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by Danny Cross 05.04.2012
 
 
rob portman

Morning News and Stuff

Sen. Rob Portman is sitting on more cash than nearly all of his GOP colleagues in the Senate, despite the fact that he’s not up for re-election until 2016. There has been widespread speculation that Portman is a Republican vice presidential candidate, and only three Senators have more money on-hand than his Promoting Our Republican Team PAC (PORTPAC) leadership committee.

Companies upstream from Cincinnati have been dumping pollutants into the Ohio River since the 1940s, and federal authorities have reached a $5.5 million settlement to start cleaning it all up. Eighteen companies and several federal agencies will collectively contribute to restoring the Ashtabula River and Harbor in northeast Ohio. Here's the latest from Dredging Today (the authoritative voice of underwater excavation activity and other earth-altering digs).

Locals who have recently “pimped their rides” might want to read up on a bill passed by Ohio lawmakers yesterday that bans hidden compartments in vehicles. Police don’t want to have to open those fancy compartments to check whether there are drugs inside or just a 10th tiny TV. Hear that, Colerain?

Here’s what Obama and his advisers do on Sundays (after the prez’s round of golf, of course): size up Mitt Romney.

More insights from the letters and notes released on Thursday by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point: “Bin Laden worried about legacy and sought to kill Obama.

U.S. job growth was down in April, adding only 115,000 positions after seeing 154,000 added in March. The unemployment rate dropped .1 percentage point to 8.1 percent, largely due to workers leaving the labor force. Republicans have some thoughts on the matter (Obama’s fault).

Ted Nugent is not looking so hot these days. He’s also thoroughly offended at the notion of not being a moderate. The following are comments he made today on CBS This Morning:

"If you examine how I conduct myself," Nugent said, "I don't think a day goes by in my life for many, many years now that we don't do charity work for children. ... Call me when you sit down across from someone who has more families with dying little boys and girls who get a call to take them on their last fishing trip in life.

"Call me," Nugent continued in a raised, irritated voice, "when you meet someone who does that more than I do. Because that's really moderate. In fact, you know what that is? That's extreme. ... I'm an extremely loving, passionate man, and people who investigate me honestly, without the baggage of political correctness, ascertain the conclusion that I'm a damned nice guy. ... And if you can find a screening process more powerful than that, I'll [expletive]. Or [expletive]. How's that sound?"

Headline: “Tech world is out for blood.” Apparently Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s decision to start a patent war was not such a good idea.

New York Yankees future Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera tore his ACL during pregame batting practice yesterday, putting the 42-year-old’s career in jeopardy. There had already been speculation that Rivera would retire after this season, and recovery from ACL surgery usually takes more than nine months.

 
 
by German Lopez 05.02.2012
 
 
gay_rights_sign_by_the_enabler

City, State Move Forward With Same-Sex Rights

Trend follows other cities, states, countries and a majority of Fortune 500 companies

Cincinnati inched closer to equality after moving forward Monday with a measure that would allow city employees in same-sex and other partnerships to receive health insurance benefits.

With a push by Chris Seelbach, the first openly gay councilman in Cincinnati, the measure passed the finance committee with the support of all council members except Charlie Winburn, who abstained.

The approval came after a city report found that same-sex benefits could cost as much as $543,000 a year if 77 partners took advantage of the benefits.

The report suggested City Council mimic a system already in place in Columbus, which requires partners to prove financial interdependency and that they have been together for six months.

If the measure passes City Council, Cincinnati would be more caught up with other cities, states, countries and companies that already grant health benefits to same-sex couples. Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign estimated that 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer health benefits to same-sex couples, including Procter and Gamble and Fifth Third Bank.

Altogether, it seems like a small step toward equality. What’s unfortunate is none of it would be required if same-sex marriage was legal in Ohio. If it was, same-sex couples could get marriage benefits, including health-care coverage.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Tuesday approved the petition language for an amendment that would overturn Ohio’s 2004 ban on gay marriage. The new amendment would define marriage as “a union of two consenting adults, regardless of gender.”

The amendment now moves forward to the Ohio Ballot Board. If approved, it will then require 385,253 signatures from registered voters and, finally, voter approval.

