Home - Blogs - Staff Blogs - Popular Blogs
by German Lopez 01.29.2013

Morning News and Stuff

Democrats sue over Terhar, JobsOhio ignores lawsuit, Monzel to change county mission

Ohio Democrats are moving to sue the state if it continues blocking access to texts from State Board of Education President Debe Terhar, a Republican from Cincinnati. The school board leader has been facing criticism for making a Facebook post that compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. The post was a picture with the caption, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” There is no historical evidence Hitler made that quote.

Despite ongoing litigation questioning its constitutionality, JobsOhio intends to move ahead with plans to sell liquor-backed bonds. The Supreme Court agreed to take up ProgressOhio’s challenge of JobsOhio last week. JobsOhio is a nonprofit private agency set up by Gov. John Kasich to drive economic growth, but bipartisan questions have surrounded its legality and constitutionality since its conception.

Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel wants to change the county’s mission statement. His proposed changes would remove references to equity and add conservative language about the county government living within its means. The county is already required to balance its budget.

Ohio State University expects to save nearly $1 million a year due to wind power. The university signed a 20-year agreement in October to buy 50 megawatts annually from Blue Creek Wind Farm, the state’s largest commercial wind farm.

The city of Cincinnati is tearing down hundreds of blighted houses. The demolitions, which are being funded by a grant, are meant to make neighborhoods safer.

A Cleveland man was the first to benefit from a law that expedites payouts to those who were wrongfully imprisoned. After being imprisoned for 16 years, Darrell Houston will receive a partial judgment of nearly $380,000.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is looking at removing 34 positions. One of the potentially affected jobs is a counselor position that helped apprehend a man suspected of kidnapping two teenaged girls.

Ohio may soon require the replacement of old license plates.

The Ohio Tax Credit Authority is assisting eleven companies in investing more than $51 million across Ohio. In Hamilton County, Jedson Engineering will spend an additional $2.8 million to create 30 full-time jobs.

StateImpact Ohio has an in-depth look at Nate DeRolph, one of the leaders in school funding equality.

A new gun shoots criminals with DNA tags, which lets cops return to a suspect during less confrontational times. The guns will be particularly useful during riots, when attempting an arrest can result in injuries.

by German Lopez 07.31.2012
Posted In: Mayor, News, Education, Governor at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Mayor Mark Mallory announced a trade deal between the small Greater Cincinnati-based Solutions Plus, Inc. and the giant Saudi Arabia-based Diversified Lines Petroleum Company. The deal will produce $20 million in business in the next two to five years, said Solutions Plus President Charlie Weaver. The deal is largely due to a trade mission to Saudi Arabia Mallory led in January.

The Cincinnati streetcar project is moving forward. On Wednesday, City Council will be voting on a routine ordinance to transfer $3 million to the streetcar project.

Cincinnati is studying the feasibility of a bike share program. If enacted, the program would begin next summer in Over-the-Rhine and Uptown.

Kings Island is taking down the Son of Beast. The attraction, which was originally advertised as the only wooden roller coaster with a loop, has been closed since 2009 due to a series of problems.

Gov. John Kasich announced the approval of 25 new economic projects by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority. The approval should pave the way to 2,003 new jobs and $212 million in investment in Ohio, according to the announcement. Three of the projects will be in the city of Cincinnati: Integra LifeSciences Corporation, Southern Air Incorporated and Corbus, LLC.

Kasich wants answers. Yesterday, the governor gave his opinion on the ongoing investigation into the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio schools for fraudulent data reporting. Kasich said both schools and the Ohio Department of Education should be held accountable if necessary.

Democrats are setting the groundwork to endorse same-sex marriage in the official party platform for the 2012 election. The news would echo President Barack Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage earlier this year.

Medical marijuana is heading to court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will be hearing whether or not the federal government is right to classify marijuana as having no medical value.

James Holmes was charged with 24 counts of murder in the case for the Colorado theater massacre.

Mitt Romney praised Israel’s health-care system, which does a lot of what he’s opposing in Obamacare.

Japanese developers have built a real-life mech robot. The robot can be piloted, and it can shoot 6,000 BBs in a minute.

by German Lopez 02.18.2013
Posted In: Budget, Governor, News, Education, Economy, Taxes at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

PUCO appointment criticized, poll supports school funding, superintendent investigation

Gov. John Kasich appointed a former Republican to a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) seat that must go to a Democrat or Independent, according to The Plain Dealer. M. Beth Trombold will finish her term as the assistant director in Kasich’s Ohio Development Services Agency in April, when she will then take up the PUCO position. The appointment immediately drew criticism from some Democrats. State Rep. Mike Foley of Cleveland called the appointment “another example of Kasich cronyism running rampant.”

