 City Council meeting. “So it’s pretty embarrassing that it was this office that came up with this compost mess in the first place. It’s a nightmare for the people who have had to go through this for a year."

Council voted 9-0 to fund the clean up effort. But Cranley’s remarks created a good deal of controversy around the role of the organization and the city’s efforts to establish sustainability programs.

The official mission of the office goes beyond odor control. The OES is charged with leading sustainability efforts in the city. That includes redeveloping brownfield sites around the city, helping run Cincinnati’s recycling program and protecting the city’s air quality. Council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Yvette Simpson and Chris Seelbach all chimed in to support the office.

“I want to stick up for the Office of Environment because I don’t think it’s their fault, or that they were in any way trying to emit odors on purpose in our city,” Seelbach said at the meeting. “Composting is something that there is a large demand for. The business, Compost Cincy, was actually doing really well because lots of people wanted to bring their compost there and buy the soil that it produces.”

Seelbach said zoning was the big issue, something the OES doesn’t control. Simpson said that the Office of Trade and Development, not the OES, selected the site. She said the office needs more support.

“We need more resources to the offices of sustainability to so we can get at least 10 years behind,” Simpson said, noting that Cincinnati is falling short of sustainability efforts made in other, comparable cities. She acknowledged that Compost Cincy was "poorly executed" but said that wasn't the fault of OES.

She praised the city’s recycling program and said the city should support more sustainability efforts, not mock failures. She pointed out that council and the mayor have been willing to support other endeavors that don’t guarantee success.

“We’re going to continue to have conversations about whether the city should support small businesses, and we just invested $5 million in Cintrifuse, which runs start ups,” she said. “Some may work, some may not, some stay in the city and some may leave, but there’s no question we should spend money on that.”

Cranley also faulted other OES initiatives, including the city’s infamously unpopular one garbage can policy.

“This came out of the same organization that said we should have meatless Monday and all kinds of bad ideas,” he said. “It seems like we should not be funding organizations who then end up creating multi-hundred-thousand-dollar cleanups.”

Councilman Kevin Flynn also had pointed questions about the project, but from a different angle.

“If this was a good business, then why is the city having to pay $300,000 to clean up this mess?” he asked. “We need to be able to go after the money that resulted from these people paying for dropping off their waste and the money from the people who were buying the dirt created by that waste. Under our current policy, we don’t have that ability to do it.”

Flynn said the structure of the business and the city’s agreement with it mean that owner Grant Gibson may not be liable for cleanup costs. Gibson told The Cincinnati Enquirer he had sunk about $500,000 into the business.

Meanwhile, Compost Cincy’s website is still live, though it states that the company is shuttered. In a somewhat passive aggressive farewell message, the owners also put some blame on the zoning process for the company's problems, though they say, in the end, location doesn’t matter as much as the attitudes of a composting project's neighbors. The site’s farewell missive seems to claim it was sunk by unfounded fears about composting.

“If our society doesn't move faster towards actually being green and not talking about it, our planet will be 100 percent wrecked of natural resources in the very near future,” the site says. “With that said, make the changes necessary to your life.”

 
 

 

 

 
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