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by Kevin Osborne 03.28.2012
 
 
pigs

Morning News and Stuff

Here they come again: the pigs, that is. Artists around Cincinnati are putting the finishing touches on another round of decorated fiberglass pigs that will be unveiled in May as part of the next Big Pig Gig. Co-sponsored by ArtWorks and C-Change, the event is modeled after the one held from May to October 2000 when local artists and schools decorated more than 400 statues and installed them throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The pigs eventually were auctioned off, raising money for area nonprofit groups. This year's pigs will debut at the Flying Pig Marathon in May and go on full display during the World Choir Games in July. The theme is the city's architecture, or as organizers call it, "pork-itecture."

A decision is expected today in a lawsuit to stop a $12 million renovation project at the Anna Louise Inn. Western & Southern Financial Group wants to purchase the land on Lytle Street where the battered women's shelter is located and build upscale condominiums there. Union Bethel, the group that owns the shelter, have said they feel bullied by the powerful corporation.

Gov. John Kasich is an odd man, so it should be no surprise that some items in his recent state budget proposal also are downright bizarre. They include reclassifying bottled water as a food so consumers no longer have to pay sales tax on it, and repealing a 2006 regulation that required all Ohio employers to have applicants fill out a form attesting that they weren't affiliated with any terrorist organizations. (Ahh, the early 2000s. Good times.)

Trustees at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College have authorized bids to construct two 10-unit hangars at its Cincinnati West Airport in Harrison. The new structures would be built next to existing hangars, which house 22 planes and are leased to capacity.

Longtime Reds sportscaster Thom Brennaman assessed the team's prospects for the upcoming season from its spring training camp in Goodyear, Ariz. The interview can be found at the website for WNKU (89.7 FM).

In news elsewhere, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich appears to have conceded that he cannot win enough delegates in the remaining primaries to nab the party's nomination. The ex-House Speaker from Georgia is reducing his campaign schedule, laying off about one-third of his cash-strapped campaign’s staff and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a “big-choice convention” strategy. Gingrich will now focus on winning in a contested party convention scenario in Tampa, Fla., when the party meets there in late August.

If you like the fact that an insurance can't drop you for a preexisting condition under President Obama's health-care reform law, or that a company can't impose a limit on paying the cost of your medical care, then you'd better hope the Supreme Court upholds it. That's because Obama and Congress have few contingency plans about what to do if the high court strikes down the mandatory insurance requirement.

A dispute is brewing in Israel over plans to prevent the Canaan, an ancient breed of dog mentioned in the Bible, from going extinct. In recent decades, many Canaan dogs were destroyed in rabies eradication programs, and now only a few hundred subsist in the Negev desert. But the Israeli government is threatening to close the operation that has been helping preserve the breed by collecting rare specimens in the desert, breeding them and shipping their offspring to kennels around the globe.

Syria's tentative acceptance of a United Nations-backed plan to end the nation's violent uprising has triggered skeptical responses from U.S. and British officials, amid concern that President Bashar al-Assad is trying to buy time and divide his opponents.

Neighbors of the west African nation of Mali have threatened to use economic sanctions and expressed a readiness to use military force to dislodge those behind last week's coup, urging them to quickly hand back power to civilian rulers. A summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has sent a team of diplomats to confront the coup leaders in coming days. Meanwhile, the United States has cut off aid to Mali in protest.
 
 
by Danny Cross 03.15.2012
 
 
hoffman

Lakota Anti-Tax Spokesman Booted For Derogatory Remarks

Rich Hoffman loses control over the NoLakota website he created

Local angry guy Rich Hoffman should have stuck closer to the Glen Beck style that made Butler County Tea Partiers like him — too much Rush Limbaugh got the bull whip performer ousted today by the local organization he helped start.

The Enquirer reported this week that Hoffman recently ranted on his blog about a vague group of pro-school tax women in the district, calling them prostitutes and describing how their husbands “roll them over at night and insert their manhood” before leaving hundred dollar bills in their purses, and then defended the remarks when contacted by The Enquirer.

The Enquirer’s early report (updated once Hoffman got the axe) included the following:

The head of the anti-school tax group NoLakota wrote on his internet blog site that Lakota school mothers are “just prostitutes to their husbands who do everything they can to be away from them aside from the occasional sex.”

“Their husband’s (sic) roll them over at night and insert their manhood into these women of the bedroom and hundred-dollar bills find their way into their purses. The women don’t know what the man does to earn the money, nor do they care. They are busy saving the world one child at a time with howls of safety and more regulations as they rush to the polling places at election time,” wrote Hoffman, who is also a bullwhip performer and periodic guest on local radio talk shows regarding Lakota funding issues.

A photo of Hoffman wearing a cowboy hat and holding a whip had been presented on the homepage of The Enquirer for most of Thursday, when NoLakota Treasurer Dan Varney told the newspaper that Hoffman had been banned from further association with the group. Varney said the group’s decision wasn’t in response to the publicity of The Enquirer’s report.

Hoffman’s writings also include a reference to “crazy PTA moms and their minions of latte drinking despots with diamond rings the size of car tires and asses to match, (they) plot against me with an anger only estrogen can produce,” The Enquirer reported.

