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by German Lopez 01.22.2014 83 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 83 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 84 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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by German Lopez 01.20.2014 85 days ago
 
 
mlk

Modern Republicans Would Oppose Martin Luther King Jr.

The civil rights icon embraced many progressive causes

If his speeches and other comments are any indication, Martin Luther King Jr. would likely stand in sharp opposition to modern Ohio Republicans and many of their proposed policies.

In reviewing King’s work, speeches and quotes, it’s clear he was a progressive on a wide range of issues — from voting rights to collective bargaining rights to reproductive rights. In contrast, modern Republicans are doing their best to dilute such rights and scale back progressive causes on a host of other issues.

Given that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what better time to look back at some of King’s positions and analyze what they could mean in terms of today’s politics? Warning: The results might upset some Republicans.

On voting rights:

“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote, I do not possess myself,” King said, according to PBS. “I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.”

King and other civil rights activists saw the right to vote as the most crucial stepping stone to equality. In fact, one of the defining accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which attempted to ban discrimination in the voting booth.

“Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens,” King said.

More specifically, the Voting Rights Act helped undo several voting restrictions taken up against minority voters in the South. The restrictions rarely outright banned black voters; instead, Southerners took up backhanded standards, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, that many black voters couldn’t meet.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because, by at least one top Ohio Republican’s admission, growing restrictions on early voting also help curtail black voters — who, by the way, happen to vote for Democrats in droves.

“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, in an email to The Columbus Dispatch.

In other states, Republicans are taking similarly restrictive approaches and passing stringent voter ID laws, even though one study found it discriminates against young, minority voters.

Especially given Preisse’s comments, it’s clear King would not approve of Republican actions. King saw enough oppression in Southern voting booths to know better.

On labor unions and “right to work”:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone,” King said, according to the Economic Policy Institute. “Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”

In this statement, King unequivocally disavows restrictions on unions and collective bargaining rights.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kasich and top Ohio Republicans remain mum on whether they support anti-union laws like “right to work,” much to the chagrin of tea party groups that strongly support such efforts.

But it’s clear Kasich and Ohio Republicans support some restrictions on unions and collective bargaining. In 2011, the Republican-controlled legislature and governor approved Senate Bill 5, a bill that significantly curtailed public unions and their collective bargaining rights.

Almost immediately, labor unions rallied in opposition to the effort and took the issue to referendum. Voters overwhelmingly rejected S.B. 5 the following November, dealing a major blow to Republicans and a huge political boost to unions and Democrats.

Despite the rejection, some conservatives continue pushing anti-union causes. The tea party-backed group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom aims to get an anti-union “right to work” initiative on the ballot in 2014.

Considering King’s strong pro-union statements, it’s clear he would stand against Ohio Republicans’ and the tea party’s anti-union efforts if he lived today.

On the death penalty:

“I do not think God approves the death penalty for any crime — rape and murder included,” King said, according to Stanford University. “Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.”

King’s comment clearly disavows the death penalty, even for the gravest crimes, based on his religious perspective and study of criminology.

Perhaps more than any other issue on this list, King’s stance on the death penalty could upset some Democrats as much as some Republicans. But even though support for the death penalty crosses partisan lines, it’s much more pronounced on the Republican side of the spectrum.

In recent days, the debate over the death penalty reignited in Ohio after Gov. Kasich’s administration took 26 minutes to execute a gasping, grunting convicted killer with a new cocktail of drugs that was never tried before in the United States.

The prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed use of the death penalty in 1999, led some legislative Democrats to push new limits or even an outright ban on capital punishment. It’s expected the Republican majority will ignore the bills.

Based on his claims, King would oppose the state-sanctioned killing of a convicted killer, and he certainly would reject any defense that touts vengeance as a justification for killing another human being.

On health care:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman,” King said, according to Dr. Quentin Young, who attended King’s speech at the 1966 convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights.

Whether King’s quote indicates support for Democrat-backed legislation like Obamacare or other measures, such as a single-payer system, is completely unclear. But King’s rhetoric certainly comes closer to Democrats’ support for universal access to health care than Republicans’ opposition to governmental incursions into the U.S. health care system.

To Gov. Kasich’s credit, he helped alleviate the “inequality” and “injustice in health care” King referred to by aggressively pursuing the federally funded Medicaid expansion.

But Kasich was in the minority of the Ohio Republican Party in his pursuit. The state legislature’s Republican majority refused to approve the Medicaid expansion in the two-year state budget and later bills. When Kasich finally got the Medicaid expansion done through the seven-member Controlling Board, several legislative Republicans joined an unsuccessful lawsuit to reverse the decision.

