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by German Lopez 01.27.2014 87 days ago
Posted In: News, Voting, Guns, Fracking, Environment at 09:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Elections board could move, bill allows armed teachers, fracking waste could move on river

The Hamilton County Board of Elections plans to decide today whether it will move its offices and early voting from downtown to Mount Airy. The two Democrats on the board argue moving the offices would push early voting away from public transportation options and the city’s core, while the two Republicans claim it’s “good government” because the Mount Airy site consolidates county services with the coroner’s office and includes free parking. In the event of a tie between Democrats and Republicans, Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, will break the tie. Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, proposed an alternative site downtown on Thursday, but at least one Republican county official said it wasn’t enough to meet the county’s needs.

One of the Republicans on the board resigned as the city’s lobbyist to avoid a conflict of interest prior to today’s vote.

The Republican-controlled Ohio House last week approved a bill that would allow school boards to designate school employees to carry concealed firearms and prohibit school boards from releasing the names of those employees. Republicans argue the proposal will help make schools safer against would-be shooters. But several studies indicate more guns lead to more gun-related violence. A 2009 ABC News special also found even trained gun-wielders fail to properly react in the event of a shooting.

Fracking waste could soon move through barges on the Ohio River, depending on an incoming decision from the U.S. Coast Guard. During the fracking process, drillers pump millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. But some of that water returns to the surface, and that wastewater needs to be dumped somewhere. Oil and gas companies support the allowance of river barges as a potentially cheaper transportation option for the wastewater. But environmentalists, emergency response experts and other critics argue a spill on the Ohio River could cause widespread damage as toxic wastewater flows down a river many communities tap into for drinking water.

Citing research from Pennsylvania fracking sites, some advocates argue Ohio officials should take another look at whether radiation from Ohio’s fracking operations is affecting surrounding landfills and aquifers.

Work at The Banks continues despite a debate over buildings’ heights.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center significantly improved outcomes for teens with asthma, according to a Pediatrics study.

Warning: Some Ohioans have been targeted by utility bill scams.

Ohio gas prices remained relatively steady at the start of the week.

Popular physicist Stephen Hawking argues there are no black holes, but other physicists appear skeptical of Hawking’s claims.

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by German Lopez 01.24.2014 90 days ago
Posted In: News, Guns, Gun Violence, Education at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
ohio statehouse

School Employees Could Soon Carry Concealed Guns

Research indicates the Republican-backed proposal might fail to improve school safety

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.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.24.2014 90 days ago
Posted In: News, Voting, Economy, 2014 election, Governor, Mayor at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Officials push to keep early voting downtown, Portune flounders, Ohio joblessness rate falls

Mayor John Cranley yesterday offered free space to the Hamilton County Board of Elections at the city-owned Shillito’s building to keep the board’s offices and early voting downtown. The idea comes in the middle of a debate between Democrats and Republicans on the Board of Elections over whether they should move their offices — and early voting — to a Mount Airy facility, where only one bus line runs, to consolidate county services and avoid the cost of rent. Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann said there won’t be enough occupancy at the Mount Airy location if the Board of Elections decides not to move there. For the county, a certain amount of occupancy must be filled at Mount Airy to financially justify the move and the renovations it would require. Without the move, the county will need to find another location or means to build a new county crime lab.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune yesterday refused to announce whether he will actually run against gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald in a Democratic primary, even though he told The Cincinnati Enquirer the day before that he already made a decision. At this point, Portune’s lack of organization and name recognition means his chances of beating FitzGerald are slim to none.

Ohio’s December unemployment rate dropped to 7.2 percent from 7.4 percent the month before. The amount of employed and unemployed both increased compared to the previous year. The state of the economy could decide this year’s statewide elections, even if state officials aren’t to credit or blame for economic conditions, as CityBeat covered here.

It is perfectly legal to forgive back taxes in Hamilton County. Supporters argue the practice removes a tax burden that likely wasn’t going to get paid anyway, but opponents worry it could be misused and take away revenue from schools and other public services that rely on property taxes.

