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by Danny Cross 12.05.2011

Morning News and Stuff

Occupy D.C. protesters built some type of structure in a park Saturday night, and police on Sunday notified them that they didn't have a permit and took it down, arresting dozens in the process. It was a pretty nice structure, though.

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by German Lopez 09.13.2012
Posted In: Governor, News, Humor at 10:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kasich at Romney Rally: Wives 'at Home Doing the Laundry'

Governor makes offensive remark when GOP trails among women voters

At a Romney-Ryan rally near Cincinnati yesterday, Gov. John Kasich made some remarks women voters might find offensive. When describing what his wife and the wives of Mitt Romney, Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Rob Portman are doing as the men attend political rallies, Kasich told Romney supporters the women are “at home doing the laundry.”

The full quote: “It’s not easy to be a spouse of an elected official. You know, they’re at home doing the laundry and doing so many things while we’re up here on the stage getting a little bit of applause, right? They don’t often share in it.”

The comments were quickly picked up by liberal blog Plunderbund, which criticized Kasich's history with women.

While the comment may be true (CityBeat could not confirm if Karen Kasich was doing laundry while Kasich was speaking), it does little for a political party already struggling with women voters. In the latest poll from Public Policy Polling, Romney was down 10 points to Obama among women voters in Ohio. This is often attributed to what Democrats labeled a “war on women” by Republicans to diminish contraceptive and abortion rights. CityBeat previously covered the local and national political issues regarding women here.

Kasich had problems with public speaking in the past. In his 2012 State of the State speech, which The Hill labeled “bizarre,” Kasich repeatedly mentioned his “hot wife,” imitated a Parkinson’s patient and referred to Californians as “wackadoodles.” In a previous statement, Kasich said he would run over opponents with a bus. “If you’re not on the bus, we will run over you with the bus,” he told lobbyists. “And I’m not kidding.”

Kasich's latest comment can be found on YouTube:

by German Lopez 01.11.2013
Posted In: News, Prisons, Privatization at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Liberty for Sale

More Bad News From Private Prison

Conneaut councilman asks state to intervene at CCA facility

Private prison critics have been proven right once again. Smuggling incidents are on the rise around Lake Erie Correctional Institution, which Ohio sold to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in 2011.

In a letter to Gov. John Kasich’s northeast Ohio liaison, Conneaut Councilman Neil LaRusch claimed a rise in contraband smuggling has forced local police to increase security around the CCA facility.

Since the end of 2012, four have been arrested and charged with smuggling. Another four were arrested Monday and police suspect they were in Conneaut for a smuggling job. According to the Star Beacon, the four suspects arrested Monday were only caught due to the increased police presence outside the Lake Erie prison.

LaRusch said Conneaut and its police department are already running tight budgets, and they can’t afford to continue padding prison security. He then asked the state and governor to help out with the situation.

The letter prompted a reaction from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU), which has staunchly opposed prison privatization in the state. In a statement, Mike Brickner, director of communications and public policy for the ACLU, said, “Unfortunately, this is a predictable pattern with private prisons. Promises of lower costs quickly morph into higher crime, increased burdens on local law enforcement, and in the end, a higher bill for taxpayers.”

He added, “This is not an anomaly. It is a predictable pattern. The private prison model is built on profit above all else. These facilities will cut corners and shift responsibility to taxpayers wherever necessary to maximize profits.”

The governor’s office and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) could not be immediately reached for comment. This story will be updated if a response becomes available.

Update (5:00 p.m.): Col. John Born, superintendent of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, responded to the councilman's letter. In his own letter, Born doesn't contradict that there's a rise in drug smuggling, but he gives the issue more context.

Born wrote criminal incidents at the Lake Erie prison have actually decreased. He acknowledges drug smuggling cases went up from four in 2011 to seven in 2012, but he says drug cases have gone down at the prison since 2010.

He also claims seven other state prisons have seen a greater rise in drug smuggling. Born frames the issue in a national context: Unfortunately, despite best efforts, the national problem of illegal drug usage and drug trafficking continues to plague our nation.

Regarding state assistance, Born wrote the Ohio State Highway Patrol does not have the authority to strengthen security in order to directly prevent drug smuggling: It is important to point out the Ohio State Highway Patrol's legal authority and corresponding duties prior to the sale of the prison and after the sale remain largely unchanged. Ohio troopers did not have original jurisdiction on private property off institution grounds while under state operations nor do they today.

He adds the Ohio State Highway Patrol has already deployed more cruisers at the prison, but he believes local law enforcement are still the best option for responding to incidents.

