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by German Lopez 10.18.2012
 
 
yesonissue2

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

In case you missed it, CityBeat is hosting a party for the final presidential debate at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. There will be live tweeting, and Councilman Chris Seelbach will be on-hand to discuss this year's key issues. Even if you can’t come, make sure to live tweet during the presidential debate using the hashtag #cbdebate. More info can be found at the event’s Facebook page.

A new study found redistricting makes government even more partisan. The Fair Vote study says redistricting divides government into clear partisan boundaries by eliminating competitive districts. In Ohio, redistricting is handled by elected officials, and they typically use the process for political advantage by redrawing district boundaries to ensure the right demographics for re-election. Issue 2 attempts to combat this problem. If voters approve Issue 2, redistricting will be taken out of the hands of elected officials and placed into the hands of an independent citizens commission. The Republican-controlled process redrew the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, by adding Warren County to the district. Since Warren County typically votes Republican, this gives an advantage to Republicans in the First Congressional District. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting reform effort here.

Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel will face off in another debate for Ohio’s seat in the U.S. Senate today. The two candidates met Monday in a feisty exchange in which the men argued over their records and policies. Brown and Mandel will face off at 8 p.m. The debate will be streamed live on 10TV.com and Dispatch.com. Currently, the race is heavily in Brown’s favor; he is up 5.2 points in aggregate polling.

Cincinnati is moving forward with its bike sharing program. A new study found the program will attract 105,000 trips in its first year, and it will eventually expand to 305,000 trips a year. With the data in hand, Michael Moore, director of the Department of Transportation and Engineering, justified the program to The Business Courier: “We want Cincinnatians to be able to incorporate cycling into their daily routine, and a bike share program will help with that. Bike share helps introduce citizens to active transportation, it reduces the number of short auto trips in the urban core, and it promotes sustainable transportation options.”

Cincinnati’s school-based health centers are showing promise. Two more are scheduled to open next year.

Echoing earlier comments by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, Ohio Senate Republicans are now talking about using the lame duck session to take up a bill that would set standard early voting hours and tighten voting requirements. Republicans are promising broad consensus, but Democrats worry the move could be another Republican ploy at voter suppression. Republicans defend the law by saying it would combat voter fraud, but in-person voter fraud isn’t a real issue. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office found zero examples of in-person voter fraud in the last 10 years. Another investigation by News21 had similar results. Republicans have also justified making voting tougher and shorter by citing racial politics and costs.

A Hamilton County judge’s directive is causing trouble. Judge Tracie Hunter sent out a directive to hire a second court administrator because she believes the current county administrator is only working for the other juvenile judge. The county government is trying to figure out if Hunter has the authority to hire a new administrator.

This year’s school report card data held up a long-term trend: Public schools did better than charter schools. In Ohio, the average charter school meets slightly more than 30 percent of the state’s indicators, while the average traditional public school meets 78 percent of the state’s indicators, according to findings from the education policy fellow at left-leaning Innovation Ohio. The data for all Ohio schools can be found here. 

Some in the fracking industry are already feeling a bit of a bust. The gas drilling business is seeing demand rapidly drop, and that means $1 billion lost in profits. CityBeat wrote in-depth about the potential fracking bust here.

Ohio student loan debt is piling up. A report by Project on Student Debt says Ohio has the seventh-highest student loan debt in the nation with an average of $28,683 in 2011. That number is a 3.5 percent increase from 2010.

What if Abraham Lincoln ran for president today?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could soon be reality. Scientists are developing a drug that removes bad memories during sleep.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.08.2012
 
 
levy

Commissioners Vote to Keep Senior, Mental Health Levies Flat

Tax levies will stay at 2008 levels, representing millions in reduced funding for services

Faced with the choice of raising property taxes or funding senior and mental health services at their current levels, the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners voted on Wednesday to approve a ballot measure that would effectively cut tens of millions of dollars from those services if passed by voters.

