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by German Lopez 12.17.2012
Posted In: Gun Violence, News, 2013 Election, Mayor, Budget, Economy at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dawn hochsprung

Morning News and Stuff

More on Newtown massacre, City Council passes budget, Dillingham to run for council

By now, most of you have heard there was another horrible mass shooting, this time in Newtown, Conn., that resulted in the death of 20 children and six adults. While everyone is hoping this is the last time the nation has to deal with an event of unspeakable horror, it is only a possibility if we agree to do something about it. That means remembering the heroes who risked their lives and, in some cases, died that day. That means not letting the media and public drop the issue, as has been the case in the past. That means looking at more than just gun control, including mental health services. The Washington Post analyzed what “meaningful” action on gun control would look like, and the newspaper also disproved the idea Switzerland and Israel are “gun-toting utopias.” President Barack Obama also spoke on the issue at a vigil Sunday, calling for the nation to do more to protect people, particularly children, from violence. The full speech can be watched here.

City Council approved its 2013 budget plan Friday. The budget relies on the privatization of city parking assets to help plug a $34 million deficit and avoid 344 layoffs. The budget also nixed the elimination of a tax reciprocity for people who lived in Cincinnati but worked elsewhere and paid income tax in both cities, and it continued funding the police department’s mounted unit. As a separate issue, City Council voted to increase the property tax by about 24 percent, reversing a move from conservatives in 2011. CityBeat wrote about budgets at all levels of government and how they affect jobs here.

Michelle Dillingham, who was an aide to former city councilman David Crowley, will seek Democratic support in a run for City Council. Dillingham promises to tackle “industry issues of mutual interest" to business and labor and “transportation funding, family-supporting wages and workforce development.”

At a recent public hearing, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed a “very easy” plan for the city budget. Only problem: His plan doesn’t work. In an email, Cranley said he stands by his ideas, but he added he was working with limited information and his statements were part of a two-minute speech, which “requires brevity.” He also claimed there are cost-cutting measures that can be sought out without privatizing the city’s parking assets and gave modified versions of his ideas regarding casino and parking meter revenue.

Judge Robert Lyons, the Butler County judge who sealed the Miami rape flyer case, is standing by his decision.

The Greater Cincinnati area is near the top for private-sector growth. 

Jedson Engineering is moving from Clermont County to downtown Cincinnati, thanks in part to an incentive package from City Council that includes a 45 percent tax credit based on employees earnings taxes over the next five years and a $300,000 grant for capital improvements. The company was a Business Courier Fast 55 finalist in 2008 and 2009 due to its high revenue growth.

Gov. John Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan is getting some support from Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, but others are weary. They fear the plan, which leverages the turnpike through bonds for state infrastructure projects, will move turnpike revenues out of northern Ohio. But Kasich vows to keep more than 90 percent of projects in northern Ohio.

Gas prices are still falling in Ohio.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is making some concessions in fiscal talks. In his latest budget, he proposed raising taxes on those who make more than $1 million a year.

One beagle can diagnose diseases by sniffing stool samples.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.14.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, Transportation, Economy at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

Governor reveals turnpike plan, city to approve budget, Kroger could buy Hostess brands

It’s official: Gov. John Kasich won’t privatize the Ohio Turnpike. Instead, the Republican governor wants to increase tolls at the rate of inflation and issue bonds backed by the turnpike’s profits to raise an estimated $3 billion for infrastructure projects — more than 90 percent of which will be in northern Ohio, where the turnpike is located. To ease the short-term burden of the plan, tolls for local passenger trips using E-ZPasses will be frozen at current levels for 10 years. In a video unveiling the announcement, Kasich says the projects could generate an estimated 75,000 jobs. To most, the plan, which will require approval from the legislature, probably seems like a fairly liberal proposal: use a public asset to leverage revenue, then use the revenue on a large, statewide stimulus program. But Democrats are criticizing the plan because they say the toll hike will hurt individuals, families and businesses that use the Ohio Turnpike. Let the eye-rolling at blatant politicking begin!