A poll from Innovation Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, found Kasich’s budget proposals aren’t popular with most Ohioans. The poll found 62 percent of Ohioans prefer prioritizing school funding over reducing the state income tax, while only 32 percent prefer tax reduction. When asked what Ohio lawmakers should prioritize in the coming months, 56 percent said job creation, 38 percent said school funding, 24 percent said keeping local property taxes low and 18 percent said cutting the state income tax.

A school superintendent from Warren County may face prosecution for misusing public resources after he wrote a letter to parents urging them to campaign against Kasich, reports Dayton Daily News. Franklin City Schools Superintendent Arnol Elam was apparently angry with Kasich’s new school funding formula, which did not increase funding for poor school districts like Franklin Cities, but did give increases to Springboro, Mason and Kings — the three wealthiest districts in Warren County. County Prosecutor David Fornshell said he will be investigating Elam for engaging in political activity with public resources.

Kasich will give his State of the State Tuesday. The speech is expected to focus on the governor’s budget and tax reform plans.

As part of an agreement with the city, Duke Energy is suing over the streetcar project, according to WLWT. The lawsuit is meant to settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar. CityBeat covered the agreement between the city and Duke here and how the streetcar will play a pivotal role in the 2013 mayor’s race here.

Thousands of people in Butler County, mainly students, are benefiting from Judge Robert Lyons’ criminal record seals, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Lyons’ practice of sealing cases came to light after he sealed the case for the Miami University student who posted a flyer on how to get away with rape. In the past five years, Lyons has sealed 2,945 cases — more than a third of the new misdemeanor cases filed.

Ohio’s casinos are falling far short of original revenue projections, according to The Columbus Dispatch. It’s uncertain why that’s the case, but some are pointing to Internet-sweepstakes cafes. Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which will open March 4, was spurred by the original projections.

StateImpact Ohio reports that many Ohio teachers are concerned with new teaching evaluation rules.

Two Cincinnati Republicans will begin reviewing the effects of legislation that deregulated phone companies in Ohio, reports Gongwer. State Rep. Peter Stautberg, who chairs the House Public Utilities Committee, and State Sen. Bill Seitz, who chairs the Senate Public Utilities Committee, will hear testimony from PUCO Tuesday.

Downtown’s Chiquita center has landed in bankruptcy, reports WCPO. The building lost its major tenant last year when Chiquita Brands relocated to Charlotte, N.C.

“Star Trek” is becoming reality. University of Cincinnati researchers are developing a tricorder device to help users monitor their own health, reports WVXU.

Are you worried about space rocks recently? Popular Science says NASA is concerned as well.

by German Lopez 02.04.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Economy, Governor, Taxes at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Kasich Budget Expands Medicaid, Cuts Taxes

Governor proposes health care expansion despite opposing Obamacare

Gov. John Kasich released his 2014-2015 budget plan today, and it has a few surprises — some pleasant, some not — for progressives. Despite his vocal opposition to Obamacare, Kasich will be taking up the federal laws incentive to expand Medicaid, the health care program for low-income families. But instead of taking back past cuts to social services, education and local governments, the governor is pushing ahead with income and sales tax cuts.

The Medicaid expansion would add more Ohioans to the state-federal health care program by raising the eligibility threshold to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, up from 90 percent. The budget summary claims the expansion makes financial sense for the state as long as the federal government picks up most of the tab. As part of Obamacare, the federal government takes all the costs for newly insured Medicaid recipients for the first three years. After that, the federal government’s share is brought down to 95 percent and ultimately phased down to 90 percent. If the federal government reneges on its promise to pay for the bulk of the share, Kasich’s budget has a trigger to wind down the Medicaid expansion.

The budget also proposes income and sales tax cuts, which would come with some trade-offs. The state income tax would be brought down by 20 percent across the board, and the sales tax would be cut from 5.5 percent to 5 percent. To balance the cuts, Kasich has proposed broadening the sales tax to include other “economic activity,” while keeping exemptions for education, health care, rent and residential utilities.

In another slew of tax changes, Kasich’s plan proposes revamping the oil and gas severance tax. It would eliminate the tax for “small, conventional natural gas producers,” but imposes a 4 percent tax for bigger oil and gas producers.