“It seems wrongheaded for us to ask citizens to pay more in taxes when their homes are worth less, when costs have gone up in their households and when in many cases their paychecks are down,” said Board President Greg Hartmann. “So we need to hold the line on those property taxes.”

The tax rate would be held at the levels passed by voters in 2008, which would be an effective reduction due to declining property values. If Hamilton County voters approve the levies in November, senior services would see a $7 million reduction in funding over the next five years — down to $97 million from $104 million — while funding for mental health services would fall $17 million from $187 million to $170 million, Hartmann said.

The money funds services such as meals on wheels, in-home care for seniors, counseling and drug and alcohol addiction and treatment services.

The board’s sole Democrat — Commissioner Todd Portune — made the symbolic gesture of submitting an alternate proposal which would have funded services at the levels providers had requested, but it failed without support from either of the board’s two Republican members.

Portune’s resolution would have increased property taxes by $5 for every $100,000 the property was worth. He said voters should be given the option to shoulder the additional tax burden. He later voted in favor of Hartmann’s resolution, saying the worst thing that could happen would be for voters to approve no levy.

Commissioners also approved a resolution to formally review all healthcare services provided by the county in hopes of saving money by eliminating any that were duplicated at the federal level under the healthcare overhaul.

Hartmann said he didn’t come to the decision to keep the levies at the current rate lightly and pledged to work with the recipients to manage the reduction.

Many of those providers appeared at three public hearings held in the last month and with near unanimity asked commissioners to approve the increased rates — which would have kept funding even by countering the money lost from decreased property values.

Patrick Tribbe, president and CEO of the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, didn’t outline specific cuts the agency would undertake, but told reporters after the commissioners’ vote that he would spend the next six months planning for the start of the next fiscal year, when the cuts would take effect.

The Tax Levy Review Committee had recommended that the property tax rate remain flat instead of increasing. It suggested that service providers reduce their administrative costs and find areas to increase efficiency. 

Many of the providers who spoke at the public hearings said they had already cut administrative costs about as deeply as they could and had very little room for to cut further.

 
 
by Danny Cross 12.20.2011
 
 
couple-on-picnic

Morning News and Stuff

If you're one of those people who enjoys relaxing in a public park, maybe eating a sandwich and enjoying the lush greenspace Cincinnati has grown proud of, that's all well and good. (Bring a blanket and some apples; enjoy yourself.) That is, until you get a little sleepy and want to lie down on the ground or a bench — that's illegal now.

The Cincinnati Park Board yesterday approved a no-lying down rule across all of its 5,000 acres of park land, likely in response to ongoing Occupy Cincinnati lawsuits over the legality of closing the park at night. People who lie down in parks are now subject to $150 fines for the misdemeanor offense.

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by German Lopez 10.16.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Voting, News, Courts at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Supreme Court Rejects Husted's Early Voting Appeal

Voting on weekend and Monday before Election Day must include all Ohioans

The U.S. Supreme Court says it will not take up Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's early voting appeal. With the decision, Ohio must allow all voters to vote on the weekend and Monday before Election Day — a right previously reserved for military personnel and their families.

The news comes just a week after Husted promised to appeal a ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which said if early voting will take place on the three days before Election Day, boards of elections must make sure all Ohioans can use the opportunity.

However, some ambiguity is left in the process as different county boards of elections decide on voting hours. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said it's up to Husted and individual county boards when and even if Ohioans will vote on the three days. If there is a tie vote in the county boards, Husted will be the tie breaker.

When he announced his intention to appeal the appeals court ruling, Husted said in a statement that he will ensure Ohio has uniform early voting rules and hours no matter the outcome of the appeal: “While I will be asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Ohio law through the appeals process, the last thing I want to see is a non-uniform system where voters will be treated differently in all 88 counties. Since some boards of elections have already started to take action on hours of operation for the three days before Election Day, I am going to take time to consult with all 88 counties before crafting a directive to set uniform hours should the state not be successful upon appeal.”