City Council is getting ready to approve the budget today. The final plan has made a few tweaks to City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposal. Parking privatization will remain, but the budget will provide a one-year stopgap in funding for Media Bridges. Previously, all of Media Bridges’ funding was being cut, which CityBeat wrote about here. The plan will also keep the mounted patrol unit, maintain income tax reciprocity and restore funding for human services and arts grants.

Will Cincinnati-based Kroger soon own Twinkies? It’s possible. The grocery store giant is considering buying Hostess brands in the aftermath of Hostess’ bankruptcy. CityBeat previously wrote about the Hostess bankruptcy here.

A study found a gap in Hamilton County’s housing stock. The report suggests the county doesn’t need any more housing than it already has; instead, it should build on current properties. The report also found vacant housing that isn’t for sale and serves no purpose has increased by 107 percent.

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has unveiled a new master plan. It’s proposing $450 million in projects.

The Hamilton County recorder’s office will remain open on Fridays. The office was previously planning to close every Friday due to funding cuts, but restored funds have made staying open possible.

In its last session of the year, the Ohio Senate approved redistricting reform 32-1. The House could not take up the measure before the end of the lame-duck session, but the vast bipartisan support could be a good sign for next year’s legislative session. Redistricting is widely used by politicians to redraw district boundaries in politically beneficial ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County, effectively diluting Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote in the district.

Ohio lost more residents than it gained last year, but the trend might be reversed by a growing economy. Economic improvements have already slowed down what Dayton Daily News calls an “exodus.”

A new Ohio law would increase the amount of auto insurance motorists are required to carry.

A drop in gas prices lowered U.S. consumer prices by 0.3 percent.

NASA discovered the largest river ever seen on another world. The river is on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and it is made up of hydrocarbons. The river is still unnamed, so I encourage everyone to email NASA to name the river the German Lopez River here.

Climate change isn’t just bad for humans. It will also hurt cuddly land mammals.

 
 
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 German Lopez 12.12.2012
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

Turnpike could remain public, asbestos bill passes, $150 million bid for parking services

The Ohio Turnpike will remain a public asset, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Many Ohioans have been worried Gov. John Kasich would attempt to privatize the Turnpike in order to pay for transportation projects; instead, the governor will try to generate revenue for state infrastructure projects elsewhere, perhaps by using the Turnpike’s tolls. Kasich will unveil his full plans Thursday and Friday.

The asbestos lawsuit bill is heading to Kasich to be signed. The bill attempts to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure. Supporters of the bill say it will prevent double-dipping by victims, but opponents say the bill will impede legitimate cases. Ohio has one of the largest backlogs of on-the-job asbestos exposure cases.

City Manager Milton Dohoney has released some of the potential bids for the city’s parking services, and one bidder is offering $100 to $150 million. Dohoney says the budget can only be balanced if parking services are privatized or the city lays off 344 employees. But Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is speaking out against the privatization of the city’s parking services. In a statement, Sittenfeld said, “Outsourcing our parking system robs the city of future revenue, and also will mean higher parking rates, longer hours of enforcement, and more parking tickets.”

LGBT rights are becoming “the new normal,” but not for Western & Southern or American Financial Group. In the 2012 Corporate Equality Index, the Human Rights Campaign gave 252 companies a 100-percent score for LGBT rights. Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble got a 90 percent, Macy’s got a 90 percent, Kroger got an 85 percent, Fifth Third Bank got an 85 percent, Omnicare got a 15 percent, American Financial Group got a 0 percent and Western & Southern got a 0 percent. The rankings, dubbed a “Buyer’s Guide,” can be found here.

The Sierra Club says Cincinnati has some of the best and worst transportation projects. In its annual report, the environmental group praised the Cincinnati streetcar, claiming the transportation project will attract residents and business owners. But the organization slammed the Eastern Corridor Highway project because of its negative impact on the Little Miami River and the small village of Newtown. The Sierra Club says the purpose of the report is to shed light on the more than $200 billion spent on transportation projects every year.

University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono is getting a 10-year contract.

