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by German Lopez 01.21.2013
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

Local governments hopeful, Kasich state of state in Lima, Union Terminal needs repairs

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On this day, it’s worth re-watching his I Have a Dream speech.

Local governments are hopeful they won’t see big budget cuts in Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget. Townships, municipalities and counties were economically hit by big cuts in the last budget. The local government cuts added up to $1 billion on a state level, and Hamilton County shared $105 million — more than 10 percent — of the cuts, according to Cuts Hurt Ohio. Education saw $1.8 billion in cuts statewide, with Hamilton County taking $117 million of those cuts.

Gov. Kasich announced that his state of the state address will take place in Lima, Ohio. Kasich’s speech last year was labeled “bizarre” by outlets like The Hill. During the speech, Kasich imitated a person with severe Parkinson's disorder and called Californians “wackadoodles.”

Union Terminal is falling apart. Cincinnati Museum Center executives say they need nearly $180 million for repairs. The damages are largely due to how the building was constructed. Its design lets moisture get behind bricks, which then causes supporting steel beams to rust.

The judge in the Miami University rape flier case gave a deposition Jan. 15. The document outlines Judge Robert Lyons reasoning for letting the rape flier case go: “What I remember about him is that there was certainly concern about his, say, his mental health and there were grounds stated on the record for the necessity of sealing the record. It had to do with his — probably as I recall, more so mental well-being than anything else.”

Former governor Ted Strickland is tired of raising campaign money, but that didn’t stop him from joining City Council candidate Greg Landsman Friday. Landsman was Strickland’s field director for his congressional campaign, and when Strickland was governor, Landsman was director of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Rumor has it the Carew Tower will be going residential, but the owners are denying it all. The denial letter, which assured current tenants they won’t be kicked out, makes reference to a “softness in the general downtown office market.”

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation made $1.3 million in grants. The grants will help a variety of businesses and groups. A $225,000 grant will go to Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator, which helps local businesses owned by minorities.

Garbage collection will be delayed by a day this week due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Will the first neanderthal in 30,000 years be given birth by a human mother? A Harvard geneticist says he’s close to making it possible.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.15.2013
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

State budget will reform taxes, Monzel takes charge of county, freestanding restroom vote

Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,” according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education.

Chris Monzel is now in charge of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.

City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost. City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost $130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility for about $40,000.

Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on.

The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges.

King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions.

Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality. Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea.

An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring.

Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president.

Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world, say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world. 

Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.09.2013
Posted In: Casino, Education, News, Government, Economy at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

JobsOhio holding bond sale, schools get casino profits, rape flier case remains sealed

Despite challenges to its constitutionality, JobsOhio is moving forward with a bond sale. The agency, which is meant to create jobs, is holding a bond sale Jan. 23 to raise money for economic development. But ProgressOhio, which is suing Gov. John Kasich’s administration over JobsOhio, says the governor should halt the sale until legal issues are resolved: “There are serious legal questions about the funding of JobsOhio. Gov. Kasich's own commerce director said his duty to uphold the Ohio Constitution was stopping him from moving JobsOhio forward until these questions were resolved.”

Ohio will give schools $37.9 million in casino profits. When casinos were approved by voters, one of the caveats was that some of the tax revenue raised would go into improving the state’s education system. Cincinnati will get its own casino in March 2013.

To avoid rules regarding how to properly seal a case, charges have been dropped in the rape flier case. That’s despite the fact the student who allegedly posted the “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” previously pleaded guilty. Judge Robert Lyons, who was presiding over the case, was previously criticized by The Enquirer for not following proper procedure, but dropping the charges and letting the student withdraw his guilty plea may put the judge in the legal clear. Lyons says he regularly seals cases for students.

The old building for the School for the Creative and Performing Arts will be converted into 170 apartments.

Northern Kentucky University could soon ban smoking on campus. Several other schools in Kentucky are already tobacco-free. The Ohio Board of Regents encouraged Ohio campuses to ban smoking on July 23. 

