As cities rush to solve major problems with water infrastructure, newer technologies are being touted by city agencies as cheaper, cleaner solutions. In two different local projects, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) and a City Council task force are looking into green ways to solve the city’s water needs.
On Wednesday, CityBeat covered some of the benefits and downsides of green water infrastructure. According to the report reviewed Wednesday, green water infrastructure is cheaper and does create a boon of jobs, but it faces some funding and education problems. However, it was unclear how the green ideas would translate into Cincinnati.
Tony Parrott, executive director of MSD, says despite the challenges, green infrastructure is clearly the cheaper option. The organization is partnering with local organizations to adopt a series of new projects — among them, green roofs, rain gardens, wetlands — to meet a new federal mandate that requires MSD to reduce the amount of sewer overflow that makes it into local rivers and streams.
“That is a very costly mandate,” he says. “Our belief is that green infrastructure and sustainable infrastructure will allow us to achieve a lot of those objectives a lot cheaper than your conventional deep tunnel systems or other gray type of infrastructure.”
Of course, conventional — or “gray” — infrastructure still
has its place, but adopting a hybrid of green and gray infrastructure
or just green infrastructure in some areas was found to be cheaper in
MSD analyses, according to Parrott.
Plans are already being executed. On top of the smaller projects that slow the flow of storm water into sewer systems, MSD is also taking what Parrott calls a “large-scale approach to resurrect or daylight former streams and creeks that were buried over 150 years ago.” This approach will rely on the new waterways to redirect storm water so it doesn’t threaten to flood sewers and cause sewer overflow, Parrott says.
The programs are being approached in a “holistic way,” according to Parrott. MSD intends to refine and reiterate on what works as the programs develop. However, that comes with challenges when setting goals and asking for funding.
“We think that if you’re going to use a more integrated approach, it may require us to ask for more time to get some of these projects done and in the ground and then see how effective they are,” Parrott says.
If it all plays out, the ongoing maintenance required by the green approach could be good for the local economy, according to Parrott: “With the green and sustainable infrastructure, you’re creating a new class of what we call green jobs for maintenance. The majority of those jobs are something local folks can do as opposed to the conventional process.” Additionally, the green jobs also tend to benefit “disadvantaged communities” more than conventional jobs, according to Parrott.
The argument is essentially what Jeremy Hays, chief strategist for state and local initiatives at Green For All, told CityBeat on Wednesday. Since the green jobs require less education and training, they’re more accessible to “disadvantaged workers,” according to Hays: “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.”
While MSD fully encourages the use of rain barrels, recycling will not be a top priority for MSD’s programs. Instead, that priority goes to the Rainwater Harvesting Task Force, a City Council task force intended to find ways to reform the city’s plumbing code to make harvesting and recycling rainwater a possibility.
Bob Knight, a member of the task force, says there is already a model in place the city can use. The task force is looking into adopting the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) in Cincinnati. The code will “prescriptively tell” architects and engineers how to design a rainwater harvesting system. In other words, IGCC would set a standard for the city.
Deciding on this code was not without challenges. At first, the task force wasn’t even sure if it could dictate how rainwater is harvested and recycled. The first question Knight had to ask was, “Who has that authority?” What it found is a mix of local agencies — Greater Cincinnati Water Works, MSD and Cincinnati Department of Planning — will all have to work together to implement the city’s new code.
The task force hopes to give its findings to Quality of Life Committee, which is led by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, by the end of November.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The final debate for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat is tonight. Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel will meet in Cincinnati to continue a feisty exchange of ideas and sometimes insults. In the last debate, the candidates drew sharp contrasts on policy, which CityBeat covered in-depth here. The final debate will be tonight at 7 p.m. on all Ohio NBC news stations, including WLWT.com. In aggregate polling, Brown is currently up 5.2 points against Mandel.
Want to see what a biased headline from a local newspaper looks like? Here you go, from Business Courier:
Romney win would boost economy, economist says. Strangely enough, the article says re-electing President Barack Obama could also lift the economy, which makes the misleading headline even worse. Unfortunately for the newspaper, Obama is currently leading by 2.1 points in
Ohio against Mitt Romney, and the state will play a pivotal role in the
election. Romney is leading by 0.6 points nationally.
