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by Danny Cross 03.05.2012
Posted In: Media at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
 
 
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CityBeat Acquired by SouthComm

Nashville-based publishing company owns altweeklies in six mid-sized markets

Sometimes you come to work, fire up the ol’ coffee maker and get straight to all the funny websites you like to read before you get started. Other times the boss calls a staff meeting and informs you that you work for a different company now and that new firewalls are going to block your fantasy baseball league during work hours.

Today CityBeat employees were notified that effective immediately we are all part of SouthComm Inc., a Nashville-based publishing company that owns and operates alternative weeklies in six mid-sized Midwestern and Southern markets.

The change is a good thing for a number of reasons. Many of us at CityBeat are already fans of the nearest SouthComm paper — LEO Weekly in Louisville. It is obvious that SouthComm values the creative presentation of local arts, music and culture and the thoughtful news coverage readers have come to expect from CityBeat. SouthComm’s other award-winning publications include Nashville Scene, The Pitch in Kansas City and Creative Loafing papers in Charlotte and Tampa.

We’re actually quite proud that our editorial history and relevance to the community were valued by SouthComm. The company offers access to expanded resources currently not at our disposal, and the SouthComm owners go way back with CityBeat’s founding editor and publisher, making this situation more like “Join our fun team and successful business model,” than “Give us the keys and let us control you.”

While CityBeat will no longer be locally owned, the autonomy SouthComm has offered its other publications and its continued interest in expanding its portfolio is exciting as we continue to build upon our recent staff changes and the success of other entities we operate, including the MidPoint Music Festival and A-Line Magazine.

SouthComm CEO Chris Ferrell noted in the official press release CityBeat’s body of work and the potential of the Cincinnati market:

CityBeat has a long history of covering the local government, music, arts, and culture scene in Cincinnati,” Ferrell said. “We look forward to having them as part of the SouthComm family of publications. We are excited to expand into Cincinnati, which is a very good city for us to build out our model of having multiple niche publications in each market.”

The immediate change will be noticed very little by our general audience, as Dan Bockrath will continue to serve as CityBeat Publisher and we will continue to be locally operated. As part of the acquisition, John Fox, one of the founding owners, will serve as a consultant with SouthComm. Fox was CityBeat's Editor and Co-Publisher from its inception in June 1994 until the end of 2010, when he became Director of CityBeat Events. He leaves day-to-day responsibilities at CityBeat and will be announcing an exciting new venture soon.

Also as part of the acquisition, founding owner Thomas R. Schiff departs as CEO of Lightborne Publishing, the official owner of CityBeat, A-Line Magazine, MidPoint and all of our other entities. We would be extremely remiss in failing to recognize Tom’s unwavering support of CityBeat over the past 18 years — without it the CityBeat enterprise wouldn’t be what it is today.

It’s no secret that Cincinnati presents a challenging media landscape, with the country's largest daily newspaper chain (Gannett, owner of The Cincinnati Enquirer) and largest radio station chain (Clear Channel, owner of multiple AM and FM stations) poking their publicly traded practices into every corner of our town. But their existence presents a rare opportunity to stand out by continuing to offer readers the thoughtful and personal experience they have come to appreciate from CityBeat. If the quality of SouthComm’s other publications is any indication, this acquisition is part of a new and exciting future for us.

 
 
by 01.06.2011
Posted In: Media, Ethics, Business, Community at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
 
 

A Bad Omen for News

It's well-known that The Enquirer has been timid about calling out local corporations on possible misconduct or shady dealings ever since the newspaper paid $14 million to Chiquita in the late 1990s when the produce giant threatened to sue following the publication of a damning special section on its alleged practices in Central and South America.

In the years since, The Enquirer's business coverage has been tepid, and some reporters have alleged they were told to not pursue certain stories after advertisers complained to the publisher.

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by Julianne Warren-Novick 02.12.2010
Posted In: Social Justice, News, Courts at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)
 
 

Cincinnati Priest Faces Sexual Abuse Charges

Continuing a trend that just won't go away, Father Robert F. Poandl of Cincinnati pleaded not guilty this morning to charges of sexual abuse, which allegedly occurred in 1991. The now 28-year-old man claimed that Poandl molested him during a trip to the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in West Virginia, where he was accompanying Poandl who was to fill in for a local priest there.

Poandl was indicted last month on charges of 1st degree sexual assault, 1st degree sexual abuse and sexual abuse by a custodian. Father Dan Dorsey, president of Glenmary Home Missioners, to which Poandl was an associate, says Poandl was removed from active service as a pastor in Georgia when he learned of the allegations in June of last year.

