Update: This blog incorrectly said Doug Preisse is the chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party. He is the chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party.
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, told The Columbus Dispatch in an email over the weekend. The admission to outright racism came at the height of a controversy regarding weekend voting in Montgomery County. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is trying to enforce uniform in-person early voting hours with no weekend voting across the state to avoid any discrepancies that caused a previous controversy, but county Democrats in Dayton wanted to have weekend voting anyway. When county Democrats refused to back down in a Board of Elections meeting, Husted, the state official who is supposed to empower voters as much as possible, suspended them from the Board. The move sparked criticism from state Democrats, which eventually led to Preisse’s admission to playing racial politics.
The Ohio Board of Education is meeting today and is expected to discuss its search for a new superintendent of public instruction. Former Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner had to leave after an investigation found he had been misusing state resources and encouraging legislation that benefited an employer.Taxpayers could be paying $300,000 so county officials can avoid a tough decision. The move would preserve the property tax rollback and let the county hold off on making a payment on the stadiums this fiscal year. Two out of three county commissioners told the Enquirer they like the idea.
Schools in the Greater Cincinnati area seem to be using different grading scales. The disparity could put some students in a worse spot when applying to college.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is suing a Cincinnati man over a Craigslist scam.The Greater Cincinnati area could soon host more film, television and video game production thanks to new tax incentives.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland could be making an appearance at the Democratic national convention. The convention is a time for parties to show off their new candidates and party platforms.Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin of Missouri told KTVI-TV, “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The extremely offensive, factually incorrect comment was quickly picked up by media outlets, and the senatorial candidate is now saying he “misspoke.” But misspeaking typically means messing up one or two words. Misspeaking does not mean making a clearly spoken argument with a very clear point.
Lack of funding could be hurting national parks.Here is a spider with claws.
Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar posted an image of Adolf Hitler on Facebook that said, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” But the Cincinnati Republican, who was referencing President Barack Obama’s gun control proposals, now insists she was not comparing Obama to Hitler. It’s pretty obvious she was, though.
Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December, down from 6.9 percent in November. The drop is largely attributed to a decrease in the civilian labor force, which could imply less people are looking for work or seasonal changes are having an impact. Whatever the case, the amount of people who are employed and unemployed both dropped. Hamilton County’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent in December, down from 6.4 percent in November, but that drop was also attributed to a declining labor force or seasonal factors. Greater Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was unchanged from 6.4 percent, despite 2,600 less people working. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted rate was 6.6 percent in December, up from 6.5 percent in November, and the U.S. rate was 7.6 percent, up from 7.4 percent.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, suggested the Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act. The plan requires debt ceiling increases to be matched by an equal amount of spending cuts. Increasing the debt ceiling is essentially Congress agreeing to pay its bills. During the budget process and while passing other legislation, Congress agrees to a certain amount of spending. Increasing the debt ceiling just makes it possible for the president to pay those bills, even if it means surpassing a set debt level. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by May 18, the United States will default on its debts, plunging the country into depression. But the threat of destroying the U.S. economy has not stopped Republicans from using the debt ceiling as a negotiation tool to get the spending cuts they so badly want.
Public employees are avoiding changes to Ohio’s public pension system by retiring before the changes kick in. The changes make it so any teacher who retires before July 1 will get a 2 percent cost of living increase to their pensions in 2015. Anyone who retires after July 1 will not get the increase until 2018. After that, retirees will get a pension increase every five years. Experts are also expecting a rush of retirees in 2015, when age and years-of-service requirements for full benefits are set to gradually rise.
A new report found Ohio’s graduation rate is still improving. The U.S. Department of Education report found the state’s graduation rate was 81.4 percent in the 2009-10 school year, higher than the nation’s rate of 78.2 percent, and an increase from 78.7 percent rate in the 2006-2007 school year.
A study found a link between hourly workers at Hamilton County’s Fernald Feed Materials Production Center and intestinal cancer.
As Ohio cuts back its solar program, Canada is shutting down the rest of its coal-fired power plants by the end of 2013.
The Cincinnati Reds may get to host the 2015 All-Stars Game.
Scientists are rushing to build robots that save lives in disaster zones. Will John Connor please stand up?