NoLakota says it has removed all references to Hoffman’s personal website, called "Overmanwarrior's Wisdom," (overmanwarrior.wordpress.com), where he writes lengthy diatribes against public school funding, teachers and political opponents and in one post compared the pressure he was under to that which Rush Limbaugh faced after calling a Georgetown University student a prostitute and a slut.

Hoffman wrote:

The progressive mode of attack they use to protect their positions which cannot withstand scrutiny is to attack people like Rush Limbaugh whenever he says something they believe they can use against him in an emotional argument. Conservatives typically are terrible at playing this game with progressives because they tend to operate on a belief system rooted in the truth. So they can easily be attacked because if they cross the line, they feel bad about it, and that guilt is used against them to change their behavior in the future.

Hoffman’s blog also includes numerous clips from the Glenn Beck TV show, a lengthy story about film production inspired by Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and more several Star Wars clips.

Hoffman as of Thursday afternoon hadn’t responded to a request from The Enquirer seeking comment, and CityBeat never tried to contact him out of fear of him thinking we were treading on him.

The following is an eight-minute video published on the Overmanwarrior site titled “A Whip Stunt to Save America,” wherein Hoffman uses his patio table as a metaphorical Constitution, a bowl of water as American civilization sitting on top of a cup (everything we put our tax money into) and then whips the cup out from underneath without spilling civilization all over the Constitution and then says, “I don’t really understand the progressive way of thinking — they don’t really belong in this country in my opinion.”

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.09.2012
 
 
monzel

Morning News and Stuff

A plan by two Hamilton County commissioners to help solve a $14 million deficit in the stadium account by reducing operating expenses at the county-owned facilities for the Reds and Bengals and hosting more events there isn't feasible, county staffers said. In December Commissioners Chris Monzel and Todd Portune proposed the plan rather than reduce a property tax rebate for homeowners. Erica Riehl, the county’s sales tax fund specialist, wrote in a memo that most operational expenses are “non-negotiable” and establishing a revenue goal is not “practical or dependable” as an annual revenue source, The Enquirer reports. Time to find a real solution, guys.

Today's sunny weather might put you in the mood for spring and some baseball. Although the Reds' Opening Day isn't until April 5, fans can begin camping out today at Great American Ball Park to score tickets to the opener against the Miami Marlins. Tickets will go on sale 9 a.m. Saturday; there are 1,000 view level seats for $35 each and 500 standing room only tickets for $25 each. Hurry up, though: Last year the tickets sold out in less than an hour.

Speaking of sports, two special visitors will travel to Ohio next Tuesday to attend the first games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton. President Obama will bring British Prime Minister David Cameron to the Gem City to watch some hoops.

The turnabout is now complete. Ohio Gov. John Kasich sent a letter Wednesday afternoon to President Obama asking for a presidential disaster declaration for Clermont County. Shortly after last Friday's tornado, Kasich had said he didn't believe federal aid was needed. Then, after public outcry and a personal appeal from U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township), Kasich switched course earlier this week and allowed Federal Emergency Management Agency teams to inspect the area. Obama already issued a major disaster declaration Tuesday for Kenton and Pendleton counties in Northern Kentucky.

An Ohio lawmaker from Greater Cincinnati wants to repeal daylight savings time in the Buckeye State. State Rep. Courtney Combs (R-Hamilton) will introduce a bill today to keep Ohio on standard time throughout the year. Combs called the World War I-era practice outdated and unneeded. “While it may have made sense when the government was fighting a war, it has no place in a modern world. Nowadays, all it does is inconvenience people twice a year,” he said.

The city of Cincinnati is preparing to sell historic Music Hall in Over-the-Rhine to a nonprofit group for just $1. Although the 134-year-old structure has an appraised value of $12.7 million, it needs major renovations and city officials say a private owner would have an easier time raising $165 million to upgrade and improve the facility. The private group, Music Hall Revitalization Co. Inc., also would be responsible for future operating and maintenance costs.

In news elsewhere, emails obtained by hacker group Anonymous and posted by WikiLeaks indicate terrorist leader Osama bin Laden might not have been buried at sea last year by the U.S. military, as Obama and U.S. officials said. The emails, from high-profile intelligence service Stratfor, said bin Laden was flown to Delaware on a CIA plane, then taken to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda, Md. The official version of bin Laden's death had alleged he was wrapped in a sheet and “eased” off the decks of a naval ship into the North Arabian Sea just hours after he was killed on May 2 in a raid by Navy SEALs.

Taliban fighters in Pakistan pledge to attack government, police and military officials if three of bin Laden's widows aren't released from Pakistani custody, a Taliban spokesman said today. Pakistan's government has charged bin Laden's three widows with illegally entering and staying in the nation, which observers said was probably done at the urging of U.S. officials.

Many Republican political campaign professionals believe Mitt Romney will win the GOP's presidential nomination but is perceived as weak and needs to quickly and decisively recast his image. Otherwise, they add, Romney will suffer the same fate as Bob Dole in 1996, when he lost the election to Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton.

U.S. employers added 227,000 jobs in February to complete three of the best months of hiring since the recession began. The unemployment rate was unchanged, largely because more people streamed into the work force. The Labor Department said today that the unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent last month, the lowest in three years.