In the past, liberals have voiced opposition to tax cuts — instead favoring investments elsewhere. Policy Matters Ohio released its own budget proposals Jan. 31, which emphasized “education, health care and human services.” The plan would also increase the income tax for top earners.

City Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld released a statement criticizing Kasich’s budget for not using the extra revenue to scale back local government and education cuts enacted in the 2012-2013 budget: “At a time when local governments around the state are being forced to slash basic services, lay off safety personnel, raise taxes, and sell off assets just to stay afloat, it's out of touch for Gov. Kasich not to reverse his raid on our local government fund. We don’t pay taxes to pad the governor’s soundbites, we pay them to maintain our roads and keep cops on the street. This should not be a partisan issue. It's simply illogical governance to make the state look good while in the process hurting Ohio's cities.”

The budget proposal also includes Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan and education reform plan.

by German Lopez 01.20.2014
Posted In: News, Death Penalty, Governor at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

ACLU Calls For End to Death Penalty

Letter to governor points to new cocktail of drugs as culprit

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on Sunday asked Gov. John Kasich to halt the death penalty across the state, following the botched execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire that reportedly lasted 26 minutes.

McGuire’s prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999, was carried out on Jan. 16 with a new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United States. The use of the new drugs came about after Ohio ran out of its previous supplies.

With its letter, the ACLU joined other groups, including Ohioans to Stop Executions, in calling for an end or pause to state-sanctioned killing.

“This is not about Dennis McGuire, his terrible crimes, or the crimes of others who await execution on death row,” reads the ACLU letter. “It is about our duty as a society that sits in judgment of those who are convicted of crimes to treat them humanely and ensure their punishment does not violate the Constitution.”

The letter adds, “We are mere months away from new recommendations from the Ohio Supreme Court Taskforce on the Administration of the Death Penalty that could alter our system for the better. On the eve of monumental changes, along with increasing problems with lethal injection, is not now the time to step back and pause?”

McGuire’s family also announced on Friday it would file a lawsuit claiming his death constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Five more people await execution in Ohio this year, according to the ACLU. It’s unclear whether the state will use the same cocktail of drugs following McGuire’s execution.

by Danny Cross 11.08.2011

Morning News and Stuff

Happy Election Day! It looks like SB 5 is headed for a big defeat even though Gov. Kasich last night told a bunch of East Side Tea Partiers how cool it would be if Issue 2 passed, while a union representative told opponents of the bill that it was about to get “shoved down the throats of John Kasich and the Republicans.

The Hamilton County Administrator yesterday said “sorry homeowners, but our stadium deficit will not allow us to offer the tax credit Republicans said would make up for your part of the stadium sales tax.” Commissioners Todd Portune and Chris Monzel today said they're going to include the credit even though they don't know how yet. Hopefully they can figure it out soon so they can work on adding public housing to the suburbs before the county gets sued by the Feds.

Read More

by German Lopez 08.20.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Government, Governor at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City refuses parking lease challenge, Qualls calls for transparency, Kasich losing in new poll

City Solicitor John Curp rebuked a conservative group that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the citys parking lease without City Council's explicit approval. Curp wrote in a letter that the two changes disputed by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) were within the lease’s terms and only made because COASTs previous lawsuit forced the city to delay leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. If COAST hadn’t pursued the lawsuit, the city would have been able to continue with the original timetable for the parking lease.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls yesterday unveiled a motion calling for the first expansion of local disclosure and reporting requirements since 1997 that would impose new rules on city officials, lobbyists and contractors and require the city administration to post the disclosed information on the city’s website. Qualls said in a statement that the update is particularly timely because the Metropolitan Sewer District is taking on a federally mandated $3.2 billion, 15-year reworking of the city’s sewers, which will presumably involve many lobbyists trying to get lucrative contracts for businesses they represent.

New poll results from Public Policy Polling (PPP) show Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald beating Gov. John Kasich 38-35 percent in the 2014 election. Kasich’s approval rating now stands at 42-47 percent, down 10 points from November. Most respondents still seem unaware of FitzGerald, with 62 percent saying they aren’t sure if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of him. PPP is affiliated with Democrats, but the polling firm performed well in the 2012 presidential race and, if anything, favored Republicans with its results.