Accordingly, King would probably praise Kasich for opening up access to health care, and it’s doubtful he would support Republicans in their attempts to block health care for the poor.

On reproductive rights:

“For the Negro, therefore, intelligent guides of family planning are a profoundly important ingredient in his quest for security and a decent life,” King said, according to Planned Parenthood. “There are mountainous obstacles still separating Negroes from a normal existence. Yet one element in stabilizing his life would be an understanding of and easy access to the means to develop a family related in size to his community environment and to the income potential he can command.”

King’s comments on reproductive rights came as he accepted the first round of the Margaret Sanger Awards from Planned Parenthood, an organization now demonized by Republicans for its support for abortion and reproductive rights.

Now, nothing in King’s comments implies he supported abortion rights, even though some historians believe King, a strong Christian, accepted a more liberal interpretation of the Bible.

But King’s comments — and even his mere acceptance of the Planned Parenthood award — show strong support for reproductive rights for low-income men and women. In that respect, King is clearly going against Ohio Republicans’ pursuits.

In the 2014-2015 state budget, a Republican majority passed new funding restrictions on Planned Parenthood and other comprehensive family planning centers. Some of the restrictions hit family planning clinics that don’t offer abortions.

Even though King’s stance on abortion is unclear, his comments clearly contradict efforts to restrict access to family planning clinics and reproductive rights. Once again, he would not approve of the Republican agenda.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.20.2014 85 days ago
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 German Lopez 01.20.2014 85 days ago
Posted In: News, 2014 election, Governor, Courts, Mayor at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ed fitzgerald

Morning News and Stuff

FitzGerald picks running mate, Cranley opposes double dipping, Hunter pleads not guilty

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Friday announced his new running mate: Sharen Neuhardt, a Dayton-area business attorney and twice-failed candidate for Congress. The choice boosts the ticket’s credentials with women and abortion-rights advocates, but it also reinforces support for pro-choice policies that upset many Republicans and conservatives. FitzGerald originally picked State Sen. Eric Kearney as his running mate, but Kearney dropped out of the race after multiple media reports uncovered he owed more than $800,000 in tax debt. CityBeat covered the gubernatorial race and how the economy could play into it in further detail here.

Mayor John Cranley on Friday reiterated his opposition to double dipping, even though he supports hiring an assistant city manager who will take advantage of the practice. Because Bill Moller is a city retiree, he will be eligible to double dip — simultaneously take a salary ($147,000 a year) and pension — when the city hires him in February. Cranley called the practice “abusive” on the campaign trail, but he says it’s up to City Council to pass legislation that prevents it.

Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter on Friday pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges, including accusations of backdating court documents, theft in office and misusing her county credit card. The Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 10 replaced Hunter until her case is decided. The felony charges are just the latest for the judge, who has been mired in controversy after controversy since before she won her election.

State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing an initiative for the November ballot that would embed “voter rights” into the Ohio Constitution. The Democrat-backed constitutional amendment is in direct response to Republican-led attempts to shrink early voting periods and restrict access to the ballot.

A propane gas shortage in some parts of the state led Gov. John Kasich to suspend state and federal laws that keep propane suppliers off the roads on weekends.

State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s failed Senate campaign sold an SUV totaled in March — effectively averting an insurance review that might have clarified the vehicle’s use and insurance status — shortly after questions arose over the continued use of the vehicle months after Mandel’s Senate campaign ended.

Secondhand smoke increases the odds of hospital readmission for children with asthma, according to a study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Children’s Hospital.

Google’s smart contact lens could help diabetics.

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by German Lopez 01.17.2014 88 days ago
Posted In: News, Voting, Election at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
rep. alicia reece

Ohio Activists Push Voter Bill of Rights

Constitutional amendment could appear on November ballot

State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are mobilizing a campaign to get a "Voter Bill of Rights" on the Ohio ballot this November.

If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in a given county, advance online voter registration and effectively prevent legislators from passing stricter voter ID laws in the future.

But before it ends up on the ballot, supporters will need to gather 1,000 petition signatures to get the initiative in front of the attorney general and collect 385,247 total signatures by July 2 to file the petition to the secretary of state.

The Democrat-backed amendment is in direct response to attempts by Republicans, including Secretary of State Jon Husted and Gov. John Kasich, to shorten Ohio's early voting period and otherwise restrict access to the ballot.

A bill currently working through the Ohio legislature would trim the early voting period from 35 to 29 days and effectively end the "Golden Week" in which voters can register to vote and file a ballot on the same day. It's expected Kasich and Republican legislators will approve the bill.

Republicans say the limits are supposed to prevent voter fraud and establish uniform voting standards across the state. Otherwise, some counties might establish longer early voting hours than others.