Applications for Gov. Kasich’s worker training vouchers are going fast. The program is meant to improve Ohio’s business climate. It reimburses businesses for eligible employee training expenses in an effort to make Ohio companies more competitive and improve workers’ skills.

A portrait of Jesus will remain in an Ohio school after 300 people showed up in support at a school board meeting. An atheist group is already planning on suing the school over the portrait. In a letter, Freedom from Religion Foundation claims that “if a district were to promote a religion over non-religion, it would impermissibly turn any non-believing student, parent, or staff member into an outsider.”

With former governor Ted Strickland dropping out of the governor’s race, The Washington Post posted an early look at whether Gov. Kasich can survive re-election. At this point, Kasich’s most likely opponent is Ed FitzGerald, former mayor of Lakewood and Cuyahoga County’s executive.

Apparently, Australia is so hot meteorologists had to add two new colors to heat maps to properly show the country’s temperature. Americans can probably relate, considering 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded for the United States.

The cure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be panda blood. Will pandas abuse their newfound powers to take over the world?

 
 
by German Lopez 01.08.2013
Posted In: Governor, News, Environment, Economy, Government at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tedstrickland

Morning News and Stuff

Strickland won't run in 2014, county reviewing MSD, freestanding restroom underway

Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland will not run for governor in 2014. In a statement released today, the Democrat who previously served four years as governor did not give a reason for why he won’t run. But he did promise his wife and him will “continue to be politically active private citizens.” Strickland also touted his accomplishments as governor, including energy, health care, social services and property tax reform. In September, Strickland faced criticism from the left for pushing for the Democratic platform to include a mention of God and a proclamation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The platform amendment contradicts decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Hamilton County wants an efficiency review of the Metropolitan Sewer District. Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel ordered the review. He says he expects “things at the Metropolitan Sewer District are being managed and operated in a highly efficient and effective manner,” but he wants to make sure. MSD is currently taking part in a multi-billion dollar, federally mandated upgraded system. CityBeat wrote about MSD’s green initiatives here.

Findlay Market might soon host Cincinnati’s first freestanding restroom. If it goes well, it could be the start of a much bigger city-wide project, and freestanding restrooms will be built all around downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The test facility is being touted by Councilman Chris Seelbach and other city officials as they seek to provide better access to restrooms throughout the city.

Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing a possible ethics investigation from the Ohio House of Representatives. The controversy was prompted by a recently filed lawsuit, which alleges Beck participated in a fraud that cheated investors out of more than $1.2 million.

Some local educators are supporting the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio. The rooms, which are enclosed spaces used to calm or restrain children who become violent, have come under criticism after an investigation from StateImpact Ohio and The Columbus Dispatch found the rooms were being abused for the convenience of staff. Ohio does not currently regulate the use of seclusion rooms, but that is likely to change in an upcoming Ohio Board of Education meeting.

On the bright side, Ohio has the 10th best education laws, according to a study from StudentsFirst. Overall, Ohio got a C-, making it one of the 12 states to get a B or C. No state received an A. StateImpact Ohio has more on the grade here. State officials probably understand how I felt when I dropped out of a college history class because the professor was too strict of a grader. Then again, state education systems are probably more important than Colonial History 101.

The Blue Wisp, home of the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is looking to renegotiate its lease. Over the holidays, restaurant hero and Blue Wisp manager Ed Felson told customers his jazz-themed restaurant and club is having financial problems.

The most emailed phrase while committing fraud at work is “cover up.”

One major problem with prolonged space missions: Humans become lazy and sleepy. It seems like being an astronaut isn’t different from any other job. Who can we rely on when aliens finally invade?

 
 
by German Lopez 12.28.2012
Posted In: Economy, Education, News, Government, Governor at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Local unemployment unchanged, schools could open enrollment, 2013 challenges schools

Facing tight budgets, Ohio schools, including Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), are considering open enrollment. The move would open school doors to neighboring communities. It was previously considered by CPS a decade ago, but the plan didn’t have enough support from the district’s board. It might now.

Next year could be challenging for Ohio schools. Butler County schools will begin the year by implementing a transition to the Common Core Curriculum, new evaluations for teachers and a new method of rating and grading schools. The state is also expected to change the school funding formula.

Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate remained relatively flat at 6.9 percent in November, according to data from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. The city’s unemployment did not tick up or down from the 6.9 percent rate in October, but about 1,300 dropped out from the civilian labor force as it shrank from 145,600 in October to 144,300 in November. Hamilton County also remained flat at 6.3 percent as 3,500 left the labor force. Greater Cincinnati ticked up to 6.2 percent from 6.1 percent, with about 6,900 leaving the labor force between October and November. In comparison, the state had a seasonally unadjusted rate of 6.5 percent and nation had a seasonally unadjusted rate of 7.4 percent in November. Unemployment numbers are calculated through a household survey. The unemployment rate gauges the amount of unemployed people looking for work in contrast to the total civilian labor force. Since the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in later months. Federal and state numbers are typically adjusted for seasonal factors.

Police in Kentucky are now using playing cards to catch suspects. Trooper Michael Webb says the effort has helped crack three out of 52 cases so far. That may not seem like a lot, but Webb puts it in perspective: “Two of the cases were double homicides so that's four families that have gotten closure and have had some kind of ability to deal with the situation. The third one was a single murder and obviously that family has been able to have closure. So we've got five families that have been able to have closure as a result of this initiative.”

Another casualty of the fiscal cliff: milk. It turns out milk prices could soar to $7 a gallon as Congress fails to adopt a farm bill. President Barack Obama and legislators are expected to discuss a fiscal cliff deal today.

As some companies shift to social media, Facebook may topple CareerBuilder for job opportunities.

On Christmas Day, 17.4 million smart devices turned on for the first time. In the first 20 days of December, only 4 million Android and iOS devices were turned on.

What does 2013 hold for science and technology? Popular Science takes a look. Expect more supercomputers and less solar activity!

Here is the dorkiest, cutest marriage proposal ever.

 
 
by Ben L. Kaufman 12.26.2012
 
 
enquirer

Curmudgeon Notes 12.26.2012

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

How a small weekly responds to an unimaginable disaster and scores a world scoop is a lesson in the best of journalism. Poynter online’s Julie Moos described what happened after Newtown Bee associate editor Shannon Hicks heard the initial call over her police scanner. 

Hicks drove the mile and a quarter and arrived behind the first dozen police officers. She started taking photographs through her windshield and captured her image of a line of children being led away from the slaughter. “I’m conflicted,” Hicks said about her photo. “I don’t want people to be upset with me, and I do appreciate the journalists, especially, who have commented, saying ‘We’re just documenting the news.’ It’s harder when it’s in your hometown and these are children we’re gonna watch grow up, the ones who made it. I know people are gonna be upset, but at the same time I felt I was doing something important.”

Fellow editor John Voket explained what was behind that image. “Police and school system have a protocol” for evacuation. “Children get into a conga line, shoulder to shoulder, and the only person that’s allowed to keep their eyes open is the locomotive at the front of the line, usually an adult. And every other kid has to keep their eyes closed from the minute they were exiting the classroom to when they got about a couple hundred yards into the parking lot.”

Voket arrived about 20 minutes later and colleague Hicks “passed the baton” to him. Hicks also is a volunteer firefighter. The firehouse is next to the school. “I literally put on my firefighter gear . . . I was there as a firefighter probably for not even more than 20 minutes before my editor said he wanted me back in the office to work with him to coordinate coverage from there.”

Voket continued reporting, but “We operate a little differently because our job is to take care of the community so we were inside helping to comfort victims and trying to provide human support without necessarily making reporting the No. 1 priority. The publisher came down to comfort some of the families a little later in the day.” R. Scudder Smith has been Bee publisher since 1973; he is the fourth member of his family to run The Bee since they founded it in 1877. The paper, which has a full-time editorial staff of eight, circulates to about two-thirds of the community of about 29,000. 

It was Friday and the weekly Bee front page was ready to print. It couldn’t be changed.  “We’ve been putting everything on our website,” publisher Smith told AP.  