Hop On Cincinnati is asking the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District to support a trackless trolley that the group says could live alongside the Cincinnati streetcar. The trolley, estimated to cost $10 million to $15 million, would be similar to the system in Northern Kentucky, and each route would run past major garages to allow people to park before getting on board. If the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District gives the project approval, it could get federal funding.

Investors are upset with SoMoLend, the crowdfunding incubator that has been targeted by a state investigation with accusations of fraud. Critics of the company say that the allegations could hurt future crowdfunding pursuits and harm the state. Shortly after the charges came to light, the city of Cincinnati announced it would cut ties with SoMoLend, which partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with up to $400,000 in loans.

Ohio is the seventh worst state for debt, according to a recent study from NerdWallet.com.

The number of low-income Ohio children in Head Start, the early education program, will drop by more than 1,800 following automatic spending cuts at the federal level. CityBeat previously covered the cuts here.

Ohio’s top waterways watchdog is stepping down from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency after his boss and Kasich asked him to step down. Kasich was apparently angered by an email in which George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s division of surface water, told his staff that the coal industry wants permits that would damage the state’s streams and wetlands and break state and federal laws.

Various state officials are criticizing a “stand your ground” bill currently sitting in the Ohio legislature. The self-defense law has been scrutinized because of George Zimmerman, a Florida resident who was acquitted of murder in the shooting of unarmed black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Many people blame Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which expands self-defense rights, for Martin’s death. Zimmerman’s legal defense team didn’t invoke the law, but the judge involved in the case mentioned it in her jury instructions.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says some school safety plans would be “useless” during a real shooting because they’re too long and complicated.

Ohio is releasing school report cards this week, but the standards may be biased against income and racial diversity.

Cincinnati-based Macy’s stocks plunged last week, alongside other Cincinnati stocks and the rest of the market.

Renowned “Star Trek” actor George Takei will lead Cincinnati in the Chicken Dance at Oktoberfest this year.

Ancient Egyptian jewelry was made from meteorites.

by German Lopez 07.30.2012
Posted In: News, Government, Governor at 08:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
voters first

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio Voters First turned in a total of 750,000 signatures for its redistricting amendment to the Secretary of State by the end of Saturday. If 385,000 of those signatures are approved, the amendment will be put on the November ballot. On July 3, the organization turned in 450,000 signatures, but the office of Secretary of State Jon Husted said not enough signatures were valid, and the organization would have to turn in 130,000 more. In May, CityBeat covered the amendment in-depth when We Are Ohio joined forces with Voters First.

Gov. John Kasich announced the Ohio Medicaid program is being made into its own agency by July 1, 2014. Currently, it is part of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services as the Office of Ohio Health Plans. The change is meant to improve the performance of the $18.8 billion Medicaid program. The 2014-2015 budget will include more information and changes to finalize the agency’s creation.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan will visit Cincinnati tomorrow. Donovan and Mayor Mark Mallory will speak with homeowners about how President Barack Obama’s refinancing plan could benefit them.

The first 2012 case of West Nile Virus was reported in Clermont County Friday. According to Ohio Department of Health officials, this year has an extraordinary amount of mosquitoes carrying the disease due to drought conditions.

A former Chick-Fil-A employee is suing the notoriously anti-gay restaurant chain for sexual discrimination. The lawsuit claims Brenda Honeycutt was fired by manager Jeff Howard so Honeycutt could become a “stay home mother.”

President Barack Obama is coming to Ohio again. On Wednesday, he’ll be making stops at Akron and Mansfield.

The U.S. economy slowed down in the first quarter of 2012 with a measly 1.5 percent growth rate.

Epidemiologists now have a crystal ball of sorts. A new algorithm scans tweets to predict when Twitter users will get the flu.
by German Lopez 08.23.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Democrats, Governor at 08:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown was in Cincinnati yesterday to launch his Small Business Owners for Sherrod group. At the event, Brown touted his small business and job creating credentials and received endorsements from leaders of small businesses, which Brown says are vital to restoring the economy. A letter of endorsement from John Pepper, retired CEO of Procter & Gamble, was read aloud at the event. In the letter, Pepper said, “Brown brings a level of experience and maturity to the office that it demands and that his opponent does not possess.” Brown’s opponent — Josh Mandel — is known to lie from time to time.

A federal judge issued a final ruling yesterday banning the tiny free speech zones at the University of Cincinnati. The zones were declared to be too restricting of constitutional rights to free speech. The ruling is seen as a major victory for student rights.