JoEllen Smith, spokesperson for ODRC, wrote in an email, DRC will be in communication with the parties involved to ensure any remaining concerns are addressed.

CityBeat previously covered private prisons in-depth (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19). Within a week of the story going to stands, ODRC Director Gary Mohr said the state would not privatize any more prisons. On the same day of his announcement, Mohr apparently received an audit that found the CCA facility was only meeting 66.7 percent of state standards (“Prison Privatization Blues,” issue of Oct. 10).

by Danny Cross 12.13.2011

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio voter advocates say there was a big elephant in the room during the creation of Ohio's controversial redistricting map, and it was super tan and cried a lot. The Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting says John Boehner was central in the process, working with map-making consultants and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Here's a link to the Ohio Redistricting Transparency Report. From The Enquirer:

"The report found: decisions were not made in public; public input was ignored; there was limited opportunity for the public to review proposed maps; the public was not provided with relevant data for proposed districts; nonpartisan redistricting criteria were not used; and the criteria used to evaluate plans were never publicly identified."

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by Hannah McCartney 03.05.2012
Posted In: Governor, Government, Ethics at 12:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

ACLU of Ohio Protests Privatizing State Prisons

Says it will add to state budges, hurt public safety and lead to unnecessary incarcerations

There are certain institutions in the U.S. that we don't like to think of as strictly profit-seeking endeavors. It can be difficult to swallow that (supposedly) do-good establishments like retirement homes, textbook companies and hospitals exist to bring in revenue rather than serve the needs of a community without waiver. In Ohio, one state prison is already that a business and others could soon follow suit. 

In September of 2011, Ohio became the first state in the nation to sell a state prison facility to a private prison company when the Lake Erie Correctional Institute in Ashtabula County was sold to the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest prison operator, for $72.7 million.

The idea to privatize Ohio prisons was concocted by Gov. John Kasich in an attempt to fill an $8 billion hole in Ohio's budget. The sale brought in an extra $50 million to use in balancing Ohio's prison budget.

Kasich's budget strategy included an overhaul of Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, which means that private prison facility owners would actually benefit from more incarcerations. Now, CCA has made an offerto  48 U.S. states to buy and privatize state prisons. The offer, the Corrections Investment Initiative, outlines CCA's plan to spend up to $250 million on state, local and federal entities and then manage the facilities. According to the CCA's statement from Harley Lappin, Chief Corrections Officer at CCA, they're only interested in buying facilities that are willing to sign over rights of ownership to the CCA for a minimum of 20 years, and states must agree to keep the facilities at least 90 percent full.

With six million Americans in the corrections system, the U.S. already has the highest rates of incarceration in the world — including per capita and in absolute terms surpassing countries like Iran, China and Russia. CCA'S website glorifies its mission as noble; a video on the home page shows a patriotic, proudly waving flag. Text touts its strategies as forward-thinking and altruistic, noting that they are "protecting public safety, employing the best people in solid careers, rehabilitating inmates, giving back to communities, and bringing innovative security to government corrections."

The ACLU of Ohio has issued a statement strongly opposing the change; it argues that privatizing state prisons will add debt to state budges, hurt public safety and lead to more unnecessary incarcerations. According to "Prisons for Profit: A Look at Prison Privatization," a report published by ACLU-Ohio, privately-run prisons only offer a short-term infusion of cash, not long-term savings. "Cost savings in privately run facilities [like those run by CCA] are achieved by cutting the pay of workers," says Mike Bricker, ACLU Director of Communications and Public Policy. Corrections officers in private facilities make significantly less and receive far less benefits than those in public facilities. This difference, he says, results in an astronomically higher turnover rate in private facilities. "When something bad happens, they leave," he says.

The high turnover rate makes for a consistently less experienced staff, which means officers aren't as well-prepared when a bad situation does arise. He cites an example when cutting corners came at a high price: A CCA-run Youngstown facility that opened in 1997 brought in 1,700 violent inmates from Washington, D.C. at what was supposed to be a medium-security prison. Over the course of a year, there were 16 stabbings, two murders and six escapes; the situation became such a concern to the community that Youngstown sued CCA in 1998 and the facility was shut down.

According to Brickner, the smallest incident is enough to negate the short-term revenue from privatizing prisons; when the main objective is profit, privatized prisons want to book non-violent offenders who won't be in facilities for a long period of time. That means cells become overcrowded when minor offenders could be in rehabilitation, and extremely violent detainees tend to be managed improperly.

"It is inherently wrong to allow private businesses to make a profit off the incarceration of others," said Brickner in an ACLU press release. “Our state’s prison system is bloated, and private corporations have a vested financial interest to ensure our prisons remain full. If state officials have any hope of shrinking our prison population, we must implement transformative criminal justice reform policies and reject interests that grow our prison system.”