A Hamilton County court ruled against the legality of automated traffic cameras in Elmwood Place. Officials plan to appeal the ruling.

More than 10,000 Ohioans lost food stamps this month after Gov. John Kasich declined to request a federal waiver for work requirements. Hamilton County officials estimate Kasich’s decision could affect 18,000 food stamp recipients across the county.

A new Ohio House bill delays the transition from the Ohio Graduation Test to new end-of-course exams. The delay aims to provide more time to vet the tests and allow schools to better prepare for the changes.

Local home sales improved by nearly 21 percent during 2013, according to the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors.

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport reported 3 percent more passengers and 9 percent more cargo traffic in 2013.

Ohioans spent 5.8 percent more on liquor in 2013 compared to the year before, reaching a new record in yearly purchases of liquor across the state.

The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards return this Sunday.

Telling people they slept better than they did improves their performance on math and word association tests.

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by German Lopez 01.23.2014 91 days ago
Posted In: News, Voting, Mayor, County commissioners at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Proposes Alternative to Keep Early Voting Downtown

Board of Elections considering move to Mount Airy facility

Mayor John Cranley on Thursday offered the Hamilton County Board of Elections free space at the city-owned Shillito’s building to keep their offices and early voting downtown.

The offer comes in the middle of a contentious debate between Democrats and Republicans on the Board of Elections over whether the county should move the board to a former hospital at Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs.

The Board of Elections currently rents its offices from a private landlord. Moving to the Mount Airy facility would place the board on county-owned property and allow the county to avoid paying rent.

Along with the Board of Elections move, the county wants to establish a new crime lab at the Mount Airy location. Consolidating the crime lab and Board of Elections at the Mount Airy facility would provide the critical mass necessary to financially justify the move and the renovations it would require, according to county officials.

To solve the critical mass issue if the board moves to the former Shillito’s building instead, Cranley, a Democrat, said he’s willing to look into moving some city police services, including SWAT operations, to the Mount Airy facility.

But Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, told CityBeat the offer probably won’t satisfy the county’s needs.

“Without the Board of Elections coming with the crime lab, that’s not enough occupancy,” he said. “There would be some good potential co-location opportunities with the city (at the Mount Airy facility), but not enough to take up 400,000 square feet.”

Hartmann said it’s now up to the Board of Elections to accept or reject the Mount Airy facility. If the board declines to move to Mount Airy, Hartmann explained the county would likely drop the Mount Airy plan and the county coroner would go without a new crime lab.

For the city, Cranley’s offer raises questions about what other potential uses exist for the Shillito’s building, given the high property demand downtown. But Cranley said there’s currently no credible attempt at marketing the facility for other uses.

“The building is vacant, and we spend over $100,000 a year just to maintain a vacant building,” Cranley said. “I believe that getting someone in there that takes a significant amount of space is going to open up the rest of the building, which would be over 200,000 square feet, to make it more marketable. I think long-term it would be better for the city financially.”

He added, “In the short-term I think there are some things more important than money. And I think the symbolism of keeping the Board of Elections and voting downtown is just worth it.”

City Council appears to agree with the mayor. Shortly after Cranley announced his offer, council passed a symbolic resolution opposing the Mount Airy move.

From an electoral perspective, part of the issue is which voting location would favor Democrats or Republicans. Democrats tend to dominate in urban areas like downtown, while Republicans could benefit from a facility in Mount Airy that’s closer to suburban voters.

State Rep. Alicia Reece, who joined Cranley for the announcement, tried to defuse concerns that she, Cranley and other Democrats are trying to keep voting downtown for electoral gains.

“The reality is the Board of Elections at its current location has declared both Democrat and Republican winners of elections,” Reece said. “I think the focus is to just make sure that we have a facility that everyone can have access to, whether you’re driving or whether you’re on the bus.”