A group is trying to convince Cincinnatians to vote no on Issue 4. The initiative, which is on 2012’s ballot, would extend City Council terms from two to four years. Supporters of Issue 4 say it lets City Council focus more on passing laws and less on campaigning, but opponents say it makes it more difficult to hold City Council accountable.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Robert Cupp is distancing himself from a TV ad put out by the Ohio Republican Party that depicts his Democratic opponent, William O’Neill, as sympathetic to rapists. Liberal blog Plunderbund called the ad “tone deaf,” referencing recent instances of Republican senatorial candidates turning rape into a legitimate issue. The Republican Senate candidate for Indiana, Richard Mourdock, recently said during a debate, “I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Previously, the Republican Senate candidate for Missouri, Todd Akin, told reporters when discussing pregnancy caused by rape, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
CityBeat looked at some of the benefits and downsides of green water infrastructure yesterday. Basically, it’s going to produce more jobs and economic growth, but it’s going to require long-term commitment and education. Later today, CityBeat will be talking to some city officials of how that green infrastructure can be adopted in Cincinnati.
Hamilton County’s budget is tight, and that means no wage hike for county workers anytime soon, according to Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann.
Gov. John Kasich is taking his time in filling an open Board of Education seat. Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, says, “We just want to get the right person.” But state law requires the seat be filled within 30 days, and the seat has been vacant for a month.
An Ohio judge said provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct and polling location must still be counted.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble beat Wall Street expectations, easing concerns from skeptical investors.
Huntington National Bank is relaunching its credit card business in a move that will produce 250 new jobs, and Greater Cincinnati is expected to land some of those jobs.
Ohio is getting a little love from Airbus. The aerospace company will be getting more of its parts from Ohio manufacturers. Cincinnati-based GE Aviation is already Airbus’ biggest U.S. supplier.
A new health care report found health providers often
cover up mistakes in fear of retaliation. The report also found health
care has been slow at embracing the “culture of safety.”
Apparently, strict parents raise conservative kids.
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.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
A City Council committee approved $13.5 million that will be going to Over-the-Rhine development. Of that money, $6 million will go to the second phase of the Mercer Commons project, which is being developed by Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The rest will help 3CDC redevelop 18 different buildings that are mostly around Washington Park. City Council will vote on the funding today.
Cincinnati’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent, but the drop was mostly attributed to people leaving the labor force. Between September 2011 and September 2012, Cincinnati’s labor force has actually shrunk. Still, more people were employed in September 2012 than were employed in September 2011.
The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is asking Cincinnati for $8.5 million to secure a Jordan Crossing shopping center project at Bond Hill. The funds would pay for the demolition, site preparation, marketing and redevelopment of the project.
In the second wave of interim results from an ongoing investigation into Ohio schools’ attendance data reporting, State Auditor Dave Yost found no evidence of attendance scrubbing in schools with levies on the 2012 ballot. The investigation included Cincinnati Public Schools, which means CPS was found to be clean. In a statement, Yost said, “I’m surprised and pleased. To have zero incidents of ‘scrubbing’ is encouraging news.” The full findings for both interim reports can be found here.Clifton is set to get a neighborhood grocery store soon. The neighborhood has been without one since January 2011. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee helped spur the new project with a tax abatement program.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners held a budget hearing yesterday, but not much new information came out. Board President Greg Hartmann insists public safety is a priority, but he says the sheriff’s office will have to deal with some across-the-board cuts. The cuts won’t include closing the jail, decreasing courtroom security or eliminating contracts with townships for patrols. The board has two more public meetings on Oct. 29 and 30.
The controversial billboards accused of attempting to suppress voters are being taken down by Norton Outdoor Advertising, the Cincinnati company that hosted the billboards. Meanwhile, P.G. Sittenfeld and Lamar Advertising Company, a different billboard company, are putting up 10 billboards that read, “Hey Cincinnati, voting is a right not a crime!” The new billboards are supposed to encourage voting.
The University of Cincinnati has a new president: Santa Ono. The official promotion was unanimously approved by the UC Board of Trustees. Ono has been serving as interim president since Aug. 21, when former President Greg Williams suddenly resigned due to “personal reasons.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer is being accused of age discrimination in a recently amended lawsuit. In the lawsuit, eight former employees claim they were fired and replaced with younger, less qualified employees.