The disease-carrying Walnut Twig Beetle has been discovered in southwest Ohio. The beetle is known for carrying Thousand Cankers Disease, which threatens the health of walnut trees. So far, no trees have been determined to be infected.

Ohio Gov. Kasich, Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will meet today to discuss funding for the Brent Spence Bridge project. If the bridge project starts in 2014, northern Kentucky and Cincinnati could save $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, according to the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition.

Following the defeat of Issue 2, the Ohio Senate is taking on redistricting reform, but opponents in the House say there isn’t enough time to tackle the issue. The current redistricting system is widely abused by politicians on both sides of the aisle in a process called “gerrymandering,” which involves politicians redrawing district lines in politically beneficial ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County, heavily diluting the impact of Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote.

Ohio employers are more aware of wellness than employers in other states, a new survey found. Wellness programs are one way employers can bring down health-care expenditures as cost shifting feels the pinch of diminishing returns.

However, Ohio ranked No. 35 in a nationwide health survey.

Ohio district didn't win federal Race to the Top education funds in the latest competition.

Internet cafe legislation is dead for the year. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus announced the legislation, which essentially puts Internet cafes and sweepstakes parlors out of business. State officials, including Attorney General Mike DeWine, have been pushing for regulations or a ban on the businesses because they see them as a breeding ground for criminal activity.

The final 2011-2012 school report cards will not be available until 2013. The report cards were originally delayed due to an investigation into fraudulent attendance reports.

Michigan may have approved its anti-union right-to-work law, but Ohio is not eager to follow. State Democrats are already preparing for a possible battle over the issue, but even Republican Gov. John Kasich says he’s not currently interested in a right-to-work law.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is loosening hazardous waste reporting requirements for companies. If the rules go into effect, regulated facilities will report on hazardous waste once every two years instead of once a year. The rule changes will get a public hearing on Dec. 19 in Columbus.

In a question-and-answer session Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asked, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” (Hint: The answer to both questions is yes.) The Supreme Court recently agreed to tackle the same-sex marriage issue. CityBeat wrote about same-sex marriage in Ohio here.

Dogs are now capable of driving, and parrots now have vehicles too. But can our new animal overlords shoot magic foam into the body to stop major bleeding? Because we can.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.11.2012
Posted In: Energy, Economy, News, Budget, Governor, Privatization at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich lacks re-election support, budget faces scrutiny, city increasing green incentives

For the first time since inauguration, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has a positive approval rating, but a plurality of registered voters say Kasich doesn’t deserve a second term. The Quinnipac University poll attributed the increase in Kasich’s approval rating to “high levels of satisfaction among Ohio voters with life in the Buckeye State.” About 42 percent of respondents approved of Kasich, while 35 percent disapproved. About 42 percent said Kasich doesn’t deserve a second term, while 36 percent said he does. The poll surveyed 1,165 registered voters with a margin of error of 2.9 percent.

Last night, Cincinnati held its final public hearing on City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposed budget. About 40 people spoke during the meeting, with many voicing concern about Media Bridges funding, which CityBeat recently covered here. The budget has also come under scrutiny due to its privatization of parking services, but Dohoney says the choice is privatization or 344 layoffs.

Cincinnati plans to bolster its green building incentives. City officials are trying to amend the city’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards to encourage higher levels of investment in green projects. Since LEED standards were first approved in 2009, they have been criticized for only offering strong incentives for lower levels of certification. The amendment seeks to make the higher levels of certification more appealing.

University Hospital is being renamed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

An “anti-immigrant bill” proposed by Cincinnati’s Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz is not being received well by Innovation Ohio. S.B. 323 seeks to limit workers’ compensation to illegal immigrants, but the Ohio policy research group is not sure that’s a legitimate problem. The organization is also worried the bill will impose a regulatory burden on the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and Ohio’s workers without providing extra funds and training to carry out the regulations.

Ohio is improving in its battle against human trafficking. The state earned a “C” and it was labeled “most improved” in a new report from the Polaris Project. But one state legislator wants to go further by placing tougher standards on “johns” participating in the sex trade. CityBeat previously wrote about the human trafficking problem in Ohio here.