Voket added that the traffic surge repeatedly crashed the website until the Bee acquired “an intermediary service to supersize our bandwidth . . . We got back up and running this (Saturday) morning.” The staff used social media to spread information about school lockdowns, re-routed traffic, and grief counseling. “Facebook and Twitter accounts have been a lifeline to our community and it shows because 20 percent of the community are following us.” The Bee also was  “looking at doing a special extra to be on the newsstands Monday.” 

For those of us outside Newtown, Conn., we can turn to the renewed duel over gun control. If it were a song, tired and familiar gun control lyrics would be among “Worst Hits Ever.” It didn’t take long for gun control advocates to embrace the Sandy Hook massacre and the bellicose NRA to opt for rare silence.  Obama renewed his unredeemed calls for gun control although he and Mitt Romney dodged the issue in the just-ended campaign. It was a hornets’ nest neither man opted to kick and reporters apparently were unable to raise with the candidates. 

After the Sandy Hook slaughter, fair and balanced Fox News banned discussion of gun control from the cable network. Maybe Fox News feared we really would decide if they really reported. New York magazine said the ban spotlights the “growing chasm between Rupert Murdoch and [Fox News president] Roger Ailes.” Ailes reportedly is a gun enthusiast. Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., which owns Fox News, had tweeted a call for stricter gun control, imploring for “some bold leadership action” from Obama. 

Let me be churlish when everyone else is sympathizing with families, survivors and first responders. Slaughtering 20 children is awful, but reporters and editors are familiar with how badly Americans treat urban, suburban, small town and rural children every day. In Obama’s Chicago and many other urban areas, gunfire is an omnipresent fact of childhood. Possibly one-fourth of all American children live in poverty as defined by federal guidelines. For these kids, federally funded school meals might be more than a complement to home meals. Health care for poor and malnourished children isn’t much better than their educations. Medicaid is among the anti-poverty programs high on the GOP priorities for absolute cuts and/or reduced annual increases. And let’s not even get into continuing coverage of physical and sexual child abuse, trafficking minors and lifelong handicaps from poor or nonexistent prenatal care or maternal drug and alcohol abuse. 

Only foolish or ignorant reporters credit pious assertions that legislation can prevent disturbed individuals from obtaining guns and killing as many people as they can. There are more than 310 million people in this country. Some are or will become seriously mentally disturbed and obtain one or more of the hundreds of millions of firearms Americans own. A Columbine or Sandy Hook could happen again any day. 

Focusing on the shooting victims rather than shooters might reduce any copycat effect. Stories and photos elevating killers to celebrity have been blamed for further rampages. Even though the killer never was identified, that was the inference drawn from Tylenol poisonings 30 years ago; copycats tried to poison Tylenol capsules. When coverage began to fade, so did copycat crimes. 

NRA leaders realized years ago that traditional (and valuable) Eddie Eagle gun safety comics and courses were insufficient to motivate and keep members and their dues. Fear and anger would be more effective. Real and imagined government controls became NRA’s cause. Few modern American movements have been as durable and effective as the NRA. 

NRA is powerful because we are a democracy. It can mobilize more than 4 million members and fellow travelers as voters, donors and voices in the news media. Elected representatives who want to keep their jobs quite reasonably try to avoid the NRA’s opposition.  Gun control advocates evince nothing like this single-minded devotion to their cause. 

In 1994, the Clinton administration won a10-year limit on the sale of assault-style weapons and large capacity magazines for their ammunition. I went to a gun store in Hamilton to cover a rush to beat the ban. Chinese assault-style rifles and curved high-capacity magazines were selling as fast as staff could pry open crates. As I watched, the price rose $10 with each new crate: demand and supply. Men who talked to me said they were buying because of the imminent controls on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines. A few admitted fear of civil unrest or some undefined federal assault. Most said they wanted a military-style rifle for shooting targets or empty beer cans and this might be their last chance.That 10-year ban died in 2004 when Republicans owned all three branches of federal government and didn’t seek renewal. However, recent killings that required assault-style weapons with large-capacity magazines might prompt reconsideration of the ban. Adam Lanza reportedly carried hundreds of rounds of ammunition in high-capacity magazines. No one knows why he didn’t use them.