A new rumor is going around that says it’s possible to tamper with voting results, but fact checkers and election officials are saying it’s not possible. The rumors started due to the Romneys’ investments in an electronic voting company.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Here is a list of some of the department’s accomplishments: The amount of rivers meeting aquatic life standards went from 21 to 89 percent between the 1980s and today, carbon monoxide in the air is down 80 percent since the 1970s, sulfur dioxide is down 71 percent, lead is down 95 percent and 99 percent of community public water systems now meet health standards, up from 85 percent in 1993.
Miami University says it will discipline two students responsible for putting up an offensive flyer about getting away with rape in a coed dorm bathroom.
Metro revealed its plans for an Uptown Transit District. The district, which will cost Metro $6.9 million, is meant to better suit the needs and growth of Uptown.
Two Democratic state lawmakers are planning legislation to slow down the privatization of the Ohio Turnpike. Gov. John Kasich’s administration is currently paying $3.4 million to KPMG, a private consulting and accounting firm, to study whether leasing the turnpike to the highest private bidder would benefit the state. Kasich says he could use the money saved for transportation projects all around the state. But northern Ohio residents do not seem happy with giving up a valuable asset they helped invest in, especially if the revenue from the Ohio Turnpike goes to regions outside of northern Ohio.
There's more evidence sushi sucks. Popular Science has an article and graph showing how raw food kept primates stupid.
With 1,500 people leaving the labor force in one month, Cincinnati had a seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.9 percent in September, according to new data released today by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. The city’s unemployment is still above the unadjusted rate of 6.4 percent for Hamilton County and Greater Cincinnati.
For Cincinnati, that’s a 0.7 percent drop from August’s unemployment rate, which was revised upward to 7.6 percent. However, most of that drop comes from the 1,500 people who left the labor force, which combines the number of unemployed people looking for work with the amount of employed people. About 400 less Cincinnatians were employed in September than they were in August.
The new numbers show Cincinnati’s labor force was actually smaller in September than it was in September 2011. Back in September 2011, the labor force was made up of 144,800 people. In September 2012, it was 144,500. Still, more people are working in September 2012 than they were in September 2011; in that time frame, the employment number went up from 131,200 to 134,500.
Both Greater Cincinnati and Hamilton County also had mixed numbers. They both saw their seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates drop from 6.8 to 6.4 percent between August and September, but both saw their labor forces and employment numbers shrink as more people quit looking for work and left the work force.
However, Hamilton County and Greater Cincinnati had their labor forces and employment numbers grow between September 2011 and September 2012, effectively making the gains throughout the year positive.
One bright spot for Cincinnati is its seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate remains below the U.S. rate of 7.6 percent. It remains above Ohio’s unadjusted rate of 6.5 percent, however.
The unemployment numbers are calculated through a household survey. The unemployment rate measures the amount of unemployed people looking for work in contrast to the total labor force. Since the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in later months. The state and federal numbers are typically adjusted to fit seasonal employment patterns to give a more consistent rate.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.0 percent in September despite employers cutting 12,800 jobs. The rate is much lower than September's national unemployment rate of 7.8 percent. Ohio actually lost jobs in manufacturing, construction, education, health services, government and other sectors, with some gains in professional and business services, information services and trade, transportation and utilities. The new rate is a big improvement from the 8.6 percent unemployment rate in September 2011. This is the last state unemployment rate Ohioans will see before the Nov. 6 election.
The second debate for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat took place last night. As usual, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel held back no punches. Each candidate mostly focused on attacking his opponent’s integrity and record, but the men also discussed a multitude of issues — the economy, China, Obamacare, foreign policy, gay rights and more. Check out CityBeat’s in-depth coverage of the debate and the policy proposals espoused by the candidates here.
The final presidential debate between President Barack
Obama and Mitt Romney will take place next Monday. The debate will cover foreign
policy. Presumably, the debate will focus a lot on Iran, but Foreign Policy
has an article focusing on five bigger threats to U.S. national
security. Although the debate could be important for substance,
political scientists say debates typically have little-to-no electoral
impact. In aggregate polling, Obama is up 2.4 points in Ohio
and Romney is up one point nationally. Ohio is considered a must-win for Romney, and it could play the role of 2000's Florida.