 
 
by German Lopez 01.23.2014 91 days ago
Posted In: News, Governor, Democrats at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
toddportune

Portune Flounders on Campaign Announcement

Supposed gubernatorial candidate continues leading on Ohioans

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune on Thursday declined to announce whether he will challenge gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald in a Democratic primary after all, despite previously telling The Cincinnati Enquirer he already made a decision.

While CityBeat will certainly cover Portune’s announcement once it finally comes, it’s all with the acknowledgement that his chances of getting the Democratic nomination are slim to none. Portune has no credible organization, his name recognition is low outside southwest Ohio and he apparently can’t find a candidate for lieutenant governor, which all gubernatorial candidates must do prior to collecting and filing 1,000 signatures before a February deadline.

The weak indicators surrounding Portune’s campaign help explain why, when asked by reporters, FitzGerald said he’s not worried about Portune.

“I respect him. He’s an elected official. He’s been an elected official for a long time,” FitzGerald said. “I think he’s not being entirely realistic. It’s very difficult to run a legitimate statewide campaign.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern put it more forcefully in his comments to media outlets.

“Every two years, we get excited about the Cincinnati Bengals and Todd Portune talks about running for an office,” he told WVXU.

Still, Portune continues clinging on to his gubernatorial ambitions.

“To end it now would be inconsistent with the message I have given around the state, which is to not give in the diversity,” Portune told The Enquirer. “And while it may appear improbably today… I can’t say it’s impossible.”

In the meantime, FitzGerald will keep running a serious statewide campaign to defeat Republican Gov. John Kasich this November.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.23.2014 91 days ago
 
 
news_gentrification_jf3

Morning News and Stuff

Group protests gentrification, streetcar fares revealed, FitzGerald supports death penalty

An anti-gentrification organization says development in southern Over-the-Rhine and downtown is leaving out low- and middle-income residents. The People’s Coalition for Equality and Justice (TPCEJ) cautions it’s not against development, but it supports policies that would seek to help more people take advantage of the revitalization of Over-the-Rhine and downtown, such as more affordable housing, protections for renters’ rights, rent control and the formation of tenants’ unions. The agency behind much of the development in Over-the-Rhine and downtown, 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation), says “people tend to over-romanticize what this neighborhood was” and points to some examples of 3CDC-developed affordable housing as evidence the agency is trying to keep the neighborhood mixed-income.

Related: Some studies found gentrification could benefit longtime residents.

A two-hour streetcar pass could cost $1.75, and a 24-hour pass could cost $3.50, according to a new model unveiled yesterday by Paul Grether, Metro’s rail manager. The same model set streetcar operating hours at Sunday-Thursday 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 6 a.m.-midnight. Under the model, city officials expect 3,000 daily boardings, but Grether cautioned that’s a very conservative estimate and excludes special events, such as Reds and Bengals games.

But the City Council-enforced streetcar delay could cost more than expected after the steel company originally contracted for the $132.8 million project took another job while council members decided the fate of the project. Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick told council the company’s decision could push construction of a maintenance facility by two months if the city doesn’t hire a steel supplier from outside the region.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald yesterday clarified he supports the death penalty, which aligns him with his Republican opponent, incumbent John Kasich, on the issue. FitzGerald’s remark comes after the debate over the death penalty re-ignited in Ohio following the execution of convicted killer and rapist Dennis McGuire, who took 26 minutes to die after state officials used a new cocktail of drugs never tried before in the United States. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction told CityBeat it’s reviewing McGuire’s death, as it does following every execution.

Commentary: “Death Penalty Brings More Costs than Benefits.”

After receiving support from family planning services and abortion provider Planned Parenthood, Democrats running for Ohio’s executive offices re-emphasized their support for abortion rights.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune will announce today whether he’ll challenge FitzGerald’s gubernatorial campaign in a Democratic primary. (Update: Despite previously telling The Cincinnati Enquirer he already made up his mind, Portune canceled his announcement and said he has no final decision yet, according to Carl Weiser, politics editor at The Enquirer.)