However Catholic officials are receiving criticism from SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) for not publicly addressing the allegations sooner. “We...hope Catholic officials - in both Ohio and West Virginia - will tell the truth about why they kept quiet about these allegations for over six months,” said the group's midwest director, Judy Jones, in a statement released on Thursday. “Such secrecy is immoral and reckless, and may have led to other kids being abused too.” Poandl has served as a priest since 1968. He has resided as pastor over churches in Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, and Mississippi.

As to why the alleged victim was even with Poandl in West Virginia at the time, it is unclear. Details over their visit to Holy Redeemer Catholic Church have yet to be disclosed. However one thing is certain, and that is it will be a much greater surprise if Poandl is found innocent of these charges than it will be if he is found guilty. It's strange to find oneself desensitized to a matter such as this. But unfortunately, Poandl is just another number in the 4,450 priests accused of sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002, this according to a 2004 survey commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Poandl's trial is scheduled for June 15, 2010. He is free on a bond of $15,000.

 
 
by 05.06.2010
Posted In: Courts, Police, Human Rights at 03:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 

Sheriff Settles Suit for $30,000

It seems Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. doesn’t like speaking under oath in a court of law, and wants taxpayers to pay to help him avoid it.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a former Justice Center inmate over an August 2007 incident in which he was shot three times by a pepperball gun at point blank range while already incapacitated.

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by 04.22.2009
Posted In: News, Business at 02:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Lawsuit: Cintas Quotas Are Hazardous

Cintas Corp. sets unrealistic production quotas for laundry workers that cause dangerous conditions and it led to the death of one worker in March 2007, according to a motion filed in a lawsuit against the company.

The widow of Eleazar Torres-Gomez, an employee who died when he fell into a dryer at a Cintas facility near Tulsa, Okla., made the allegation in an application filed Tuesday that seeks to amend her lawsuit.

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by German Lopez 09.27.2012
Posted In: News, Prisons, Government at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Liberty for Sale

ODRC: No More Privatizing Ohio Prisons

State agency says Ohio will focus on lowering recidivism

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) on Tuesday said it will not seek further privatization of state prisons. The announcement was made less than a week after CityBeat published an in-depth story detailing the various problems posed by privatizing prisons (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19). 

Gary Mohr, director of ODRC, made the announcement while talking to legislative reporting service Gongwer in Columbus Tuesday.

We're going to stay the course on those (sentencing reforms) and I think privatizing additional prisons would take away from that reform effort that we have, so I'm not anticipating privatizing any more prisons in the short term here,” he told Gongwer.

Ohio became the first state to sell one of its own prisons to a private prison company in 2011. The ACLU criticized the move for its potential conflict of interest. The organization argued that the profit goal of private prison companies, which make money by holding as many prisoners as possible, fundamentally contradicts the public policy goal of keeping inmate reentry into prisons and prison populations as low as possible.

In his comments to Gongwer, Mohr said the state will now focus on lowering recidivism, not increasing privatization: I don't think you can go through upheaval of a system and continue to put prioritization on reform at the same time. I think if we were to re-engage again on privatization of prisons, then we're going to take the eye off the ball a little bit, and I think we're making great progress. It's a matter of focus.

In the past, the ACLU and other groups criticized Mohr's previous ties to private prison companies — particularly his private work for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) before he became the director for ODRC. CCA in 2011 became the first private company in Ohio's history to purchase a state prison. The connection presents another possible conflict of interest, and it is only one of the many connections between CCA and Gov. John Kasich's administration.

Mike Brickner, ACLU researcher and director of communications and public policy, praised ODRC's decision in a statement: “Despite millions spent by private companies trying to convince policy makers and local governments otherwise, numerous studies have shown private prisons put their own profit ahead of good public policy. ODRC is wise to see that the privatization model distracts from their important efforts to shrink inmate population and reduce recidivism.”

But Brickner also made further demands from the state: “ODRC should go a step further by making a commitment not to privatize additional prison services such as food and medical care. Arguments for privatizing these services use the same faulty logic as the arguments for privatizing entire prisons.”

CityBeat was not able to immediately reach ODRC for comment on Mohr’s announcement. This story will be updated if comments become available.