Ohio banned same-sex marriage in 2004 with a majority vote of 62 percent. But Ian James, co-founder of the Freedom to Marry Coalition, told the Huffington Post that he is optimistic things will be different this time, citing recent polls that show the nation is moving toward support of gay marriage.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.25.2012
Posted In: Republicans, Democrats, News, Public Policy, Government at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Republicans Back Down on Voting Restrictions

Ohio GOP to repeal parts of its own passed legislation

This week, Republicans are moving forward with a partial repeal of HB 194, a bill that was blasted by voting rights groups for eliminating opportunities to vote early and disallowing pollworkers to guide voters to the correct precinct. The bill was also criticized by Democrats for curtailing voting rights in a way that made it harder for mostly Democratic constituents to vote.

The good news first: Most of HB 194 is being repealed. It’s good to see Republicans follow the advice of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a moderate Republican who called or the repeal of HB 194 earlier this year.

The bad news: Some new limits on voting rights are going to remain in place, and the entire repeal process, which involves the passing of SB 295, might be unconstitutional.

While it’s good to see HB 194 repealed, it’s not the only voting law Republicans enacted last year. The Ohio legislature also passed HB 224, which prohibited voting the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before election day.

For Democrats, this poses a bit of a problem. Democrats are happy to see most of the restrictions on voting repealed, but they want to see all of the restrictions repealed. If SB 295 passes, Democrats worry that the rest of the restrictions won’t be repealed because Republicans will think they have done enough.

Even the Obama team spoke on this issue. In an email to Obama supporters Tuesday, Greg Schultz, the Ohio State Director on the Obama team, urged voters to speak up: “This bill could mean an end to our last three days of early voting this November — and would change the rules, right in the middle of an election year. It's an unambiguous attack on our voting rights.”

The other problem is the repeal could be unconstitutional. After HB 194 passed, voters were quick to speak out against the new law and put it up for referendum in the November 2012 ballot. So Republicans are repealing a law that is already up for referendum. This is the first time that’s happened in the Ohio legislature, and Democrats claim it might be unconstitutional.

But a lot of that opposition may be pure political posturing. After all, Democrats were sure they were going to win the referendum on HB 194, and they were sure they could use it to get more supporters out to vote. With SB 295, the referendum of HB 194 could potentially be taken off the ballot, and state Democrats will lose one issue to hammer Republicans with in an election year.


In a sense, Democrats aren’t just upset about a “change of rules in the middle of an election year,” as Schultz put it in his email. They’re upset about a change in politics in the middle of an election year.


Regardless, SB 295 does have some legitimate problems. It’s good to see most of the draconian restrictions on voting repealed, but if Republicans really want to admit their mistake, they’ll repeal the rest of the restrictions as well.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.13.2012
Posted In: Taxes, Public Policy, Poverty, Economy, Family at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
eitc

Group Pushes for Ohio Tax Change

Think tank: EITC would help working families

A nonpartisan think tank that advocates for poor and working class families is urging that Ohio adopt its own version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

 

The group, Policy Matters Ohio, said a state version of the federal tax credit, set at 10 percent, would divert just $210 million from Ohio’s coffers but would benefit 949,000 low-income working families across the state. Such a credit would provide families with an average of $221 each, which Policy Matters Ohio described as “modest but helpful.”

 

Currently 24 states and the District of Columbia have Earned Income Tax Credits, ranging from 3.5 percent to 50 percent of the federal credit.

 

“A state EITC program enables families to work and build assets while reducing the impact of regressive income tax changes,” said a statement released by Policy Matters Ohio.

 

“A state EITC makes sense because recent changes to the personal income tax have provided greater tax reductions for higher-income earners than they have for lower- and middle-income families,” the statement continued.

 

The federal EITC is a refundable tax credit for low- and medium-income individuals and couples, and is considered the nation’s largest poverty relief program. When the credit exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who qualify and claim the credit.

 

To qualify for the EITC, a recipient must have earned income of $49,000 or less. The credit is worth significantly more for families with children and is refundable, which means families receive cash refunds above their tax liability.

 

Created in 1975, the federal EITC is aimed at helping lift families with children about the poverty level, along with offsetting the burden of Social Security taxes and maintaining an incentive for people to work.

 

In Ohio, 949,692 people currently claim the federal EITC. The credit generates $2.1 billion for state residents, and the average refund is $2,211.

 

Founded in 2000, Policy Matters Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research organization that seeks to create “a more prosperous, equitable, sustainable and inclusive Ohio,” through research and policy advocacy.

 

Based in Cleveland and Columbus, the organization is funded primarily through grants from groups like the Ford Foundation, the Sisters of Charity Foundation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Corp. for Enterprise Development and others.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.12.2012
 
 
joe

Another State Ends the Death Penalty

Connecticut is 17th to abolish capital punishment

Connecticut will soon join the list of states that have ended the use of capital punishment.