A local music teacher says Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy offered him a job and then rescinded the offer after asking him if he is gay. Jonathan Zeng says he went through the school's extensive interview process, was offered a position and then called back in for a discussion about religious questions in his application, during which he was asked directly if he is gay. Zeng says he asked why such information was pertinent, and an administrator said it was school policy not to employ teachers who are gay because they work with children and something about the sanctity of marriage. When contacted by local media CHCA released the following statement:
CHCA keeps confidential all matters discussed within a candidate's interview. We're looking into this matter, although the initial information we have seen contains inaccuracies. We will not be discussing individual hiring decisions or interviews.Cincinnati's deficit isn't going to get better any time soon, according to a new report.
Senate Republicans yesterday blocked a Democratic bill calling for equal pay in the workplace, and the Dems are going to stick it in their faces during this year's campaigns. From the AP:
As expected, the pay equity bill failed along party lines, 52-47, short of the required 60-vote threshold. But for majority Democrats, passage wasn't the only point. The debate itself was aimed at putting Republicans on the defensive on yet another women's issue, this one overtly economic after a government report showing slower-than-expected job growth.
"It is incredibly disappointing that in this make-or-break moment for the middle class, Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families," Obama said in a statement after the vote.
"Even Mitt Romney has refused to publicly oppose this legislation," added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "He should show some leadership."
The Washington Post wonders whether Mitt Romney can use Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's template for surviving a recall election to try to win the presidency. It involves “big money, powerful organization and enormous enthusiasm among his base.” Exit polls in the state suggest Obama is ahead, however.
China wants foreign embassies to stop releasing reports and Tweeting about its poor air quality.
Gonorrhea growing resistant to antibiotics? Rut roh.
Dinosaurs apparently weighed less than scientists previously thought. Adjust paper-mache Brontosaurus as necessary.
Facebook is considering letting kids younger than 13 use the site.
The Boston Celtics took a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat on Tuesday and could send Bron Bron and Co. back home on Thursday.
Cincinnati Public Schools on Monday
voted unanimously to put a levy renewal on the November ballot. The
current levy is set to expire in 2013, and the renewal would be for
$51.5 million for five years.
The second day of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse trial continues today, with a second accuser expected to testify. In his opening statement, Sandusky's lawyer questioned the credibility of the eight young men accusing him of multiple crimes over several years, claiming that they have a financial motive to make false claims. He also acknowledged that Sandusky's behavior and his showering with young boys was “kind of strange” but said it was not sexual abuse.
Mitt Romney says Barack Obama's “Forward” slogan is absurd. And so is the notion that he wants to reduce the number of police, firefighters and teachers. Absurdity.
The LA Times says Obama's complicated message will pose a challenge to convey, especially against Romney's simple argument: Y'all mad and it's Obama's fault.
Obama's counter-argument is layered with nuance and complexity.
It starts with an attempt to undercut Romney. As a corporate buyout executive, Romney shipped jobs overseas and reaped millions of dollars in fees from takeover deals that destroyed U.S. factory jobs, the Obama campaign says. As Massachusetts governor, Romney built a poor record on job creation, the argument continues.
Turning to his own record, Obama tells voters that he inherited an economy on the brink of collapse and averted a depression. He takes credit for a resurgence in manufacturing, the rescue of the automobile industry and the creation of more than 4 million jobs since February 2010.
Obama also slams Republicans in Congress for blocking his plans to stimulate more jobs. To inoculate himself from potential setbacks over the summer and fall, he warns of economic trouble spilling over from Europe.
In the end, Obama says, he would keep the country moving forward while Romney would take it back to the George W. Bush policies that wrecked the economy in the first place.
Verizon is changing up its cell phone plans, moving toward monthly plans that allow users to connect up to 10 devices, including tablets and PCs, to their cell phone network.
There's a new Retina-display-bearing MacBook Pro. Whatever that means.
Sunday night's Mad Men season finale broke a ratings record with 2.7 million viewers.
The Los Angeles Kings won the NHL's Stanley Cup on Tuesday, the organization's first ever championship.