During the course of researching and reporting last week's story on prison privatization in Ohio, CityBeat found the ODRC to be dismissive of our interest in speaking with Mohr or a spokesperson about private prisons. During two weeks of correspondence, CityBeat received numerous excuses as to why the ODRC couldn't grant an interview and eventually received two emails with the exact same statement — one from ODRC, a state department, and one from Management and Training Corporation, a private company that manages prisons in Ohio. The statement added a strange twist to the already-suspicious fact that the ODRC didn't want to talk about its prison privatization plan with the media. A full explanation of the issues ODRC posed to the reporting process can be found in the editor's note at the end of the cover story.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.13.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Sex, Internet at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)
 
 
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Paul Ryan Is Totally Ripped

America more interested in GOP VP candidate's six pack than budget plan

Anybody who’s familiar with the Internet knows that it’s a great place for looking at pictures of people without their clothes.

Apparently a lot of people want to do that to vice presidential candidates as well.

According to Google Politics & Elections, the No. 2 most-searched term connected to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s name is “shirtless.”

Ryan is known for a proposed budget that would offer massive tax cuts to the rich while attempting to reduce the deficit by gutting Medicare.

If one is to believe TMZ’s absclusive titled “Paul Ryan: He’s Hiding A Six Pack,” then one could see why.

An intrepid CityBeat intern spent most of Monday morning searching for pictures of said abs, but was only able to turn up the vice presidential candidate waving ironically from his yacht.

According to TMZ’s unnamed Hill source, Ryan hits the gym every morning at 6 a.m., and his routine is “fierce.” The source, who talks like a stereotype, says Ryan is kind of on the skinny side, but “totally ripped and has a six pack.”

Ryan’s press camp responded to the news by challenging Joe Biden to a sit-up contest in lieu of a vice presidential debate.

Google’s top four related search terms for Paul Ryan:

  1. Vice President
  2. Shirtless
  3. Wiki
  4. Budget
 
 
by Hannah McCartney 08.08.2013
Posted In: Energy, Environment, Ethics, News at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
first energy

FirstEnergy Penalized $43.3 Million for Overcharging Customers

Company overpriced renewable energy credits purchased from affiliate company

On Wednesday the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio unanimously ruled that Akron, Ohio-based energy supplier FirstEnergy Corp. must credit its Ohio customers $43.3 million for overcharging for renewable energy credits (RECs) from 2009-2011 that it purchased from its affiliate, FirstEnergy Solutions.

RECs are tradable, non-tangible energy credits that represent proof that one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity has been sourced from an eligible renewable energy resource. First Energy Solutions is an energy generator and supplier, while First Energy Corp. is an electricity distributor, which means that it sources its electricity from elsewhere, which requires them to issue bids seeking the most competitively priced energy from a supplier such as First Energy Solutions.

According to the First Energy Corp. website, First Energy Solutions is the competitive subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. Both suppliers are based in Akron. An audit conducted by Exeter Associates Inc. revealed that FirstEnergy Corp. paid 15 times more than any other company in the country to purchase the RECs from FirstEnergy Solutions, and FirstEnergy Corp. passed that overcharge onto consumers. 

In a copy of the order issued yesterday by the PUC obtained by CityBeat, it states that, "The Companies contend that, given the nascent market, lack of market information available to the Companies, and uncertainty regarding future supply and prices, the Companies' decisions to purchase in-state RECs were reasonable and prudent."

In summary, FirstEnergy contends that because it was scrambling to find a way to meet the state's Clean Energy Law requirements, it had to buy these RECs no matter the cost, and that there are no legal specifications within the Clean Energy Law that requires RECs be purchased or sold at market price; and that the costs issued to them, and subsequently, customers, weren't unreasonable.

The Ohio Consumers Counsel, however, says that there were cheaper alternatives available and that FirstEnergy should have checked with the PUC prior to paying 15 times more for RECs than any other country had in the past. If they'd rejected the exorbitant bids, says OCC, and instead consulted with PUC and OCC, they could have come up with a solution to prevent from charging customers excessively high rates.

In June 2012, FirstEnergy Solutions was the winning bidder in Cincinnati's energy aggregation program, which is supposed to allow us to receive lower "aggregate" rates for buying in bulk. At the time, FirstEnergy touted the merits of its "100 percent green" energy supply, sourced from wind, solar, biomass and other renewable resources. The bid was expected to save homeowners around $133 annually.

What enabled FirstEnergy to provide the "clean" energy was its use of a system with non-tangible renewable energy credit (RECs) that each represent proof that one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity has been sources from a renewable energy resource.

Purchasing the credits from its subsidiary allows FirstEnergy Corp. to meet the state's renewable energy standard, which requires that by 2025 all Ohio utility companies provide at least 25 percent of their energy from renewable resources.