But some Republicans acknowledge that restrictions on early voting could suppress constituents that typically elect Democrats, obviously to Republicans' advantage.

"I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine," wrote Doug Preisse, close adviser to Kasich, in a 2012 email to The Columbus Dispatch.

The constitutional amendment could also help address concerns raised last year when the U.S. Supreme Court repealed parts of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the federal government to better regulate state-level restrictions on voting.

In response to some of the concerns, Democratic candidates plan to hold a voting rights forum in Cincinnati on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next Monday. Attorney general candidate David Pepper, secretary of state candidate Nina Turner and state auditor candidate John Carney are scheduled to attend.

The Voter's Bill of Rights:


 
 
by German Lopez 01.17.2014 88 days ago
Posted In: News, Mayor, City administration, City Council at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Calls for End to 'Double Dipping'

Incoming assistant city manager eligible to receive pay and pension benefits

Mayor John Cranley told CityBeat Friday that he's still troubled by the practice of "double dipping," but he said the incoming assistant city manager is only eligible to receive a salary and pension benefits because of policy set by City Council.

Bill Moller will be rehired by the city in February to fill in as assistant city manager. Because Moller is a city retiree, he'll be eligible to draw a city salary ($147,000 a year) and pension benefits.

The concern: Allowing city workers to double dip, or tap into both a salary and pension benefits, could encourage the kinds of abuse already seen in other municipalities, where public workers can reach eligibility for maximum pension benefits, retire one day and get rehired the next day to effectively receive both a salary and pension.

The extra cost — effectively a double payout for city retirees who are rehired — could further strain Cincinnati's structurally imbalanced operating budget.

On the campaign trail, Cranley called double dipping "abusive" after City Council repealed a ban on the practice so the administration could hire John Deatrick, a city retiree, to lead the $132.8 million streetcar project.

Cranley said he will sign any legislation reinstating the ban on double dipping. As a council member, Cranley supported the ban when it was originally instated in 2008.

Under the previous ban, city retirees rejoining the administration would need to temporarily forfeit pension benefits or face substantial limits on salaries and health benefits.

Despite his opposition to double dipping, Cranley cautioned that he still supports Moller's hire.

"Obviously I like Bill Moller," he said. "But the city manager is working within current policy."

The city administration on Tuesday justified Moller's hire by pointing to his previous budget and finance experience in Cincinnati, Hamilton and Covington.

"At this point in time, Cincinnati needs not only someone who is proficient in all aspects of municipal finance, but in the aspects of the city of Cincinnati’s finances in particular. Mr. Moller has that experience," wrote Interim City Manager Scott Stiles in a memo.

It remains unclear whether a ban on double dipping would influence Moller's decision to return to the city administration.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.17.2014 88 days ago
Posted In: Death Penalty, News, Voting, Preschool at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Troubled execution draws critics, activists push voters' rights, Preschool Promise needs help

A condemned Ohio killer took more than 20 minutes to die in an execution carried out yesterday with a combination of drugs never tried before in the United States. The execution was one of the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Throughout the nearly 25 minutes that Dennis McGuire took to die, he reportedly gasped and loudly snorted as family members and reporters watched. McGuire's attorney called the execution "a failed, agonizing experiment" and added, "The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names." The new execution method was adopted after the previous drug's supplies ran out because a manufacturer declared it off limits for state-sanctioned kills.

In response to the troubled execution, the family plans to file a lawsuit. Ohioans to Stop Executions also called for a moratorium on the death penalty.

State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing a Voter Bill of Rights that could end up in front of Ohio voters in November. If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the county and advance online voter registration. Many of those measures are controversial to Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to limit early voting in the past couple years. But to get the amendment on the ballot, activists will need to wade through the long, costly process of gathering roughly 385,000 eligible signatures by July 2.

Commentary: "Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot."

Cincinnati's campaign for universal preschool is looking for volunteers to help raise awareness and shape the final proposal. The big question is how tuition credits for local families, particularly low-income parents, would be funded under the proposal. Despite the remaining questions, voters could vote on the initiative in November. CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.

The National Weather Service called a Winter Weather Advisory for most of the Cincinnati area until 4 p.m. today. Drivers should expect reduced visibility and one or two inches of snow, mostly before noon.

As expected, Ohio officials appealed a ruling that forces the state to acknowledge same-sex marriages on death certificates.

The University of Cincinnati is spending more than $500,000 this year on lights, cameras and off-duty patrols, among other measures, to address continuing concerns about violent crimes around campus. But some students and parents say the school should pursue more aggressive efforts, such as selling anti-crime tools in the campus bookstore.

Greater Cincinnati Water Works reopened local intakes along the Ohio River after the W. Va. chemical spill passed yesterday.