Supporters of low income housing programs are criticizing a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood). Chabot's proposal would impose restrictions on people who use the federal Section 8 housing program, which provides vouchers to help poor people pay their rent. Among his changes, people only would be able to use the program for five years. In Cincinnati, however, 53 percent of clients already leave the program within five years. Of the 47 percent who remain, many of them have problems like mental health issues and likely would become homeless and more expensive to deal with for the government, a housing advocate told The Enquirer.
To prepare for an influx of foreign visitors when the World Choir Games begin here in July, a new language translation tool is being launched. Cincinnati-based Globili is testing its text and mobile application for cellphones and smartphones that translates signs, menus and ads into about 50 languages. The event will be held July 4-14 at various locations in downtown and Over-the-Rhine including the Aronoff Center for the Arts and Music Hall.
It's been 147 years since the U.S. Civil War ended, but Kentucky lawmakers are just now getting around to abolishing a pension fund for Confederate veterans. The measure, which passed Kentucky's House of Representatives unanimously on Feb. 29, now heads to the state Senate for a vote. No one who is eligible to receive the pension has been alive for at least 50 years, lawmakers said. I guess things really do move more slowly in the South.
Business at the venerable Blue Wisp Jazz Club has increased since it moved to a new location at Seventh and Race streets in January. The club's owners attribute the jump to more pedestrian traffic and the number of hotels located near the new site. The front room includes a bar and restaurant accessible with no cover charge, while the back room is reserved for performances by Jazz musicians.
Steep spikes and drops on standardized test scores, a pattern that has indicated cheating in Atlanta and other cities across the nation, have occurred in hundreds of school districts and charter schools across Ohio in the past seven years, a Dayton Daily News analysis found. The analysis doesn't prove cheating has occurred in Ohio, but documents show state officials don't employ vigorous statistical analyses to catch possible cheating, discipline only about a dozen teachers a year and direct Ohio’s test vendor to spend just $17,540 on analyzing suspicious scores out of its $39 million annual testing contract.
In news elsewhere, the U.S. Supreme Court begins its constitutional review of the health-care overhaul law today with a basic question: Is the court barred from making such a decision at this time? The justices will hear 90 minutes of argument about whether an obscure 19th-century law — the Anti-Injunction Act — means that the court cannot pass judgment on the law until its key provisions go into effect in 2014.
When it recently was announced that a U.S. soldier who allegedly went on a shooting spree in Afghanistan would be charged with 17 counts of murder, many people wondered about the number. After all, early reports indicated Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a Norwood native, allegedly killed 16 people. Military officials decided to charge Bales with murder for the death of the unborn baby of one of the victims, a senior Afghan police official said today.
In a possibly related incident, a gunman in an Afghan army uniform killed two NATO soldiers today at a base in southern Afghanistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Force has said. Details were still sketchy, but NATO said in a statement that an individual wearing an Afghan soldier's uniform had turned his weapon against international troops. Coalition forces then returned fire, killing the gunman.
China and the United States have agreed to coordinate their response to any "potential provocation" if North Korea goes ahead with a planned rocket launch, the White House says. North Korea says the long-range rocket will carry a satellite, but U.S. officials say any launch would violate United Nations resolutions and be a missile test.
Somehow, 71-year-old Dick Cheney managed to get a heart transplant Saturday after spending nearly two years on a list waiting for a suitable organ to become available. Cheney, a former U.S. vice president and — some would say — unindicted war criminal, got the transplant even as much younger, healthier people continue to wait for a new heart. (My guess is he made a pact with Beelzebub.) Cheney has had five heart attacks over the years, the first occurring at age 37.
After two years of racking up an excellent rating on its state report card, Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School appears headed for a lower grade.
Preliminary school report cards released Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Education show an “effective” rating for Taft, a technology-magnet school for grades 9-12 in Cincinnati’s West End. Taft had won accolades nationally for its steady climb from academic futility during the past seven years. In that span, Taft went from “academic emergency” in the 2004-05 school year to excellent in 2009-10 and 2010-11, mainly on the strength of Ohio Graduation Test pass rates that were the highest of all public high schools in Southwest Ohio. The U.S. Department of Education gave it a coveted National Blue Ribbon Award.
[Download the Ohio Preliminary Report Cards spreadsheet here.]
