In the tradition of Nostradamus, the internet is full of predictions for 2009. Here are some of the best.
1. From the Psychics & Mediums Network's Craig and Jane: There will be a knife attack on a top celebrity. This UK site is obviously casting a wide net, and since the damn liberals in the UK long ago disarmed the honorable hunters and everyone else a knife attack does seem more likely.
Cincinnati native Kathleen Sebelius is leaving her job as Kansas governor to become the new Secretary of Health and Human Services. President Obama announced her appointment this afternoon at the White House.
She fills the cabinet spot originally intended for former Sen. Tom Daschle.
In the past few days, local media outlets have reported heavily on a supposed conflict between Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and the city of Cincinnati. Essentially, SORTA wants the transit fund limited, while the city government says it doesn’t want to “undermine the city charter” with limitations.
At its heart, the argument is a political back-and-forth with little consequence. It’s two government agencies at a small divide over legalese in an intergovernmental agreement about how the streetcar will operate and how it will be funded.
The specific issue is SORTA, which runs the Metro bus
system and will operate the streetcar, wants to include phrasing in its
agreement with the city that makes it so the transit fund can’t be used
for the streetcar. In a 7-6 vote Tuesday, SORTA's board pushed its preferred wording along with an application for an $11 million federal grant that will help fund the streetcar.
But the city government claims the limitation would go against the spirit of the city charter, which says the transit fund can be used for “public transit purposes generally and without limitation.”
UPDATE: City Council on Wednesday passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the streetcar, although it has no legal standing preventing council from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar.
Still, Mayor Mark Mallory’s office has insisted time and time again that funding for the streetcar’s construction and operation is already allocated, so taking any money from the transit fund will be unnecessary. Specifically, the city will tap into casino revenue to operate the streetcar, on top of the $11 million federal grant.
In an op-ed for The Cincinnati Enquirer Monday, Mallory said the real issue goes back to an ongoing lawsuit between SORTA and the city. In 2010, the city diverted money from the transit fund to pay for street lights. That prompted a lawsuit from SORTA, asking the courts to define the limits of the transit fund.
The mayor’s office sees the wording from SORTA as an attempt from the transit agency to score a minor victory in the legal battle. If the city government accepted the wording, it would be agreeing to a limited transit fund, which is essentially what SORTA wants.
SORTA’s wording also makes it so all transit fund money will continue going to the Metro bus system, which is the agency’s sole service today.
But even SORTA says the disagreement is getting blown out of proportion by media outlets and public officials. Sallie Hilvers, spokesperson for SORTA, says the wording in the approved agreement was the board’s attempt to ensure the transit fund isn’t used for the streetcar, but, for the most part, it’s “really just procedures.”
Hilvers insisted the disagreement over wording has plenty
of time to be worked out, and it will not hinder collaboration between
the city of Cincinnati and SORTA.
The agreement will need to be worked out before summer 2013 for the streetcar to stay on track.
Here they go again. Republicans are renewing their anti-abortion agenda in Ohio. Two of the governor’s October appointments have been criticized by a pro-choice group, and the state legislature is now considering a new version of the heartbeat bill.
Yesterday, Senate President Tom Niehaus told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the Ohio legislature, in cooperation with anti-abortion groups, is giving another look at the heartbeat bill. When the heartbeat bill was first suggested, many on the left labeled it the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. If it became law, the bill would have banned abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically visible in ultrasounds by the sixth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.
Legislators and anti-abortion groups aren’t offering specifics on the new bill. Ohio Right to Life opposed the heartbeat bill when it was first suggested because the group believed it was too likely to fail in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld abortion rights in Roe v. Wade in 1973. The new version of the heartbeat bill will likely be retooled to sustain any court challenges.