Any gun control measure that’s not DOA will have to respect millions of long guns — rifles and shotguns — used by hunters, farmers and others.  That distinction is an important part of this story already handicapped by the paucity of journalists who hunt or otherwise own firearms. 

In addition to an unfamiliarity with firearms, partisan hyperbole also handicaps writing about guns and gun control. It can be hard to find neutral sources who share reporters’ interest in accurate coverage. Stenographic reporting giving “both sides” isn’t good enough; journalists must know enough to challenge obvious partisan misstatements. We are not obligated to report what we know to be untrue or to label it as such. 

Unfamiliarity with gun control cropped up in a recent Enquirer story about a failed armed robbery attempt inside a suburban Sunoco station. Employees with a handgun and a shotgun fatally wounded the would-be bandit. The Enquirer story said it was unclear whether the employees had conceal-carry licenses for those firearms. Unless someone somehow cloaked a shotgun’s 18-28” barrel, no conceal/carry permit is required. Unless the other Sunoco clerk carried the pistol under his clothes, he didn’t need a permit. Wearing it openly or storing it under the counter does not require a conceal/carry permit. So what was the point of that line in the story? Just because a cop might have said it doesn’t mean the reporter had to share it. That’s what I’m talking about.

Missing in much gun control coverage is Congress’ inability to craft sensible, workable bipartisan gun control specifics that can survive NRA opposition and Supreme Court scrutiny. Firearm confiscation is out of the question. So is universal registration which raises NRA-orchestrated fear of confiscation — by ATF, the UN or some other demon de jour —  to hysteria. Moreover, the court affirmed an individual Second Amendment right to own guns in 2010 but it did not rule out federal, state or local regulations governing firearm use.  

Reporters faced with new rage over shootings should remind partisans that we have gun control already. Forty nine states issue conceal/carry permits but specify where those handguns may not be carried.  Illinois — State No. 50 — is under court order to replace its ban with  a conceal/carry permit system. Many if not most municipalities bar gun owners from firing their weapons within city limits with the exception of self-defense. States commonly limit when hunters can use rifles and/or shotguns and they can require a certain size bullet for large-game hunting. Landowners may bar hunters from their property during state-sanctioned hunting seasons.

There are federal limits on how short a “sawed off” shotgun or rifle barrel may be. There are laws limiting ownership of silencers and fully automatic machine guns and submachine guns. Federally licensed firearms dealers must run background checks on prospective buyers and turn away those who fail or won’t comply. Dealers can deny convicted felons a gun under federal and many state laws. A legal purchaser may not buy a firearm for someone who would fail a federal background check. Mentally-ill customers can be turned away by dealers. 

Few of the roughly 12,000 Americans shot to death annually are killed with shot with shotguns or rifles. They’re shot with pistols. So when gun control is promoted, reporters should press advocates to say what they mean: handguns. 

• Before reporters share the lunacy of arming teachers, ask local cops how many rounds typically are fired from their handguns in an armed encounter . . . and how many of those bullets hit their target. Not many. It's very, very difficult for someone trained even at the level of police to accurately fire when adrenaline is pumping. The teacher might end up shooting more students than the intruder. Better to count on the low probability of an armed intrusion. Think about how rare this is. Awful when it happens, but very, very rare, even in communities where other shootings are far more frequent.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.21.2012
Posted In: Barack Obama, Budget, Economy, News, Government at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
apocalypse

Morning News and Stuff

End of world today, state unemployment dips, fiscal cliff plan abandoned

Today is the end of the world. Whatever. Life sucks anyway.

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.9 percent to 6.8 percent in November. Gains were concentrated in trade, transportation, and utilities, financial activities and educational and health services, with losses in construction, leisure and hospitality, government, professional and business services and information services. Overall, the state’s non-agricultural wage and salary employment increased by 1,600.