The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved enough credits to help create about 500 jobs in Greater Cincinnati.

Michigan may have recently passed its anti-union “right-to-work” law, but Gov. Kasich does not share a similar interest.

Kasich will announce his changes to the Ohio Turnpike Thursday and Friday. The governor says his proposed changes will unlock “greater wealth,” but critics are worried Kasich is about to sell off a major public asset.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is still defending his decisions during the lead-up the election. Husted has now become infamous nationwide due to his pre-election record, which CityBeat wrote about here.

Even Jesus would be jealous. Science can now turn human urine into brain cells.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.10.2012
Posted In: Immigration, News, Economy at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
bill seitz

Workers’ Compensation Bill Under Scrutiny

Local state senator proposes bill to limit payments to illegal immigrants

An Ohio policy research group is taking offense to a local state senator’s “anti-immigrant bill.” If passed, S.B. 323, proposed in April by Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, would require workers to prove their legal status to work before receiving workers’ compensation, but Innovation Ohio says the bill reaches too far to solve a problem that might not even exist.

The bill was the topic of discussion at a Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee hearing on Nov. 27. At the hearing, supporters argued the bill would stop compensating illegal workers who aren’t supposed to be in Ohio to begin with. But opponents argue that the details in the bill add too many extra problems.

In fact, the bill might be going after a problem that doesn’t even exist. At an earlier hearing, Seitz, a Republican, said the state does not collect data on the immigration status of workers receiving compensation. To Brian Hoffman of Innovation Ohio, this means there’s no way to know if the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has ever compensated a single undocumented worker. “It just seems curious that this bill is being introduced and has gotten three hearings when there’s no proof that it’s actually even an issue,” he says.

Hoffman is also worried that the bill is imposing a new regulatory burden on BWC without providing additional funds. In his view, the state agency is essentially being told to do more without additional resources to prepare or train regulators. Considering how complicated the immigration issue can get, this makes Hoffman doubt the agency will be able to properly carry out the new regulations.

From a broader perspective, the bill imposes regulatory hurdles on all injured workers just so they can get compensation they're entitled to under state law. “Talk about kicking someone when they’re down,” Hoffman says.

But the burden could hit Hispanics even harder and lead to more discrimination in the workplace. After all, when employers are clearing legal statuses, who are they more likely to question, someone with a name like “Dexter Morgan” or someone with a name like “Angel Batista”?

In Hoffman’s view, the state should leave immigration issues to the federal government and worry about more pressing issues: “Why is the state legislature even wasting its time on the issue? There are plenty of really good ideas to bring jobs back to Ohio. Why aren’t they focused on those?”

The bill is still in committee, but it’s been the subject of multiple hearings. It’s unlikely the Ohio Senate will take it up in what’s left of the lame-duck session, but it could come back in the next year.

CityBeat was unable to reach Seitz for comment despite repeated attempts through phone and email, in addition to a scheduled interview that was canceled. This story will be updated if comment becomes available.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.10.2012
Posted In: Privatization, News, Budget, Courts, Economy, Casino at 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking privatization deal reached, rape flier case could be unsealed, casino revenue drops

The city of Cincinnati and its largest city employees union have reached a deal regarding the privatization of the city’s parking assets. Under the deal’s terms, the city will give raises and not lay off anyone for three years, but only if the city’s parking assets are privatized. However, the head of a Clifton community group is still not happy with the privatization plan. He says the plan is bad for business because it limits the amount of affordable parking in the area. But would laying off 344 city employees be better for business?

The identity of the Miami University student who put up the infamous “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier may soon be revealed. The Ohio Supreme Court will decide by Dec. 14 whether the case should be unsealed and open to public view. Robert Lyons, the Butler County part-time judge who sealed the case, has faced scrutiny in the past few months for conflicts of interest regarding drinking-and-driving cases.

Revenue from casinos in Toledo and Cleveland is dropping. The numbers paint a bad picture for Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials expecting budget problems to be solved by casino revenue.