CityBeat called those achievements into question in a February article ("Miracle or Mirage," issue of Feb. 22). CityBeat found that the same graduating classes (2009-10 and 2010-11) that were posting regionally high OGT pass rates had average composite ACT test scores of 15, or the 10th percentile in Ohio. CityBeat also took the first hard look at an independent audit showing that, of 1,707 erasures on Taft OGT exams in 2006, 88 percent resulted in correct answers, an outcome one nationally prominent testing expert called “not logical.” Cincinnati Public Schools, then led by former superintendent Rosa Blackwell, refused to investigate the matter, and ODE let the district get away with it.
2011-12 school year, Taft still posted high pass rates on the OGT, but
its graduation rate of 82.1 percent (down from 91.4 percent in 2010-11)
and attendance rate of 91 percent (down from 96.7 percent) were below
state benchmarks, leading to the effective rating on its interim report
While Taft fell from excellence among the city’s public schools, another school, James N. Gamble Montessori High School in Spring Grove Village, received its first-ever excellent rating. And Walnut Hills extended its long-running streak of excellent ratings. Winners of effective ratings were Clark Montessori and Withrow University high schools.
As for the district, Cincinnati Public Schools itself fell one notch on its state report card. Last year, CPS was rated effective, making it the highest-rated urban school district in Ohio. For 2011-12, it dropped to “continuous improvement.” Said CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh: “We really would have loved to have gotten effective again, but the fact remains that overall performance, as rated by the state performance index, did reach 88.5, which is our highest score ever, and we continue to improve.”
For the third year in a row, Ohio has dropped in Education Week’s annual ranks. The news comes despite the state slightly bumping up its grade from 79.5 percent to 79.6 percent. The state was ranked No. 12, down from No. 11 in 2012 and No. 10 in 2011.
Ohio did best in standards, assessments and accountability, where it got a 96.1 percent, or an A. It did worst in K-12 achievement, which measures student progress and equality, with a 71.2 percent, or a C-.
The only major category in which Ohio performed below the U.S. average was transitions and alignment, which gauges state standards for preparing Ohio students for moving from kindergarten to elementary school to middle school to high school to college. In the category, Ohio got a 78.6 percent, or C+, while the national average is 81.1 percent.
Maryland was ranked No. 1 for the fifth year in a row with an 87.5 percent, or a B.
“We’re pleased to be rated No. 12 in the nation … but our overall score of a B- reassures us what we already know: We can do a better job of educating Ohio’s children and preparing them for future success,” said John Charlton, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Education.
Charlton says the state is taking steps to make improvements, particularly in the transitions and alignment category. Ohio has already adopted the Common Core standards and is replacing the state’s standardized tests with new assessments, which CityBeat covered here.
Ohio colleges and universities have also adopted uniform remediation-free standards, which Charlton says will make it easier to prepare students for college. Remedial courses are classes that don’t count toward college credit; they’re typically required for students who are under-prepared in certain subjects, particularly English, math and science.
But some have pushed back toward the Republican-supported education initiatives. The Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which forces schools to hold back third-grade students who are not proficient in reading, has faced a lot of criticism from Democrats and education experts. 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.
Gov. John Kasich vowed to rework Ohio’s school funding formula in the 2014-2015 budget. In a previous interview, Rob Nichols, spokesperson to Kasich, said it was a big undertaking: “Many governors have tried before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something we have to take our time with and get it done right.”
The Republican-controlled Ohio House on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow school boards to designate some school employees to carry concealed firearms and prohibit school boards from releasing the names of those employees.
As part of the designation, school employees would have to participate in “active shooter training” established by the state attorney general. School boards and employees could also consult with local law enforcement to establish stronger standards and training.
If a gun-toting teacher injures or kills someone, the rules exempt the school board and employees from liability “unless the injury, death or loss resulted from the employee’s reckless or wanton conduct.”
The bill would also allow off-duty officers to carry firearms in schools.
There are some restrictions: A school board could not force an employee to carry a gun, and gun-carrying rights could not be part of a collective bargaining agreement.
While a Republican majority supports the rules to increase safety in schools, some research indicates the plan could backfire.
A review from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found states and countries with more guns tend to have more homicides. Specifically, men and women in places with more firearms are exposed to a larger risk of gun-related homicide.
University of Pennsylvania researchers found similar results in a 2009 study.