European leaders are praising a recent Greek debt swap deal, adding it will pave the way for another eurozone bailout. Holders of 85.8 percent of debt subject to Greek law and 69 percent of its international debt holders agreed to a debt swap. Athens needed to get 75 percent to push through the deal, which is a condition of Greece's latest bailout. The Greek deal with its lenders is the largest restructuring of government debt in history.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.06.2012
Posted In: Police, City Council, Spending at 05:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Sittenfeld Wants Police Recruit Class

Councilman: It’s needed to offset retirements

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld wants his colleagues to approve a police recruit class for next year, the first since June 2008.

There currently are 1,022 sworn officers in the Cincinnati Police Department, along with 115 non-sworn staff. The high-mark during the past decade occurred in 2008, when there was a total of 1,148 sworn officers and 229 non-sworn staff.

By November 2013, based on department retirement projections and without the addition of a new recruit class, the Police Department's complement will be down to 964 sworn officers — 184 fewer sworn officers than in 2008.

“By the end of 2014, without the addition of a recruit class, our police force will be 197 officers below the authorized complement level,” Sittenfeld wrote in a memo to his colleagues.

“The Police Department has communicated the importance of a recruit class as a simple reflection of the numbers,” he added. “In the same way that council has needed to be realistic about our highest police staffing levels being financially unsustainable, we must also be realistic about how low we can allow staffing levels to fall and still provide the service that is expected.”

Other council members haven’t yet weighed in on the issue, which is a topic that likely will be brought up during budget hearings later this year.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.06.2012
 
 
vote

Morning News and Stuff

Hey, I want to let you in on a secret: There's an election in Ohio today. Super Tuesday is finally here, with more delegates at stake in the race for Republican presidential nominee than any other single day in the 2012 campaign season. There are seven primaries (Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia) and three caucuses (Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota) today. A total of 410 delegates – or 17.9 percent of the total – are up for grabs.

Officials at the Hamilton County Board of Elections are estimating that 30 percent of eligible voters will cast ballots today. Turnout probably will be low because the elections board only has received about 8,000 absentee ballots so far, compared to 26,000 by this time in 2010. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. If you're unsure where to vote, click here.

City Council is moving ahead with a plan to spend up to $100,000 to introduce priority-based budgeting in Cincinnati. The cash will fund a consultant to survey community leaders and residents to establish strategic priorities. City leaders would then try to align resources with what the community values the most, said Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who heads council's Budget and Finance Committee. Council will convene a series of public forums in the next two months, and attempt to identify five to seven priorities based on the input.

Just two days after he said it was premature to ask the federal government for help, Gov. John Kasich has reversed course. A team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will arrive today in Clermont County to survey storm damage and gauge whether the region qualifies for financial assistance. Kasich had a change of heart after he spoke with U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township), who told the guv that local officials wanted immediate federal aid. (So, when exactly is the next gubernatorial election?)

Little Miami Local School Board members want to meet with Ohio education officials after a commission rejected their plan to restore some services in the school district. The state Financial Planning and Supervision Commission unanimously rejected the district’s reconfiguration plan for 2012-13. Little Miami was placed in fiscal emergency by the state after several levies failed before a November levy narrowly passed.

Reductions to Medicare and other federal health-care programs could total $360 billion over the next 10 years, causing problems for hospitals that depend on the government payments, according to a new report from Moody’s Investors Service. Medicare covered 39 percent of in-patient days at Greater Cincinnati hospitals in 2010, a market overview found. (I don't want to hear a single complaint about this from our conservative Republican readers, as this is what you've sought for years.)

In news elsewhere, Iran is starting to feel the impact of international sanctions as demand for its crude oil begins to drop. In January, China, South Korea and Singapore reduced their oil purchases from Iran, and Shipping Corp. of India last month canceled an Iranian shipment because its European insurers refused to provide coverage for the tanker. Traders say Iran's troubles only will increase once an European Union oil embargo begins July 1.

Crazy religious dude is at it again. No, not Rick Santorum – we're referring to Pat Robertson, the erstwhile host of TV's The 700 Club. On the program Monday, the aging pastor opined that the recent outbreak of tornadoes might not have occurred if people had prayed for divine intervention. “If enough people were praying, He would’ve intervened," he said. "You could pray, 'Jesus stilled the storm, you can still storms.'” He also told viewers who live in areas prone to natural disasters that it’s “their fault, not God’s.” Way to show the compassion of Christ there, Pat.

If you're under the impression that the Constitution gives the rights of due process and equal protection under the law to U.S. citizens, Attorney General Eric Holder is going to set you wacky kids straight. In a speech Monday at the Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, Holder tried to defend the practice of using automated drones to kill suspected terrorists overseas who have never been convicted of a crime. "The president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war — even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen," Holder said to a mostly disapproving crowd.

Civic leaders in eastern Libya have called for semi-autonomy for the oil-rich region, saying their area has been neglected by the nation's central government for decades. The push for self-government is strong in the region of Cyrenaica, but the governing National Transitional Council says it could lead to Libya's demise as a unified nation.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.05.2012
 
 
kasich

Morning News and Stuff

Even though more than 250 buildings were damaged in the small Clermont County town of Moscow by Friday's tornado and severe weather, Gov. John Kasich so far is standing by his decision not to seek federal aid. Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will begin assessing damages in Northern Kentucky and Indiana today, but Kasich said it's premature to know if FEMA help is needed here. The agency can provide low-interest loans to repair damage not covered by insurance.