A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare recipients in Ohio resurfaced last week. Republican legislators claim the requirement will save the state money, but a similar proposal in Florida added to budget woes as the state was forced to pay for drug tests.

Ohio’s ultra-wealthy population is growing. About 1,330 Ohioans are worth $30 million or more, an increase of 2 percent since 2011, according to a report from Wealth-X. The news could shape Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cut the income tax using revenue from a higher oil-and-gas severance tax, perhaps encouraging state officials to make the cut more progressive.

Gov. Kasich is ending the practice of giving so many tax credits to keep businesses in Ohio. The move could potentially cost the state jobs as businesses move to other areas with bigger, better incentives, but state officials and the business community don’t seem too worried for now.

If the Ohio government agencies were forced to cut their budgets by 10 percent, the results would not be pretty. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would have to close prisons, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would have a tougher time enforcing new regulations on fracking.

Ohio’s exotic animal law is facing a challenge in federal court today. Exotic animal owners claim the law violates their First Amendment and property rights by forcing them to join private associations and give up their animals without compensation. They also do not like the provision that requires microchips be implanted into the animals. The Humane Society of the United States is defending the law, which was passed after a man released 56 exotic animals and killed himself in 2011.

An Ohio court said a business tax on fuel sales must be used on road projects.

Ohio gas prices are still dropping.

The cure for leukemia could be a modified version of the AIDS virus.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.07.2012
 
 
milton dohoney

City, Union Reach Deal Over Parking Privatization

City workers would get raises, protection from layoffs if City Council approves parking plan

In order to win the support of the largest city employees union for the leasing of Cincinnati’s parking facilities, the city administration has agreed to pay raises and no layoffs for three years.

There’s a catch — municipal employees only get the raises and job security if the city’s parking meters, garages and surface lots are leased to a private company for 30 years.

City Manager Milton Dohoney wants to lease the facilities for at least $40 million upfront and a share of parking profits for the next 30 years. He’d use $21 million of the upfront payment to patch a $34 million deficit in the city’s budget.

During recent budget hearings before City Council, Dohoney said extra revenue was needed to avoid the layoff of 344 city employees.

In a memo to the mayor and city council members, Dohoney outlined the agreement between the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Any municipal employees who will lose their jobs because of the deal would be placed in other city jobs with no loss of wages. No city employees covered by the union would be laid off between 2013 and 2016. City employees will receive a 1.5 percent cost of living raise for the 2013-2014 contract year and another 1 percent raise for the next contract year. AFSCME members will continue city vehicle maintenance work from 2013-2016. 

However, if City Council doesn’t approve of the plan to privatize parking, city employees get nothing. 

Public employees in Cincinnati have not been given raises in almost four years. Meanwhile, council voted last month to give Dohoney a 10 percent raise and a $35,000 bonus. Dohoney had not received a merit raise since 2007, but had collected cost of living adjustments and bonuses over the years.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.06.2012
 
 
img_20121206_143508

Activists Urge Boehner to Make Pentagon Cuts

Statement of principles presented to staffer outside of West Chester office

Activists gathered on Thursday outside of the West Chester office of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, asking the House’s top official to look at reducing military spending when coming up with a budget.

The group of nearly two dozen — which included nuns, a veteran, a retiree advocate, a small businessman and progressive activists — held signs reading, “It is time for Nation Building in the United States. Cut Massive Pentagon Budget Now!” and “End Tax Breaks for Richest 2%.”

“We’re here today in front of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s West Chester office to drive home the fact that we believe that over 50 percent of the budget magically, this elephant in the House, has failed to be discussed as we discuss taking away services that provide human needs,” said David Little of Progress Ohio.

“Any discussion that fails to address excesses in that budget is failing the American people.”

Little added that it was possible to support the troops and veterans without spending billions on pointless wars.

Butler County attorney and Navy veteran Bruce Carter said the military can be more efficient in what he called the changing mission.

“When you refuse to have a discussion on over half of the budget, that’s like trying to tell the Bengals to win a game without going over the 50 yard line,” he said.

The group had a letter to deliver to Boehner, which contained what they called a statement of principles.

