Home - Blogs - Staff Blogs - Popular Blogs
Latest Blogs
by Danny Cross 06.06.2012

Morning News and Stuff

A local music teacher says Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy offered him a job and then rescinded the offer after asking him if he is gay.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.

The Reds drafted high school pitcher Nick Travieso in the first round of the MLB draft on Monday. Here's a rundown of their other picks Monday and Tuesday.

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.

by German Lopez 10.04.2012
Posted In: News, Education at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
dave yost

Auditor Criticizes Education Department for Poor Oversight

Interim report highlights attendance scrubbing in a minority of school districts

The state auditor today criticized both the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and a handful of school districts in an interim report. The report, which will be finalized in the coming months as the investigation is completed, gave some early findings for the ongoing investigation into attendance scrubbing, the practice of “removing students from enrollment without lawful reason.”

Dave Yost, Ohio’s state auditor, has been investigating claims that schools are scrubbing attendance data for better results in Ohio’s school report card, which grades schools and school districts around the state. The grading process helps establish policies for different schools, such as funding needs and whether they require local or state intervention.

The early results of the investigation, which began after Lockland Schools in Hamilton County was caught reporting fraudulent data, found a fundamental conflict of interest in a system in which schools are “on the honor system” to report their own data.

“The current system relies upon local schools and school districts — but these are the very entities that are interested in the outcome of the accountability measures,” the report said, before labeling the setup “a classic conflict of interest.”

The report advised the state government to reform ODE to introduce “independent oversight.” Specifically, Yost asked for oversight to be transferred to “an independent agency or commission appointed by the General Assembly” instead of relying on schools to be honest. This oversight should be conducted throughout the year, not just at the end of the school year like it's done today, according to the report.

The state auditor’s report also asked ODE to develop better methods for tracking students. In particular, the report suggested using SSIDs — ID numbers that are given to students in the Ohio’s school database — to track all withdrawals and transfers for students.

But those were only a few of the many suggestions. The report laid out other proposals: Set clear attendance rules for school boards, provide due process to students being kicked out for poor attendance, require stricter attendance records at each school, stop providing school report card data early, create a centralized source or manual for accountability resources and establish a statewide student information system with clearer uniform rules and standards.

John Charlton, spokesperson for ODE, says the state will look into enforcing “additional safeguards.” He says ODE already “upgraded” EMIS, which is the system used by schools to report data, this year, but more is coming.

“We’ve been cooperative with the auditor’s office, and we’ve established a productive working relationship about his inquiry,” he says. “We’ll take the input that’s provided from the auditor’s office into consideration when we make upgrades for next year’s (EMIS) manual.”

But the report did not just blame ODE and the state government for failures. It also singled out a few school districts with evidence of school scrubbing. Columbus City School District, Toledo City School District, Cleveland Municipal School District, Marion City School District and Campbell City School District were the main offenders. Other school districts were found to have errors but no scrubbing.

“We’re actually encouraged but not surprised that this interim report shows that most Ohio schools and districts that have been visited to date have been following the rules for reporting data to the state,” Charlton says.

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) was partially investigated as part of the auditor's interim report, but results for CPS were found to be indeterminate” as the school district finishes gathering all its data.

The full report can be read here.

by Kevin Osborne 04.04.2012
gay t-shirt

Morning News and Stuff

In desperate need to bolster his low popularity numbers, Gov. John Kasich visited Cincinnati Tuesday to praise a deal that allows a local company to expand downtown and add jobs. Dunnhumby USA, a retail branding firm, will move from Third Street to a long vacant site at Fifth and Race streets, where it will build a new complex and add 550 jobs. Dunnhumby is getting the maximum 15 years of state Job Creation tax credits to help with the move.

The head of faculty at Xavier University is questioning the college president's abrupt, unilateral decision to stop offering birth control coverage in insurance for faculty and staff. Shannon Byrne, faculty committee chair, says President Michael J. Graham’s announcement Monday might violate XU's own rules about how such decisions can be made. She is scheduling a meeting April 12 so faculty can discuss the situation and decide how to respond.

ARTIMIS signs are supposed to alert motorists to traffic congestion and missing persons, but area residents have said they've noticed a lot of them don't work. As a result, transportation officials say 29 malfunctioning ARTIMIS signs will be replaced as part of upcoming construction projects on Interstates 471 and 275. All of the upgrades will be completed by July.

A Waynesville High School student is suing the school district for preventing him from wearing a T-shirt to class that depicted a pro-gay message. Maverick Couch wants to wear the shirt, which states “Jesus is not a homophobe,” to school on April 20 to show support for the Day of Silence, a national event that draws attention to the silencing of gay and lesbian students through bullying. School officials, however, initially told Couch the shirt was disruptive and later that it was too religious. Now they allege it violates rules prohibiting clothing that is “sexual in nature,” which Couch's attorney said is “absurd.”