 

In an 86-63 vote, legislators in Connecticut’s House of Representatives passed the bill Wednesday night. The state Senate approved the measure April 5, in a 20-16 vote.

 

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has indicated he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk, probably sometime this week. A similar bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Jodi Rell, a Republican, in 2009.

 

Connecticut’s law is prospective in nature, and won’t affect the sentences of the 11 people currently on the state’s death row.

 

In the last five years, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois have repealed the death penalty, according to CNN. California voters will decide the issue in November.

 

Other states that have abolished capital punishment are Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

 

Meanwhile, a man who spent 21 years on Ohio’s death row until he was exonerated in 2010 will speak tonight at a forum in Clifton.

 

Joe D’Ambrosio will discuss his experience and why he believes the death penalty should be scrapped at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center, located at 328 W. McMillan St. D’Ambrosio will be joined by the Rev. Neil Kookoothe, a Roman Catholic priest who worked to get him released.

 

D’Ambrosio was wrongfully convicted of the 1988 murder of Anthony Klann in Cleveland. Cuyahoga County prosecutors withheld 10 pieces of evidence that would have exonerated D’Ambrosio at his trial and implicated another suspect in the crime, a judge ruled in March 2010.

 

D’Ambrosio is the 140th Death Row exoneration in the United States since 1973 and the sixth in Ohio.

 

This week’s Porkopolis column looks at a report from Amnesty International about the use of capital punishment throughout the world, and how the United States is one of the only industrialized nations that still condones the practice.

 

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.11.2012
Posted In: Drugs, Public Policy at 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
weed

Marijuana Group to Hold Forum

Ex-police officer among those pushing for legalization

A retired Cincinnati police captain will be among the speakers Thursday at a local event about legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana in Ohio.

 

Howard Rahtz, who retired from the Cincinnati Police Department in 2007, will speak at a forum organized by the Ohio Medical Cannabis Association (OMCA). The group is trying to collect enough signatures to get an amendment to Ohio’s constitution on the ballot that would allow the use of cannabis with a physician’s prescription.

 

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. in Room 500 at Swift Hall on the University of Cincinnati campus.

 

Other speakers will include Theresa Daniello, a mother of five children who is OMCA’s executive director, and Mark Ramach, the group’s attorney.

 

After their presentation, attendees can participate in a question and answer session about the proposed amendment.

 

Rahtz, who is a volunteer with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is a conservative who has no interest in using drugs but supports legal and controlled public sale of marijuana. With a dual background in drug treatment and drug interdiction, Rahtz has first-hand experience with drug enforcement policy.

 

“I defy you to find anybody who will applaud what the war on drugs has accomplished,” Rahtz told CityBeat in June 2011. “Use rates have not changed in four decades. We’ve accomplished nothing. We spend more money, we incarcerate more people than any other place in the world and we end up with less for it. The fact is, what we’re doing isn’t working. My question is, particularly in this age of shrinking resources, are we going to continue pouring money down this rat hole?”

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.09.2012
Posted In: Taxes, Public Policy, Sports, Police, Business, Courts at 08:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tickets

Morning News and Stuff

Buyer beware! Cincinnati police are investigating reports of several hundred counterfeit tickets to Thursday's Opening Day game. The Cincinnati Reds say the tickets were sold on the streets in the lead up to the game versus the Marlins. At least 47 of the bogus tickets were collected when people tried to use them at the gate.

Government, business and civic leaders are mulling a proposal to ask Hamilton County voters to raise the sales tax to help fund the operation and maintenance of the region's arts institutions. If a sales tax is proposed, voters could be asked to increase the current 6.5 percent sales tax by either one-quarter or one-half of a cent. Beneficiaries of the revenue might include the Museum Center at Union Terminal, Music Hall, the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig congratulated 10 at-risk youth Saturday who are the city's first boot camp graduates. The students from Rothenberg School were formally recognized for graduating from the first official Children in Trauma Intervention Boot Camp.

A Pennsylvania man and two Illinois homeowners are suing Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank and six mortgage insurers, alleging the bank got "kickbacks" from the insurers in violation of federal law. Fifth Third had arrangements with the insurers under which they bought "reinsurance" from the bank, according to the complaint. From 2004 to 2011, Fifth Third received $54 million in reinsurance premium payments from insurers and paid out $4.9 million in claims.