To make the debate more fun, CityBeat will host a party at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine Monday. Come join the CityBeat team to watch the debate and live tweet. Councilman Chris Seelbach will also show up and talk for a bit. If you can’t show up, feel free to tweet about the debate at home with the hashtag #cbdebate. For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.
Ohio Senate Democrats are demanding an investigation into a voter fraud group. The Democrats say True the Vote (TTV), a conservative group, is unnecessarily intimidating voters. TTV claims it’s just fighting voter impersonation fraud, but the reality is that kind of voter fraud doesn’t seem to exist. A study from the Government Accountability Office found zero cases of voter impersonation fraud in the past 10 years. Another study from News21 found 10 cases since 2000, or less than one case a year.
Meanwhile, a local group is trying to encourage Muslim voters to get educated and vote.
The Cincinnati Police Department is trying to improve relations with the LGBT community. As part of that effort, the city hosted a LGBT public safety forum and named the first LGBT liaison yesterday.
A federal appeals court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which forbids the recognition of same-sex marriage at a federal level. The ruling was praised by Ian James, spokesperson for FreedomOhio, in a statement: “The federal DOMA forbids allowing governmental recognition of civil marriage. The demise of the federal DOMA will not resolve Ohio’s ban on marriage equality. For this reason, we will soldier on, collect our petition signatures and win the right for committed and loving couples to be married so they can better care for and protect their families. That is ultimately why marriage matters and we look to have this issue on the ballot as soon as November 2013.”
With a week left, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati fundraising campaign has only met 70 percent of its goal. The campaign acknowledges it’s been a tough year, but campaign chairman David Joyce says he has been “heartened” by support.
The University of Cincinnati is committing to giving Cintrifuse $5 million initially and $5 million at a later point. Cintrifuse is a “startup accelerator,” meaning a company devoted to helping startup businesses get started.
Ohio health officials urge caution as they monitor a meningitis outbreak.
Ohio’s heating assistance program for low-income households is starting on Nov. 1. Qualifying for the program is dependent on income and the size of the household. For example, one-person households making $5,585 or less in the past three months or $22,340 or less in the past 12 months are eligible, while four-person households must be making $11,525 or less in the past three months or $46,100 or less in the past 12 months. For more information, check out the press release.
Kentucky is pitching into development at the Purple People Bridge. The state is boosting a $100 million hotel and entertainment project on the bridge with a $650,000 grant.
The Boy Scouts’ “perversion files” were released, and some of the sexual molestation cases involve Cincinnati.
Science finally has a breakthrough to care about. Scientists invented a strip that ensures pizza and coffee won't burn a person's mouth.
For a full hour Thursday night, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel continued their feisty fight for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat. For the most part, the debate centered on the candidates’ records and personal attacks, with policy specifics spewing out in between.
Apparently, the barrage of attacks is not what the candidates had in mind before the debate started. Throughout the debate, both candidates asked for substance, not attacks. At one point, Brown said, “I appreciate this clash of ideas. That’s what this debate should be about.” At another point, Mandel said, “We need less attacking, and we need more policy ideas to put people back to work.”
These comments came well into the debate. By that time, Mandel had criticized Brown for “Washington speak” so many times that an exasperated Brown quipped, “I don’t get this. Every answer is about Washington speak.”
Brown also launched his own attacks, which focused on Mandel’s dishonesty on the campaign trail, which previously earned Mandel a “Pants on Fire” crown from Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, and Mandel, who is also Ohio’s treasurer, missing state treasurer meetings to run for political office.
But Ohioans have seen enough of the attacks in the hundreds of campaign ads that have bombarded the state in the past year. Voters probably want to hear more about how each candidate will affect them, and the candidates gave enough details to get some idea of where each of them will go.
On economic issues, Brown established the key difference between the two candidates’ economic policies: Mandel, like most of his Republican colleagues, believes in the trickle-down theory. The economic theory says when the rich grow, they can create jobs by hiring more employees and expanding businesses. In other words, proponents of the theory believe the success of the rich “trickles down” to the middle class and poor through more job opportunities. Belief in this theory is also why most Republicans call the wealthy “job creators.” Under the trickle-down theory, the wealthy are deregulated and get tax cuts so it’s easier for them to create jobs.