Yahoo! Sports has released the rankings of Major League teams with the most players claimed in fantasy baseball leagues, and some Reds are among the sought-after stars. The Yankees and Rangers tied for the top spot as most popular on Yahoo!. Both teams have 13 players owned in at least 50 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. But the Reds also make a good showing, with seven players owned in at least 50 percent of the fantasy leagues.

In news elsewhere, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney left his rival, Rick Santorum, in the dust Tuesday. Romney won all three primaries that were held — in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia — and emerged with substantial gains in delegates.

Despite widespread opinion to the contrary, a private investigator alleges in a new book that O.J. Simpson didn't murder his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, in 1994. Instead, William C. Dear said his inquiry revealed that O.J. was covering up for the real culprit: Jason Simpson, O.J.'s son from his first marriage. Dear said he discovered a knife in a storage unit that was rented by Jason that he believes is the murder weapon, along with a forged time card from the night of the killings. Dear alleges that Jason Simpson was working as a chef in a Beverly Hills restaurant that day and had put together a special meal for the family. Brown didn't attend, however, angering him. The P.I. said Jason was on probation for assaulting his previous employer with a knife and has spent time in a psychiatric unit.

If you're an evangelical Christian, you might want to skip this next item. A new medical study finds that older adults who say they've had a life-changing religious experience — in other words, are “born again” —  are more likely to have a greater decrease in size of the part of the brain critical to learning and memory. Researchers asked 268 people, ages 58 to 84, about their religious affiliation, spiritual practices and life-changing religious experiences. Over the course of two to eight years, changes to the hippocampus were monitored using MRI scans. The researchers suggested that stress over holding religious beliefs that fall outside of the mainstream may help explain the findings. Or they're just stupid.

A major Chinese analyst said the senior leadership of the Chinese government increasingly views the competition between the United States and China as a zero-sum game, and believes the United States is a declining power that is trying to disrupt China's economic and military growth. Wang Jisi revealed his findings in a monograph published this week by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of a Pakistan-based group blamed for the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, has demanded proof after the United States announced a $10 million bounty on his head. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Saeed said the U.S. action was prompted by his organizing rallies against the reopening of military supply lines through Pakistan to NATO forces in Afghanistan.
by Danny Cross 06.12.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Former Bengal Chad Ochocinco will return to Cincinnati Oct. 7 as a member of the Miami Dolphins, if reports by his OchoCinco News Network are true: Ocho says he has signed with the Miami Dolphins.

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.

by Kevin Osborne 03.26.2012

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by German Lopez 01.10.2013
Posted In: Education, News at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Ohio Drops in Education Ranks

State maintains B-, falls to No. 12 spot

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.”

by James McNair 10.17.2012
Posted In: CPS, Education at 04:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
taft copy

Taft High Heading for Lower Rating

Scores down after controversial ascension from "academic emergency" to "excellent"

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.

For the 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 card.

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.”

by German Lopez 04.30.2013
Posted In: News, Education, Budget at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Survey Confirms Statewide School Cuts

Seventy percent of schools cut budgets for 2012-2013 school year

A survey released April 29 found Ohio schools are making cutbacks in response to budget cuts previously approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature.

The 15-question survey from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio, which received responses from 42 percent of the state’s K-12 school districts in 82 counties, found 70 percent of Ohio schools made cuts for the ongoing 2012-2013 school year, 82 percent cut positions, 84 percent reduced or froze compensation and 62 percent expect budget shortfalls next year if the state doesn’t increase funding.

“Long-term investment in education is the best way to build opportunity for Ohioans,” said Piet van Lier, education researcher at Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement. “Instead, Ohio’s cuts to school funding have forced schools to get rid of staff, reduce pay, cut materials and increase class sizes.”

The survey found the cuts have led to a reduction in education quality, with 43 percent of Ohio schools reporting larger class sizes, 23 percent reporting less course options, 57 percent cutting materials, supplies, textbooks or equipment for the 2012-2013 school year and 22 percent reducing extracurricular activities or introducing pay-to-play for them.

Policy Matters and Innovation Ohio, another left-leaning think tank, previously found Kasich’s 2012-2013 budget slashed education funding by $1.8 billion.

In his latest budget proposal, Kasich proposed increasing education funding, although in a way that disproportionately benefited wealthier school districts (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20). Since then, the Ohio House passed its own budget bill that rejects Kasich’s proposal and increases overall school funding in a more equitable way.

But Policy Matters says the increases aren’t enough. Its analysis found school funding is failing to keep up with inflation, with 2015 funding projected to fall $1.2 billion short of what funding would have looked like if it had kept up with 2006’s inflation-adjusted levels.

“Neither Gov. Kasich nor the Ohio House have adequately addressed the needs of Ohio’s schools in their budget proposals,” van Lier said in a statement. “The Senate must now lead the way in crafting a stronger, more predictable funding system for the next two years and beyond.”

