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by German Lopez 10.25.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Economy, Budget, News at 08:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
josh_mandel headshot

Brown, Mandel Meet for Final Debate

Candidates detail Social Security plans

Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel met once again Thursday night for a debate to see who is more qualified for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat. The candidates were a bit less feisty in their final debate, but the substance behind their words was fairly similar to the past two debates.

Mandel spent a bit less time attacking Brown for “Washington speak,” and Brown spent a bit less time attacking Mandel for dishonesty. However, Mandel did spend a bit more time attacking Brown for being a “career politician,” and both candidates criticized each other for voting along party lines.

For the most part, the debate treaded ground covered in the first debate and second debate. CityBeat covered those face-offs in-depth here: first debate and second debate.

Some new details did emerge when Brown and Mandel discussed Social Security. Mandel clarified he would raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare for those around his age — 35 — and younger. To justify the raise, he said life expectancy has grown since those laws were first put into place. He also claimed, “If we maintain the status quo, which is the way of Washington, there will be no Medicare or Social Security.”

Brown responded by saying he wouldn’t raise the eligibility age or reduce benefits, but he would increase the payroll tax cap. 

In the case of Mandel’s proposal, there is some important context missing. While it’s true life expectancy has increased in the U.S., it has not increased at the same level for everyone. A 2008 study by the Congressional Budget Office found life expectancy is lagging for low-income individuals, while it’s steadily rising for the wealthiest Americans. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology had similar findings. These studies show increases in the average life expectancy may not be reflective of what’s actually happening within the poor and even middle class. In other words, raising the eligibility age to match the rise in life expectancy could disproportionately hurt the lower classes.

There are also some holes in gauging the eligibility age for entitlement programs with a rise in the average life expectancy. Social Security was enacted in 1935. Between the law passing and 2007, the U.S. child mortality rate dropped about 3.3 percent per year for children between the ages of one and four, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This large drop in child mortality rate could be exaggerating gains in life expectancy, which is an average that takes into account the age of deceased children.

Mandel’s implication that raising the eligibility age is the only way to keep Social Security solvent is also misleading. Currently, the payroll tax is set up so it only taxes the first $110,100 of everyone’s income. A Congressional Research Service study from 2010 found eliminating the cap would keep the Social Security Trust Funds solvent for the next 75 years. The downside is this would raise taxes for anyone making more than $110,100. Still, the fact eliminating the cap would extend the trust funds’ solvency shows there are other options, and it shows Brown’s idea of increasing the cap has some fiscal merit.

However, Mandel would not be able to take Brown’s approach because it would mean raising taxes, which Mandel vowed to not do under any circumstance when he signed lobbyist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.

For the final debate, Mandel and Brown followed similar paths as before and even recited some of the exact same lines. At this point, the candidates have painted clear contrasts. With three debates and a year of campaigning behind them, it’s now clear Brown is mostly the liberal, Democratic choice and Mandel is mostly the conservative, Republican choice.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.25.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, News, Economy at 09:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
sherrod brown

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

The final debate for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat is tonight. Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel will meet in Cincinnati to continue a feisty exchange of ideas and sometimes insults. In the last debate, the candidates drew sharp contrasts on policy, which CityBeat covered in-depth here. The final debate will be tonight at 7 p.m. on all Ohio NBC news stations, including WLWT.com. In aggregate polling, Brown is currently up 5.2 points against Mandel.

Want to see what a biased headline from a local newspaper looks like? Here you go, from Business Courier: Romney win would boost economy, economist says. Strangely enough, the article says re-electing President Barack Obama could also lift the economy, which makes the misleading headline even worse. Unfortunately for the newspaper, Obama is currently leading by 2.1 points in Ohio against Mitt Romney, and the state will play a pivotal role in the election. Romney is leading by 0.6 points nationally.

A group is trying to convince Cincinnatians to vote no on Issue 4. The initiative, which is on 2012’s ballot, would extend City Council terms from two to four years. Supporters of Issue 4 say it lets City Council focus more on passing laws and less on campaigning, but opponents say it makes it more difficult to hold City Council accountable.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Robert Cupp is distancing himself from a TV ad put out by the Ohio Republican Party that depicts his Democratic opponent, William O’Neill, as sympathetic to rapists. Liberal blog Plunderbund called the ad “tone deaf,” referencing recent instances of Republican senatorial candidates turning rape into a legitimate issue. The Republican Senate candidate for Indiana, Richard Mourdock, recently said during a debate, “I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Previously, the Republican Senate candidate for Missouri, Todd Akin, told reporters when discussing pregnancy caused by rape, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

CityBeat looked at some of the benefits and downsides of green water infrastructure yesterday. Basically, it’s going to produce more jobs and economic growth, but it’s going to require long-term commitment and education. Later today, CityBeat will be talking to some city officials of how that green infrastructure can be adopted in Cincinnati.

Hamilton County’s budget is tight, and that means no wage hike for county workers anytime soon, according to Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann.

Gov. John Kasich is taking his time in filling an open Board of Education seat. Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, says, “We just want to get the right person.” But state law requires the seat be filled within 30 days, and the seat has been vacant for a month.

An Ohio judge said provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct and polling location must still be counted.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble beat Wall Street expectations, easing concerns from skeptical investors.

Huntington National Bank is relaunching its credit card business in a move that will produce 250 new jobs, and Greater Cincinnati is expected to land some of those jobs.

Ohio is getting a little love from Airbus. The aerospace company will be getting more of its parts from Ohio manufacturers. Cincinnati-based GE Aviation is already Airbus’ biggest U.S. supplier.

A new health care report found health providers often cover up mistakes in fear of retaliation. The report also found health care has been slow at embracing the “culture of safety.”

Apparently, strict parents raise conservative kids.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.24.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Economy, City Council, Education at 08:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
to do_washington park opening_photo 3cdc

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

A City Council committee approved $13.5 million that will be going to Over-the-Rhine development. Of that money, $6 million will go to the second phase of the Mercer Commons project, which is being developed by Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The rest will help 3CDC redevelop 18 different buildings that are mostly around Washington Park. City Council will vote on the funding today.

Cincinnati’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent, but the drop was mostly attributed to people leaving the labor force. Between September 2011 and September 2012, Cincinnati’s labor force has actually shrunk. Still, more people were employed in September 2012 than were employed in September 2011.

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is asking Cincinnati for $8.5 million to secure a Jordan Crossing shopping center project at Bond Hill. The funds would pay for the demolition, site preparation, marketing and redevelopment of the project.

In the second wave of interim results from an ongoing investigation into Ohio schools’ attendance data reporting, State Auditor Dave Yost found no evidence of attendance scrubbing in schools with levies on the 2012 ballot. The investigation included Cincinnati Public Schools, which means CPS was found to be clean. In a statement, Yost said, “I’m surprised and pleased. To have zero incidents of ‘scrubbing’ is encouraging news.” The full findings for both interim reports can be found here.

Clifton is set to get a neighborhood grocery store soon. The neighborhood has been without one since January 2011. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee helped spur the new project with a tax abatement program.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners held a budget hearing yesterday, but not much new information came out. Board President Greg Hartmann insists public safety is a priority, but he says the sheriff’s office will have to deal with some across-the-board cuts. The cuts won’t include closing the jail, decreasing courtroom security or eliminating contracts with townships for patrols. The board has two more public meetings on Oct. 29 and 30.

The controversial billboards accused of attempting to suppress voters are being taken down by Norton Outdoor Advertising, the Cincinnati company that hosted the billboards. Meanwhile, P.G. Sittenfeld and Lamar Advertising Company, a different billboard company, are putting up 10 billboards that read, “Hey Cincinnati, voting is a right not a crime!” The new billboards are supposed to encourage voting.