Hamilton County commissioners showed openness to keeping some early voting downtown even if the county moves its Board of Elections to a Mount Airy facility. Moving the board along with the county’s crime lab would allow commissioners to consolidate government services.

Cincinnati’s economy should grow faster than previously expected, one economist says.

Plan Cincinnati, the city’s master comprehensive plan, won a national planning award. CityBeat previously covered the master plan in further detail here.

Ten major projects worth more than $1.4 billion are in the planning stages or underway in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Ohio meets voting standards set by President Barack Obama’s bipartisan election commission, with the one exception of online voter registration, according to Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced the creation of a statewide taskforce to combat heroin abuse.

Virtual reality could help people see what gender swaps would be like.

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by German Lopez 01.22.2014 92 days ago
Posted In: City Council, News, Streetcar at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Two-Hour Streetcar Pass Could Cost $1.75

City officials project 3,000 daily boardings

Riding the streetcar will cost $1.75 for two hours and $3.50 for 24 hours, according to a model unveiled Wednesday by Paul Grether, Metro’s rail manager.

The model also set streetcar operating hours at Sunday-Thursday 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 6 a.m.-midnight.

Under the model, the streetcar should sustain 3,000 daily boardings, Grether said. But that estimate is very conservative and excludes special events, such as Reds and Bengals games, he cautioned.

Grether presented the projections during a presentation at City Council’s Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee.

Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick also released numbers that show the project remains on budget and time.

But Deatrick warned council members of one potential hurdle: The originally contracted steel supplier took another job after City Council delayed the streetcar project for three weeks, which could force the city to delay construction of a maintenance facility for two months or hire a steel supplier outside the region.

City officials also said they are looking at potential funding avenues for the next phase of the streetcar project, which would establish a rail line from Findlay Market up the Vine Street hill. The goal, they said, is to clear up any misconceptions about what the next phase of the project would cost.

The latest federal budget allocated $600 million in TIGER grants and $2 billion in Federal Transit Administration New/Small Starts grants that could go to a future phase of the streetcar project.

City Council would need to approve the next phase of the streetcar project before it could move forward.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.22.2014 92 days ago
Posted In: News, Death Penalty, Governor, 2014 election at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ed fitzgerald

FitzGerald Supports Death Penalty

Democratic gubernatorial candidate responds to concerns about botched execution

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Wednesday told reporters he supports the death penalty — a position that aligns him with his Republican opponent, Gov. John Kasich.

The debate over the death penalty recently re-ignited in Ohio after state officials took 26 minutes to kill Dennis McGuire, a convicted killer and rapist, with a cocktail of drugs never tried before in the United States. It remains unclear if the drugs prolonged McGuire’s death or if other factors are to blame.

Asked whether the state should place a moratorium on the death penalty in response to the botched execution, FitzGerald said state officials should investigate McGuire’s execution.

“I think they have to go through a very thorough and exhaustive review of how that unfolded and if it can be done in a way that meets the commonly accepted standards,” he responded.

FitzGerald said he based his support for the death penalty on his experiences as a special agent for the FBI and assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor.

“I understand there’s … legitimate moral concerns about it, and I respect people that have a different opinion on that,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on Sunday called on Kasich to halt the death penalty following McGuire’s prolonged execution.

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

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction plans to carry out five more executions in 2014. It remains unclear if the agency will use the same cocktail of drugs used to kill McGuire.

FitzGerald’s comments, courtesy of Capital Blog:

 
 
by German Lopez 01.22.2014 92 days ago
Posted In: News, Abortion, City Council, Voting at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Board debates moving early voting, Winburn shelves rail sale, abortion clinic could close

The Hamilton County Board of Elections remains split on whether to move its offices and early voting from downtown to Mount Airy. The two Democrats on the board oppose the move because it could make voting more difficult for Over-the-Rhine and downtown residents. The two Republicans on the board support the plan because it will consolidate operations with the county, which plans to move the county crime lab to the Mount Airy site, and add free parking. If the board remains split, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted will break the tie.