UPDATE (1:30 P.M.): Husted sent out a directive to county boards of elections enforcing uniform voting hours for the three days before Election Day. On Saturday, booths will be open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. On Monday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.25.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Environment, News, Weather at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
250px-seal_of_the_state_auditor_of_ohio.svg copy

Morning News and Stuff

A performance audit for the Cincinnati Service Department could save the city $3.7 million. The audit claims $2 million could be saved every year if the city privately contracted solid waste collection and street sweeping. An additional $1.7 million could be saved if the city reduced overtime, sick leave and staffing levels. Along with other recommended savings measures, the changes could amount to 7.9 percent of Cincinnati’s budget.

Trayvon Martin’s parents will be visiting Cincinnati today to take part in the national conference hosted by the Children’s Defense Fund. The conference will target violence and race-related issues.

Procter & Gamble and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have teamed up to improve environmental sustainability at manufacturing facilities and supply chains.

The worst U.S. drought in half a century is putting pressure on oil and gas companies to recycle and conserve water used for fracking. Fracking uses millions of gallons of water to free oil and gas from underground rock formations.

Gay marriage has generated $259 million in economic activity in New York City.

The Congressional Budget Office said repealing Obamacare would increase the deficit by $109 billion.

Voters sometimes punish politicians for bad weather.

Some scientists are saying the plot of The Amazing Spider-Man might not be too far off from reality.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.15.2012
 
 
milton dohoney

Council Approves Raise, Bonus for City Manager

Opponents argue unwise with looming deficit; Dohoney's last raise in 2007

City Council took a contentious vote on Thursday to give the city manager a pay raise and a bonus.

Those in favor of the 10 percent raise and $35,000 bonus for Milton Dohoney say he is underpaid, has done a great job for the city and has gone five years without a merit raise. Those opposed say it’s bad timing and sends the wrong message when many city workers have also gone years without a pay increase.

Dohoney was hired in August 2006. He hasn’t received a merit raise since 2007, but has collected bonuses and cost of living adjustments over the years. He currently makes about $232,000 and the raise would bump that up to $255,000. Dohoney made $185,000 when he started the job.

Council approved the raise on a 6-2 vote, with councilmen Christopher Smitherman and Chris Seelbach voting against it.

Before the vote, Mayor Mark Mallory lauded the manager, saying he set high expectations and didn’t expect Dohoney to meet them, but the manager exceeded all of them.

To do anything other than that (approve the raise) is a backhanded slap in the face and actually a statement that we want the manager gone,” Mallory said. “We are going to give him a raise. And from where I sit we’re not giving him a big enough raise.”

The raise came from a performance review conducted by Democratic council members Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and sole council Republican Charlie Winburn.

Winburn said the city manager’s financial management system is impeccable, Dohoney has pushed economic development, he has expanded the tax base and made sacrifices by not receiving a raise for the previous five years.

Other members of council pointed out that Dohoney isn’t the only city employee who has gone a while without a raise.

“For me, look, 4 years ago I turned down a job at Google where I’d be making a hell of a lot more money,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld told 700WLW radio host Scott Sloan. “This is public service. This is already the city’s highest-paid employee.”

Sittenfeld missed the council meeting Thursday afternoon because he was out of town on a personal matter, according to an aide.

Sittenfeld and others have raised questions over whether it is wise to give Dohoney a raise and bonus when the city faces an estimated $34 million budget deficit. Councilman Wendell Young said the raise would not hurt the budget.

Opponents also argued that it would look bad to give the manager a raise when other city employees are dealing with wage freezes. Police, for instance, agreed during contact negotiations this year to a two-year wage freeze. Though they received a raise in 2009.

Smitherman said city employee unions may keep that in mind during upcoming negotiations.

"Unions are going to remember this council extended a $35,000 bonus to the city manager.”