The University of Cincinnati has a new president: Santa Ono. The official promotion was unanimously approved by the UC Board of Trustees. Ono has been serving as interim president since Aug. 21, when former President Greg Williams suddenly resigned due to “personal reasons.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer is being accused of age discrimination in a recently amended lawsuit. In the lawsuit, eight former employees claim they were fired and replaced with younger, less qualified employees.

A new rumor is going around that says it’s possible to tamper with voting results, but fact checkers and election officials are saying it’s not possible. The rumors started due to the Romneys’ investments in an electronic voting company.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Here is a list of some of the department’s accomplishments: The amount of rivers meeting aquatic life standards went from 21 to 89 percent between the 1980s and today, carbon monoxide in the air is down 80 percent since the 1970s, sulfur dioxide is down 71 percent, lead is down 95 percent and 99 percent of community public water systems now meet health standards, up from 85 percent in 1993.

Miami University says it will discipline two students responsible for putting up an offensive flyer about getting away with rape in a coed dorm bathroom.

Metro revealed its plans for an Uptown Transit District. The district, which will cost Metro $6.9 million, is meant to better suit the needs and growth of Uptown.

Two Democratic state lawmakers are planning legislation to slow down the privatization of the Ohio Turnpike. Gov. John Kasich’s administration is currently paying $3.4 million to KPMG, a private consulting and accounting firm, to study whether leasing the turnpike to the highest private bidder would benefit the state. Kasich says he could use the money saved for transportation projects all around the state. But northern Ohio residents do not seem happy with giving up a valuable asset they helped invest in, especially if the revenue from the Ohio Turnpike goes to regions outside of northern Ohio.

There's more evidence sushi sucks. Popular Science has an article and graph showing how raw food kept primates stupid.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 10.23.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Community, Media, News, Racism at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
voterfraud

Controversial Voter Fraud Billboards to be Removed

Outcry, national attention spurred removal of voter fraud displays

A Cincinnati outdoor advertising company announced Tuesday that it will take down controversial billboards that opponents claim are aimed at intimidating voters.

Norton Outdoor Advertising had been contracted to put up about 30 billboards that read “Voter Fraud is a Felony!” The billboards also listed the maximum penalty for voter fraud — up to 3 and a half years and a $10,000 fine.

Opponents of the billboards claim they were strategically placed in predominantly low-income and black neighborhoods in Cincinnati as a means to discourage those largely Democratic voters from going to the polls.

The billboards were funded by an anonymous “private family foundation.”

In a statement posted online, Norton Executive Vice President Mike Norton said the displays would be taken down as soon as possible. He wrote that the foundation and Norton agreed after hearing criticism that the sentiment surrounding the displays was contrary to their intended purpose.

The family foundation didn’t intend to make a political statement, but rather make the public aware of voting regulations, he wrote.

“We look forward to helping to heal the divisiveness that has been an unfortunate result of this election year,” Norton wrote.

Norton had previously told CityBeat that the billboards were not targeted but distributed randomly throughout the city.

Several Cincinnati officials wrote to the company requesting the billboards be taken down. 

ClearChannel Outdoor Advertising announced on Monday that it was removing similar billboards in Cleveland and Columbus.

The billboards throughout Ohio had garnered national criticism and media attention.

 A rival outdoor advertising company is putting up 10 new billboards to rebut the voter fraud ones. 

The new red, white and blue billboards will read “Hey Cincinnati, voting is a right not a crime!”

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in an emailed news release that he reached out to Lamar Advertising Company to ask if they would donate the billboards throughout Cincinnati.

“We should be encouraging folks to participate in our democratic process, not trying to scare them,” Sittenfeld wrote. “I salute Lamar’s generosity and their support in encouraging citizens to raise their voice and not be scared away.”

 
 
by German Lopez 10.23.2012
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

The final presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was last night. The general consensus from media pundits is Obama won by a substantial margin. But political scientists say debates typically have negligible electoral impact. In aggregate polling, Obama is up in Ohio by 1.9 points and Romney is up nationally by 0.6 points. Ohio is looking like a must-win state for both campaigns, so Obama’s advantage there is a very bad sign for Romney. FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times’ election forecast blog, has an explanation of how and why the current electoral landscape favors Obama.   

In a follow-up to the debate, Romney will be visiting Greater Cincinnati Thursday.

A new motion by City Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan could encourage more people and businesses to make use of the city’s LEED program. The program uses special tax exemptions to encourage buildings to be cleaner and greener. 

Cincinnati’s City Planning Commission approved Plan Cincinnati Friday. With the approval, the plan’s only hurdle is City Council. If passed, the plan will reform city policies to put a new emphasis on the city’s urban core. That means a cleaner, greener city with more transportation options, ranging from walking and biking to the streetcar and rail. CityBeat wrote about Plan Cincinnati here. The full plan can be found here.  

Three Republicans in the state legislature, including Cincinnati’s Sen. Bill Seitz and Rep. Louis Tehrar, introduced a bill that would require health insurance providers to cover autism. Critics say the move could cost small businesses too much during an economic downturn, but supporters say it’s necessary to Ohio’s mental health coverage requirement, which was passed in 2007. Seitz says the bill could also save money by bringing down special education costs.

In a sign of Ohio's education funding problems, one report found two of three Ohio school levies are asking for additional funding. But Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) levy will only not ask for extra funding or higher taxes; instead, it asks for funding and taxes to remain the same. CityBeat covered Issue 42, the CPS levy, in-depth here. 

A new report found Ohio students graduate with more debt than most of the nation. The report named the state a “high debt state” with an average of $28,683 in student loans — above the national average of $26,600.

Despite what a recent conflict between Commissioner Greg Hartmann and Mayor Mark Mallory implies, Cincinnati and Hamilton County are working together. The city and county are cooperating on the Banks project, funding the Port Authority and operating the Metropolitan Sewer District. 

Cincinnati is working harder to enforce a chronic nuisance disorder. A property is classified as a chronic nuisance when it surpasses a certain amount of crimes and violations. The law is meant to hold property owners accountable for what happens in their buildings.

There are more signs that Ohio’s fracking boom may not be sustainable. Natural gas producers are not seeing the profits they expected from the boom. For many, the boom is quickly turning into a bust. Still, natural gas prices have massively dropped, and an analysis at The Washington Post suggests natural gas could play an important role in reducing carbon emissions. CityBeat wrote in-depth about the fracking boom in Ohio and the faulty regulations on the industry here. 

The Ohio Board of Regents is using a grant to award 1,300 associate degrees to transfer students over two years.

Fourteen recreational trails in Ohio will get $1.6 million in federal funding, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. However, none of the trails are in Hamilton County.

The key to humanity: cooked food.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.22.2012
 
 
Mitt Romney

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

The final presidential debate is tonight. It will cover foreign policy. The debate will likely focus on the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya and Iran’s nuclear program. Whatever happens, political scientists say debates typically have little-to-no electoral impact. In aggregate polling, Obama is up 2.2 points in Ohio and Romney is up 0.3 points nationally. Ohio is considered a must-win for Romney, and it could play the role of 2000's Florida. The debate begins at 9 p.m. It will be streamed live on YouTube and C-SPAN.

CityBeat will host a debate party tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Come watch the debate and live tweet. Councilman Chris Seelbach will make an appearance. If you can’t show up, at least tweet if you watch the debate with the hashtag #cbdebate. Check out the event’s Facebook page for more information.

If Gov. John Kasich gets his way, 60 percent of bachelor’s degrees will be completable in three years by 2014. The move intends to raise graduation rates and save money for students. Currently, very few students graduate in three years. Only 1 percent of Miami University students and 2 percent of University of Cincinnati students graduate that quickly.

Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a new education policy approved by Kasich that requires all students to be proficient in reading in third grade before they can move onto fourth grade, could cause 40 percent of students to be held back in some schools. The policy is meant to encourage better progress and higher reading standards, but some studies have found retention has negative effects on children. 

The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati announced a merger and expansion into Dayton. The organization will now be called the Urban League of Southwest Ohio.

Greater Cincinnati home sales ticked up in September, but there was some slowdown.

The end of the Scripps trust that funded the Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Company could lead to the end of a few newspapers. But Ohio will not be affected; the company no longer owns newspapers in the state.

Plant identification has never been easier at Cincinnati parks.

University of Cincinnati researchers are using a $2.7 million grant to see if there’s a difference between generic versus brand drugs for transplant patients. The study could potentially save money and lives.

Tired of traditional bridges? Meet the trampoline bridge.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.19.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Economy, News, Voting at 08:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
odjfs

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.0 percent in September despite employers cutting 12,800 jobs. The rate is much lower than September's national unemployment rate of 7.8 percent. Ohio actually lost jobs in manufacturing, construction, education, health services, government and other sectors, with some gains in professional and business services, information services and trade, transportation and utilities. The new rate is a big improvement from the 8.6 percent unemployment rate in September 2011. This is the last state unemployment rate Ohioans will see before the Nov. 6 election.  

The second debate for Ohio's U.S. Senate seat took place last night. As usual, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel held back no punches. Each candidate mostly focused on attacking his opponent’s integrity and record, but the men also discussed a multitude of issues — the economy, China, Obamacare, foreign policy, gay rights and more. Check out CityBeat’s in-depth coverage of the debate and the policy proposals espoused by the candidates here.

The final presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will take place next Monday. The debate will cover foreign policy. Presumably, the debate will focus a lot on Iran, but Foreign Policy has an article focusing on five bigger threats to U.S. national security. Although the debate could be important for substance, political scientists say debates typically have little-to-no electoral impact. In aggregate polling, Obama is up 2.4 points in Ohio and Romney is up one point nationally. Ohio is considered a must-win for Romney, and it could play the role of 2000's Florida.

To make the debate more fun, CityBeat will host a party at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine Monday. Come join the CityBeat team to watch the debate and live tweet. Councilman Chris Seelbach will also show up and talk for a bit. If you can’t show up, feel free to tweet about the debate at home with the hashtag #cbdebate. For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.

Ohio Senate Democrats are demanding an investigation into a voter fraud group. The Democrats say True the Vote (TTV), a conservative group, is unnecessarily intimidating voters. TTV claims it’s just fighting voter impersonation fraud, but the reality is that kind of voter fraud doesn’t seem to exist. A study from the Government Accountability Office found zero cases of voter impersonation fraud in the past 10 years. Another study from News21 found 10 cases since 2000, or less than one case a year.

Meanwhile, a local group is trying to encourage Muslim voters to get educated and vote.

The Cincinnati Police Department is trying to improve relations with the LGBT community. As part of that effort, the city hosted a LGBT public safety forum and named the first LGBT liaison yesterday.

A federal appeals court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which forbids the recognition of same-sex marriage at a federal level. The ruling was praised by Ian James, spokesperson for FreedomOhio, in a statement: “The federal DOMA forbids allowing governmental recognition of civil marriage. The demise of the federal DOMA will not resolve Ohio’s ban on marriage equality. For this reason, we will soldier on, collect our petition signatures and win the right for committed and loving couples to be married so they can better care for and protect their families. That is ultimately why marriage matters and we look to have this issue on the ballot as soon as November 2013.”

With a week left, the United Way of Greater Cincinnati fundraising campaign has only met 70 percent of its goal. The campaign acknowledges it’s been a tough year, but campaign chairman David Joyce says he has been “heartened” by support.

The University of Cincinnati is committing to giving Cintrifuse $5 million initially and $5 million at a later point. Cintrifuse is a “startup accelerator,” meaning a company devoted to helping startup businesses get started.

Ohio health officials urge caution as they monitor a meningitis outbreak.

Ohio’s heating assistance program for low-income households is starting on Nov. 1. Qualifying for the program is dependent on income and the size of the household. For example, one-person households making $5,585 or less in the past three months or $22,340 or less in the past 12 months are eligible, while four-person households must be making $11,525 or less in the past three months or $46,100 or less in the past 12 months. For more information, check out the press release.

Kentucky is pitching into development at the Purple People Bridge. The state is boosting a $100 million hotel and entertainment project on the bridge with a $650,000 grant.

The Boy Scouts’ “perversion files” were released, and some of the sexual molestation cases involve Cincinnati.

Science finally has a breakthrough to care about. Scientists invented a strip that ensures pizza and coffee won't burn a person's mouth.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.18.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Voting, Economy, Bailout at 10:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
sherrod brown

Brown, Mandel Continue ‘Clash of Ideas’

U.S. Senate candidates engage in second round of attacks

For a full hour Thursday night, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel continued their feisty fight for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat. For the most part, the debate centered on the candidates’ records and personal attacks, with policy specifics spewing out in between.

Apparently, the barrage of attacks is not what the candidates had in mind before the debate started. Throughout the debate, both candidates asked for substance, not attacks. At one point, Brown said, “I appreciate this clash of ideas. That’s what this debate should be about.” At another point, Mandel said, “We need less attacking, and we need more policy ideas to put people back to work.”

These comments came well into the debate. By that time, Mandel had criticized Brown for “Washington speak” so many times that an exasperated Brown quipped, “I don’t get this. Every answer is about Washington speak.”

Brown also launched his own attacks, which focused on Mandel’s dishonesty on the campaign trail, which previously earned Mandel a “Pants on Fire” crown from Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, and Mandel, who is also Ohio’s treasurer, missing state treasurer meetings to run for political office.

But Ohioans have seen enough of the attacks in the hundreds of campaign ads that have bombarded the state in the past year. Voters probably want to hear more about how each candidate will affect them, and the candidates gave enough details to get some idea of where each of them will go.

On economic issues, Brown established the key difference between the two candidates’ economic policies: Mandel, like most of his Republican colleagues, believes in the trickle-down theory. The economic theory says when the rich grow, they can create jobs by hiring more employees and expanding businesses. In other words, proponents of the theory believe the success of the rich “trickles down” to the middle class and poor through more job opportunities. Belief in this theory is also why most Republicans call the wealthy “job creators.” Under the trickle-down theory, the wealthy are deregulated and get tax cuts so it’s easier for them to create jobs.

On the other hand, Brown says he supports a middle-out approach, which focuses on policies that target the middle class. That is how sustainable employment and growth are attained, according to Brown. Under the middle-out approach, tax cuts and spending policies target the middle class, and the wealthy own a higher tax burden to support government programs.

Some economists, like left-leaning Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, say the trickle-down theory should have been put to rest with the financial crisis of 2008. After all, deregulation is now credited with being the primary cause of 2008’s economic crisis. In that context, more deregulation seems like a bad idea.

Still, Brown’s contrast to Mandel holds true. Brown has repeatedly called for higher taxes on the rich. In the debate, he touted his support for the auto bailout and once again mocked Mandel’s promise to not raise any taxes. These are policies that do end up benefiting the middle class more than the wealthy. The auto bailout in particular has been credited with saving thousands of middle-class jobs.

On the other side, Mandel told debate watchers to go to his website and then offered some quick talking points: simplify the tax code, end Wall Street bailouts and use Ohio’s natural gas and oil resources “in a responsible way.” How Mandel wants to simplify the tax code is the issue. On his website, Mandel says he supports “a flatter, fairer income tax with only one or two brackets, eliminating almost all of the credits, exemptions and loopholes.” A study by five leading economists suggests a flat tax model would greatly benefit the wealthy and actually hurt the well-being of the middle class and poor. That matches with the trickle-down economic theory. 