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, says Republicans haven’t taken the right lessons from the Nov. 6 election: “It’s clear that they didn’t get the memo. Pro-choice Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to re-elect President Obama and reject this war on women. Here we are, we haven’t even made it to the weekend, and our senate president is resuming attacks on women’s reproductive health care.” She added, “I think they didn’t care what Ohio women thought before the election, and it’s clear they don’t care now either.”
In response to questions about whether the governor will support a new heartbeat bill, Rob Nichols, spokesperson for Republican Gov. John Kasich, said in an email, “We are watching the Senate’s activity closely.”
A few appointments from Kasich have also come under scrutiny. On Oct. 12, Kasich appointed Marshall Pitchford, a board member at Ohio Right to Life, to a committee in charge of filling a vacancy in the Ohio Supreme Court. On Oct. 29, Kasich appointed Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life president, to serve a five-year term on the State Medical Board of Ohio, which is in charge of the state’s medical regulations.
In a statement, Copeland criticized the appointment to the Supreme Court committee: “Because legislation promoted by Ohio Right to Life is likely to come before the Ohio Supreme Court, it is inappropriate for Pitchford to be placed in a position where he can cherry-pick a justice to serve on that court.”
She also criticized the appointment of Gonidakis to the State Medical Board. Copeland says she’s “concerned” that he’s on the board to regulate and restrict access to abortions. “No group in the state of Ohio has done more to interfere with the private medical decisions of Ohio women,” she says. “For their leader to now be on the State Medical Board is completely inappropriate and disturbing.”
She added that the two appointments show Kasich is “playing a more active role in the war on women than Ohioans realize.”
According to Gonidakis’ biography on the Ohio Right to Life website, Gonidakis went to school for law at the University of Akron. No professional medical experience is noted.
Nichols said in an email the appointments should come as no surprise: “The governor believes strongly in the sanctity of human life, so it's a surprise that someone would be surprised that he practices what he preaches.”
The folks over at Gallup have told us something that some Cincinnatians already believe: Kentucky is a shitty place to live.
The Bluegrass State was ranked as the third-worst in the nation for livability because of its residents' affinity for tobacco, disinclination to go to the gym and for never seeming to find the time to go to the dentist.
The poll asked more than 500,000 adults questions about economic confidence, job creation, whether their bosses treated them like partners rather than underlings, whether they had been to a dentist in the last year and how easy it is to find clean drinking water.
Poll respondents also ranked Kentucky 49th for “learned something new yesterday,” and enough Kentuckians complained about finding a safe place to exercise to earn it the 47th rank.
Our friends and neighbors to the south fell amongst such company as West Virginia, Mississippi and Nevada.
Now before we Ohioans get too smug, we were ranked the ninth worst state for future livability.
We were near dead last (47th) for “city/area ‘getting better’ minus ‘getting worse’ ” and 45th for “low obesity.”
The top three states for future livability were places where nobody actually lives Utah, Minnesota and Colorado. Apparently they all like brushing their teeth and exercise more than the Tristate.
The study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found salaried workers fared much better than hourly workers, and all-cause mortality was below expectations for them despite increased malignancies in blood, bone marrow, spleen, lymph nodes and thymus cells.
Hourly workers weren’t so lucky, according to the study. They had above-average cancer mortality rates in comparison to the rest of the U.S. population, but tests only provided evidence for a connection between hourly workers and intestinal cancer.
Previous studies also found a link between non-malignant respiratory disease and exposure to radiation, but the NIOSH study found no such connection. The discrepancy could be due to “improved exposure assessment, different outcome groupings and extended follow-up” in the NIOSH study, according to the study’s abstract.
The NIOSH study followed 6,409 workers who were employed at Fernald for at least 30 days between 1951 and 1985, following them through 2004.
Fernald was initially surrounded by controversy in 1984 when it was revealed that it was releasing millions of pounds of uranium dust into the atmosphere, causing radioactive contamination in surrounding areas. The controversy was elevated when Dave Bocks, an employee at the factory, mysteriously disappeared and was later found dead at a uranium processing furnace. Some suspected Bocks was murdered for allegedly being a whistleblower, but no evidence of foul play was ever officially recorded.