Cincinnati officials admit yesterday that a pile of old road salt should have been used before other supplies, but the city says it will use the remaining pile before purchasing more salt. Councilman Charlie Winburn raised questions about the salt after he discovered the $316,000 pile.

Cincinnati ranked fifth for number of bedbug treatments in 2013.

More than 50,000 employees will get job training through the second round of the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.

Extreme heat forced authorities to suspend the Australian Open for more than four hours yesterday and caused one athlete to hallucinate images of Snoopy.

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by German Lopez 01.16.2014 89 days ago
Posted In: News, Preschool, Education at 04:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
preschool promise

Preschool Promise Seeks Volunteers

More than 40 "Promise Ambassadors" trained so far; goal is 100 by Feb. 17

As the campaign to provide universal preschool in Cincinnati kicks into gear, organizations involved in the Preschool Promise are seeking more volunteers to train as “Promise Ambassadors” who will help raise awareness and gather feedback for the proposal.

Although there’s no major resistance to universal preschool at a local level, the big question is how the city will fund it. Will it take a hike in property or income taxes? Will city and school funds be involved? Will it rely on philanthropic channels? What about a mix of all the options?

As an ambassador, volunteers will gather feedback on the big questions facing the campaign and raise awareness on the study-backed benefits of preschool.

“As an ambassador you can engage however you feel comfortable: hosting house parties, speaking at meetings and events, organizing community forums or simply helping generate awareness about the importance of quality preschool for every child in our city,” the campaign said in a release.

Greg Landsman, executive director of the education-focused Strive Partnership, said on Facebook that more than 40 ambassadors have been trained so far. The goal is to train 100 by President’s Day, Feb. 17.

The policy would mirror a program in Denver that provides tuition credits to families on an income-based sliding scale, so low-income parents would get the most help while the wealthiest would get the least.

Among other benefits, a study from consulting firm Augenblick, Palaich and Associates found the Denver program gives low- and middle-income families more opportunities to climb the economic ladder.

Landsman previously told CityBeat the measure should end up on the November ballot.

The campaign is offering several training sessions, which can be attended with an RVSP to BooneS@strivepartnership.org:

• Jan. 22, 6–7:30 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana Ave., Cincinnati.
• Jan. 28, 2:30–4 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana
Ave, Cincinnati.
• Jan. 29, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 5, 6–7:30 p.m. at 4C for Children, 1924 Dana Avenue, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 6, 2:30–4 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 7, 9-10:30 a.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 10, 10:30 a.m.-noon at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
• Feb. 11, 2:30-4 p.m. at United Way of Greater Cincinnati, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.

CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.

 
 

 

 

by Anthony Skeens 04.09.2014 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 04:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
transparency map

Ohio Ranks Poorly in Government Transparency

Options for tracking government spending rank higher than only four states in the U.S.

Ohio scored fifth-worst in a nationwide government transparency survey conducted by a national consumer group focused on investigating and advocating for American citizens against powerful interest groups.

The group gave Ohio a “D-” ranking after its government spending transparency website earned 51 points out of 100 in U.S. Public Interest Research Group's fifth annual “Following the Money” report. 

“Ohio’s been kind of sinking through the ratings year by year,” says Phineas Baxendall, a U.S. PIRG senior policy analyst and co-author of the report released on Tuesday. “It used to do much better, which doesn’t mean they’re dismantling their transparency systems. It just means our standards get tougher each year and they’re more staying in place while other states are improving.”

Ohio’s the only state in the nation that doesn’t offer certain customizable search options including bid award recipients, keywords, agency and bulk download searches. Ohio’s poor score follows three years of ranking in the bottom half of the study.  

Researchers look for transparency websites to be comprehensive, one-stop and offer simple search formats. 

The nation as a whole is moving toward a more transparent approach to documenting government spending. Since PIRG began the study, all six categories it uses to compile rankings have shown an increase in states performing specific duties. The largest leaps in the past five years involve showing how a project benefits from taxpayer subsidies, which has seen an increase from two to 33 states, and how tax money is spent with an increase from eight to 44 states. All states now have ledger listings for transactions of any government spending on a website, compared to only 32 five years ago. 

Ohio’s score doesn’t reflect Cincinnati’s efforts to be transparent. In a 2013 study in transparency of the 30 largest cities in America, Cincinnati scored a “B+” for providing ledger listings for spending information, allowing Cincinnatians to view where money is spent, specific recipients of tax subsidies and the existence of a service request center allowing residents to notify officials about quality of life issues. 

Suggestions for improvement included making checkbook-level spending information searchable by the vendor who received the money and developing a comprehensive transparency website.

“We feel strongly that this isn’t a partisan issue, and the fact that states that do best in our rankings show no political pattern, with Texas and Massachusetts standing side-by-side, sort of speaks that this is one of those issues that should not be politicized,” Baxendall says. “We look forward to advancement in transparency in Ohio regardless of who is in office.”

 
 
by Anthony Skeens 04.02.2014 13 days ago
Posted In: News at 12:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
otr

OTR Foundation to Host Property Rehabilitation Series

Workshops intend to educate potential homeowners on purchasing and rehab processes

The Over-the-Rhine Foundation will host a series of upcoming workshops aimed at educating people interested in downtown living on how to rehabilitate properties.

Part of the nonprofit’s mission is to engage community members in the neighborhood’s future as a compliment to larger development companies’ efforts, which have largely shaped the neighborhood’s resurgence in recent years. This effort is specifically targeting those interested in moving to OTR, the Brewery District or Pendleton. 

“Lots of people are really interested and excited about the idea of rehabbing one of the buildings to live-in in Over-the-Rhine,” says Marilyn Hyland, a board trustee for OTR Foundation. “Then they get into it and find it’s really complicated. This is an opportunity for people of both professional and personal perspectives to help people who really want to do this with their families and to have the wisdom of experience as they go forward with it themselves.”

The first of the three workshops — which take place at the Art Academy of Cincinnati on Jackson Street — will take place on April 12 and include a lecture from owners who rehabbed their homes, followed by an optional tour of renovated homes.

A second workshop on May 10 delves into selecting and purchasing a building, working with various contractors, hidden costs and navigating planning, zoning and other regulations. A third on June 14 dives into the financial aspect of renovation.

People can register for the workshop series by going to otrfoundation.org. The cost goes up from $35 to $50 starting April 4. Space is limited and will close once 80 people have registered.

“We as a foundation are committed to revitalizing the diverse OTR neighborhood, and a key objective is building community by encouraging and promoting owner-occupied development,” Kevin Pape, OTR Foundation president, said in a statement. “These workshops will help individuals gain access to the resources, expertise, and development tools needed to ensure the success of their community investments.”

More information is available at otrfoundation.org/3OTR.

 
 
by Anthony Skeens 03.24.2014 22 days ago
at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
colerain-twp-seal

Colerain Oil Pipe Back in Operation as Cleanup Continues

A pipeline that burst in a Colerain nature preserve last week spilling thousands of gallons of oil is back in operation after crews repaired a 5-inch-long crack in the bottom of the pipe.

Colerain Township Fire Department Captain Steven Conn says officials shut the pipe down shortly after the spill on March 17 and have temporarily repaired the crack. The entire pipe, which runs through the Glen Oak Nature Preserve, will eventually be replaced.

“Eventually they will come back in, stop production and remove that section of piping according to their plan,” Conn says. 

The cause of the crack remains unclear, and a Department of Transportation investigation will take weeks to test the pipe for any chemicals that could have caused a crack.

Crews cleaned up about 20,000 gallons of oil so far and anticipate cleaning for another five to six days. The preserve will remain closed, along with the nearby Obergiesing Soccer Complex, until a command center for officials working on the leak is relocated. Representatives from Sunoco Logistics, Mid-Valley Piping Company, the Environmental Protection Agency, Colerain Township and Hamilton County Parks will utilize the command center as they respond to the mess.

Twenty-four small animals have been treated after being covered in oil, and a wildlife organization from Delaware came to Cincinnati to help oil-soaked animals.

Officials say there are no reports of oil leaking into the Great Miami River. Conn says the area will be tested and monitored for at least a year after the cleanup is complete.

 
 
by Anthony Skeens 03.21.2014 25 days ago
at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
enroll

Health Insurance Deadline Approaching

Local organizations available to help people sign up ahead of March 31 deadline

Enroll America, a nonprofit designed to help citizens who are uninsured wade through the insurance process, stopped by Cincinnati on Monday during a four-city Ohio tour meant to educate citizens on their health insurance options ahead of a March 31 deadline to sign up for coverage.

The Get Covered America campaign visited the Word of Deliverance Ministries for the World and WLWT, where it held a phone drive to help people sign up for health coverage.

“We have been particularly reaching out to young folks,” says Trey Daly, Ohio’s director for Enroll America.

Those who are uninsured making more than $16,200 a year or families of four making more than $32,913 have until the end of this month to sign up for coverage or face penalties.

One major source of information locally is the Freestore Foodbank on Liberty Street, which received federal grants to help with outreach and the enrollment process. Many people coming through the Foodbank, however, already qualify for Medicaid — individuals earning less than $16,200 and families of four bringing in less than $32,913 — which doesn't have a set deadline to apply. 