On the other hand, Brown says he supports a middle-out approach, which focuses on policies that target the middle class. That is how sustainable employment and growth are attained, according to Brown. Under the middle-out approach, tax cuts and spending policies target the middle class, and the wealthy own a higher tax burden to support government programs.
Some economists, like left-leaning Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, say the trickle-down theory should have been put to rest with the financial crisis of 2008. After all, deregulation is now credited with being the primary cause of 2008’s economic crisis. In that context, more deregulation seems like a bad idea.
Still, Brown’s contrast to Mandel holds true. Brown has
repeatedly called for higher taxes on the rich. In the debate, he touted his
support for the auto bailout and once again mocked Mandel’s promise to not
raise any taxes. These are policies that do end up benefiting the middle class
more than the wealthy. The auto bailout in particular has been credited with
saving thousands of middle-class jobs.
On the other side, Mandel told debate watchers to go to his website and then offered some quick talking points: simplify the tax code, end Wall Street bailouts and use Ohio’s natural gas and oil resources “in a responsible way.” How Mandel wants to simplify the tax code is the issue. On his website, Mandel says he supports “a flatter, fairer income tax with only one or two brackets, eliminating almost all of the credits, exemptions and loopholes.” A study by five leading economists suggests a flat tax model would greatly benefit the wealthy and actually hurt the well-being of the middle class and poor. That matches with the trickle-down economic theory.
Another suggestion on Mandel’s website says, “Help job creators. Reduce capital gains and corporate taxes, and allow for a small business income deduction.” The small business portion would help some in the middle class, but an analysis from The Washington Post found 80 percent of capital gains incomes benefit 5 percent of Americans and half of all capital gains have gone to the top 0.1 percent of Americans. So a capital gains tax cut would, again, match the trickle-down economic theory.
What all this means is on economic issues the choice of candidates depends mostly on what economic theory a voter believes. Brown believes in focusing economic policies that target the middle class, while Mandel mostly supports policies that generally support what he calls “job creators” — or the wealthy.
On partisanship, both sides once again threw out different ideas. Although he was asked for three ideas, Brown only gave one: fix the filibuster. The filibuster is a U.S. Senate procedure that allows 41 out of 100 senators to indefinitely halt any laws. The only way to break the filibuster is by having a supermajority of 60 senators — a rarity in American politics. Brown said if this rule was removed, a lot more could get done in Congress.
Mandel had different ideas for stopping partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. He touted his support for No Budget, No Pay, which would require members of Congress to pass a budget in order to get paid. He also expressed his support for term limits, saying lifelong politicians only add to the partisanship in Congress. Then, in a strange twist, Mandel’s last suggestion was to stop bailouts, which has nothing to do with partisanship or gridlock in Congress.
Then came Obamacare. Brown said he was “proud” of his vote and continued supporting the law, citing the millions of Americans it will insure. Meanwhile, Mandel responded to the Obamacare question by saying, “The federal government takeover of health care is not the answer.”
The fact of the matter is Obamacare is not a “government
takeover of health care.” Far from it. The plan doesn’t even have a public
option that would allow Americans to buy into a public, nonprofit insurance
pool — an idea that actually has majority support in the U.S. Instead,
Obamacare is a series of complicated reforms to the health insurance industry.
There are way too many reforms to list, but the most basic
effect of Obamacare is that more people will be insured. That’s right, in the
supposed “government takeover of health care,” insurance companies actually gain
more customers. That’s the whole point of the individual mandate and the many
subsidies in Obamacare that try to make insurance affordable for all Americans.
Mandel made another misleading claim when he said Obamacare “stole” from Medicare, with the implication that the cuts hurt seniors utilizing the program. It is true Obamacare cuts Medicare spending, but the cuts target waste and payments to hospitals and insurers. It does not directly cut benefits.
The one area with little disagreement also happened to be the one area with the most misleading: China. It’s not a new trend for politicians to attack China. The Asian country has become the scapegoat for all economic problems in the U.S. But in this election cycle, politicians have brandished a new line to attack China: currency manipulation. This, as Ohioans have likely heard dozens of times, is why jobs are leaving Ohio and why the amount of manufacturing jobs has dropped in the U.S. In fact, if politicians are taken at their word, it’s probably the entire reason the U.S. economy is in a bad spot.