The scion of a Cincinnati political dynasty is starting to make it big in Hollywood.
Jesse Luken, the grandson of ex-Congressman Tom Luken and the nephew of former Mayor Charlie Luken, has recently landed notable roles on TV and film.
Luken recently had a recurring role on the third season of Justified on the FX cable network. He played Jimmy, a Mohawk-wearing young thug in the gang led by Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins).
Now Luken has been cast in 42, the big-screen biopic about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. Luken will portray Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman Eddie Stanky in the film, which is due to be released on April 12, 2013. The release is timed to coincide with MLB's Jackie Robinson Day, held every April 15 to commemorate the date in 1947 when Robinson played his first game with the Dodgers.
The film, named after the number worn by Robinson, also features Chadwick Boseman in the title role; Harrison Ford as Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, who signed Robinson; and Christopher Meloni as Dodgers manager Leo Durocher.
Luken is a Colorado Springs, Colo., native who previously had guest roles on the TV series NCIS, Law and Order: L.A. and Greek.
The study found that mortality rates in the three states were
collectively 6.1 percent lower than states that did not expand Medicaid.
The decreased mortality rate mostly benefited older adults, nonwhites
and residents of poor counties.
Since they could only look at Arizona, New York and Maine, researchers cautioned that the results might not be reflective of how a Medicaid expansion would work in every state. However, previous research has shown similar results. Earlier this year, results for the ongoing Oregon Health Study were released with more positive implications for people on Medicaid — happier people, better self-reported health and stronger financial security.
Despite the evidence, Gov. John Kasich has recently said he will wait on his decision to expand Medicaid. As part of the Affordable Care Act — also known as “Obamacare” — states are being asked to expand their Medicaid coverage to a new federal standard of 133 percent of the poverty line. The federal government would completely fund the expansion between 2014 and 2016. Afterward, states would have to pick up 10 percent of the cost, and the federal government will pay the rest.
Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor have said the expansion, which state officials estimate would add 400,000 Ohioans to Medicaid enrollment, is too expensive for the state. On June 28, Taylor told The Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Quite frankly we're not sure where we're going to get the money from to cover the additional obligation of spending, let alone have the discussion about the expansion of Medicaid.”
But some research has suggested that the Medicaid expansion would actually save states money by mitigating the cost of having so many uninsured people. The Arkansas Department of Human Services claims the state would save $378 million by 2025 with the Medicaid expansion. Most of the savings would come from uncompensated care — costs that are placed on health institutions and state and local governments when uninsured patients that can’t and don’t pay use medical services. The Urban Institute released a study in 2011 with similar results.
Ohio is not the only state to show skepticism toward the Medicaid expansion. After the Supreme Court released its decision upholding Obamacare, state officials in Texas and Florida said they will not take part in the Medicaid expansion. State governments have until Nov. 10 to make a final decision on whether or not they will take part in the Medicaid expansion.
Ohioans might not give it much thought outside of paying the water bill, but better water infrastructure can make cities more efficient, healthier and cleaner. That’s why Green For All, a group that promotes clean energy initiatives, is now focusing on cleaner, greener water infrastructure.
A little-known green conference took place in Cincinnati Oct. 15-17. The Urban Water Sustainability Leadership Conference was in town on those three days, and it brought together leaders from around the U.S. to discuss sustainable water programs for cities. The conference mostly focused on policy ideas, success stories and challenges faced by modern water infrastructure.
For Green For All, attending the conference was about establishing one key element that isn’t often associated with water and sewer systems: jobs. Jeremy Hays, chief strategist for state and local initiatives at Green For All, says this was the focus for his organization.
Hays says it’s important for groups promoting better water infrastructure to include the jobs aspect of the equation. To Hays, while it’s certainly important for cities to establish cleaner and more efficient initiatives, it’s also important to get people back to work. He worries this side of water infrastructure policies are “often left out.”