A fraternity at Miami University is suspended from operations at the Oxford campus. Sigma Chi has been told to move out of their chapter house by their national headquarters. Officials didn't release details of the suspension, only stating it's the result of some kind of inappropriate behavior. Fraternity members have until Wednesday to move out. Let the speculation begin.

In news elsewhere, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq are criticizing U.S. policy toward their nation. They say the Obama administration is ignoring Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s increasingly authoritarian behavior. Since U.S. troops withdrew in December, Maliki has extended his reach to take on his political rivals, drawing accusations from Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities that he is intent on establishing a dictatorship.

Comedian and author Bill Cosby said in an interview that George Zimmerman never would've confronted Trayvon Martin if Zimmerman hadn't been carrying a gun, and that no neighborhood watch volunteers should be carrying weapons. Zimmerman shot and killed Martin — an unarmed African-American teenager — Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., allegedly in self-defense. “The power-of-the-gun mentality had him unafraid to confront someone. Even police call for backup in similar situations,” Cosby said. “When you carry a gun, you mean to harm somebody, kill somebody.”

Independent voters like President Obama better but feel ideologically closer to Mitt Romney, according to a new poll of a dozen battleground states released Monday. The survey, conducted by Global Strategy Group for the moderate Democratic think tank Third Way, examined attitudes of “swing independents” who express views of Romney or Obama that are neither strongly favorable nor unfavorable. In the poll, he led Romney 44 percent to 38 percent.

Syrian forces have fired across the border into Turkey, hitting a refugee camp, just hours before a United Nations deadline to end the violent uprising in the nation is slated to take effect. Five people – three Syrians, one Turkish translator and one Turkish policeman – were wounded inside the camp near the town of Kilis, according to the governor Yusuf Odabas.

Veteran TV journalist Mike Wallace, best known as one of the original co-anchors of 60 Minutes on CBS, died Saturday at age 93. The network plans an hour-long tribute to Wallace and his career on 60 Minutes next Sunday. In announcing his death, CBS lauded the brazen tactics that it said had made Wallace a household name "synonymous with the tough interview — a style he practically invented for television more than half a century ago." For the past three years, Wallace lived in a nursing care center and reportedly suffered from dementia.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.04.2012
 
 
mallory

Mallory to Give State of the City Address

Event will be Tuesday at Aronoff Center

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory will deliver his annual State of the City address next week.

The address, which will be Mallory’s seventh since taking office, will be given 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. It will be held in the Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, located at 650 Walnut St., downtown.

When CityBeat asked what the theme would be for this year’s address, a spokeswoman for Mallory declined comment.

“Our office won’t be previewing or giving information out about the speech this year,” said Julianna Rice, a policy aide to the mayor.

Generally, because seating is limited, anyone wishing to attend must receive a ticket through the mayor’s office. For more information, call 513-352-3250.

Mallory, a Democrat, was sworn in as the 68th mayor of Cincinnati on Dec. 1, 2005 and was reelected in 2009.  He cannot run again in 2013 due to term limits.

Mallory’s election marked a new era for City Hall as the first two-term mayor under the city's new “stronger-mayor” system, as well as Cincinnati’s first directly-elected black mayor, and the first mayor in more than 70 years who didn’t first serve on City Council.

Mallory celebrated his 50th birthday on Monday.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.26.2012
 
 
steve_chabot,_official_109th_congress_photo.nar

Morning News and Stuff

Supporters of low income housing programs are criticizing a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood). Chabot's proposal would impose restrictions on people who use the federal Section 8 housing program, which provides vouchers to help poor people pay their rent. Among his changes, people only would be able to use the program for five years. In Cincinnati, however, 53 percent of clients already leave the program within five years. Of the 47 percent who remain, many of them have problems like mental health issues and likely would become homeless and more expensive to deal with for the government, a housing advocate told The Enquirer.

To prepare for an influx of foreign visitors when the World Choir Games begin here in July, a new language translation tool is being launched. Cincinnati-based Globili is testing its text and mobile application for cellphones and smartphones that translates signs, menus and ads into about 50 languages. The event will be held July 4-14 at various locations in downtown and Over-the-Rhine including the Aronoff Center for the Arts and Music Hall.