Hamilton County commissioners voted in December to sell the Drake Center hospital in Hartwell to the University of Cincinnati, but the transaction still hasn't been completed. Commissioners Chris Monzel and Todd Portune agreed to sell Drake for $15 million, for a cash infusion to cover a property tax rebate to homeowners for one year. The rebate was promised in 1996 to convince county voters to approve a sales-tax increase to build new stadiums for the Reds and the Bengals.

The police chief of a small Northern Kentucky city was arrested Thursday night for allegedly driving while drunk. Wilder Police Chief Anthony Rouse was arrested in nearby Alexandria after police there received a tip about 30 minutes earlier. Sounds like Rouse might have an enemy or two.

And that's one for the Reds. After a 6-6 tie game against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday, the hometown team scored an 8-6 victory Sunday in preseason play in Goodyear, Ariz. WCPO's Mark Slaughter is concerned about the inconsistent performance of pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who gave up a hit and a walk to the first two players he faced. The teams play again at 3:05 p.m. today.

Tuesday is Ohio's eagerly awaited primary election, part of the multiple contests going on nationwide that day. But once again, the Buckeye State is viewed as the key battleground that could make or break the campaigns of some Republican presidential hopefuls. A Quinnipiac University poll released today finds Mitt Romney has the momentum. Quinnipiac said 34 percent of likely Republican primary voters prefer Romney, compared to 31 percent for Rick Santorum, a 10-point shift from a Feb. 27 poll that favored Santorum.

In news elsewhere, some Republican Party insiders are comparing the GOP's position this year to the 2005 film, Batman Begins. In that flick, a group of villains believe Gotham City is beyond saving and the only way to fix it is to first destroy it, then let something better rise from the ashes. The Republican Party's contentious presidential primary battle might be the exact type of showdown between its moderate and conservative factions that is needed to let the party recover and prosper in the future, some strategists believe. (So, does that make Rick Santorum the Scarecrow?)

Love him or hate him, Ron Paul is refreshingly candid and free of spin. The Republican presidential wannabe expressed doubt Sunday that radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh was sincere when he apologized for calling a law student a "slut" over her support for President Obama's new policy on insurance coverage of contraceptives. Limbaugh only did it because advertisers were leaving his show, Paul said on Face the Nation. Well, duh.

An Iranian-American convicted in Iran of spying for the CIA will get a new trial. In what's being viewed as an improvement in relations between the two nations, Iran's Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence given to Amir Mirzai Hekmati, stating his earlier trial “was not complete.”

There appears to be little chance that a proposal by the Obama administration to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent for all companies, while also eliminating loopholes and deductions, will advance this year. Some politicians are leery of abolishing the deductions in an election year, NPR reports.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 01.24.2012
Posted In: News, 2012 Election, Courts, Spending, Republicans at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
newt1

Morning News and Stuff

Sensing he needs to make up for lost ground, Mitt Romney went on the offensive in Monday night’s Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Fla., hammering Newt Gingrich as an “influence peddler.” Occasionally appearing at a loss for words, the bombastic ex-Speaker of the House accused Romney of engaging in “trivial politics.”

Boys, boys: Settle down or I’m pulling the car over.

Read More

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 01.18.2012
Posted In: News, Republicans, Spending, Financial Crisis at 05:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
rob portman

Portman to Address Local GOP

At least three members of Congress are set to attend the 13th annual Northeast Hamilton County Republican Pancake Breakfast next week.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Terrace Park), a budget director under President George W. Bush, is the keynote speaker at the event. Also scheduled to attend are U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) and Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township), along with nearly 400 local Republicans from all levels of government.

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by Kevin Osborne 01.09.2012
Posted In: Police, Public Policy, Spending, City Council at 06:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
police chief

Meet the Police Chief

Residents will get a chance to ask Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig some questions at a public meeting this week.

Craig, who was sworn in as the city’s 13th police chief in August, will be the featured speaker at the annual meeting of Citizens for Civic Renewal (CCR). The session will be held from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center in Corryville, near the University of Cincinnati.

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by Kevin Osborne 12.02.2011
 
 
steve_chabot,_official_109th_congress_photo

Mr. Chabot, Meet Mr. Will

As far as conservatives go, I can tolerate columnist George Will and often enjoy reading his work. Unlike most of what passes as conservatism today, Will tends to base his arguments on logic and fact, not emotion and rhetoric.

Making him even more of an anomaly in Republican circles, Will acknowledges and corrects his errors, when he makes them. As an added bonus, he's also a deft wordsmith.

Despite his many years in office, Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) could stand to take a few pointers from Will. Chabot, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, spoke during a hearing Wednesday about his concerns with a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by year's end.

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by Hannah McCartney 07.18.2013
Posted In: Poverty, Food Deserts, Spending, Health care, Health at 03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_gardentour_kailabusken3

Report: Ubiquity of Healthy Food Directly Tied to Obesity Rates

Rural areas could benefit from improved corner stores

A report conducted by researchers at East Carolina University in North Carolina, released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sheds some interesting light on patterns in the availability of healthy food in different geographic regions and concludes that amping up corner stores that traditionally peddle junk food could be key in improving public health and national obesity rates.