Councilman Charlie Winburn shelved his idea to sell the city-owned Southern Railway to help shore up Cincinnati’s underfunded pension system. It’s unlikely the idea would have made it through City Council or Mayor John Cranley. The proposal seemed a bit hypocritical coming from Winburn, who criticized the previous city administration for attempting to sell off or lease long-term revenue sources, such as the city’s parking system, for lump sums. Still, the pension issue remains a major concern for local officials; Winburn asked council members to help find a solution to the problem this year.

The Ohio Department of Health ordered a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic to close after it failed to reach a patient transfer agreement with a local hospital, as required by law. The clinic, located in Sharonville, plans to appeal the ruling. The facility has failed to establish a patient transfer agreement since 2010, but previous Democratic administrations exempted the clinic from the regulations. At the current rate of closures, Ohio could soon fall below 10 available abortion clinics for the first time in decades. For several clinics, part of the issue stems from anti-abortion restrictions in the 2014-2015 state budget approved by Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the Ohio legislature.

Council last week approved form-based code for a third neighborhood, Walnut Hills. The regulation allows neighborhoods to bring in new development while hopefully keeping the historic charm and character of the city.

The Cincinnati Bengals asked Hamilton County to hand over sole ownership of naming rights for Paul Brown Stadium, but county commissioners don’t seem keen on the idea.

Over-the-Rhine residents have mobilized to save two old buildings that the Freestore Foodbank originally planned to tear down. Ryan Messer, who is leading the charge to save the buildings, said on Facebook today that the Freestore Foodbank agreed to hold off on the demolitions while both parties meet with residents willing to buy and renovate the buildings.

Federal authorities questioned an Ohio man wearing Google Glass at a movie theater over fears he was attempting to record the film. No action was taken after the man confirmed the Google Glass is also a pair of prescription glasses and the recording function was turned off.

Robots could replace one-fourth of U.S. combat soldiers by 2030, according to a general.

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by German Lopez 01.21.2014 93 days ago
Posted In: 2014 election, News, Education, Death Penalty at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cps offices

Morning News and Stuff

Tea party lands school board seats, death penalty scrutinized, AG campaigns spar over role

Fiscal conservatives and tea party activists won more seats on local school boards last year, putting them in the awkward position of supposedly looking out for the school’s best interests while rejecting property tax levies that could boost schools’ resources and outcomes. As one example, a member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) now sits on the board for Kings Schools in Warren County that she once sued for public records.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sunday called on Gov. John Kasich to immediately halt the death penalty across the state, following the botched, 26-minute execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire. The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted using capital punishment again in 1999, utilized a new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United States. It’s unclear whether state officials will use the same drugs for the five other executions planned for the year.

David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, says Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop defending court-rejected, unconstitutional voting and ballot restrictions. DeWine argues that it’s the attorney general’s job to defend Ohio and its laws, regardless of his opinion on constitutionality. But DeWine actually stepped aside and assigned a separate attorney to a case involving restrictions on “false statements” in political campaigns because, according to him, the law’s constitutionality is questionable.

Martin Luther King Jr. and modern Republicans would likely stand in opposition on numerous issues, including voting rights, the death penalty and reproductive rights.

A top policy aide for Gov. Kasich says local governments should share more services. But some municipal officials argue the Kasich administration is just trying to deflect criticisms regarding local government funding cuts carried out by his Republican administration and the Republican-controlled legislature over the past few years.

The Justice Department is investigating a former chief judge of Cincinnati’s federal appeals court for nearly $140,000 in travel expenses he took during his four and a half years on the bench.

Fewer Ohio students need remedial college classes following high school graduation.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called a fellow Republican an asshole, according to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Seven out of 10 people will live in cities by 2050, according to Popular Science.

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