Brickner suggests that concerned citizens contact their elected representatives to express their opposition to privatizing prisons. Read the ACLU's full report on privatizing prisons here.

by 05.19.2010
Posted In: Media Criticism, Immigration at 03:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Enquirer Writer Deleted on His Own Blog

An unusual online exchange Tuesday between an occasional CityBeat freelancer and an Enquirer sports blogger led to the blogger’s own comments being deleted for violating the newspaper’s terms of service.

The comment seems to have been deleted by a moderator for being racist against Hispanics.

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by German Lopez 09.23.2013
Posted In: News, Development, City Council at 03:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
roxanne qualls

Qualls Unveils ‘Come Home Cincinnati’ Initiative

Plan addresses blight and abandonment in eight Cincinnati neighborhoods

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority and community partners on Monday unveiled the “Come Home Cincinnati” initiative, which promises to make vacant properties available to new occupants in an effort to increase homeownership and redevelop neighborhoods hit hardest by vacancy and abandonment.

The goal is to establish a residential base that will help jumpstart private redevelopment and revitalize largely abandoned areas of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Just about a year ago, we were in Evanston to talk about their housing strategy for the Woodburn Avenue corridor and what to do about the 200 vacant and abandoned properties in the community,” Qualls said in a statement. “The next logical step on the path to revitalization is to incentivize private market investment in the residential core of our neighborhoods and help to fill the once-abandoned homes with new owner-occupants.”

The initiative will work through the Hamilton County Land Bank, private lenders and community development corporations to connect potential homeowners with a pool of loan guarantees.

Qualls’ office says the plan will likely require tapping into the city’s Focus 52 fund, which finances neighborhood projects.

The Port Authority estimates the loan guarantee pool will be $2.5 million to $4.5 million and other aspects of the initiative will cost $3.3 million, but not all of the funding will come from the city.

To qualify for the program, owner-occupants will have to meet minimum credit requirements, agree to live in the rehabilitated home for five years and pay for 5 percent of the total rehabilitation and acquisition costs as a down payment. After five years, the loan will be refinanced at the same or better interest rates to relinquish the city and its partners’ loan guarantee.

The city is eyeing a few potential partners for the initiative, including the Cincinnati Development Fund, Cincinnati Preservation Association, the University of Cincinnati Urban Design Center and neighborhood-specific groups.

The initiative will start with 100 homes in the pilot neighborhoods of Evanston and Walnut Hills, but it will expand to Avondale, College Hill, Madisonville, Northside, Price Hill and South Cumminsville as resources grow. It will work in conjunction with the Moving Ohio Forward demolition grant program, which allows the city and Hamilton County Land Bank to tear down blighted and vacant buildings.

At the same time, three of the neighborhoods — College Hill, Madisonville and Walnut Hills — are currently trying out form-based code, a special kind of zoning code championed by Qualls that allows developers to more easily pursue projects as long as they stay within a neighborhood’s established goals.

City Council will now need to approve a motion that gives the city administration 60 days to develop a plan and budget for the initiative. The city administration’s proposal will also require City Council approval.

by 07.11.2009
Posted In: Media, Financial Crisis, Business at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Enquirer Layoffs: The Aftermath

CityBeat has held off on posting the names of some people we've heard have been laid off from The Cincinnati Enquirer pending better verification, but we can now confirm two more departures.

 Assistant Business Editor Randy Tucker and Obituaries Writer Rebecca Goodman have left the newspaper's staff. Tucker was a victim of the layoffs; it's unclear whether Goodman was laid off or chose to leave since she recently graduated from law school.

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by Andy Brownfield 07.16.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, President Obama, News, LGBT Issues at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Obama Visits Cincinnati For Packed Town Hall Meeting

President touts support for small businesses and LGBT rights

In the first town hall-style event of the 2012 campaign, President Barack Obama fielded questions on Monday about rights for the LGBT community, what he would do for small business during a second term and which was his favorite Girl Scout cookie (Thin Mints).

Obama — the first Democrat to carry Hamilton County since Lyndon Baines Johnson — held a packed town hall meeting at Music Hall. Cincinnati Fire Department Capt. Joseph E. Wolf estimated the crowd at 1,200 people in the ballroom with an additional 421 hosted outside.

The most recent Quinnipiac University poll from June 27 showed that 47 percent of Ohio voters favored the president, while 38 percent were behind his presumed Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Mayor Mark Mallory fired up the crowd before the president spoke, saying Hamilton County is the most important county in Ohio, and Cincinnati the most important city in the county.