The study focused heavily on the availability of healthy foods such as fresh produce in corner stores across the state in urban, suburban and rural areas. The findings suggest that there are higher rates of obesity in rural areas of the United States than in urban or suburban areas, speculating that because rural residents tend to live farther from supermarkets, they may rely more on junk food from corner stores (like gas stations) or fast food. Where rural areas did have healthy food available, it tended to be of lower quality than other more populated areas.

People aren’t averse to healthy foods, according to the study. When researchers surveyed shoppers and management at rural corner stores, they found a dichotomy in the perception of demand for healthy foods between the two groups. Store managers said they’d be interested in stocking healthy foods, but didn’t think there was a high enough demand to do so; shoppers told researchers they’d be likely to buy produce at a corner store and attributed the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets to the lack of accessibility at the stores they frequented.

Obesity as a result of poor access to healthy food is not just a rural phenomenon, however. Some urban neighborhoods, particularly those that are low-income, also suffer from alarmingly high obesity rates. Avondale, which is considered a “food desert” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has long been dealing with a severe obesity problem, according to Avondale Community Council President Patricia Milton. CityBeat reported on Cincinnati’s efforts to eliminate food deserts and improve selections at corner stores here.

Obesity is a detrimental public health problem that costs the U.S. approximately $190 billion per year in health care expenses, according to a report from the Harvard School of Public Health. It’s directly associated with harmful health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and overall reductions in life spans.

According to the Harvard researchers, if obesity trends continue, obesity-related medical costs could rise by up to $66 billion by 2030.

University of Cincinnati professor Michael Widener told CityBeat in June about his research to analyze the way a number of different economic and social factors play into eating habits in different geographical regions, which could eventually help paint a better picture of how to establish strong and healthy networks of groceries and possibly improve obesity rates and public health.

The Center for Closing the Health Gap (CCHG), a local nonprofit working toward health equality, is currently working on identifying grocery stores which may be eligible to receive incentivizing funds from the Cincinnati Fresh Food Retail Financing Fund, which could bring grocery stores to underserved neighborhoods such as Avondale.

CCHG is also working on the pilot phases of its Healthy Corner Store Initiative, which could provide corner store owners with the education and technical assistance to start selling more healthful foods.

To find out if where you're living qualifies as a "food desert," click here.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.25.2013
Posted In: Budget, Economy, News, Transportation, Spending at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio unemployment standards, state approves projects, Cincinnati's transparent spending

A new analysis found Ohio has some of the toughest requirements for unemployment benefits. The Policy Matters Ohio report shows Ohio is the only state besides Michigan where a worker who makes minimum wage for 29 hours a week would not qualify for unemployment compensation. Ohio’s standards require workers to earn an average of at least $230 a week for at least 20 weeks of work to qualify for benefits. The state also does not allow unemployed workers seeking part-time work to receive benefits, which is permissible in most other states. Every state must set qualification standards for unemployment compensation, which is supposed to hold people over while they search for work if they’re laid off.

Ohio’s transportation projects council unanimously approved 32 different projects totaling more than $2 billion. The projects approved by the Transportation Review Advisory Council come amidst debate over Gov. John Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan, which leverages the turnpike’s profits for renewed infrastructure spending. Ohio Department of Transportation officials say they’re optimistic about the turnpike plan and the bond revenue it will produce in the short term.

A new report from the Ohio Public Interest Research Group found Cincinnati is a lot more transparent about spending than Cleveland. Cincinnati got a B+ for spending transparency, while Cleveland got an F.

The city of Cincinnati and a union representing city workers are currently negotiating an out-of-court settlement over a lawsuit involving the city's pension program. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) claimed in a 2011 lawsuit that the city is not meeting funding requirements set by the Cincinnati Retirement System Board of Trustees.

The local branch of the NAACP is facing increased tensions. Three former presidents are calling for a national investigation to look into the local branch’s relationship with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a local conservative group. City Council Member Chris Smitherman, current president of the NAACPs local branch, has close ties with COAST, but the three former presidents say partnering with COAST is the wrong direction for the NAACP.

Some Ohio schools need to do more to protect students from concussions. Many schools are already improving standards in anticipation of a state law that goes into effect in April, but some large school districts are falling behind. The new law requires school districts educate parents and families about concussions, train coaches in recognizing symptoms of head injuries and pull injured or symptomatic students from the field until a doctor clears a return. CityBeat wrote about head injuries and how they relate to the NFL and Bengals here.

President Barack Obama renominated Richard Cordray, former Ohio attorney general, to head the Consumers Financial Protection Bureau. The nomination could have repercussions for the 2014 governor’s race; Cordray was seen as a potential Democratic candidate.

Lightning could be a source of headaches and migraines, according to a new University of Cincinnati study.

Catholic Health Partners and Mercy Health are looking to fill 80 positions.

The Ingalls Building, which was the world’s first reinforced-concrete skyscraper when it was built in downtown Cincinnati in 1903, was sold for $1.45 million.

A Catholic hospital chain killed a lawsuit by arguing a fetus is not a person.