Another suggestion on Mandel’s website says, “Help job creators. Reduce capital gains and corporate taxes, and allow for a small business income deduction.” The small business portion would help some in the middle class, but an analysis from The Washington Post found 80 percent of capital gains incomes benefit 5 percent of Americans and half of all capital gains have gone to the top 0.1 percent of Americans. So a capital gains tax cut would, again, match the trickle-down economic theory.

What all this means is on economic issues the choice of candidates depends mostly on what economic theory a voter believes. Brown believes in focusing economic policies that target the middle class, while Mandel mostly supports policies that generally support what he calls “job creators” — or the wealthy.

On partisanship, both sides once again threw out different ideas. Although he was asked for three ideas, Brown only gave one: fix the filibuster. The filibuster is a U.S. Senate procedure that allows 41 out of 100 senators to indefinitely halt any laws. The only way to break the filibuster is by having a supermajority of 60 senators — a rarity in American politics. Brown said if this rule was removed, a lot more could get done in Congress.

Mandel had different ideas for stopping partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. He touted his support for No Budget, No Pay, which would require members of Congress to pass a budget in order to get paid. He also expressed his support for term limits, saying lifelong politicians only add to the partisanship in Congress. Then, in a strange twist, Mandel’s last suggestion was to stop bailouts, which has nothing to do with partisanship or gridlock in Congress.

Then came Obamacare. Brown said he was “proud” of his vote and continued supporting the law, citing the millions of Americans it will insure. Meanwhile, Mandel responded to the Obamacare question by saying, “The federal government takeover of health care is not the answer.”

The fact of the matter is Obamacare is not a “government takeover of health care.” Far from it. The plan doesn’t even have a public option that would allow Americans to buy into a public, nonprofit insurance pool — an idea that actually has majority support in the U.S. Instead, Obamacare is a series of complicated reforms to the health insurance industry. There are way too many reforms to list, but the most basic effect of Obamacare is that more people will be insured. That’s right, in the supposed “government takeover of health care,” insurance companies actually gain more customers. That’s the whole point of the individual mandate and the many subsidies in Obamacare that try to make insurance affordable for all Americans.

Mandel made another misleading claim when he said Obamacare “stole” from Medicare, with the implication that the cuts hurt seniors utilizing the program. It is true Obamacare cuts Medicare spending, but the cuts target waste and payments to hospitals and insurers. It does not directly cut benefits.

The one area with little disagreement also happened to be the one area with the most misleading: China. It’s not a new trend for politicians to attack China. The Asian country has become the scapegoat for all economic problems in the U.S. But in this election cycle, politicians have brandished a new line to attack China: currency manipulation. This, as Ohioans have likely heard dozens of times, is why jobs are leaving Ohio and why the amount of manufacturing jobs has dropped in the U.S. In fact, if politicians are taken at their word, it’s probably the entire reason the U.S. economy is in a bad spot.

In the Brown-Mandel debate, Brown repeatedly pointed to his currency manipulation bill, which he claims would put an end to Chinese currency manipulation. Mandel also made references to getting tough on China’s currency manipulation.

One problem: China is no longer manipulating its currency. There is no doubt China greatly massaged its currency in the past to gain an unfair advantage, but those days are over, says Joseph Gagnon, an economist focused on trade and currency manipulation. Gagnon argues the problem with currency manipulation is no longer a problem with China; it’s a problem with Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. If the U.S. wants to crack down on currency manipulation, those countries should be the targets, not China, he argues.

In other words, if currency manipulation is a problem, Mandel was right when he said that countries other than China need to be targeted. To Brown’s credit, his currency manipulation bill targets any country engaging in currency manipulation, not just China. The problem seems to be the misleading campaign rhetoric, not proposed policy.

The debate went on to cover many more issues. Just like the first debate, Brown typically took the liberal position and Mandel typically took the conservative position on social issues like gay rights and abortion. Both touted vague support for small businesses. Each candidate claimed to support military bases in Ohio, although Mandel specified he wants bases in Europe closed down to save money. As far as debates go, the contrast could not be any clearer, and the candidates disagreed on nearly every issue.

The final debate between the two U.S. Senate candidates will take place in Cincinnati on Oct. 25.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.18.2012
 
 
yesonissue2

Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

In case you missed it, CityBeat is hosting a party for the final presidential debate at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. There will be live tweeting, and Councilman Chris Seelbach will be on-hand to discuss this year's key issues. Even if you can’t come, make sure to live tweet during the presidential debate using the hashtag #cbdebate. More info can be found at the event’s Facebook page.

A new study found redistricting makes government even more partisan. The Fair Vote study says redistricting divides government into clear partisan boundaries by eliminating competitive districts. In Ohio, redistricting is handled by elected officials, and they typically use the process for political advantage by redrawing district boundaries to ensure the right demographics for re-election. Issue 2 attempts to combat this problem. If voters approve Issue 2, redistricting will be taken out of the hands of elected officials and placed into the hands of an independent citizens commission. The Republican-controlled process redrew the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, by adding Warren County to the district. Since Warren County typically votes Republican, this gives an advantage to Republicans in the First Congressional District. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting reform effort here.

Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel will face off in another debate for Ohio’s seat in the U.S. Senate today. The two candidates met Monday in a feisty exchange in which the men argued over their records and policies. Brown and Mandel will face off at 8 p.m. The debate will be streamed live on 10TV.com and Dispatch.com. Currently, the race is heavily in Brown’s favor; he is up 5.2 points in aggregate polling.

Cincinnati is moving forward with its bike sharing program. A new study found the program will attract 105,000 trips in its first year, and it will eventually expand to 305,000 trips a year. With the data in hand, Michael Moore, director of the Department of Transportation and Engineering, justified the program to The Business Courier: “We want Cincinnatians to be able to incorporate cycling into their daily routine, and a bike share program will help with that. Bike share helps introduce citizens to active transportation, it reduces the number of short auto trips in the urban core, and it promotes sustainable transportation options.”

Cincinnati’s school-based health centers are showing promise. Two more are scheduled to open next year.

Echoing earlier comments by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, Ohio Senate Republicans are now talking about using the lame duck session to take up a bill that would set standard early voting hours and tighten voting requirements. Republicans are promising broad consensus, but Democrats worry the move could be another Republican ploy at voter suppression. Republicans defend the law by saying it would combat voter fraud, but in-person voter fraud isn’t a real issue. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office found zero examples of in-person voter fraud in the last 10 years. Another investigation by News21 had similar results. Republicans have also justified making voting tougher and shorter by citing racial politics and costs.

A Hamilton County judge’s directive is causing trouble. Judge Tracie Hunter sent out a directive to hire a second court administrator because she believes the current county administrator is only working for the other juvenile judge. The county government is trying to figure out if Hunter has the authority to hire a new administrator.

This year’s school report card data held up a long-term trend: Public schools did better than charter schools. In Ohio, the average charter school meets slightly more than 30 percent of the state’s indicators, while the average traditional public school meets 78 percent of the state’s indicators, according to findings from the education policy fellow at left-leaning Innovation Ohio. The data for all Ohio schools can be found here. 

Some in the fracking industry are already feeling a bit of a bust. The gas drilling business is seeing demand rapidly drop, and that means $1 billion lost in profits. CityBeat wrote in-depth about the potential fracking bust here.

Ohio student loan debt is piling up. A report by Project on Student Debt says Ohio has the seventh-highest student loan debt in the nation with an average of $28,683 in 2011. That number is a 3.5 percent increase from 2010.

What if Abraham Lincoln ran for president today?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could soon be reality. Scientists are developing a drug that removes bad memories during sleep.

 
 
by Ben L. Kaufman 10.17.2012
 
 
enquirer

Curmudgeon Notes 10.17.2012

Media musings on Cincinnati and beyond

• Look at the rare collection of Enquirer photos at the National Underground Freedom Center.  They’ve been reprinted and for many, reprinted copies of original pages are nearby.

The show is part of the much larger Fotofocus at many venues. Unfortunately, the Enquirer chose the Freedom Center which charges $12 admission; many Fotofocus displays are in admission-free venues such as the YWCA or UC’s Gallery on Sycamore.

I think the oldest photo is from 1948, a one-legged veteran leading a parade to commemorate the end of WWI 30 years earlier. Many are by photographers with whom I worked and whose images I displayed large on local pages during weekends when I edited. Some are recent, by photographers I admire but know only from their images in the paper. 

To its credit, the Enquirer exhibit includes unpublished photos of which the photographers are justly proud. First among them is Gary Landers’ image of a homicide victim illuminated by an officer’s flashlight behind Landers’ home.

Missing are two images that remind me of what photojournalism is about. One is Gerry Wolters’ stunning — and in its time, controversial Pulitzer contender — of a dead African-American lying in a pool of his blood on the Avondale street where he’d been shot by a bailbondsman. Standing over him is the dead man’s young son. Some readers said our photo would ruin the child’s life. No, I told callers, if anything would it was his father’s killing. 

The other missing photo was one that wasn’t published by the paper: Glenn Hartong’s firefighter carrying a toddler from a burning house. I’m told that editors flinched because they didn’t know if the child survived. So what? That faux humanity illustrates Enquirer execs’ fear of readers tossing their cookies into the Cheerios. Such touchy-feely screening sanitizes what can be a nasty, brutish and short life and lifestyle in our region. Life Magazine published Hartong’s photo across two pages and someone posted it in the Enquirer newsroom coffee alley. It doesn’t get better than that.

In the Good Old Days, before self-inflicted sensitivity, the Enquirer had a unapologetic double standard for violent images. If the victim were local, the photo might be spiked to avoid upsetting readers. An example was the half-excavated body of a recognizable young construction worker suffocated in a trench cave-in.  Distant victims — executions, genocide or bodies in floods/earthquakes — were likelier to be displayed.

And even before the Good Old Days, Ed Reinke’s iconic photo of a line of shrouded bodies from the 1977 Beverly Hills supper club fire gave a sense of magnitude to the disaster that our best reporting couldn’t. It’s the first photo in the exhibit, preceded by a warning that some images could be troubling. They should be. I don’t know if Reinke’s photo would be used today.

• Ohio’s Sherrod Brown is among the Democratic senators targeted by out-of-state billionaire GOP donors. He’s an unapologetic liberal and the Progressive monthly made Brown’s re-election battle its latest cover story. A point I’d missed elsewhere is the unusual state FOP endorsement for a Democrat but Brown stood with officers against Republican legislation stripping them of most of their bargaining rights.

The Progressive story includes a Mason-area jeweler whose health insurer refused to pay for an advanced cancer treatment. Husband and wife say Reps. Jean Schmidt and John Boehner brushed off their pleas to intervene with the insurer. A Brown staffer — who said she didn’t care what party the Republican couple belongs to — spent the weekend successfully persuading the insurer to cover the potentially life-saving $100,000 procedure.

More recently, reporters on Diane Rehm’s public radio show estimated SuperPACs are spending $20 million to defeat Brown and suggested it might not suffice. As a DailyBeast.com columnist notes, polls show Republican Josh Mandel probably won’t even carry his home Jewish community in Cleveland.

• That same Progressive names 26 billionaires and their known donations to Republican and other rightwing causes in this election year. No Cincinnati-area men or women made the list but it’s reasonable to infer that some of the men listed donated secretly to Super PACs opposing Ohio’s Sherrod Brown’s re-election (see above).

• As one of that dying breed — an Enquirer subscriber who prefers print —  my morning paper is missing a lot. Customer service provided a free online copy and promised to deliver the missing paper paper the next day. Next day? Another customer service rep said only replacement Sunday Enquirers are delivered the same day. Message? Don’t stiff advertisers.

• The ad on the top half of the back page of the Oct. 11 Enquirer Local section invited everyone to a Romney-Ryan “victory event” on Oct. 13 at Lebanon’s Golden Lamb. The bold, black ad headline on the bottom half of the page was “The #1 dishwasher is also a best value.”

• Want to know more about Sarah Jones, the former Ben-Gal and school teacher who admitted to sex with a 17-year-old student? Among others, London’s Daily Mail has enough to satisfy anyone who doesn’t need to see a sex tape.

• Don’t piss off Turks. That’s a lesson lots of people have learned to their pain over the generations. No one will be surprised if Turkish forces invade Syria to end Syrian shelling of Turkish civilians.  Turkish troops have gone into Iraq to deal with threatening rebellious Turkish Kurds seeking sanctuary there.  Turkey is a NATO member and NATO says it will defend Turkey if required. A couple English-language websites can complement the snippets about this aspect of Syria’s civil war: aljazeera.com from the Gulf and hurriyetdailynews.com from Turkey. 

The New York Times stepped back from the slippery slope of allowing subjects of news stories to say what news is fit to print. It allowed some sources to review and possibly change their quotes before reporters used them. In July, Times reporter Jeremy Peters blew the whistle on the Times and other major news media. The alternative to quote approval often was the threat of no interview. Initially, the Times defended the practice. No longer. Jimromenesko.com reported the change.

Times executive editor Jill Abramson told Romenesko that  quote approval “puts so much control over the content of journalism in the wrong place . . . We need a tighter policy.”

Romenesko quoted a recent Times memorandum that said “demands for after-the-fact quote approval by sources and their press aides have gone too far . . . The practice risks giving readers a mistaken impression that we are ceding too much control over a story to our sources. In its most extreme form, it invites meddling by press aides and others that goes far beyond the traditional negotiations between reporter and source over the terms of an interview . . . So starting now, we want to draw a clear line on this. Citing Times policy, reporters should say no if a source demands, as a condition of an interview, that quotes be submitted afterward to the source or a press aide to review, approve or edit.”

Good. Here’s my question: What happens when a beat reporter can’t get an important interview after citing Times policy? Access is everything. Few people who want media attention will turn away the Times, but editors can get weird when reporters can’t get a desired interview. 

• Daily papers own and are members of the Associated Press. In their rush to be first, AP reporters used social media to get out the news and scooped member papers whose editors hadn’t seen the stories yet. That went over badly in today’s breathlessly competitive world. AP promises it won’t use social media until after breaking news is sent to members and non-member subscribers.
• It’s time for the news media to abandon “reverse discrimination” when the purported victim is white and English-speaking. It’s an issue again because the U.S. Supreme Court is reconsidering university racial admission criteria. A young woman claims the University of Texas rejected her because she is white. 

Discrimination is discrimination; someone is favored and someone is rejected. I won’t anticipate the court’s decision but the ethical issue is whether the community’s or the individual’s compelling interests are paramount when discrimination becomes policy and practice. Moreover, demographic trends could make “reverse discrimination” obvious nonsense if Anglos become a minority among newly-hyphenated and darker-skinned Americans and immigrants from Latin America, Africa and Asia.

 • We’ve seen three debates, two presidential, one veepish. The third was Tuesday or last night if you’re reading this on Wednesday. I missed it; I was fishing in Canada. Other journalists will tell you what you heard really means. I’ll catch up when I get home. At least the Biden-Ryan contest was lively and the moderator asked smart, sharp questions and kept the politicians under control.

• The vice president and challenger had disturbingly weird expressions when they listened. Biden’s smile recalled a colleague’s remark after waterskiing with me: “I saw Ben smile and he wasn’t baring his teeth.” Worse, Biden’s expression could appear to be a smirk.  Ryan’s intensity reminded me of a predator wondering about its next meal. Neither appearance had anything to do with the substance of the debate but it’s how we tend to judge people we don’t know. My question: Is this really how we choose the man one heartbeat away from leadership of The Free World (whatever the hell that means)?

• Viewers — and these performances are TV events — worry me. Too many tell reporters and pollsters that their votes can be influenced by how the candidates came across in the debates. The president and vice president do not belong to debating societies. This isn’t Britain’s House of Commons.  The ability to “win” a televised encounter has little or nothing to do with the job for which the men are contesting. Winners won’t debate until and unless they seek office again.

• News media would be in doldrums if there weren’t stories to write before and after each debate. They burn space and time when little else is happening - if you discount the economy, pestilence, war, famine, etc.

• Stories I didn’t read beyond the headlines. One’s from HuffingtonPost.com:
"Lindsay Lohan Reveals Her Pick For President"
The other is from the Thedailybeast.com:
"LINDSAY LOHAN PICKS MITT! & OTHER TOXIC ENDORSEMENTS"

 
 

 

 

Latest Blogs
 
by German Lopez 01.17.2013
 
 
nina turner

Morning News and Stuff

Secretary of state race underway, bridge may need private funding, sewer policy dismissed

Is the race for Ohio secretary of state already underway? Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, who is considering a run against Secretary of State Jon Husted in 2014, says she will introduce legislation to protect voters against Republican efforts to limit ballot access. She also criticized Husted for how he handled the 2012 election, which CityBeat covered here. Husted responded by asking Turner to “dial down political rhetoric.”

Build Our New Bridge Now, an organization dedicated to building the Brent Spence Bridge, says the best approach is private financing. The organization claims a public-private partnership is the only way to get the bridge built by 2018, rather than 2022. But critics are worried the partnership and private financing would lead to tolls.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners threw out a Metropolitan Sewer District competitive bidding policy yesterday. The policy, which was originally passed by City Council, was called unfair and illegal by county commissioners due to apprenticeship requirements and rules that favor contractors within city limits. Councilman Chris Seelbach is now pushing for compromise for the rules.

Believe it or not, Cincinnati’s economy will continue outpacing the national economy this year, says Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.

Three Cincinnati-area hospitals are among the best in the nation, according to new rankings from Healthgrades. The winners: Christ Hospital, Bethesda North Hospital and St. Elizabeth Healthcare-Edgewood.

Democrat David Mann, former Cincinnati mayor and congressman, may re-enter politics with an attempt at City Council.

In its 2013 State of Tobacco report, the American Lung Association gave Ohio an F for anti-smoking policies. The organization said the state is doing a poor job by relying exclusively on federal money for its $3.3 million anti-tobacco program. The Centers for Disease Control says Ohio should be spending $145 million.

The Air Force is gearing up for massive spending cuts currently set to kick in March. The cuts will likely affect Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Dennis Kucinich, who used to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, will soon appear on Fox News as a regular contributor.

For anyone who’s ever been worried about getting attacked by a drone, there’s now a hoodie and scarf for that.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.10.2013
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Voting, Economy, Education at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Morning News and Stuff

Husted moves to middle, Republicans love early voting, loos coming to Cincinnati

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is pushing local election officials to begin investigating legitimate cases of voter fraud or suppression. He also vowed to continue pushing for uniform voting hours and redistricting. During election season, Husted developed a bad reputation around the nation for suppressive tactics, which CityBeat covered here, but it seems he’s now taking a more moderate tone.

It looks like in-person early voting didn’t rev up the “African-American … voter turnout machine,” as Franklin County GOP Chairman Doug Preisse claimed, after all. New numbers show in-person early voting was

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 12.06.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Humor, LGBT Issues, Marijuana at 03:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
nuclear explosion

Gay Marriage, Marijuana Legalized; Still No Apocalypse

With voter approval, Washington state embraces new freedoms

This morning, social conservatives around the world dug themselves into Armageddon-resistant bunkers, preparing for what they knew was coming. Today, marijuana and same-sex marriage were being legalized in Washington state.

But the bunkers may have been a waste of time and money, considering the end of the world didn’t occur. In fact, it seems like a lot of people are happy with the legal changes, which voters approved on Nov. 6.

From the perspective of this CityBeat writer, same-sex marriage would be great. It’s something I wrote about extensively before (“The Evolution of Equality,” Nov. 28 issue). As a refresher, not only does same-sex marriage bring a host of benefits to same-sex couples, but it also produces economic benefits for everyone. A recent study from Bill LaFayette, founder of Regionomics LLC, found that legalizing gay marriage would grow Ohio’s gross domestic product, which measures economic worth, by $100-$126 million within three years.

Marijuana has similar benefits. Not only does it give people the freedom to put a relatively harmless plant into their bodies, but it also provides a big boon to state budgets. For Washington, it’s estimated the marijuana tax will bring in as much as $500 million a year. 

Legalization also creates jobs and economic growth as businesses pop up to sell the product and customers buy the plant to toke up. Washington State’s Office of Financial Management estimates the marijuana market will be worth about $1 billion in the state. Considering the state is about 2 percent of the U.S. population, that could be extrapolated to indicate a potential $50 billion nationwide market.

Still, public use of marijuana and driving while intoxicated remain illegal. In a press conference Wednesday, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “If you're smoking in plain public view, you're subject to a ticket. … Initiative 502 uses the alcohol model. If drinking in public is disallowed, so is smoking marijuana in public.”

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) seems a bit friendlier. In an email today, SPD told officers to only give verbal warnings until further notice. The warnings should essentially tell people to take their marijuana inside, or, as SPD spokesperson Jonah Spangenthal-Lee put it on the SPD Blotter, “The police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a ‘Lord of the Rings’ marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to.”

The Washington law also faces possible federal resistance. Even though the state legalized pot, the drug is still illegal under federal law. That means the feds can still shut down marijuana businesses and arrest buyers, just like they have with legal medical marijuana dispensaries in the past.

In fact, maybe the limitations are what’s keeping the apocalypse at bay. Maybe social conservatives will get to make use of those bunkers if the rest of the country catches on to Washington’s example.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.30.2012
 
 
war baby

War Is Declared! On Babies!

Conservatives claim GOP Ohio Senate prez declared war on babies by killing anti-abortion bill

America is a country at war. While the war in Iraq ostensibly drew down in December 2011, the United States has been quagmired in a war in Afghanistan for more than a decade.

But we're also in the midst of a number of other wars — cultural wars. It started with Nixon’s War on Drugs, then quickly escalated.

President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations on coal mining caused proponents to claim he had declared a War on Coal. The Affordable Care Act’s mandate that companies pay for employee contraception caused many faith groups to claim a War on Religion.

Statements from Republican politicians about “legitimate rape” and “binders full of women” caused some Democrats to claim the GOP had declared a War on Women.

And the ever-vigilant conspiracists news hounds at FOX News have exposed a scheme by Jesus-hating liberals to wage a War on Christmas for trying to remove constitutionally questionable dolled-up trees and pastoral scenes of babies in unsuitable barn-life cribbery faith-based displays from public property.

But by far the most heinous altercation being waged originated with Republican Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, who has declared a War on Babies.

As first reported by The Enquirer, conservative groups this week sent out a press release vilifying Niehaus for killing tons of babies in a mass effort to wipe out the state’s youth population a 17-month old bill that would give Ohio one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation.

Niehaus moved the so-called Heartbeat Bill — which would ban all abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat — from the Health Committee to the Rules and Reference Committee to avoid a forced vote on the legislation. He also removed staunch anti-abortion Senators Keith Faber and Shannon Jones from that committee.