Because the lawsuit issued by the PUC examines only the amount paid for RECs during compliance periods between 2009 and 2011, Cincinnati customers who switched to FirstEnergy Solutions last June should not be affected, although the FirstEnergy arms' ambiguous behavior, says Dan Sawmiller, a Sierra Club member who manages Ohio's Beyond Coal campaign, is a likely indicator that the company may be engaging in other unethical practices related to consumer transparency. 

The company has not been devoid of controversy in the past. In March, CityBeat reported on state environmental groups' concerns with the movement to lower requirements for defining renewable energy and energy efficiency; FirstEnergy was part of the bloc working to weaken Ohio's Clean Energy Law in hopes of keeping corporation costs low. FirstEnergy was also chastised by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in 2009 for distributing and charging customers for energy-efficient light bulbs without receiving customers' authorization.

Sawmiller commended the PUC for fining First Energy, although he suggests the fine is likely modest for the actual damages. He still expresses concern about the need for corporate separation between the two FirstEnergy arms. "
The commission left much to be desired in terms of transparency, leaving customers in the dark about what types of renewables are being provided, where are they coming from and at what cost," says Sawmiller in Sierra Club's press release.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.02.2012
Posted In: Government, Community, Public Policy at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Pros and Cons of Privatization

The push to privatize services traditionally provided by government is the focus of a community forum slated for next week.

Since the Reagan era, privatization — or the outsourcing of public services to the private sector — has been touted as a way to make government more efficient and less costly. Critics, however, allege it is a form of union-busting that often leads to lower wages for workers and reduced accountability to the public.

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by Kevin Osborne 04.06.2012
 
 
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Analysis: 'Stand Your Ground' States Have More Shootings

Shadowy ALEC group helps push for the laws

An analysis of U.S. crime data by a British newspaper has found there’s been a 25 percent increase in civilian justifiable homicides since the controversial “stand your ground” (SYG) laws started being introduced in 2005.

London’s Guardian newspaper analyzed data from FBI and state sources. It concludes that the spike in civilian justifiable homicides is related not only to SYG laws, but also weak gun control laws in certain states.

Florida was the first state to introduce an SYG law in 2005 and similar measures have now been adopted in some form by more than 20 states. Most were passed in 2006. Ohio doesn’t yet have such a law, but it’s believed that gun advocates might be planning a campaign for one here soon.

Florida’s SYG law is expected to be part of the defense made for George Zimmerman, if he is charged with a crime. Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed an unarmed African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. The incident has triggered widespread public outrage.

The Guardian’s analysis shows that SYG laws alone cannot be statistically linked with the rise in justifiable homicides. But in states with both SYG laws and the weakest gun control laws — as defined by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence — it found a statistical correlation with an increase in justifiable homicides.

Across the United States, such killings have risen sharply over the past five years, according to the data provided by the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. From 2001-05, there were 1,225 homicides classified as justifiable, compared to 1,528 in the period 2006-10. By contrast, violent crime overall has been falling.

"The police are shooting more people and citizens are shooting more people. We're evolving into an increasingly coarse society with no obligation to diffuse a situation and rapidly turn to force,” said Professor Dennis Kenney, of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and an ex-police sergeant in Florida. "People are literally getting away with murder."

SYG laws allow a potential crime victim who is in fear of “grave harm” to use deadly force in public places, not just inside their own homes. They eliminate the legal requirement to retreat before a person may claim he or she acted in self-defense.

SYG laws have been pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model legislation for state lawmakers to use.

State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) is among ALEC's leaders, as CityBeat has previously reported here and here. The group, which held its annual meeting in Cincinnati last spring, has a membership of nearly 2,000 state legislators and around 300 private-sector members.

Funded by the Koch brothers, the National Rifle Association, oil companies and others, ALEC’s model bills have served as the template for "voter ID" laws that swept the nation in 2011, for the voucher programs that privatize public education, for anti-immigrant legislation, and for the wave of anti-labor union legislation pushed during the past two years in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arizona, New Hampshire and elsewhere.

This week Coca-Cola and PepsiCo dropped their memberships in ALEC, amid the threat of boycotts.

In 2010 National Public Radio reported that Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), a private-sector ALEC board member, participated in the drafting of Arizona Senate Bill No. 1070. The report documented the behind-the-scenes effort to draft and pass the law and how the CCA stood to benefit from people incarcerated under it.

Marvin Meadors, a Huffington Post contributor, has described ALEC as “a bill-churning mill which uses corporate money to draft model legislation that advances the agenda of the Far Right and encourages crony capitalism.”

 
 

 

 

 
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