IBM developed a warmth-activated gel that could kill superbugs and break up tough bacterial biofilms. Maybe humans won’t need panda blood after all.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.26.2012
Posted In: News, Courts, Education, Budget, Spending at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

CPS helps rework school funding, cuts mean less teachers, judges against double-dipping

Cincinnati Public Schools seems to be playing a big role in reforming Ohio’s school funding formula. Superintendent Mary Ronan got a call from Gov. John Kasich’s office about the per-pupil funding formula CPS uses to distribute funds to its schools. It seems the state might adopt a similar method, but Ronan is cautious: “I do think it's one of the ways you could do it, a per-pupil funding, but I have to say, we were always tweaking every year ... because sometimes those formulas can be a bit off and any time we saw one school getting a lot more than another ... we tried to refine it every year over probably the 15 years we have used it.” She also notes schools are getting “bare minimum” funding right now. CityBeat covered budget problems at CPS here.

In general, state budget cuts have led to fewer teachers in Ohio schools. Gov. Kasich previously urged schools to focus on classroom instruction, but it seems the words aren't being followed up with proper funding.

Southwestern Ohio judges are clashing over double-dipping. The practice involves government workers retiring and getting rehired so they can collect pensions and a paycheck at the same time. At a meeting, Hamilton County Judge Melba Marsh said she wants to allow Magistrate Michael Bachman to retire and then be rehired so he doesn't lose a 3-percent increase to his retirement, which is otherwise being eliminated by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System after 2012. But the move has been met with resistance from other judges.

For Cincinnati hospitals, Medicare changes mean some loss and some gain.

The online campaign urging Macy’s to dump Donald Trump circled a “Dump Trump” billboard around Macy’s headquarters. The anti-Trump movement has gained about 680,000 signatures since it started.

On Christmas Eve, some spent time with family, while Butler County Deputy David Runnells helped deliver a baby in the back of a car during an emergency call.

Ohio will use $20 million out of $200 million in casino funds to train incumbent workers. Gov. Kasich says the program could help avoid layoffs.

It seems Mitt Romney's presidential campaign really thought they were going to win. In campaign memos leading up to the election, campaign staff said the race was “unmistakably moving in Mitt Romney’s direction,” and the campaign ridiculed the possibility of losing Ohio due to the Romney campaign’s “better ground game.” But President Barack Obama had a much larger ground game for one-on-one interaction, which is one of the factors former Romney staff now say led to their demise. But whatever. Romney didn't want to be president, anyway, says son Tagg Romney: He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to ... run.

Fiscal cliff talks aren’t going well. President Obama cut his vacation early to work out negotiations. If Republicans and Democrats can’t work out their problems, a series of spending cuts and tax hikes dubbed the “fiscal cliff” will kick in throughout 2013. But it’s looking more and more likely the nation will head off the cliff, considering U.S. Speaker John Boehner can’t even pass tax hikes on people making more than $1 million a year.

Ever wonder what dinosaur meat would taste like? Well, Popular Science has that covered.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.20.2012
 
 
mikedewine

Morning News and Stuff

DeWine calls for school staff training, Music Hall to be leased, bus money not for streetcar

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is proposing training school staff and teachers to be first responders in the case of an attack. The news comes in the wake of the massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which caused the deaths of 20 children and six adults. CityBeat proposed its own solution in this week’s commentary: Make this time different by focusing on mental health services and gun control.

Cincinnati will lease Music Hall for 75 years to the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC). The lease is part of a plan to renovate the iconic building to include more comfortable seating, extra restroom capacity, heating, air conditioning, improved plumbing and new escalator models. During the renovations, Music Hall will be closed for 17 months.

City Council passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money for the streetcar. The supposed conflict between the city of Cincinnati and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is being drummed up by the media, but it’s really much ado about nothing. 

Metropolitan Sewer District rates will go up by 5 percent in early 2013.

The Cincinnati Health Department is pushing recommendations from a lead hazard study. The recommendations would prohibit lead-based paint hazards and require all properties to be free of lead-based paint, dust and soil. City Council is asking the health department to carry out the regulations, and it expects from a plan and timetable from regulators within 60 days. One study found getting rid of lead would do wonders for school performance

A Brookings Institute ranking placed Greater Cincinnati among the worst areas in the country due to falling home prices.

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank agreed to a $16 million settlement in a securities fraud case. The four-year-old lawsuit was brought in the onset of 2008’s financial crisis, when the bank’s stock plummeted as it took several large writedowns.

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino still needs to fill 450 positions in food and beverage, marketing, finance, security and more. A Washington Post analysis found casinos tend to bring jobs, but they also bring crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.

As expected, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is helping Ohio’s economy. The state has 39,000 jobs attached to oil and gas this year, and the number is expected to triple by the end of the decade. To take advantage of the boom, Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he will push his oil-and-gas severance tax in 2013. But the plan faces opposition from liberals and conservatives.

If Ohio Republicans tried to push “right-to-work” legislation, it would lead to a very nasty public fight, The Plain Dealer reports. Kasich and Republican lawmakers didn’t rule out using ballot initiatives to push conservative ideas like right-to-work in a press conference yesterday, but he did say he’s like a horse with blinders on, focusing on job creation.

The animal and robot takeover have been merged in the BigDog robot. It can now obey voice commands, follow and roll over.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.19.2012
 
 
bus

Council Passes SORTA Resolution, Budget

Resolution promises no bus funds used on streetcar

In hopes of quashing rumors, City Council on Wednesday passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the streetcar.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit authority had voted Tuesday on an agreement with the city that contained a provision saying money from the $42 million transit fund that pays for bus operation can’t be used on the streetcar.