Cincinnati Public Schools said state funding cuts were one reason the school district needed Cincinnati voters to approve a school levy in 2012 (“Battered But Not Broken,” issue of Oct. 3). The levy, known as Issue 42, passed in the November election.

Innovation Ohio previously found Kasich’s budget cuts have led to levies all around the state, effectively increasing local taxes by $1.3 billion since May 2011.

“By cutting taxes primarily for the wealthy at the state level, Gov. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature have merely pushed the need for tax increases down to the local level,” said Janetta King, president of Innovation Ohio, in a statement.

Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols previously told CityBeat that the cuts were necessary to balance the budget, as required by state law. “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit,” he said. “We had to fix that.”

by Andy Brownfield 12.06.2012

Activists Urge Boehner to Make Pentagon Cuts

Statement of principles presented to staffer outside of West Chester office

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.

by German Lopez 11.13.2012
Posted In: Budget, News, Economy, Education, Environment at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

State budget cuts hit counties, food deserts in Cincinnati, area's nuclear weapons legacy

A new report from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio shows the impact of state budget cuts on individual counties. Statewide, more than $1 billion in tax reimbursements and the Local Government Fund was cut between the 2010-2011 budget, which was passed by Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, and the 2012-2013 budget, which was passed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. Additionally, Ohio’s estate tax — a tax that affected only 8 percent of Ohioans, largely those at top income levels — was eliminated, killing off a crucial source of funding. Hamilton County, its jurisdiction, schools, services and levies lost $222.1 million. Health and human services lost $23.2 million. Children’s services lost $4.6 million, and the county children’s agency services “was sent into financial crisis.” In total, more than 5,000 local government jobs were lost in the area.

The Center for Closing the Health Gap is launching a campaign to raise awareness about food deserts in Cincinnati. Food deserts are areas, particularly neighborhoods, where full-service grocery stores aren’t readily available to residents. The campaign hopes to raise awareness and funding to combat the food deserts in the Cincinnati area. With a funding target of $15 million, the organization plans to help build smaller stores with close ties to the local communities.

A new study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital resurfaced Greater Cincinnati’s nuclear weapons legacy. Between the 1950s and 1980s, residents of nearby farm communities were unaware they were being exposed to radioactive materials in the air, water and soil from a Cold War era nuclear weapons plant, located 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati. Apparently, the exposure has led to higher rates of systemic lupus in the area.

Greater Cincinnati’s economic recovery could be slowed or boosted by policy, but it will outpace the nation’s economic recovery, according to local economists. Still, the economists caution that there is a lot of uncertainty due to oil prices, the fiscal cliff — a series of tax hikes and budget cuts scheduled to be made at the start of 2013 if U.S. Congress doesn’t act — and the fiscal crisis in Europe.

Cincinnati’s small businesses are more upbeat about the economy. Eleven percent of local family firms expect the economy to improve, but whether that translates to business expansions remains to be seen.

CityLink Center is scheduled to open today. The initial plans for the facility sought to help the homeless with health services, overnight shelter, food, temporary housing and child care. At one point, the center’s opening was threatened due to legal challenges regarding zoning.

Hostess, maker of Twinkies, says it will close down three bakeries, including one in Cincinnati, due to a national strike. According to reports, union workers walked off the job after a new contract cut their wages and benefits. Hostess insists the factory shutdowns will not affect customers.

Top Cincinnati mortgage lenders saw double-digit increases between Sept. 1, 2011 and Aug. 30, 2012. The rise is yet another positive sign for the housing market, which collapsed during the latest financial crisis and recession.

The state agency in charge of higher education released a report highlighting 20 recommendations to improve degree completion in Ohio. Some of the recommendations from the Board of Regents: Adopt more uniform statewide rules regarding college completion and career readiness, push stronger collaboration and alignment in education from preschool through senior year in college, establish a new system of high school assessment to improve readiness for college, and improve flexibility. The board will attempt to turn the report into reality in cooperation with university and state officials.

Too much school choice may be a bad thing. A new study found Ohio’s varied education system, which offers vouchers for private schools and charter schools as alternatives to a traditional public school, may have passed “a point where choice actually becomes detrimental to overall academic performance.”

The Ohio Farm Bureau (OFB) issued an action alert on Saturday telling members to oppose privatizing the Ohio Turnpike. The Ohio state government, led by Kasich, is currently studying possible plans to privatize the turnpike. In a video, an OFB member argues the current turnpike management is fine.

There are still some undecided seats in the Ohio legislature from the Nov. 6 election.

Once again, a reminder not to drive on a sidewalk to avoid a school bus.

Former George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes says she will “cut out” the tongue of Republican men making “Neanderthal comments” about rape.

A new way to fight bacteria: coat it with a thin layer of mucus.