“We believe in a holistic approach to the budget crisis, and in order to protect the middle-class, cuts to the Pentagon need to be at the forefront,” the letter states. “We understand that Pentagon cuts are a controversial issue, however, Pentagon cuts in the sequester do not threaten our national security.”

The letter suggests that some of the money currently being spent on the Defense Department goes to providing services for veterans.

The military accounted for about 52 percent — or $600 billion — of discretionary spending in fiscal year 2011.

In contrast, education, training and social services collectively made up 9 percent of the budget.

The group of four activists weren’t allowed into Boehner’s office, but a young staffer met them outside. He said that the speaker thought everything should be on the table when it came to budget cuts.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.06.2012
Posted In: Energy, Environment, Economy, News at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
solar panels

Report Pushes Solar Cincinnati

Environment Ohio touts renewable energy’s health, job benefits

A Dec. 5 report is encouraging Cincinnati to become the solar energy capital of Ohio and the broader region. The report, titled “Building a Solar Cincinnati,” was put together by Environment Ohio to show the benefits and potential of Cincinnati regarding solar power.

Christian Adams, who wrote the report along with Julian Boggs, says Cincinnati is especially poised to take charge in this renewable energy front, in contrast to the rest of the state, which gets 82 percent of its electricity from coal. Adams points to the sustainability-minded city officials and public, a “budding solar business sector” and the great business environment as the city as reasons why Cincinnati could become a pivotal leader.

With 21 public solar installations to date, the city has already seen some of the benefits of solar power. The most obvious benefit is cleaner air, which leads to better overall health and helps combat global warming. But the report points out that local solar initiatives mean local jobs. “You can’t export these jobs,” Adams says. “It’s a great opportunity for economic revitalization.”  

With solar energy comes an array of job opportunities for solar installers, solar designers, engineers, construction workers, project managers, sales associates and marketing consultants. That’s enough to create brisk job creation. The report points out “energy-related segments of the clean economy added jobs at a torrid pace over the last few years, bucking trends of the Great Recession.”

Still, there are hurdles. Although solar energy saves money in the long term, installing solar panels has a high upfront cost. The cost can make the short term too bleak for many potential customers.

To help overcome the short-term problem, the report suggests third-party financing. In these financing agreements, customers agree to give up roof space to have a solar power company install solar panels, and then customers agree to buy their power needs from the company. It’s a win for the solar power company because the panels eventually pay for themselves through new customers, and it’s a win for the customer because he sees more stable, lower energy costs and cleaner air. Adams points out that a few businesses and individuals in the area have already taken part in such  agreements with great success. 

There are also some incentives already in place to encourage solar energy. Ohio’s Clean Energy Law, which was passed in 2008, pushes utility companies into the renewable energy market with Solar Renewable Energy Credits. These are credits utility companies must earn to meet annual benchmarks by installing solar panels or purchasing them from third parties. Duke Energy has followed the law’s requirements by establishing its own renewable energy credit program.

Ohioans also have access to some tax breaks — the Energy Conversion Facilities Sales Tax Exemption, Air-Quality Improvement Tax Incentives and Qualified Energy Property Tax Exemptions — and loan programs — the Energy Loan Fund and Advanced Energy Fund — that encourage solar and other renewable energy sources.

Larry Falkin, director of the city’s Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ), says the report didn’t have much new information, but he’s glad it can be used to push solar energy to the broader public. He touted the benefits of job creation and reducing reliance on foreign energy sources by moving toward energy independence.

For now, the city is mostly taking the approach of leading by example. Falkin says the city is acting like a “model” for solar energy. Cincinnati added solar installations to two city facilities this year, and another will be added by the end of the month. Falkin’s office is also working together with different organizations to keep any momentum going.

Adams and Falkin both attended a Dec. 5 roundtable discussion that engaged regional officials, including solar businesses, environmental and sustainability groups, education leaders and the Cincinnati Zoo. They both said the roundtable went well.

“I think all the right people are coming together and doing the right things to try to move us forward,” Falkin says.

 
 

 

 

 
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