It's been 147 years since the U.S. Civil War ended, but Kentucky lawmakers are just now getting around to abolishing a pension fund for Confederate veterans. The measure, which passed Kentucky's House of Representatives unanimously on Feb. 29, now heads to the state Senate for a vote. No one who is eligible to receive the pension has been alive for at least 50 years, lawmakers said. I guess things really do move more slowly in the South.

Business at the venerable Blue Wisp Jazz Club has increased since it moved to a new location at Seventh and Race streets in January. The club's owners attribute the jump to more pedestrian traffic and the number of hotels located near the new site. The front room includes a bar and restaurant accessible with no cover charge, while the back room is reserved for performances by Jazz musicians.

Steep spikes and drops on standardized test scores, a pattern that has indicated cheating in Atlanta and other cities across the nation, have occurred in hundreds of school districts and charter schools across Ohio in the past seven years, a Dayton Daily News analysis found. The analysis doesn't prove cheating has occurred in Ohio, but documents show state officials don't employ vigorous statistical analyses to catch possible cheating, discipline only about a dozen teachers a year and direct Ohio’s test vendor to spend just $17,540 on analyzing suspicious scores out of its $39 million annual testing contract.

In news elsewhere, the U.S. Supreme Court begins its constitutional review of the health-care overhaul law today with a basic question: Is the court barred from making such a decision at this time? The justices will hear 90 minutes of argument about whether an obscure 19th-century law — the Anti-Injunction Act — means that the court cannot pass judgment on the law until its key provisions go into effect in 2014.

When it recently was announced that a U.S. soldier who allegedly went on a shooting spree in Afghanistan would be charged with 17 counts of murder, many people wondered about the number. After all, early reports indicated Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a Norwood native, allegedly killed 16 people. Military officials decided to charge Bales with murder for the death of the unborn baby of one of the victims, a senior Afghan police official said today.

In a possibly related incident, a gunman in an Afghan army uniform killed two NATO soldiers today at a base in southern Afghanistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Force has said. Details were still sketchy, but NATO said in a statement that an individual wearing an Afghan soldier's uniform had turned his weapon against international troops. Coalition forces then returned fire, killing the gunman.

China and the United States have agreed to coordinate their response to any "potential provocation" if North Korea goes ahead with a planned rocket launch, the White House says. North Korea says the long-range rocket will carry a satellite, but U.S. officials say any launch would violate United Nations resolutions and be a missile test.

Somehow, 71-year-old Dick Cheney managed to get a heart transplant Saturday after spending nearly two years on a list waiting for a suitable organ to become available. Cheney, a former U.S. vice president and — some would say — unindicted war criminal, got the transplant even as much younger, healthier people continue to wait for a new heart. (My guess is he made a pact with Beelzebub.) Cheney has had five heart attacks over the years, the first occurring at age 37.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.21.2012
Posted In: Homelessness, Public Policy, Poverty, Washington at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
homelessness

Homeless Programs Awarded $2.6M

Federal funding will be divided among five groups

Federal officials this week awarded more than $2.6 million to a local nonprofit agency that oversees various programs aimed at reducing homelessness.

The money, allocated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was given to Strategies to End Homelessness, which was formerly known as the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Continuum of Care.

In total, HUD awarded nearly $201 million to 731 programs focused on addressing homelessness. The funding will help provide critically needed rapid re-housing, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals and families.

Locally, Strategies to End Homelessness coordinates such federal funding. It will divide the money as follows:

** Center for Independent Living Options (permanent housing) —  $854,432

** Salvation Army (rapid re-housing for homeless families) — $526,797

** Prospect House (homeless housing and treatment) — $126,000

** Freestore Foodbank (rapid re-housing for homeless individuals) — $739,858

** Lighthouse Youth Services (permanent supportive housing) — $409,122

HUD awards such funding based on outcomes achieved by the local homeless services system.

“Our community received this funding because we have been successful at doing two things: helping homeless people move into housing, and also increase their income, specifically through employment,” said Kevin Finn, Strategies’ executive director, in a prepared statement.

According to the latest data reported by more than 3,000 cities and counties throughout the United States, homelessness declined 2.1 percent between 2010 and 2011 and dropped 12 percent among military veterans.

Founded in 2007, Strategies to End Homelessness coordinates services and funding toward the goal of ending homelessness. The organization works to prevent at-risk households from becoming homeless, assist people who are homeless back into housing, and to reduce the recurrence of homelessness.

The organization has created a single, coordinated system that includes the use of homelessness prevention services, street outreach, emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, transitional and permanent supportive housing, and services-only programs.   

 
 

 

 

 
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