The agreement needs to be signed by the city as well in order to release millions of dollars in federal grants to help fund the streetcar. The city has pledged to match those grants with local funds. SORTA wants to make sure the transit fund isn’t used for that purpose, but the city wants to have the freedom to use that money on any transportation project.

At least one council member questioned the necessity of passing the resolution.

Chris Seelbach said that nobody on council or in the city administration had proposed or would propose using transit money on the streetcar.

“I don’t understand why we would need a provision in any contract that would make us not be able to, when nobody’s proposing that we do it,” he said.

The resolution has no legal standing preventing council from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar, but Qualls said she hoped it put citizens’ minds at rest regarding their intentions.

Mayor Mark Mallory on Monday published an editorial in The Enquirer promising that the transit money wouldn’t be used for the streetcar.

He went further on Wednesday and said during council’s meeting that he as mayor would never approve the use of transit money for the operation of the streetcar.

Council also passed a one-month budget for SORTA, requiring that they come back next month to pass another one.

Councilman Chris Smitherman accused Mallory of trying to flex political muscle in the budget to strong-arm SORTA into taking out the provision disallowing the use of transit funds for the streetcar. He questioned the timing of passing a SORTA budget the day after the transit authority voted to prevent transit funds being used for the streetcar.

Councilman Charlie Winburn — council's sole Republican — walked out of a Budget Committee meeting in advance of the vote.

However Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said it made sense to pass the one-month budget because it forbid SORTA from using taxpayer money to sue the city.

City Solicitor John Curp said it was SORTA’s position in the lawsuit that it should be the one deciding how transit funds are used, not the city.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.19.2012
 
 
qualls

Morning News and Stuff

Qualls to push for federal gun regulations, UC to renovate Nippert, company rigs bid process

Metal detectors could come back to City Hall, but local legislators can’t do much more regarding local gun control. Still, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and other City Council members will begin pushing for more federal regulations on guns starting today. President Barack Obama is already beginning to drum up support for more regulations on guns, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. He also wants to close a loophole that allows people to buy firearms at gun shows without background checks. At the state level, a new bill loosening gun regulations in Ohio is facing criticism. The bill will make it easier to store firearms in cars and allows them for the first time in parking garages under the Ohio Statehouse and a nearby office tower. Gov. John Kasich said he will sign the bill.

The University of Cincinnati is launching a fundraising effort for the renovation of Nippert Stadium. The project could cost as much as $70 million. The university wants to offset as much of the cost as possible to build premium seating, with the possibility of 28 new luxury boxes and more than 1,400 premium seats being added. Goals could change based on demand and fundraising efforts.

A Cincinnati-based company and its top executive have pleaded guilty to circumventing Ohio’s competitive bid process. The actions cost Ohio taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The company circumvented the competitive process by submitting multiple bids on road jobs under different names, creating the illusion of competition.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a possible candidate for the presidency in 2016, will headline a Hamilton County GOP event. He will be a featured speaker next month at the Northeast Hamilton County Republican Club's annual pancake breakfast.

The Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy failed to follow its own compensation policies, resulting in improper over-payments of $2,325, according to Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost.

Top state officials will begin pushing and outlining school safety efforts in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

State Impact Ohio has a fantastic infographic showing the growth of charter schools in Ohio. In the Cincinnati urban district, charter schools now host 6,642 students.

A new state policy will automatically refund businesses when they’ve overpaid their taxes. The first round of the policy will refund businesses in Ohio $13 million.

The animal takeover continues. Due to the effects of climate change, some animals are moving into cities.

On the bright side, animals can be pretty cute. Here is a dog flipping over its food, and here are cats locked in deadly combat against a printer.

 
 
by Bill Sloat 12.07.2012
Posted In: Government, News, Washington, Spending at 03:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
glenn

Navy Constructing $450 Million Ship Named for John Glenn

Ohio native was first American to orbit earth, flew 149 combat missions in WWII and Korea

The Glenn is under construction in San Diego, where a keel-laying ceremony signifying the initial step in construction was held earlier this week. When it enters the fleet, which is expected in 2015, the vessel will be 837 feet long and displace 80,000 tons when loaded. Navy officials say they can use it for both warfighting and humanitarian missions. The ship was in the Pentagon budget before the current debate over the fiscal cliff and defense spending cuts got under way. Meanwhile, NASA is no longer able to put astronauts in orbit because funding for manned flights ended when the space shuttles were grounded.

John Glenn was a Marine pilot who became one of NASA’s seven original Mercury astronauts. He was friendly with John F. Kennedy, who recruited him to become a politician. During his years in the Senate, he was among Ohio’s most popular elected officials. Glenn ran for president in 1984 but didn’t make it out of the primaries. He was a flop as a national candidate.

Navy officials say they plan to build three ships similar to the USNS John Glenn, which are designed as giant sea-going supply and troop platforms. They can carry three hovercraft for amphibious operations. The Navy calls the ships Mobile Landing Platforms and says the design is based on the huge commercial supertankers that carry crude oil from Alaska.

Glenn is in his nineties and attended the keel-laying ceremony.  He is active and campaigned last fall for President Barack Obama’s reelection.  



 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.05.2012
 
 
hartmann1

County Commission President Lays Out Budget Plan

"Austerity budget" rejects tax increases

The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some taxes.

Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30 percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.

“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said. 

He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.

Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000  or 0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3 percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5 percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.

Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic development is not possible without it.

Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.

Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.

Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.

Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own budget proposal as well.

“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.

The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by the following week.

He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.

“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different visions in terms of solutions.” 

Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major party challenger.

Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s waiting for the election results.

“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking that’s what you were going to go with.”

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.02.2012
 
 
piglet

Morning News and Stuff

Only four days left to early-vote in person. Find out where to do that here.

U.S. employers hired 171,000 people in October and revised job growth over the previous two months, finding it had been stronger than previously thought. However, unemployment inched up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September, due to more out-of-work people looking for work. People are only considered unemployed if they’re actively searching for work. More people entering the workforce and increased job growth had the stock market jumping, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures up 30 points within minutes of the opening bell.

COAST has been keeping busy this week. The anti-tax group filed two lawsuits, one trying to block the sale of some land near the former Blue Ash Airport to prevent the cash from being used for the streetcar, and the other against Cincinnati Public Schools over allegations that staff used school emails to promote voter registration drives and offering to volunteer and contribute to the campaign supporting the CPS school levy (issue 42).

A firm specializing in storm damage forecasting estimates that superstorm Sandy could cause $30 billion to $50 billion in damage, making it the most second-most expensive storm the U.S. has ever seen, right behind Hurricane Katrina.

The U.S. Senate race between incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has been expensive, no doubt. But what has all that money gone to? An analysis by The Enquirer shows that the nearly $30 million spent by both campaigns on the race has gone from everything from pollsters to Cincinnati Reds tickets to a used Jeep Cherokee. The largest expenditure for Brown’s campaign was $1.7 million for staff salaries, while the largest of Mandel’s expenditures was $1.7 million on TV ads.

People thinking about entering law school next year, rejoice. Despite a dire job market for new graduates, both campaigns have mobilized armies of lawyers in preparations to sue for votes in battleground states. If the next election is this close, you might have a job in four years. Assuming the Mayans were wrong about the apocalypse and everything.

A joint committee of Cincinnati City Council met Thursday to discuss allegations that workers at the University Square development in Clifton aren’t being paid enough. They didn’t take any action, other than asking the city to investigate, but agreed that there needs to be better oversight to make sure workers on taxpayer-funded projects are paid what they’re supposed to earn.

If you are accused of a crime in Ohio and police take your DNA, they get to keep it on file, even if you’re acquitted. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that DNA samples are like fingerprints and can be kept even if a suspect is acquitted of a crime.

A federal judge on Thursday refused to change an Ohio law that could prevent some prisoners from voting.

A bunch of dirty hippies “light warriors” buried hundreds of muffin-crystal-thingies in at Serpent Mound to help realign the energy of the ancient Native American burial mound. They were caught because they made a YouTube video of their alleged desecration.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.26.2012
 
 
josh_mandel headshot

Morning News And Stuff

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was in Cincinnati on Monday where he compared the Obama administration to the replacement NFL referees whose bungled call cost Ryan’s home-state Green Bay Packers a win. Ryan joined GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Dayton where the two attacked Obama’s economic record and characterized the president as someone who believes government should tell people how to live. Both Obama and Romney plan to campaign around Ohio on Wednesday.

Meanwhile unemployment in Cincinnati dropped to 7.5 percent in August, down from 8.2 percent in July. Unemployment in Hamilton County dropped to 6.8 percent in August, down from 7.3 percent. The Greater Cincinnati’s jobless rate for the month was 6.7 percent, putting it below that of the state (7.2 percent) and the nation (8.1 percent).

Speaking of numbers, a new poll released today shows Obama leading Romney in Ohio – the third such poll in the last four days. The Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times Swing State Poll shows Obama leading Romney 53 to 43 percent in Ohio, and by similar large margins in the battlegrounds of Florida and Pennsylvania.

The typically media-shy Republican Ohio Treasurer and Senate candidate Josh Mandel proposed three new rules for members of the U.S. Congress in a rare Tuesday news conference. He said he wants members of Congress to lose their pensions if they became lobbyists, be limited to 12 years in the House and Senate and not be paid if they failed to pass a budget. Mandel says his opponent, sitting Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, broke his promise to voters that he would only serve 12 years in Congress. Mandel himself promised to fill his entire term as state treasurer, but would leave halfway through if he wins the Senate race.

The governors of Ohio and Kentucky continue to move toward jointly supporting a financing study for a replacement of the functionally-obsolete Brent Spence Bridge, and both governors favor a bridge toll to fund construction. The Kentucky Legislature would have to approve a measure to allow tolling on the bridge.

Forty percent of Hamilton County’s septic systems are failing, and homeowners and utilities are arguing over who should foot the $242 million bill. The Enquirer has an analysis of the ongoing battle.

The Associated Press reports that Andy Williams, Emmy-winning TV host and “Moon River” crooner, has died.

The Enquirer is still doing all it can to keep the Lacheys relevant instead of letting them die off like all bad 90s trends like Furby and Hammer pants. The paper blogged that Lachey finished in the bottom three in the first week of the new Dancing with the Stars: All Stars.

Speaking of those replacement NFL refs, apparently some of them were fired by the Lingerie Football League for incompetence. Yes, there are totally unrelated pictures of women playing football.

 
 
 
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