Next Tuesday, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College will host a free health insurance workshop. Enroll America's website lists other informational events offering details about the process and an online calculator that provides estimates of how much an insurance premium would cost, along with other insurance-finding tools. Local centers are also offering one-on-one help and can be found at enrollamerica.org or healthcare.gov. 

On Wednesday, Ryan Luckie, team leader for the Affordable Care Act at the foodbank, worked from Mercy Hospital in Anderson, where he said there was consistent traffic.

“It’s now picking up as we approach March 31,” Luckie says.

The centers are typically on a first-come first-serve basis, but there is also an option to call ahead to schedule an appointment.  Those still seeking health insurance after March 31 will have to wait until Nov. 15 when open enrollment begins, Luckie says. Those people who have experienced what’s known as a “life event," either loss of employment, recently married or recently birthed a child, may have their deadline extended, Luckie says.

People seeking help with their insurance should bring proof of income for the last 30 days and social security numbers and date of birth for everyone seeking coverage within a household.

 
 
by Anthony Skeens 03.18.2014 28 days ago
Posted In: 2014 election, Governor, Taxes at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_kasichtaxcuts

Lt. Governor Candidate Blasts Kasich's Tax Cut Proposal

Sharen Neuhardt says Kasich's claim to be helping women is "despicable and wrong"

Lt. Governor-candidate Sharen Neuhardt held a press conference on the City Hall front steps today to lament a tax cut proposed by Gov. John Kasich, claiming that it furthers his agenda to help Ohio’s top 1 percent.

Kasich has proposed to cut income tax 8.5 percent across the board by 2016, which would help drive Ohio’s top tax rate below 5 percent. The governor claims single mothers making $30,000 would save an extra few hundred dollars on taxes every year as part of his proposed tax cut, a claim Neuhardt called “despicable and wrong.”

During the press conference, Neuhardt said Kasich is using the plight of single mothers to propagate a tax cut that would disproportionately benefit Ohio’s upper echelon.

“I want to really emphasize pay equality is always an important issue,” Neuhardt said.

Neuhardt doesn’t have a plan to square the $11,600 pay disparity between genders in 2012 that she cites, but she did say that her administration would need to reverse everything Kasich’s administration has done in order to get Ohio’s economy moving forward, should she and her running mate, gubernatorial candidate Ed Fitzgerald, win office in November. 

“We need Ohio’s working class to have money in their pocket,” Neuhardt said.

Kasich’s previous budget took the first steps toward pushing the state’s top tax rate below 5 percent by lowering income tax across the board and raising sales tax, a combination that disproportionately favors the wealthy. CityBeat covered that plan here and Kasich’s early 2013 budget proposals here and here.

Council members P.G. Sittenfield and Yvette Simpson spoke about pay disparity before Neurhardt took the podium on Tuesday.

Simpson stated women on average are earning 27 percent less than men in Ohio and Latin American women are earning 57 percent less.

“In the year 2014, that’s unacceptable,” Simpson said.

She also stated that Cincinnati has a 50-percent single mother rate and that 53 percent of children are living in poverty.

Sittenfield said the way toward eliminating pay disparity is through “meaningful reforms,” not tax cuts.

“Wage equality is not just a women’s issue — it’s a family issue and it’s an Ohio issue,” Sittenfield said.

Kasich proposed the cuts as part of a mid-biennium review intended to lay out administrative goals for next year.

 
 
by Anthony Skeens 03.12.2014 34 days ago
at 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

City to Continue Using Green Energy

Council support changes city manager's mind about going back to fossil fuels

Interim City Manager Scott Stiles today announced his intention to keep Cincinnati’s electricity green after City Councilman Chris Seelbach rallied a majority of council to oppose Stiles’ earlier plan to go back to using conventional fossil fuels to light and heat the city.

Instead, Cincinnati will continue using 100-percent renewable-backed energy from First Energy Solutions.

The city signed on with First Energy in 2012, making Cincinnati the largest metropolitan are in the country to use 100-percent renewable energy.

Stiles was expected to sign the three-year contract with First Energy Solutions today, according to city spokeswoman Meg Olberding.

Sellbach and other council members convinced Stiles to change his mind about the contract, Olberding says.

She also added that First Energy told Stiles it would allow any customer who wants to save the additional $5.63 annual savings of conventional energy to opt-out of the green energy agreement.

The green energy plan is estimated to save customers $43.58 compared Duke’s standard service.

About 65,000 households and small businesses will continue using First Energy unless they choose to retain another energy supplier.

Stiles will also institute a green energy fee of $.006 on each electric bill as part of a program he’s developing that will help local business owners and residents equip their homes or offices with energy-saving solutions. The program will be run by the Office of Environment and Sustainability.

 
 
by German Lopez 03.07.2014 39 days ago
Posted In: News, Drugs, Voting, Development, Mayor at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Early voting agreement sought, downtown project scrutinized, drug abuse reportedly drops

Mayor John Cranley is trying to find a compromise over whether early voting will move out of downtown after the 2016 general election, as some Republicans in the county government have suggested. Cranley called for a meeting with Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou, Cincinnati NAACP President Ishton Morton and Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel. The meeting will aim to “discuss alternatives the City of Cincinnati can offer to accommodate early voting downtown after the 2016 elections. (Cranley) believes that such a discussion is consistent with the recommendation of the secretary of state that there be an effort to find a nonpartisan solution to the existing disagreement.”

With a $12 million price tag in mind, Cranley remains worried Cincinnati is paying too much for a downtown grocery and apartment tower project. But the project is truly one of a kind, claims The Business Courier: The tower would boast nearly twice the number of luxury apartments of any other project underway in Over-the-Rhine or downtown. And it would replace a decrepit garage and establish the first full-scale grocery store downtown in decades.

A study found Ohio teens’ painkiller abuse dropped by 40 percent between 2011 and 2013. State officials quickly took credit for the drop, claiming their drug prevention strategies are working. But because the Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey only has two sets of data on painkillers to work with — one in 2011 and another in 2013 — it’s possible the current drop is more statistical noise than a genuine downturn, so the 2015 and 2017 studies will be under extra scrutiny to verify the trend.

Similarly, fewer Ohio teens say they’re drinking and smoking. But 46 percent say they text while driving.

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in January, down from 7.3 percent the year before. The numbers reflect both rising employment and dropping unemployment in the previous year.

To prove his conservative bona fides, Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell touted a rifle when he walked on stage of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The other Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, will headline a Hamilton County Republican Party dinner.

Researchers studied a woman who claims she can will herself out of her body.

Personal note: This is my last “Morning News and Stuff” and blog for CityBeat. After today, I will be leaving to Washington, D.C., for a new journalistic venture started by bloggers and reporters from The Washington Post and Slate. (CityBeat Editor Danny Cross wrote a lot of nice things about the move here, and my last commentary touched on it here.) Thank you to everyone who read my blogs during my nearly two years at CityBeat, and I hope I helped you understand the city’s complicated, exciting political and economic climate a little better, even if you sometimes disagreed with what I wrote.

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by German Lopez 03.06.2014 40 days ago
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Downtown project gets path forward, feds to pay for firefighters, health board defies mayor

Flaherty & Collins, the developer that wants to tear down a garage as part of its downtown grocery and apartment tower project, offered to pay for a tenant’s move to keep the deal moving forward. The tenant, Paragon Salon, recently announced its intent to sue the city after Mayor John Cranley’s refusal to pay for the salon business’s move left the development project and Paragon in a limbo of uncertainty. With Flaherty & Collins’ offer, the development deal should be able to advance without extra costs to the city.

But Cranley says he still wants 3CDC to review the downtown development project to set the best path forward.

Federal money will help Cincinnati keep and hire more firefighters. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant provides nearly $8.1 million — about 2 percent of the city’s $370 million operating budget — to pay the salaries and benefits of 50 firefighters for two years. Afterward, the city will need to pick up the costs, which could worsen an operating budget gap that currently sits at $22 million for fiscal 2015. The move would increase the Cincinnati Fire Department’s staffing levels from 841 to 879 and help prevent brownouts, according to the firefighting agency.

The Cincinnati Board of Health defied Mayor Cranley by unilaterally pursuing a $1.3 million grant that will provide preventative and primary care services to underserved populations. Rocky Merz, spokesperson for the board, says the grant application complies with guidance from the city’s top lawyer. Cranley opposes the grant because the extra services it enables could push up costs for the city down the line.

Hamilton County officials will look for outside legal help in their fight against the city’s job training rules for Metropolitan Sewer District projects. CityBeat covered the rules, known as “responsible bidder,” in further detail here.

Smale Riverfront Park will receive $4.5 million in federal funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control erosion and prevent flooding.

Crime around Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino never materialized, despite warnings from critics prior to casinos’ legalization in Ohio.

Ohio’s prison re-entry rate declined and sits well below the national average, according to a study from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The study found 27.1 percent of inmates released in 2010 ended up back up in prison, down from 28.7 percent of individuals released in 2009. In comparison, the national average is 44 percent.

Hundreds of Ohio school districts plan to test out the state’s new online assessments for math, language arts, social studies and science.

The cold winter is pushing up natural gas prices, according to Ohio’s largest natural gas utility.

A second baby might have been cured of HIV, the sexually transmitted disease that causes AIDS. Even with the potential successes, doctors caution it’s still very much unclear whether the treatment provides a definitive cure for the deadly disease.

Meanwhile, a first-of-its-kind intravaginal ring could prevent pregnancy and HIV.

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by German Lopez 03.05.2014 41 days ago
 
 
greenpeace P&G

Morning News and Stuff

Anti-P&G protesters face court, 3CDC to resolve project, mayor denies politics in board pick

A group of Greenpeace protesters face burglary and vandalism charges after a stunt yesterday on the Procter & Gamble buildings. Protesters apparently teamed up with a helicopter to climb outside the P&G buildings to hang up a large sign criticizing the company for allegedly enabling the destruction of rainforests in Indonesia by working with an irresponsible palm oil supplier. P&G officials say they are looking into the protesters’ claims, but they already committed to changing how they obtain palm oil by 2015.

Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) will step in to resolve the status of a downtown grocery and apartment tower project. The previous city administration pushed the project as a means to bring more residential space downtown, but Mayor John Cranley refuses to pay to move a tenant in the parking garage that needs to be torn down as part of the project. Following Cranley and Councilman Chris Seelbach’s request for 3CDC’s help, the development agency will recommend a path forward and outline costs to the city should it not complete the project.

Meanwhile, the tenants in the dispute announced today that they will sue the city to force action and stop the uncertainty surrounding their salon business.

Cranley insists politics were not involved in an appointment to the Cincinnati Board of Health, contrary to complaints from the board official the mayor opted to replace. Cranley will replace Joyce Kinley, whose term expired at the end of the month, with Herschel Chalk. “Herschel Chalk, who(m) I’m appointing, has been a long-time advocate against prostate cancer, who's somebody I’ve gotten to know,” Cranley told WVXU. “I was impressed by him because of his advocacy on behalf of fighting cancer. I committed to appoint him a long time ago.”

The costs for pausing the streetcar project back in December remain unknown, but city officials are already looking into what the next phase of the project would cost.

Troubled restaurant Mahogany’s must fully pay for rent and fees by March 10 or face eviction.

Through his new project, one scientist intends to “make 100 years old the next 60.”

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by German Lopez 03.04.2014 42 days ago
Posted In: News, Development, Budget, City Council, Mayor at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
downtown grocery

Morning News and Stuff

Mayor blocks downtown development, city leaders push for Google Fiber, budget gap grows

Mayor John Cranley could dismantle a deal that would produce a grocery store, 300 luxury apartments and a new parking garage downtown. Cranley says he doesn’t want millions put toward the deal, even though the developer involved plans to invest another $60 million. Councilman Chris Seelbach says the deal isn’t dead just because of the mayor’s opposition, and City Council could act to bypass the mayor, just like the legislative body did with the streetcar project and responsible bidder. To Seelbach, the deal is necessary to bring much-needed residential space and an accessible grocery store downtown.

Cincinnati officials and startup executives will try to bring Google Fiber, which provides Internet speeds 100 times faster than normal broadband, to Cincinnati. Google plans to hold a national competition to see which cities are most deserving of its fiber services. “Over the last several years, Cincinnati’s innovation ecosystem has made tremendous strides,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in a statement. “We’re increasingly becoming a magnet for talented entrepreneurs across the country who want to come here to bring their big ideas to life. We need to ensure that we have the modern technological infrastructure to make Cincinnati nationally competitive.”

Cincinnati’s operating budget gap for fiscal 2015 now stands at $22 million, up from an earlier forecast of $18.5 million, largely because of extra spending on police pushed by Cranley and a majority of City Council. The city must balance its operating budget each year, which means the large gap will likely lead to layoffs and service cuts.

Commentary:Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts.

Cranley won’t re-appoint the chair of Cincinnati’s Board of Health. When asked why, Chairwoman Joyce Kinley told City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee that Cranley told her “he had to fulfill a campaign promise.” Some city officials say they worry Cranley is putting politics over the city’s needs.

Troubled restaurant Mahogany’s needs to pay back rent or move out, The Banks’ landlord declared Monday. The deciding moment for Mahogany’s comes after months of struggles, which restaurant owner Liz Rogers blames on the slow development of the riverfront.

Kathy Wilson:Mahogany’s: Turn Out the Lights.”

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino supports 1,700 workers, making it the largest of Ohio's four voter-approved casinos.

At least one airline, Allegiant Air, plans to add flights from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Headline:Man wakes up in body bag at funeral home.”

“A 30,000-year-old giant virus has been revived from the frozen Siberian tundra,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

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