“The folks in this room are the most important folks in terms of the re-election of President Barack Obama in the United States of America,” Mallory said.

Attending the town hall was former Cincinnati mayor and daytime TV host Jerry Springer, who said he and about a dozen other folks had a private meeting with the president earlier in the day.

"I think it would be bad for the country," Springer said of an America that saw Obama lose the November election. He says the Republican-controlled house would run away with our country without a Democrat in the Oval Office to issue a veto.

Just an hour before the president spoke and seven blocks away at Fountain Square, dozens of Romney supporters rallied, carrying signs with slogans such as “Obama Bin Lyin’.”

Republican Mike Wilson, who is looking to unseat Montgomery Democrat Rep. Connie Pillich in the Ohio House of Representatives, was among the speakers at the Romney Rally. Pillich defeated Wilson in the 2010 election.

"Ohio seems destined to play a pivotal role. We're used to it," Wilson said.

Wilson criticized the Obama campaign for “playing politics” with Romney’s tenure at the head of investment firm Bain Capital.

The Obama campaign has claimed that Romney invested in businesses that outsourced American jobs.

“We're all interested with what Romney did with his money, but we're not interested with what Obama is doing with our money," Wilson said.

He blamed over-regulation and taxation from the Obama administration for companies moving their operations overseas.

Gerry Molt, who attended the rally with his wife Roxanne, claimed that Obama is at war with America and says the focus on Bain Capital is “clearly a distraction.”

Roxanne Molt said she’s excited about the importance of Hamilton County in this year’s election.

“I think this is the premier election of our lifetime,” she said. “I think Romney’s got a good plan. We need someone who supports capitalism.”

The president did a little bit to support Cincinnati capitalism, making a pit stop at Skyline Chili before the town hall, where he ordered a 4-way and two cheese coneys.

The economy was a big focus of Obama’s speech, but also of questions he received afterward.

Tony White, who owns a barber shop/beauty salon, asked what the president would do for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

In his response, the president touted the possible savings for small businesses under the health care overhaul, saying they could pool together and receive the same rates as larger businesses. As for moving forward, Obama said he would continue to put pressure on banks to lend to small businesses.

“We’ve actually been pushing the banks to say, ‘look, taxpayers pulled your backside out of the fire, it’s now important for you to step up and make sure that small businesses aren’t finding their credit restricted, especially if they’ve been in business for a while,” he said.

The president was also asked by a woman who only identified herself as Anna what he would do to further help the LGBT community. Anna’s son Adam is openly gay and is looking at attending Miami University in Oxford.

Despite earlier teasing that he wouldn’t sing at the town hall, Obama led the crown in singing “Happy Birthday” to Adam, who turned 18 on Monday.

Obama again answered the question by touting his accomplishments so far — ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that forbid homosexuals from serving openly in the military and expanding hospital visitation  rights to same-sex partners — before going on to say that the federal Defense of Marriage Act needs to be repealed.

The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Obama is the first American president to openly support gay marriage.

The theme the president to which continued to return was that America needs to return to being the land of opportunity.

“What really sets us apart has always been that we have the greatest middle class and a basic idea that’s at the heart of this country that says if you work hard then you can get ahead. If you’re responsive, then you can live out your dreams. You’re not confined to the circumstances of your birth.”

German Lopez contributed to this report.

by Hannah McCartney 09.07.2013
at 03:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Local Entrepreneurs to Mass Produce Sun-Powered Stove

Cincinnati startup hopes to innovate solar energy industry with GoSun solar cooker

It started with a couple of greasy hot dogs.

When solar energy expert and Cincinnati native Patrick Sherwin was charged with removing some solar collectors from a client's roof, he got to thinking.

Those solar collector tubes, he realized, were collecting such a great deal of heat that he thought it just might be enough to cook food. So he took a few of them home and did just that.

Today, he and one of his business partners are grilling fajita peppers on a cloud-free September day in the backyard of a Spring Grove Village home. Soon, he hopes, Cincinnatians — and the rest of the world — will have access to a new form of solar technology he's developed based on that same solar collector that cooked his first hot dog.

In the 10 years since Sherwin removed those solar collectors from a client's rooftop, he's been working on perfecting the art of solar cooking; on Sept. 5, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to mass-produce his GoSun Stove, a compact, $279 solar cooker that he hopes could not just change the way Western civilization uses and looks at sources of renewable energy, but also impact the entire world. His interest in solar energy originally stems from his desire to shift away from dependency on harmful fossil fuels, but it's branched out into something greater. Cooking, a cultural exercise shared and loved across the globe, seemed like the perfect place to start.