“I’m shocked by Tom Niehaus’ war on pro-life women,” wrote Lori Viars in the news release. Viars is the vice president of Warren County Right to Life and vice chair of Warren County Republican Party.

Viars called for Republicans to remove Niehaus from Senate leadership. Niehaus is term-limited and will not continue on in office after this year.

Niehaus blamed Romney’s loss for his decision to kill the bill, saying that the Republican’s victory would have increased the likelihood of a U.S. Supreme Court lineup that would uphold it against a likely challenge.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Budget, News, Development at 05:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

City to Pursue Privatizing Parking to Balance Budget

City Manager's 2013 budget proposal must be approved by council, mayor

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his 2013 budget plan at a press conference today. The proposal, which must be approved by City Council and the mayor, seeks to close a $34 million deficit while avoiding major cuts and layoffs. The proposed budget will only set the city’s course until mid-June, when the city will transition into establishing budgets based on fiscal years.

The biggest deficit plug will come from privatizing parking services, which the city manager’s office says will bring in $40 million in one-time revenue and additional revenue over 30 years as part of a long-term contract. About $21 million of the initial lump-sum payment will be used to close the 2013 budget deficit.

In the past, Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld voiced concerns about privatizing parking: “I’ll await more details, but it seems penny-wise and pound-foolish to forgo a steady revenue stream for a lump-sum payment. Cincinnati needs a structurally balanced budget and can’t keep relying on one-time sources. Places like Chicago and Indianapolis have seen their parking rates more than double following privatization — that’s a bad deal for citizens, and something we don’t need while we’re experiencing an urban renaissance.”

Another concern is whether the city’s current parking employees will be laid off if parking services are sold. Dohoney said the deal for privatization will require the winning bidder to interview all American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) workers. Full-time workers who do not join the winning bidder will be hired in other parts of the city government. “No AFSCME employee will be placed on the street if they are full-time as a result of this effort,” Dohoney claimed.

The rest of the deficit plug will come in cuts, cost shifting, savings, revenue, embedded growth and one-time sources. Among these, notable items include the elimination of the Mounted Patrol for the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) and a $610,770 reduction in Human Services Funding. A few departments and programs, including the CPD, will face further minor cuts.

The city manager’s office claims the changes in the budget are necessary mostly due to changes at the state level. Specifically, the state government cut the Local Government Fund by 50 percent and eliminated the tangible personal property tax reimbursement and estate tax; altogether, losing these sources of revenue cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in the 2013 budget.

Facing the large deficit, Dohoney said he wanted to avoid across-the-board cuts and other major cuts to growth and investment programs: “You’re not competitive if that’s your approach.”

The budget also includes some spending increases. The Focus 52 Program will focus on redevelopment projects in Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods. If it’s successful, the new program will “grow the city’s revenue base, create new jobs and/or increase the population of the city,” according to the city manager’s office.

In other budget news, the city manager will also send out the Tentative Tax Budget proposal, which sets the millage rate for the operating property tax. That proposal seeks to raise the millage rate from 5.9 mills to 6.1 mills, which will provide an estimated $31 million in revenue, up from $23.5 million. For a $100,000 residential property, that means a tax hike of $46.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.26.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Budget, News, Voting, Development at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

City and county budgets moving forward, Cincinnati master plan approved, few voted twice

Screw Cyber Monday; it’s budget day! The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is set to vote on its 2013 budget today. The initial vote was delayed when commissioners couldn’t all agree on the full details. In City Council, a memo revealed the budget should be unveiled today. One part of the Cincinnati proposal has already been hinted at by a previous memo from the city manager: privatized parking.

On Wednesday, City Council approved Plan Cincinnati. The master plan, which is the first the city has undertaken in 32 years, creates short-, medium- and long-term goals. Built largely on public feedback, the plan emphasizes Cincinnati’s urban core with new transportation programs, community health initiatives, new housing options and more. CityBeat previously covered the plan in-depth here.

In Hamilton County, 81 people voted twice. The votes, which involved provisional ballots, only reflects about 0.2 percent of the county’s vote, but it shows some of the confusion and inefficiencies of modern elections. One particular problem is some elderly voters cast absentee ballots before the election and then filed provisional ballots on Election Day.

A California firm is using Alaskan pension dollars to buy hundreds of homes in Greater Cincinnati. The real estate will be used to provide corporate rentals.

Some education advocates are worried state education agencies won't have the proper time and resources to implement HB 555. A few provisions will have to be ready by mid-2013, which some advocates see as too little time; but the president of the Ohio Board of Education remains confident. HB 555 will radically reform the state’s school report card system, which evaluates and grades schools. Some state officials are worried the new standards, which will be measured in part by new standardized tests, will be too tough. An early simulation of the new report cards in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.

State Medicaid costs are rising, but more slowly. The slowdown may be partially attributed to Gov. John Kasich’s reforms of the program, which is one of the most prominent costs in state budgets around the country.

Gas prices in Ohio have gone up in the last week. The prices were higher than they were in 2011, and some experts say instability in the Middle East is to blame.

Ohio is looking good for a revival of the pharmaceutical industry. That’s good news since the industry could be on the cusp of a “golden era of renewed productivity and prosperity,” according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Unfortunately for the pharmaceutical industry, the next generation of water pollution could be flushed drugs.

Here is the pope made out of condoms.

Science has been hard at work in 2012. Here is a list of the seven greatest engineering innovations of the year. The list includes the world’s largest semi-submersible vessel, which can be used as an offshore dock, and a carbon-neutral office building, which is arguably the most sustainable workplace ever.

The greatest public service announcement ever made:


 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.15.2012
 
 
milton dohoney

Council Approves Raise, Bonus for City Manager

Opponents argue unwise with looming deficit; Dohoney's last raise in 2007

City Council took a contentious vote on Thursday to give the city manager a pay raise and a bonus.

Those in favor of the 10 percent raise and $35,000 bonus for Milton Dohoney say he is underpaid, has done a great job for the city and has gone five years without a merit raise. Those opposed say it’s bad timing and sends the wrong message when many city workers have also gone years without a pay increase.

Dohoney was hired in August 2006. He hasn’t received a merit raise since 2007, but has collected bonuses and cost of living adjustments over the years. He currently makes about $232,000 and the raise would bump that up to $255,000. Dohoney made $185,000 when he started the job.

Council approved the raise on a 6-2 vote, with councilmen Christopher Smitherman and Chris Seelbach voting against it.

Before the vote, Mayor Mark Mallory lauded the manager, saying he set high expectations and didn’t expect Dohoney to meet them, but the manager exceeded all of them.

To do anything other than that (approve the raise) is a backhanded slap in the face and actually a statement that we want the manager gone,” Mallory said. “We are going to give him a raise. And from where I sit we’re not giving him a big enough raise.”

The raise came from a performance review conducted by Democratic council members Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and sole council Republican Charlie Winburn.

Winburn said the city manager’s financial management system is impeccable, Dohoney has pushed economic development, he has expanded the tax base and made sacrifices by not receiving a raise for the previous five years.

Other members of council pointed out that Dohoney isn’t the only city employee who has gone a while without a raise.

“For me, look, 4 years ago I turned down a job at Google where I’d be making a hell of a lot more money,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld told 700WLW radio host Scott Sloan. “This is public service. This is already the city’s highest-paid employee.”

Sittenfeld missed the council meeting Thursday afternoon because he was out of town on a personal matter, according to an aide.

Sittenfeld and others have raised questions over whether it is wise to give Dohoney a raise and bonus when the city faces an estimated $34 million budget deficit. Councilman Wendell Young said the raise would not hurt the budget.