But could the recovery last? U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is now ditching efforts to avoid the fiscal cliff, a series of spending cuts and tax hikes set to kick in at the end of the year. Boehner could not get Republicans to vote on a tax hike for people making more than $1 million a year, which isn’t even enough to make President Barack Obama’s demand of increased taxes on anyone making more than $400,000. If the United States goes over the fiscal cliff, the spending cuts and tax hikes will likely devastate the economy. CityBeat wrote about U.S. Congress’ inability to focus on jobs here.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich finished the lame-duck session by signing 42 bills into law. The laws include loosened restrictions on gun control, an update to Ohio’s education rating system and $4.4 million in appropriations. The loosened gun control law in particular is getting criticized from Democrats in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre. The law allows guns in the Ohio Statehouse garage, loosens concealed carry rules and changes the definition of an unloaded gun so gun owners can have loaded clips in cars as long as they are stored separately from guns. CityBeat wrote about the need for more gun control in this week’s commentary.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters suggested arming teachers to avoid school shootings, but a considerable amount of research shows that doesn’t work. Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig says arming teachers is a bad idea: “Certainly we can look at other options, but when you talk about arming  school teachers or a school administrator without the appropriate training, and training is not just going to a target range and being able to hit center mass. How do you deal with a crisis? We're talking about a place with children.” Craig is now pushing crisis training as a major initiative.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rob Portman says school shootings need a holistic approach. The Ohio Republican says he will consider further restrictions on guns and armed school officials.

It seems a housing recovery is well underway. Cincinnati home sales are showing no signs of a slowdown.

Cincinnati is getting six historic preservation tax credits from the state government. As part of the ninth round of the program, the Ohio Development Services Agency is giving the city credits for parts of Main Street, parts of East 12th Street, parts of East McMillan Street, Abington Flats, Eden Park Pump Station and Pendleton Apartments.

The U.S. Department of Education is looking into whether Ohio charter schools discriminate against students with disabilities. Overall, charter schools in the state enroll as many students with disabilities as traditional public schools, but students with disabilities are concentrated in a few charter schools.

A federal judge upheld Ohio’s exotic animal law, which restricts who can own the animals in the state.

Judith French, a Republican, will replace retiring Justice Evelyn Stratton on the Ohio Supreme Court. Gov. Kasich’s appointment of French keeps the court’s makeup of six Republicans and one Democrat.

Genetics is perfecting the Christmas tree.

From the Twilight Zone archives comes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Christmas special.

 
 
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
Posted In: News, Development, Government, Privatization at 11:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
music hall

Music Hall Renovations Coming

City will lease Music Hall to private company for 75 years

Cincinnati’s Music Hall will be getting renovations, but the project will be much smaller than anticipated. Instead of the previously estimated $165 million, the project, which involves the city leasing the iconic building to the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC) for 75 years, will only cover approximately $95 million.

At a joint press conference Wednesday, Mayor Mark Mallory and Otto Budig, president of MHRC, officially announced the plan, which City Council will take up early next year.

Not many details or a timeline were announced at the press conference, but some information did come to light. The renovations will include more comfortable seating, extra restroom capacity, heating, air conditioning, improved plumbing and new escalator models. During the renovations, Music Hall, home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Ballet, will be closed for an estimated 17 months.

“We will do this in a manner that carries with it the surety that the project will be complete,” Budig said. “The worst thing we could do is start this project without the natural resources and pledges available.”

On top of the leasing agreement, the city will also help fund the project through tax credits. 

The lease continues the trend of public-private partnerships city government has used to revitalize Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati in recent years. From the Banks to Washington Park, the city of Cincinnati has pushed to be seen as a more attractive, business-friendly environment.

However, that has come with some push back. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) and city have previously faced criticisms from homeless advocates for allegedly discriminatory rules at Washington Park, which were later voted down by the Cincinnati Park Board.

Some public officials have also raised concerns about the city giving away too many of its public assets. The 2013 budget currently relies on a proposal that will privatize Cincinnati’s parking assets, a plan that has faced heavy criticism from Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and mayoral candidate John Cranley. City Manager Milton Dohoney argues the privatization plan is necessary to avoid 344 layoffs.

 
 
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.

 
 

 

 

 
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