In the Brown-Mandel debate, Brown repeatedly pointed to his currency manipulation bill, which he claims would put an end to Chinese currency manipulation. Mandel also made references to getting tough on China’s currency manipulation.
One problem: China is no longer manipulating its currency. There is no doubt China greatly massaged its currency in the past to gain an unfair advantage, but those days are over, says Joseph Gagnon, an economist focused on trade and currency manipulation. Gagnon argues the problem with currency manipulation is no longer a problem with China; it’s a problem with Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. If the U.S. wants to crack down on currency manipulation, those countries should be the targets, not China, he argues.
In other words, if currency manipulation is a problem, Mandel was right when he said that countries other than China need to be targeted. To Brown’s credit, his currency manipulation bill targets any country engaging in currency manipulation, not just China. The problem seems to be the misleading campaign rhetoric, not proposed policy.
The debate went on to cover many more issues. Just like the first debate, Brown typically took the liberal position and Mandel typically took the conservative position on social issues like gay rights and abortion. Both touted vague support for small businesses. Each candidate claimed to support military bases in Ohio, although Mandel specified he wants bases in Europe closed down to save money. As far as debates go, the contrast could not be any clearer, and the candidates disagreed on nearly every issue.
The final debate between the two U.S. Senate candidates will take place in Cincinnati on Oct. 25.
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.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The second presidential debate between President Barack
Obama and Mitt Romney took place last night. The general consensus from the
media is Obama won. Although the victory will likely inspire an Obama
comeback narrative for some political pundits, keep in mind political
scientists say debates typically have little electoral impact. But
debates can reveal substance, and The Washington Post has an
article “footnoting” the policy specifics from the debate. As of today,
aggregate polling shows Obama up in Ohio by 2.2 points and Romney up
nationally by 0.4 points. Ohio is widely considered a must-win for
Romney. Obama and Romney will have their final debate next Monday. CityBeat will be hosting an event at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine during the debate. More info can be found on the event’s Facebook page.
The Ohio Department of Education released its remaining
school report card data today. The data is meant to give Ohioans a clear
picture as to whether schools are improving. The data was delayed due
to an ongoing investigation into attendance rigging at Ohio schools. In
the new report card data, Cincinnati Public Schools was downgraded from
“Effective” in the 2010-2011 school year to “Continuous Improvement” in
the 2011-2012 school year. The new mark is still positive, but it is a
Down goes Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s early voting appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. With the Supreme Court refusing to take up Husted’s appeal, Ohio must allow all voters to vote on the weekend and Monday before Election Day. Husted also sent out a directive enforcing uniform voting hours for the three days. 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.
It seems City Council action was not enough to get Duke
Energy to budge on the streetcar. The local energy company says it wants
an operating agreement before it starts construction work. On Sept. 24,
City Council passed a funding deal that shifted $15 million from the
Blue Ash airport deal to the streetcar and established $14 million
through a new financing plan. The city says it will get the $15
million back if it wins in the dispute with Duke. The city claims it’s
Duke’s responsibility to pay for moving utility pipes and lines to
accommodate for the streetcar, but Duke insists it’s the city’s
The University Board of Trustees is expected to approve Santa Ono as UC’s new president. Ono has been serving as interim president ever since Greg Williams abruptly resigned, citing personal reasons.
The Horseshoe Casino is really coming along. Casino owners are already booking meetings and events for spring 2013.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital announced a big breakthrough in combating muscular dystrophy. The hospital claims it successfully installed a device in a patient with Duchenne muscular dystrophy that allows the patient’s heart to pump blood to the body in the long term.
With Gov. John Kasich's recommendation, Ohio universities will have cheaper, quicker options for students. A new provision will require 10 percent of bachelor’s degrees from public universities to be completable in three years instead of four.
Ohio’s attorney general wants help in solving an unsolved
double homicide in Cincinnati. Attorney General Mike DeWine has recently
fixated on cold cases — previously unsolved cases that could be solved
with new information and tools.
Scientists found an earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest to our solar system.
In the first of three debates for Ohio’s seat in the U.S.