Ohio Democrats are pushing a bill that would require Gov. John Kasich and every governor after him to go before the Ohio House of Representatives for 45-minute question and answer periods 10 times a year. Local Rep. Denise Driehaus is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

Move to Amend will host a forum on corporate personhood in Cincinnati. Corporate personhood refers to court rulings that established constitutional rights for corporations. Critics argue the ruling makes corporations too powerful. Move to Amend wants to pass an amendment that would overturn the rulings. The forum will take place at the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church on Aug. 29 between 7 and 9 p.m.

In response to the ongoing controversy about early voting, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has some advice: deal with it. In a statement yesterday, Husted said, “The rules are set and are not going to change.” It’s doubtful the statement will actually stop criticism, which has been recently leveled at racist remarks from Doug Preisse, chairman to the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich.

A poll from the University of Cincinnati shows both the presidential and senatorial races are close. The poll has President Barack Obama three points over opponent Mitt Romney with Obama at 49 percent and Romney at 46 percent, but the poll’s margin of error is 3.4 percent. The senatorial race is even closer: Brown is at 48 percent and Mandel is at 47 percent. Aggregate polling has the presidential race close somewhat close, but the senatorial race is much more in Brown’s favor.

Home sales are up in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Median home sale prices are still below where they were a year ago, but the news is a sign the economy could be recovering.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is suing Larry Foster, a water system seller that works in Cincinnati and Columbus under the names Water's Edge, DC Water Solution and Water Pro, for multiple alleged violations of consumer protection laws. The lawsuit claims Foster did not deliver water systems or, if he did, failed to install them properly or at all.

Once again, Ohio tested above the national average in the ACT, a test that measures high school students’ potential ability in college. ACT officials said Ohio is one of the few states notably pushing to improve in math and science.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says if Congress fails to act, the economy could plunge back into recession. The worry is that Congress will fail to extend tax cuts and stop budget cuts.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t name a single Supreme Court justice.

How to keep bananas ripe: spray them with recycled shrimp shells.
by German Lopez 05.31.2013
Posted In: News, Governor, Privatization at 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ed fitzgerald

Proposal to Prevent JobsOhio Audit

FitzGerald calls on Kasich to veto bill

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is calling on Republican Gov. John Kasich to veto a bill that would prevent State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, from fully auditing JobsOhio, following months of controversy surrounding the private nonprofit entity.

"I further encourage the Governor to return to negotiations with Auditor Yost, with the explicit goal of establishing an open and transparent process by which the people of Ohio can be sure JobsOhio is spending our tax dollars efficiently, and that the program is doing what it is supposed to be doing: creating Ohio jobs," FitzGerald said in a statement. "The people’s money is the people’s business, and this bill, which slams shut the door on accountability, is simply unacceptable."

Yost claims he can audit JobsOhio's liquor profits, which add up to $100 million a year, and private funds, such as donations.

But the bill effectively defines JobsOhio's liquor profits as private funds that can't be audited by the state auditor. Under the proposal, Yost could only audit liquor profits and excise taxes that JobsOhio owes to the state, with all other funds effectively deemed private.

JobsOhio was established by Kasich and Republican legislators in 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development. The agency's liquor profits come from a lease deal with the state to run Ohio's liquor operations.

Yost argues the liquor profits are intrinsically public money because the money would be in public hands if JobsOhio wasn't handling operations.

But other Republicans, led by Kasich, say opening JobsOhio to full audits would slow down the agency, hindering its ability to quickly react to economic changes and tides. Kasich has often said the private nature of JobsOhio allows it to move at the "speed of business," which he claims fosters stronger economic development in Ohio.

Democrats have pushed back against the notion, saying JobsOhio's private nature only makes it more difficult to hold the state government accountable. With the latest bill, Democrats, who have now taken to dubbing the agency "RobsOhio," say their concerns are being vindicated.

But the bill could have far-reaching effects beyond JobsOhio that would effectively disallow the state auditor to audit privately funded accounts in any institution that receives public funding.

Despite Yost's pleas to involve him in the process, the auditing bill was passed through the Ohio House and Senate in just two days without his input.

Democrats were quick to criticize the bill, asking what JobsOhio has to hide.

Kasich is expected to sign the bill to make it law.

JobsOhio isn't the only privatization scheme pushed by Kasich. He also sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, a northeastern Ohio prison, to the Corrections Corporation of America. So far, inmate reports and inspections have largely found deplorable conditions at the Lake Erie facility ("From the Inside," issue of May 29).