 
 
by German Lopez 11.05.2012
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Morning News and Stuff

Today is the last day of in-person early voting. Find your correct polling booth here. Check out CityBeat’s endorsements here.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is under fire for alleged voter suppression once again. In response to recent court rulings on provisional ballots, Husted sent out a directive on Nov. 2 that shifts the burden of proper identification during the provisional ballot process from poll workers to voters. The directive may not even be legal, according to a lawsuit quickly filed by voters’ rights activists in response to the new rule: “Ohio Rev. Code § 3505.181(B)(6) provides that, once a voter casting a provisional ballot proffers identification, ‘the appropriate local election official shall record the type of identification provided, the social security number information, the fact that the affirmation was executed, or the fact that the individual declined to execute such an affirmation and include that information with the transmission of the ballot.’”

President Barack Obama was at the University of Cincinnati yesterday to make a closing argument to Ohioans. In his speech, Obama compared his own ideas and policies to those of Bill Clinton, while comparing Mitt Romney’s ideas and policies to those of George W. Bush. With just two days of voting left, all eyes are on Ohio as it could play the decisive role in the presidential election. In aggregate polling, Obama is up 2.9 points in Ohio and 0.4 points nationally. FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times’ election forecast model, has Obama at an 86.8 percent chance to win Ohio and an 86.3 percent chance to win the election.

Early voters packed polling places around the state yesterday. The line around the Hamilton County Board of Elections wrapped around the entire building for much of the day. Butler County had a lot of early voters as well. Early voting was only available to all Ohioans yesterday thanks to a lawsuit from Obama and Democrats, which opened up in-person early voting during the weekend and Monday before Election Day despite strong opposition from state Republicans.

Election Day may be tomorrow, but the entire process may not be finished at the end of the day. In 2008, Ohio took weeks to count the last 490,852 ballots.

Slate reenacted the entire presidential campaign, from finding the Republican nominee to today, through video games.

The groundwork is already being laid out for an amendment legalizing same-sex marriage in Ohio, which could be on the ballot as soon as November 2013.

Some in northeast Ohio are still without power due to Hurricane Sandy’s fallout. Most people affected are in Cleveland and surrounding suburbs.

Ohio gas prices are dropping.

Early results from air quality tests show no signs of pollution near shale gas drilling wells. But the results are early, and more tests are ongoing. CityBeat wrote in-depth about fracking and concerns surrounding the process here.

The deadline for Ohio’s exotic animal registration is today. The new requirement came about after an Ohio man released 50 exotic animals, including some dangerous predators, shortly before committing suicide in 2011.

A lonely Asian elephant learned how to speak some Korean, and scientists want to know how and why.

 
 
by Danny Cross 05.29.2012
 
 
ts

Morning News and Stuff

The Ohio Supreme Court late last week dismissed a legal challenge by the Campaign to Protect Marriage, which had filed a motion challenging the attorney general’s authority to verify a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow same-sex marriage. The Freedom to Marry coalition is collecting the necessary signatures to put a repeal of the state’s 2004 amendment that only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman on the ballot in 2013.

City Councilman Wendell Young says there’s nothing secret about a plan to combine the region’s water and sewer agencies even though most people assumed to be needed for approval know little about it. The Enquirer today detailed a plan to integrate the Metropolitan Sewer District, Stormwater Management Utility and Greater Cincinnati Water Works, potentially by September, in an attempt to save money. The plan will reportedly be shared with Council June 20.

Mitt Romney’s campaign plans to go after the stimulus, while Dems want to know why he won’t renounce questions about Obama’s citizenship (maybe because they came from Donald Trump?).

Seems like the John Edwards trial is never going to end. Day seven of deliberations begins today.

The U.S. could be one of the countries to benefit from the growth of natural gas use during the next 20 years, potentially reducing the importance of Middle East energy production.

Common painkillers might help protect against skin cancer. Bring on the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen!

There was a face-chewing attack in Miami over the weekend. And the chewer was naked. Seriously.

Google Chrome was the world’s top browser in May. Thought you knew.