“On average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault,” the study concluded. “Although successful defensive gun uses occur each year, the probability of success may be low for civilian gun users in urban areas. Such users should reconsider their possession of guns or, at least, understand that regular possession necessitates careful safety countermeasures.”
A 2009 ABC News special found even trained gun-wielders fail to properly react in the event of a shooting. In multiple simulations that placed trained and armed students in a classroom, none of the participants succeeded in stopping an unexpected shooter from landing fake rounds that would have been deadly in a real shooting.
Local state representatives split along party lines on the bill. Democrats Denise Driehaus, Connie Pillich and Alicia Reece voted against it, while Republicans Peter Stautberg and Louis Blessing voted for it.
The bill now needs to move through the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich to become law.
Activists gathered on Thursday outside of the West Chester office of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, asking the House’s top official to look at reducing military spending when coming up with a budget.
The group of nearly two dozen — which included nuns, a veteran, a retiree advocate, a small businessman and progressive activists — held signs reading, “It is time for Nation Building in the United States. Cut Massive Pentagon Budget Now!” and “End Tax Breaks for Richest 2%.”
“We’re here today in front of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s West Chester office to drive home the fact that we believe that over 50 percent of the budget magically, this elephant in the House, has failed to be discussed as we discuss taking away services that provide human needs,” said David Little of Progress Ohio.
“Any discussion that fails to address excesses in that budget is failing the American people.”
Little added that it was possible to support the troops and veterans without spending billions on pointless wars.
Butler County attorney and Navy veteran Bruce Carter said the military can be more efficient in what he called the changing mission.
“When you refuse to have a discussion on over half of the budget, that’s like trying to tell the Bengals to win a game without going over the 50 yard line,” he said.
The group had a letter to deliver to Boehner, which contained what they called a statement of principles.
“We believe in a holistic approach to the budget crisis, and in order to protect the middle-class, cuts to the Pentagon need to be at the forefront,” the letter states. “We understand that Pentagon cuts are a controversial issue, however, Pentagon cuts in the sequester do not threaten our national security.”
The letter suggests that some of the money currently being spent on the Defense Department goes to providing services for veterans.
The military accounted for about 52 percent — or $600 billion — of discretionary spending in fiscal year 2011.
In contrast, education, training and social services collectively made up 9 percent of the budget.
The group of four activists weren’t allowed into Boehner’s office, but a young staffer met them outside. He said that the speaker thought everything should be on the table when it came to budget cuts.
A YouTube video that went viral over the weekend may have broken the rosy illusions the average American has about wealth and income inequality.
Using data from Mother Jones,
Dan Ariely, ThinkProgress and CNN, the video compares the average American’s ideal distribution of wealth, what the average American says wealth inequality looks like and how wealth is distributed in reality — ultimately showing that the average American says the nation is much more equal than it really is.
The video suggests investment income as one of the drivers of inequality. The top 1 percent wealthiest Americans hold 50 percent of the nation’s stocks, bonds and mutual funds, while the bottom 50 percent of Americans only hold 0.5 percent of such investments, according to the video.
“The average worker needs to work more than a month to earn what the CEO makes in one hour,” the narrator says.
In the past, the United States was a lot closer to equality. As the video points out, the top 1 percent only took home 9 percent of the nation’s income in 1976. Today, that number is up to 24 percent.
Ohio isn’t immune to the trend. A previous report from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found Ohio’s income gap — the income difference between the rich and poor — is wide and growing, and low-income and middle-income Ohioans have actually seen their incomes drop since the 1990s.
The video doesn’t make any suggestions on how to fix the problem — it simply shows massive inequality exists — but there are plenty of ideas out there. A paper from the Congressional Research Service suggested the tax system may be playing a role in driving up income and wealth inequality: “However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be correlated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. … The statistical analysis in this report suggests that tax policy could be related to how the economic pie is sliced — lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.”
In December, The Washington Post posted 10 empirically supported ideas, which included funding preschool education, making unions easier to join and promoting trade in highly skilled professions.
In his 2013 State of the Union, President Barack Obama suggested raising the federal minimum wage to help combat poverty and income inequality — a policy that economist Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute recently advocated.
Here is the full video: