Happy new year! Yes, planet Earth made it through another year. Welcome to an “extra saucy” Morning News and Stuff.
U.S. Congress managed to narrowly avert the “fiscal cliff,” a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in at the beginning of 2013. If the fiscal cliff had not been prevented, economists and the Congressional Budget Office warned the United States would have plunged back into recession. The final deal keeps tax hikes for those making more than $450,000 a year, and most Americans will see their taxes increase as the payroll tax break passed with President Barack Obama’s stimulus package expires. It’s important to remember that the passing of a deal is not some show of bipartisan heroism; instead, it’s Congress barely preventing an entirely self-inflicted problem.But the deal did not come smoothly. Not only did Congress wait until the very last moment, but U.S. Speaker John Boehner used a naughty word. At a White House meeting, the Ohio politician shot at unfavorable comments from Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s by telling Reid, “Go f— yourself.” In fact, Boehner actually used the naughty word twice! Reid replied, “What are you talking about?” Boehner once again said, “Go f— yourself.” Who knew U.S. Congress would turn out to be so much like high school?
When Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) Lake Erie prison received an unfavorable audit, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reacted by cutting payments to CCA by $573,000. CityBeat covered the audit and its troubling findings here. CityBeat also covered private prisons in-depth here.
On the bright side, Ohio’s minimum wage went up, like it’s required to do so every year. Policy Matters Ohio says the increase will bring in $340 per year for 215,000 low-wage workers around the state.
Cincinnati-based Kroger is looking mighty tempting this year. Stock-wise, anyway. I don’t think many people like grocery shopping.
A court ruled Ohio overcharged 270,000 businesses for workers’ compensation premiums and must repay them. The ruling could cost the state millions of dollars.
In case anyone was worried, the national standards Ohio adopted for schools do not ban The Catcher in the Rye. Book cliff averted.
Allstate is hiring in Ohio. I’m not sure why this is news, but it’s on multiple newspapers today, so there it is.
Intel could be looking to revolutionize the cable industry by allowing people to subscribe to individual TV channels.
That’s not a medieval weapon; it’s a space rover! The new rovers planned by top universities and NASA could visit Mars’ moon Phobos or an asteroid. It’s, like, whatever.
Today is the end of the world. Whatever. Life sucks anyway.
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.9 percent to 6.8 percent in November. Gains were concentrated in trade, transportation, and utilities, financial activities and educational and health services, with losses in construction, leisure and hospitality, government, professional and business services and information services. Overall, the state’s non-agricultural wage and salary employment increased by 1,600.
But could the recovery last? U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is now ditching efforts to avoid the fiscal cliff, a series of spending cuts and tax hikes set to kick in at the end of the year. Boehner could not get Republicans to vote on a tax hike for people making more than $1 million a year, which isn’t even enough to make President Barack Obama’s demand of increased taxes on anyone making more than $400,000. If the United States goes over the fiscal cliff, the spending cuts and tax hikes will likely devastate the economy. CityBeat wrote about U.S. Congress’ inability to focus on jobs here.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich finished the lame-duck session by signing 42 bills into law. The laws include loosened restrictions on gun control, an update to Ohio’s education rating system and $4.4 million in appropriations. The loosened gun control law in particular is getting criticized from Democrats in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre. The law allows guns in the Ohio Statehouse garage, loosens concealed carry rules and changes the definition of an unloaded gun so gun owners can have loaded clips in cars as long as they are stored separately from guns. CityBeat wrote about the need for more gun control in this week’s commentary.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters suggested arming teachers to avoid school shootings, but a considerable amount of research shows that doesn’t work. Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig says arming teachers is a bad idea: “Certainly we can look at other options, but when you talk about arming school teachers or a school administrator without the appropriate training, and training is not just going to a target range and being able to hit center mass. How do you deal with a crisis? We're talking about a place with children.” Craig is now pushing crisis training as a major initiative.
Meanwhile, Sen. Rob Portman says school shootings need a holistic approach. The Ohio Republican says he will consider further restrictions on guns and armed school officials.
It seems a housing recovery is well underway. Cincinnati home sales are showing no signs of a slowdown.
Cincinnati is getting six historic preservation tax credits from the state government. As part of the ninth round of the program, the Ohio Development Services Agency is giving the city credits for parts of Main Street, parts of East 12th Street, parts of East McMillan Street, Abington Flats, Eden Park Pump Station and Pendleton Apartments.
The U.S. Department of Education is looking into whether Ohio charter schools discriminate against students with disabilities. Overall, charter schools in the state enroll as many students with disabilities as traditional public schools, but students with disabilities are concentrated in a few charter schools.
A federal judge upheld Ohio’s exotic animal law, which restricts who can own the animals in the state.
Judith French, a Republican, will replace retiring Justice Evelyn Stratton on the Ohio Supreme Court. Gov. Kasich’s appointment of French keeps the court’s makeup of six Republicans and one Democrat.
Genetics is perfecting the Christmas tree.
From the Twilight Zone archives comes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Christmas special.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County are making a comeback. In August, the city dropped to 7.5 percent unemployment, down from 8.2 percent in July, according to new data released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The county dropped to 6.8 percent, down from 7.3 percent in July.
Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted rate saw a similarly large drop from 7.4 percent in July to 6.8 percent in August. The U.S. unadjusted rate dropped from 8.6 to 8.2 percent.
From a year-to-year basis, Cincinnati and Hamilton County saw even larger drops in unemployment. On August 2011, unemployment in Cincinnati was at 10 percent, 2.5 points higher than August 2012. Hamilton County was at 8.8 percent, 2 points higher than August 2012.
Greater Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate also saw large drops, remaining below the state and nation. The 15-county area dropped from 7.2 percent unemployment in July down to 6.7 percent in August. That is a 1.9-point drop from August 2011, which saw an 8.6 percent unemployment rate.
The federal and state unemployment rates are typically adjusted for seasonal factors, but the local rates are not. The adjusted unemployment rates for August were 7.2 percent for Ohio and 8.1 percent for the United States.
The unemployment rate only considers people who are unemployed and looking for work. People not looking for work are deemed to be outside of the labor force.
President Barack Obama announced a new trade action against China during a Cincinnati campaign stop on Monday, where he also took the opportunity to attack Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The U.S. filed the case at the World Trade Organization on Monday and claims that China offers “extensive subsidies” to native automakers and auto-parts producers.
The Chinese government filed its own complaint before the WTO on Monday, challenging tariffs the U.S. imposes on Chinese products ranging from steel to tires. The tariffs are meant to protect American manufacturers against what the U.S. government claims are unfair trade practices by China.
“(The U.S. action is) against illegal subsidies that encourage companies to ship auto part manufacturing jobs overseas,” Obama said before an estimated crowd of 4,500 at the Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park. “These are subsidies that directly harm working men and women on the assembly lines in Ohio and Michigan and across the Midwest.”
“It’s not right, it’s against the rules, and we will not let it stand. American workers build better products than anyone. ‘Made in America’ means something. And when the playing field is level, America will always win.”
Obama went on to criticize his Republican challenger, saying Romney made his fortune in part by uprooting American jobs and shipping them to China. Obama accused Romney — who has criticized Obama’s foreign policy, saying the president apologizes for American interests — of talking the talk without being able to walk the walk.
The Romney campaign countered with an email after the rally, saying that Obama’s economic policies were hurting the private sector and harmed manufacturing.
“The President’s misguided, ineffective policies have hampered the private sector and allowed China to flaunt the rules while middle-class families suffer,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.
“As president, Mitt Romney will deliver a fresh start for manufacturers by promoting trade that works for America and fiscal policies that encourage investment, hiring and growth.”
The email pointed to reports from Bloomberg finding that manufacturing and production have shrunk recently.
Before the Obama rally several Ohio Republicans held a news conference behind a Romney campaign bus near Eden Park, where they focused more on the deficit than foreign trade.
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot said it was “laughable” that Obama considers himself a budget hawk. He pointed to the decline in budget negotiations between the president and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, saying Obama “walked away” from talks with Speaker John Boehner.
“Basically as president from that time last August until now, it’s been all politics,” Chabot said.
Chabot also attacked Obama on foreign policy, claiming the president has left Israel hanging in the Middle East and is not serious with Iran, who he says is on the brink of getting nuclear weapons.
The president in his speech said he did have a plan to reduce the federal deficit, and would reduce it by $4 trillion over the next 10 years without raising taxes on the middle class.
Monday’s visit to Cincinnati was Obama’s second of this campaign and his 12th trip to Ohio this year. Romney has visited the state 18 times during his campaign.
Obama was scheduled to fly to Columbus Monday afternoon for a campaign appearance there.
The Ohio Turnpike will remain a public asset, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Many Ohioans have been worried Gov. John Kasich would attempt to privatize the Turnpike in order to pay for transportation projects; instead, the governor will try to generate revenue for state infrastructure projects elsewhere, perhaps by using the Turnpike’s tolls. Kasich will unveil his full plans Thursday and Friday.
The asbestos lawsuit bill is heading to Kasich to be signed. The bill attempts to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure. Supporters of the bill say it will prevent double-dipping by victims, but opponents say the bill will impede legitimate cases. Ohio has one of the largest backlogs of on-the-job asbestos exposure cases.
City Manager Milton Dohoney has released some of the potential bids for the city’s parking services, and one bidder is offering $100 to $150 million. Dohoney says the budget can only be balanced if parking services are privatized or the city lays off 344 employees. But Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is speaking out against the privatization of the city’s parking services. In a statement, Sittenfeld said, “Outsourcing our parking system robs the city of future revenue, and also will mean higher parking rates, longer hours of enforcement, and more parking tickets.”
LGBT rights are becoming “the new normal,” but not for Western & Southern or American Financial Group. In the 2012 Corporate Equality Index, the Human Rights Campaign gave 252 companies a 100-percent score for LGBT rights. Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble got a 90 percent, Macy’s got a 90 percent, Kroger got an 85 percent, Fifth Third Bank got an 85 percent, Omnicare got a 15 percent, American Financial Group got a 0 percent and Western & Southern got a 0 percent. The rankings, dubbed a “Buyer’s Guide,” can be found here.
The Sierra Club says Cincinnati has some of the best and worst transportation projects. In its annual report, the environmental group praised the Cincinnati streetcar, claiming the transportation project will attract residents and business owners. But the organization slammed the Eastern Corridor Highway project because of its negative impact on the Little Miami River and the small village of Newtown. The Sierra Club says the purpose of the report is to shed light on the more than $200 billion spent on transportation projects every year.
University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono is getting a 10-year contract.
The disease-carrying Walnut Twig Beetle has been discovered in southwest Ohio. The beetle is known for carrying Thousand Cankers Disease, which threatens the health of walnut trees. So far, no trees have been determined to be infected.
Ohio Gov. Kasich, Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will meet today to discuss funding for the Brent Spence Bridge project. If the bridge project starts in 2014, northern Kentucky and Cincinnati could save $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, according to the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition.
Following the defeat of Issue 2, the Ohio Senate is taking on redistricting reform, but opponents in the House say there isn’t enough time to tackle the issue. The current redistricting system is widely abused by politicians on both sides of the aisle in a process called “gerrymandering,” which involves politicians redrawing district lines in politically beneficial ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County, heavily diluting the impact of Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote.
Ohio employers are more aware of wellness than employers in other states, a new survey found. Wellness programs are one way employers can bring down health-care expenditures as cost shifting feels the pinch of diminishing returns.
However, Ohio ranked No. 35 in a nationwide health survey.
Ohio district didn't win federal Race to the Top education funds in the latest competition.
Internet cafe legislation is dead for the year. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus announced the legislation, which essentially puts Internet cafes and sweepstakes parlors out of business. State officials, including Attorney General Mike DeWine, have been pushing for regulations or a ban on the businesses because they see them as a breeding ground for criminal activity.
The final 2011-2012 school report cards will not be available until 2013. The report cards were originally delayed due to an investigation into fraudulent attendance reports.
Michigan may have approved its anti-union right-to-work law, but Ohio is not eager to follow. State Democrats are already preparing for a possible battle over the issue, but even Republican Gov. John Kasich says he’s not currently interested in a right-to-work law.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is loosening hazardous waste reporting requirements for companies. If the rules go into effect, regulated facilities will report on hazardous waste once every two years instead of once a year. The rule changes will get a public hearing on Dec. 19 in Columbus.
In a question-and-answer session Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asked, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” (Hint: The answer to both questions is yes.) The Supreme Court recently agreed to tackle the same-sex marriage issue. CityBeat wrote about same-sex marriage in Ohio here.
Policy Matters Ohio released a report Monday that gives a hint of how federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts that kicked in March 1, will affect Ohio. The impact of sequestration is already being felt in various areas, including education, housing and the environment.
In Cincinnati, the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency plans to carry out $1 million in cuts by dropping 200 kids from the Head Start program, which helps low-income families get their children into preschool and other early education programs.
Cuts will be spread out all around the state, leading to cuts in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency, reduced research programs at major universities and the elimination of military jet flyovers at certain events.
Wendy Patton, a senior project director at Policy Matters, says the cuts are only the beginning.
“We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg now,” Patton says, citing cuts in Chillicothe that will force the Chillicothe Metropolitan Housing Authority to serve 47 less families through the housing voucher program. “We will see this kind of information come out across Ohio’s 88 counties as the months roll by.”
In February, the White House outlined how sequestration cuts will affect Ohio in its efforts to convince Congress to stop the cuts. The White House estimated about 26,000 civilian defense department employees would have to be furloughed, nearly $6.9 million in funding to clean air and water would have to be cut and 350 teacher and aide jobs would be put at risk, among other cuts.
Even the unemployed will be hurt through cuts to unemployment insurance benefits — bad news in an already weak economy. In Ohio, about $5.3 million in federal grant money going toward unemployment insurance will be cut in a way that particularly affects the long-term unemployed, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.
“We already have a problem with the long-term unemployed,” says Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters. “This just makes it worse for these folks.”
An analysis from The Washington Post found employers often discriminate against anyone who has been unemployed for a considerable time during the hiring process.
Ohio’s fracking boom might not be living up to the hype. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources originally estimated that 250 fracking wells would be built by the end of the year, but only 165 have been completed and 22 are currently being built. The disappointing results are being blamed on low natural gas prices and a backlog in work needed to connect wells to customers. Maybe the state’s claim had as much basis as Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s claim that the state’s fracking boom would be worth $1 trillion.
By killing the heartbeat bill and a bill that defunds Planned Parenthood, Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican, apparently declared a war on babies, according to anti-abortion groups. Niehaus is term-limited, so he will not be in the Ohio Senate in the next session, which begins next year. Incoming senate president Keith Faber already said the heartbeat bill could come up to vote in the next Senate session. CityBeat previously wrote about Ohio Republicans’ renewed anti-abortion agenda.
Between 2011 and 2012, Cincinnati had the 12th best economic performance in the United States, according to a Brookings Institute study. Out of the 76 metropolitan areas looked at, only Dallas; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Pittsburgh have recovered from the recession, and 20 areas lost more ground throughout the year.Media Bridges, Cincinnati’s public access media outlet, is the latest victim of the 2013 budget proposal from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. The budget plan suggests slashing $300,000 from the organization’s funding. When coupled with state funding cuts, Media Bridges is losing $498,000 in funding, or 85 percent of its budget. Tom Bishop, executive director of Media Bridges, compared the cuts to a “meteor” hitting Media Bridges’ budget. The city says cuts were suggested in part due to public feedback.
The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is pushing the public to speak out against $610,770 in cuts to human services funding in Dohoney’s proposed budget. Mayor Mark Mallory and City Council have already agreed to continue 2013 funding at 2012 levels, but homeless advocates want to make sure the funding, which largely helps the homeless and low-income families, remains. The group is calling for supporters to attend City Council meetings on Dec. 5 at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall, Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall and Dec. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Corryville Recreation Center.
It’s commonly said Cincinnati is Republican territory, but after the latest elections, that’s looking more and more false.
The University of Cincinnati is stepping up safety efforts around campus. The university held a summit to gather public feedback on possible improvements in light of recent incidents in and around campus. Beginning in January, UC will increase patrols by 30 percent.
Crime around Columbus’ Hollywood Casino has ticked up. Could Cincinnati face a similar fate when the Horseshoe Casino is up and running? A Washington Post analysis found casinos bring in jobs, but also bankruptcy, crime and even suicide.
Results equal funding. That’s the approach Gov. Kasich is taking to funding higher education, but Inside Higher Ed says the approach is part of “an emerging Republican approach to higher education policy, built largely around cost-cutting.” Kasich’s approach is meant to encourage better results by providing higher funds to schools with higher graduation rates, but schools with funding problems and lower graduation rates could have their problems exacerbated.
Josh Mandel, state treasurer and former Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, insists his big loss in November does not make him a political has-been. Mandel will be pursuing a second term at the Ohio treasurer’s office in 2014. Mandel lost the Senate race despite getting massive amounts of funding from third parties — Democrats estimate $40 million — to support his campaign.
The auto industry is still chugging along with impressive numbers from November.
Gas prices moved down in Ohio this week.
One geneticist says people are getting dumber, but he doesn’t seem to have much to back his claims up.
The George W. Bush Presidential Library denied a request by a Democratic super PAC for documents related to Sen. Rob Portman’s work in the George W. Bush administration. The library says it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and that all are welcome to see the documents in 2014. The super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, has been researching GOP candidates as Mitt Romney moves closer to choosing a running mate.
“When you look at the roster of V.P. candidates, each of them is significantly flawed,” American Bridge senior adviser Ty Matsdorf said in a statement. “For Portman, it is his calamitous record on fiscal issues while working at the Bush White House. It shouldn’t be a shock that he is going to want to keep that under wraps for as long as possible, but unfortunately it’s pretty hard to hide a record as terrible as that.”
CNN is live blogging from the Supreme Court to see if there are any rulings on the health care law or immigration.
Gay pride celebrations took place in New York, Chicago and San Francisco over the weekend, and Obama organizers were there to recruit volunteers.
Spain formally asked for European aid for its banks.
The sea level is rising faster along the Atlantic Coast than other places in the world.
Facebook has created a new “find friends nearby” function that will allow users to see friends and people they don’t know who are at events or social gatherings. From some Facebook engineer’s comments on the story:
I built Find Friends Nearby with another engineer for a hackathon project. While it was originally called ‘Friendshake’, we settled on ‘Find Friends Nearby’ for launch (the URL was a little bit of a homage to the previous iteration).
For me, the ideal use case for this product is the one where when you’re out with a group of people whom you’ve recently met and want to stay in contact with. Facebook search might be effective, or sharing your vanity addresses or business cards, but this tool provides a really easy way to exchange contact information with multiple people with minimal friction.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics today released a disappointing job report. Unemployment fell to 8.1 percent in August, and 96,000 jobs were added nationwide. But economists were expecting about 150,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate fell largely due to people giving up on the job hunt, which means they are no longer counted in the labor pool.
One of the reasons for disappointment is the drop in public jobs. People are quick to look at the private sector when these kind of numbers come up, but the public sector employs people, too. And the public sector lost 10,000 jobs at state and local levels, according to today’s jobs report.
That follows the trend of the past few years. The public sector has been doing poorly since the Great Recession started, according to this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
The chart shows state and local payrolls since the beginning of the recession. It proves quite clearly that governments have been making cuts to public jobs.
Ohio has not avoided government job cuts. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported July’s unemployment rate at 7.2 percent, which was unchanged from June’s unemployment rate. The biggest loss in jobs for the month came from government, which lost 5,300 jobs statewide. In comparison to July 2011, July 2012 had 4,400 fewer government jobs.
Instinctively, it makes some sense. As the recession kicks in and families and businesses are forced to budget for lower expectations, it might seem natural to expect the government to do the same.
However, many economists argue it should be the opposite. They say the government should be used to balance out the private sector. In other words, when the private sector is performing poorly — recession — the government should step in to make up for the drop. When the private sector is performing well — boom — the government can relax and run budget surpluses.
Paul Krugman, a Nobel-winning economist, has advocated for this approach time and time again. In his New York Times column and blog, Krugman has pushed for more stimulus efforts from the federal government, and he called for a much larger stimulus package than the $787 billion package President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009.
The data seems to support economists calling for more action. Last month, the Brookings Institute conducted a study that found June’s national unemployment rate would be at 7.1 percent if governments hadn’t made cuts.
What this means is if governments truly want to fix the economic crisis, they might want to kick the debt can down the road. But considering many cities and states have constitutional amendments requiring balanced budgets, that might be hard to pull off.