Senate, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh
Mandel agreed on little and clashed on a lot. Each candidate mostly focused on the opposing candidate's record, but the debate today did move to substantial differences in policy at some
The debate started with opening statements from a noticeably feisty Brown, who criticized Mandel for calling his vote for the auto bailout “un-American.” On the other side of the aisle, Mandel began his opening statement with a joke about shaving before he turns 36. The joke was the last time either of the men spoke with a light heart.
The candidates blasted each other mostly for their records. Mandel touted Ohio's and the nation’s higher unemployment rate since Brown took office in 2006, energy prices and the U.S. debt. He also said the Senate had not passed a budget in three years, although Congress has actually passed budget resolutions in that time.
Brown fired back with claims Mandel had filled the state treasurer’s office with cronies. He also criticized Mandel for running for four different political offices in seven years. In his closing statement, Brown said Mandel is “too concerned about running for his next job” to be trusted.
On substance, Brown and Mandel criticized just about everything about each other. Brown claimed Mandel signed away his “right to think” by agreeing to lobbyist Grover Norquist’s pledge to not raise taxes while in office. He said the pledge makes it so if Mandel does take office, he’ll never be able to close tax loopholes for big corporations.
Mandel defended the pledge by saying, “I’m proud to stand
for lower taxes in our state and lower taxes in our country.” He added, “I will
do everything I can to advocate for lower taxes across the board for the middle
class and job creators as well.”
The term “job creators” is typically used in politics to reference wealthy Americans, who Republicans claim create jobs through the theory of trickle-down economics. The economic theory states that wealthy Americans will hire more lower-class Americans if they have more money and freedom, essentially creating a trickle-down effect on wealth from the rich to the poor. Although Republicans still tout the theory, some economists, including Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, say the financial crisis of 2008 and the deregulation that led to it prove trickle-down economics do not work.
The candidates also debated their positions on the auto bailout. Mandel said he would not have voted for the auto bailout if he was in the Senate in 2009. In his defense, he cited the experience of Delphi workers, who lost part of their pensions as part of the deal auto companies made with workers after the federal bailout. Mandel then said, “I’m not a bailout senator. He’s the bailout senator.”
Brown responded by saying, “These are real jobs and real people.” He then cited examples of people helped by the growing auto industry. Brown’s arguments are backed by economic data, which has repeatedly credited the growing auto industry for the nation’s growing economy. In the first quarter of 2012, the auto industry was credited for half of the nation’s economic growth.
When he was asked about higher education, Brown established the key difference between the candidates in terms of economic policy. Brown said his policies in favor of government investment in higher education are about supporting the middle class to create growth that starts in the middle and spreads out, while Mandel supports tax cuts that emphasize a trickle-down approach. Mandel did not deny the claims, and instead blamed Brown’s policies for the high unemployment rate and debt issues.
The men continued to show similar contrasts on the budget, taxes and economy throughout the entire debate, but there seemed to be some common ground regarding energy independence. When the topic came to hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — Brown said becoming energy independent would have to involve all possible energy sources. In substance, Mandel agreed, although he also praised fracking regulations recently passed by the Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich.
As far as energy issues go, the agreement stopped there. When Brown was asked about President Barack Obama's alleged “war on coal,” Brown said there was no war on coal and claimed there are more coal jobs and coal produced in Ohio than there were five years ago. Mandel disagreed and claimed there is a war on coal. He added if Obama is the general in the war on coal, Brown is Obama's “lieutenant.” Brown previously supported federal regulations on mercury that some in the coal industry, including the Ohio Coal Association, claim will force coal-fired power plants to shut down. The regulations go into effect in 2015.
On abortion, Mandel proudly claimed he was pro-life, while Brown said, “Unlike Josh Mandel, I trust Ohio women to make their own health care decisions.” Brown also criticized Mandel for not establishing exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother in his anti-abortion stance.
Many more issues, from term limits to Middle Eastern culture, were covered in the debate. The candidates drew sharp contrasts in all these areas with Brown typically holding the liberal position and Mandel typically holding the conservative position. But despite the feisty language and deep policy contrasts, when the debate ended, the candidates smiled, shook hands and patted each other on the back. They will meet again in Columbus on Thursday and Cincinnati on Oct. 25.