"Everyone's well aware of the fact that fossil fuels are creating a lot of issues," he says. "Not to mention that they're dwindling, getting more expensive...but, you know, there are also also other resources — natural gases, gasoline, electricity...it's all coming from these giant, multinational corporations that we don't appreciate in our lives, so why not power stuff ourselves?"

The Kickstarter campaign, which raised more than one-quarter of its $40,000 goal within the first 10 hours of its launch, is being used as means for Sherwin and his team to raise funds for marketing, equipment and manufacturing and other programs to bring the invention to developing countries in need of less dangerous and time consuming ways to cook food.

Sherwin hopes to eventually mass produce his solar cooker to both promote less dependency on fossil fuels across the the world and make a dent in smoke-inhalation deaths around the world, which account for the No. 1 cause of indoor ire-related deaths around the world.

His current prototype, which he says is the culmination of about 30 different models he's tinkered with over the past years, is a 3.5-pound, sleek, shiny-looking pop-up contraption that looks more like a play spaceship than a gadget you'd see at a modern-day grillout. He and his partners claim they've created a solar cooker that uses the most efficient and advanced technology available in the green market today.

Solar power technology, Sherwin concedes, is a field that's been subject to innovation and research for decades, particularly in Eastern countries such as China, where solar panels are commonly used for everyday activities like heating tea kettles. 

It's been a long journey to come to model Sherwin and his team are working on now, which he says is markedly different from other modern-day solar cooker models.

He cites another Kickstarter launched earlier this summer for a different solar cooker model, which garnered around $140,000 to meet its goal. He says GoSun Stove's model is particularly innovative because it possesses the unique ability to insulate its products in a safe and more efficient way; the GoSun Stove, he says, isn't hot to the touch, is portable and easy to clean, retains heat and cooks food much more quickly than other solar cookers on the market today.

"I was frying ants with a magnifying glass on the sidewalk when I was a kid. It's nothing really that new," he laughs. "The reality of those [other models] is that they're not really safe, because what happens is you have so much intensity of sunlight on a particular spot in ends up creating like a...it could burn your eyes or hands." 

Still, like most successful inventions, the venture has involved a good bit of trial and error.

"It was pretty messy what I was doing originally. I'd take like, eight hot dogs, and I found a stainless steel skewer. So I had like eight hot dogs on this giant skewer and I remember hitting the brakes in my car too hard one day after an event and I didn't realize there was a bunch of grease and the grease shot off and hit my windshield with hot dog grease. So that was a wake-up call. It was really a pain to clean up. Every once in a while you would lose a hot dog in the skewer and it'd get stuck at the bottom," Sherwin laughs.

Once they earn more capital, Sherwin and his team hope to develop more versatile models, including those with larger insulator tubes to accommodate larger quantities of food. Currently, the GoSun Stove prototype accommodates up to 3 pounds of food and can reach up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit.

The current model uses a compact, easy-to-clean tray, but his first hot dog-based models have evolved a great deal to what his KickStarter campaign advertises today. Those first prototypes used large, cumbersome solar collector trays, until Sherwin had what he calls his "A-ha!" moment at a solar expo two or three years ago.

"The thing I was cooking with was about six feet long, it was cumbersome..and I was at a solar expo at a conference and there was a tabletop thing that was demonstrating what a solar hot water heater would look like, and it was tubes about two feet long. And I saw that and I went, 'A-ha.' "

That took the GoSun Stove from simply an idea to something tangible and marketable to everyone from survivalists and campers, green life enthusiasts and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) interested in improving the lives of populations in developing countries, although he and his partners say there's a lot of planning and research to be done before they try to take the GoSun across the world.

"These models we're showing on KickStarter are not what we're intending to take to the developing world. Far more affordable stoves that'll use the human and natural resources of the areas we're trying to empower to make it a real solution that'll stick. And we realize that we don't know what they need. We're conscious of our ignorance," says Matt Gillespie, an industrial designer on the GoSun team.

Sherwin adds, "We've got to come up with accessories that make it easier to eat things like rice and beans, which is what, like, 90 percent of the world eats."

Today, just three days into their KickStarter campaign, they've raised almost $30,000 of their $40,000 goal. Sherwin's hopeful it will be well-received once he and his team are ready to officially launch and that the GoSun will actually change the landscape of solar energy technology and its presence in our everyday lives.

"Most users, when they open their packages, they're going to be like, 'Ohmigosh,' a little bit, and then they might also get a little sunburned as far as they'll want to take it out on any day because they think it's going to work just like a microwave. It's not a microwave and you can't just hit a button. But it is the microwave of solar ovens."