Opponents also argued that it would look bad to give the manager a raise when other city employees are dealing with wage freezes. Police, for instance, agreed during contact negotiations this year to a two-year wage freeze. Though they received a raise in 2009.

Smitherman said city employee unions may keep that in mind during upcoming negotiations.

"Unions are going to remember this council extended a $35,000 bonus to the city manager.”

 
 
by German Lopez 11.14.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Voting, Women's Health, Government at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
planned-parenthood-logo

Morning News and Stuff

Planned Parenthood could lose funds, Husted loses again, puppy mills regulations

Abortion-rights supporters pushed against a bill that will kill some funds for Planned Parenthood in Ohio yesterday. The bill would shift $2 million in federal funds, which legally can’t be used for abortions, from Planned Parenthood to other family services. An Ohio House committee will hold hearings and possibly vote on the bill later today. Planned Parenthood has been a target for anti-abortion activists all around the nation in recent years, even though abortions only make up 3 percent of its services. 

The election is over for us, but it’s not quite over for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. A court ruled yesterday that Husted was in the wrong when he directed a last-minute change to Ohio's provisional ballot rules. U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley wrote that the rules, which shifted the burden of identification for provisional ballots from poll workers to voters, were “a flagrant violation of a state elections law.” Husted will appeal the ruling. For many voter activists, the ruling comes as no surprise. Husted and Republicans have been heavily criticized for how they handled the lead-up to the election.

The Ohio House will vote on legislation to regulate puppy mills. Ohio is currently known as one of the worst states for puppy mills and regulations surrounding them. The Humane Society of the United States supports extra limits on Ohio’s puppy mills. CityBeat previously covered the issue and how it enables Ohio dog auctions.

John Cranley is running for mayor. Cranley, who served on City Council between 2001 and 2007, promises to bring “bring fresh energy and new ideas to the mayor's office.” One of those ideas could be opposition to the streetcar, which Cranley has been against in the past. Former mayor Charlie Luken will be the honorary chairman of Cranley’s campaign, which will officially launch at an event in January.

The Ohio Department of Development and Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority will meet on Dec. 14 to discuss how to finance the Brent Spence Bridge. The Port Authority suggested tolls to help pay for the bridge project, which has been labeled the region’s top transportation priority; but critics say an unelected agency should not directly impose costs on the public without some recourse.

The city of Cincinnati might buy Tower Place Mall and its neighboring garage. An emergency ordinance was submitted to buy the mall and garage, which are currently in foreclosure, for $8.6 million using the surplus from the Parking Facilities Fund 102.

The third RootScore report for Cincinnati’s cell phone market found Verizon to be far and away the best. AT&T, T-Mobile and Cricket followed. Sprint did the worst. 

Ohio will let the federal government run the state’s health care exchange. Under the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — states must decide by Friday to self-manage or let the federal government manage exchanges, which are subsidized markets that pits different insurance plans in direct competition within a state. The move comes as no surprise from Gov. John Kasich and his administration, which have opposed Obamacare since it passed in 2010. But support for repealing Obamacare is plummeting, a new poll found.

A state legislator introduced a long-expected plan to reform Ohio’s school report card system. The bill will shift school grading from the current system, which grades schools with labels ranging from “excellent with distinction” to “academic emergency,” to a stricter A-to-F system. A simulation of the new system back in May showed Cincinnati Public School dropping in grades and 23 of its schools flunking.

After a strange bout of Ohio Supreme Court races that continued a trend of candidates with Irish-sounding names winning, some policymakers are considering reforming campaigning rules for the Ohio Supreme Court. The proposed reforms would allow candidates to speak more freely and show political party affiliation on the ballot.

A true American hero: A Hamilton man took personal injuries from a car accident to avoid hitting a cat.

Ever wish political pundits were held accountable for their completely inane, incorrect predictions? A new Tumblr account does just that.

Canadian doctors claim they managed to communicate with a man in a vegetative state to see if he’s in pain. Thankfully, he’s not.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.12.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, City Council, Women's Health at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

OTR more popular, E.W. Scripps' record revenues and tax break, GOP against abortion

People are feeling better about downtown and Over-the-Rhine, according to a new survey. Out of respondents who said they visited downtown, about 83 percent said their opinion of Over-the-Rhine was more favorable now than it was in the last year. Bars and parks topped activities, while dining and events on Fountain Square topped attractions.

The E.W. Scripps Company posted its best TV revenues ever thanks to the presidential election. The company’s consolidated revenues rose 31 percent to $220 million. The company recently netted a $750,000 tax break from Cincinnati City Council to hire for 125 new local jobs and retain 184 current employees.

The University of Cincinnati’s Women's Health Center will open a branch in West Chester in spring 2013. The new offices will have 47 exam rooms, large and small conference rooms, a retail store and a café.

Ohio Republicans are renewing their anti-abortion agenda. Much to the dismay of pro-choice groups, Gov. John Kasich appointed two people from Ohio Right to Life to important positions, and the Ohio Senate is now looking into a new version of the heartbeat bill. Starting with a hearing Wednesday, Ohio Republicans will also move to defund Planned Parenthood.

In his post-election presser, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted suggested basing Ohio’s electoral vote on congressional districts. Due to how Republicans redrew district boundaries, that would have given Mitt Romney most of Ohio’s electoral votes even though Romney lost the popular vote. Districts were redrawn by the Republican-controlled process to give Republicans an advantage in congressional races. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn to include Republican-leaning Warren County, which shifted the district in favor of Republicans and diluted Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urbanites. The proposal seems like another attempt at voter suppression from a secretary of state that has been heavily criticized for how he and his party handled the run-up to the election.

Redistricting also helped Ohio Republicans take Congress. 

Last-minute negotiations may push Ohio’s puppy mills bill to the finish line. The state currently has a reputation as one of the worst for abusive puppy mills, and the bill would try to place some additional regulations on the mills. CityBeat previously covered the puppy mill and dog auction problem in Ohio.

A new study found Ohio may be one of the worst states to retire in. The state did poorly in terms of property crime and life expectancy of seniors, but it was found to have good economic conditions, a relatively low tax burden and lower-than-average cost of living.

Ohioans’ food stamp benefits will drop by $50 a month next year. The change is coming due to a shift in how the federal government calculates utility expenditures for food stamp recipients.

Ohio’s Third Grade Guarantee, which requires holding back third-graders who do not meet state reading standards, now has some research supporting it. A new study found girls who struggle to read early on are more likely to become teen mothers. However, other research shows holding kids back hurts more than helps. After reviewing decades of research, the National Association of School Psychologists found grade retention has “deleterious long-term effects,” both academically and socially.

In response to President Barack Obama’s re-election, the infamous boss of Ohio-based Murray Energy fired more than 150 workers around the country. One of those workers decided to leak a letter from the boss. The letter blames the firings on Obama’s supposed “war on coal,” but it’s likely the coal industry would be facing trouble even if Obama wasn’t in office.

Climate change just got a lot worse. It might make some coffee beans go extinct.

Two gay penguins became dads at the Odense Zoo in Denmark.

Ever wanted a microscopic glimpse at a Pop Tart? Well, you're getting it anyway.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.09.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Barack Obama, News at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
barack obama 2

Obama Cries While Thanking Volunteers

President says staff will go on to do “amazing things”

Just a day after securing his next four-year term, President Barack Obama had a heartfelt moment with campaign volunteers in Chicago. While thanking his staff, Obama said they were better than he was when he compared their experiences and accomplishments to what he did as a community organizer in the 1980s. He said he had no doubt his staff would go on to do “amazing things.”

The Obama team has gained fame for its highly advanced campaign. It used a team of data crunchers for almost every decision, which TIME covered in a post-election look.

Watch the video:


 
 
 
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