If commercial space flights are going to be basting up onto the moon, NASA says they’ll have to stay off the spots where historical things happened.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.25.2012
 
 
pit bull

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati City Council took the first step Tuesday in repealing the city's ban on owning Pit Bull terriers. Council's Livable Communities Committee voted 5-1 to support repeal, saying it was unfair to single out a specific breed for harsher treatment. Experts have said Pit Bulls aren't inherently vicious, and that their treatment and training by their owners is responsible for any bad behavior. Councilman Cecil Thomas opposed the repeal, stating he was concerned about “enforcement issues.” The full City Council could make a final decision as soon as this afternoon. CityBeat examined the ban in-depth here.

Police Chief James Craig met Tuesday morning with 19 ministers and community leaders in an Avondale church. Craig wants to create a partnership with clergy to combat youth violence and shootings. It was the second such session that Craig has held this month. Since police presence was increased in Avondale April 2, no more shootings have occurred in the neighborhood.

A Cincinnati police officer was hospitalized after being hurt for the second time on the job. Officer Jerry Enneking has survived four car crashes while on-duty. The 23-year police veteran was rear-ended in a five-car crash Tuesday. Seeing another driver trapped, Enneking ignored his own injuries and helped rescue the person.

Tim Tebow, the prayerful quarterback for the New York Jets, will be in town today for two events at Cincinnati Christian University in Price Hill. The first already is sold out, but there are $500 tickets still available for a banquet. Both events will focus on how Tebow balances his life in the NFL with his faith.

The School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in Over-the-Rhine is being awarded a $45,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The SCPA competed with more than 300 other groups for the cash, which will be used to support the school's Master's Artist Series and Artists in Residence programs for the next school year.

In news elsewhere, an ex-drilling engineer for BP Oil has been arrested on charges of intentionally destroying text messages sought by federal authorities as evidence in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. The charges of obstruction of justice filed against Kurt Mix, in the Eastern District of Louisiana, are the first criminal charges connected to the oil spill. If found guilty, Mix could face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each count.

As expected, Willard Mitt Romney swept the five Republican presidential primaries held Tuesday. The former Massachusetts governor got 67.4 percent of the vote in Connecticut, 56.5 percent in Delaware, 62.4 percent in New York, 58 percent in Pennsylvania, and 63.2 percent in Rhode Island. Most of the other GOP contenders have conceded the nomination race to Romney.

During the presidency of George W. Bush, the United States had the worst job creation record in decades, suffered the worst recession since the Great Depression and borrowed billions of dollars from China to support two wars. If you've been wondering how Romney or other Republican politicians running for office would do anything differently, wonder no more. Alexandra Franceschi, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said in an interview last week that the GOP's economic platform will be the same as that under Bush, just “updated.” There, voters: You have been warned.

A Brooklyn district attorney is resisting a public records request to divulge the names of 85 Orthodox Jews arrested on sex charges there during the past three years. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes says the "tight-knit" nature of the Orthodox community makes it impossible to disclose the identities of abuse suspects without also identifying their victims. A Jewish newspaper might file a legal challenge to the decision.

Despite numerous cuts to government spending in the name of austerity — or perhaps because of it, if you listen to some economists — the United Kingdom has now officially sunk into a double-dip recession, its first since the 1970s. Economic indicators reveal the U.K. economy has performed even more weakly since the current financial crisis began than in the Great Depression.

 
 
by Danny Cross 11.08.2011
 
 
_56583244_newpairafp

Morning News and Stuff

Happy Election Day! It looks like SB 5 is headed for a big defeat even though Gov. Kasich last night told a bunch of East Side Tea Partiers how cool it would be if Issue 2 passed, while a union representative told opponents of the bill that it was about to get “shoved down the throats of John Kasich and the Republicans.

The Hamilton County Administrator yesterday said “sorry homeowners, but our stadium deficit will not allow us to offer the tax credit Republicans said would make up for your part of the stadium sales tax.” Commissioners Todd Portune and Chris Monzel today said they're going to include the credit even though they don't know how yet. Hopefully they can figure it out soon so they can work on adding public housing to the suburbs before the county gets sued by the Feds.

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