He points to a report released by Green For All during last year’s conference. The report looked at how investing the $188.4 billion suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to manage rainwater and preserve water quality in the U.S. would translate into economic development and jobs: “We find that an investment of $188.4 billion spread equally over the next five years would generate $265.6 billion in economic activity and create close to 1.9 million jobs.”
To accomplish that robust growth and job development, the report claims infrastructure would have to mimic “natural solutions.” It would focus on green roofs, which are rooftop areas with planted vegetation; urban tree planting; rain gardens, which are areas that use vegetation to reduce storm water runoff; bioswales, which are shallow, vegetated depressions that catch rainwater and redirect it; constructed wetlands; permeable pavements, which are special pavements that allow water to pass through more easily; rainwater harvesting, which uses rain barrels and other storage devices to collect and recycle rainwater; and green alleys, which reduce paved or impervious surfaces with vegetation that reduces storm water runoff.
The report says constructing and maintaining these sorts of programs would produce massive growth, especially in comparison to other programs already supported by presidential candidates and the federal government: “Infrastructure investments create over 16 percent more jobs dollar-for-dollar than a payroll tax holiday, nearly 40 percent more jobs than an across-the-board tax cut, and over five times as many jobs as temporary business tax cuts.”
Hays says the jobs created also don’t have barriers that keep them inaccessible to what he calls “disadvantaged workers”: “A lot of these jobs that we’re focused on in infrastructure, especially green infrastructure, are much more accessible. They require some training and some skills, but not four years’ worth because it’s skills that you can get at a community college or even on the job.”
Beyond jobs, Green For All supports greener infrastructure due to its health benefits. Hays cited heat waves as one example. He says the extra plants and vegetation planted to support green infrastructure can help absorb heat that’s typically contained by cities.
Hays’ example has a lot of science to stand on. The extra heating effect in cities, known as the urban heat island effect, is caused because cities have more buildings and pavements that absorb and contain heat, more pollution that warms the air and fewer plants that enable evaporation and transpiration through a process called evapotranspiration. The EPA promotes green roofs in order to help combat the urban heat island effect.
Hays says green infrastructure also creates cleaner air because trees capture carbon dioxide and break it down to oxygen. The work of the extra trees can also help reduce global warming, although Hays cautions that the ultimate effect is probably “relatively small.”
But those are only some of the advantages Hays sees in green infrastructure. He says green infrastructure is more resilient against volatile weather events caused by global warming. With green infrastructure, storm water can be managed by systems that collect and actually utilize rainwater to harvest clean water. Even in a world without climate change, that storm water management also reduces water contamination by reducing sewer overflow caused by storm water floods, according to Hays.
However, green infrastructure is not without its problems. Hays acknowledges there are some problems with infrastructure systems that require more year-over-year maintenance: “The green and conventional approach is more cost effective over time, but the way you have to spend money is different. So we need to look at the way we finance infrastructure, and make sure we keep up with innovative technologies.”
Specifically, green infrastructure relies less on big capital investments and more on ongoing maintenance costs. Hays insists the green infrastructure saves money in the long term with efficiency and by making more use out of natural resources, and the Green For All report supports his claim. But it is more difficult to get a city or state legislator to support long-term funding than it is to get them to support big capital expenditures, Hays says.
Education is also a problem. To a lot of people, the green infrastructure on rooftops and other city areas might seem like “pocket parks,” says Hays. But these areas are nothing like parks; they are meant to absorb and collect rainwater. If the public isn’t educated properly, there could be some confusion as to why the supposed “pocket parks” are flooded so often. Providing that education is going to be another big challenge for public officials adopting green infrastructure, according to Hays.
So what, if anything, is Cincinnati doing to adopt these
technologies? In the past, city legislators have looked into rainwater
harvesting systems, but not much information is out there. On Thursday, CityBeat will talk to city officials to see how Cincinnati is moving forward.