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.
It’s official: Gov. John Kasich won’t privatize
the Ohio Turnpike. Instead, the Republican governor wants to increase
tolls at the rate of inflation and issue bonds backed by the turnpike’s
profits to raise an estimated $3 billion for infrastructure projects — more than 90 percent of which will be in northern Ohio, where the turnpike is located. To
ease the short-term burden of the plan, tolls for local passenger trips
using E-ZPasses will be frozen at current levels for 10 years. In a video
unveiling the announcement, Kasich says the projects could generate an
estimated 75,000 jobs. To most, the plan, which will require approval
from the legislature, probably seems like a fairly liberal proposal: use
a public asset to leverage revenue, then use the revenue on a large,
statewide stimulus program. But Democrats are criticizing the plan
because they say the toll hike will hurt individuals, families and businesses
that use the Ohio Turnpike. Let the eye-rolling at blatant politicking begin!
City Council is getting ready to approve the budget today. The final plan has made a few tweaks to City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposal. Parking privatization will remain, but the budget will provide a one-year stopgap in funding for Media Bridges. Previously, all of Media Bridges’ funding was being cut, which CityBeat wrote about here. The plan will also keep the mounted patrol unit, maintain income tax reciprocity and restore funding for human services and arts grants.
Will Cincinnati-based Kroger soon own Twinkies? It’s possible. The grocery store giant is considering buying Hostess brands in the aftermath of Hostess’ bankruptcy. CityBeat previously wrote about the Hostess bankruptcy here.
A study found a gap in Hamilton County’s housing stock. The report suggests the county doesn’t need any more housing than it already has; instead, it should build on current properties. The report also found vacant housing that isn’t for sale and serves no purpose has increased by 107 percent.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has unveiled a new master plan. It’s proposing $450 million in projects.
The Hamilton County recorder’s office will remain open on Fridays. The office was previously planning to close every Friday due to funding cuts, but restored funds have made staying open possible.
In its last session of the year, the Ohio Senate approved redistricting reform 32-1. The House could not take up the measure before the end of the lame-duck session, but the vast bipartisan support could be a good sign for next year’s legislative session. Redistricting is widely used by politicians to redraw district boundaries in politically beneficial ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County, effectively diluting Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote in the district.
Ohio lost more residents than it gained last year, but the trend might be reversed by a growing economy. Economic improvements have already slowed down what Dayton Daily News calls an “exodus.”
A new Ohio law would increase the amount of auto insurance motorists are required to carry.
A drop in gas prices lowered U.S. consumer prices by 0.3 percent.
NASA discovered the largest river ever seen on another world. The river is on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and it is made up of hydrocarbons. The river is still unnamed, so I encourage everyone to email NASA to name the river the German Lopez River here.
Climate change isn’t just bad for humans. It will also hurt cuddly land mammals.
Council Member Chris Seelbach says he’s getting impatient with streetcar delays. During a series of complaints aired on Twitter, Seelbach wrote the deadline for streetcar operation should be the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2015. This week’s CityBeat cover story explains some of the delays and how the streetcar relates to the 2013 mayor’s race.
The Pentagon is planning to lift the ban on women in combat situations. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the decision came after a recommendation from his Joint Chiefs of Staff. Between the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and this decision, President Barack Obama’s administration has been one of the most inclusive when it comes to the military.
The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case questioning the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Policy group ProgressOhio says it might be illegal to use state liquor profits to fund JobsOhio, a private nonprofit organization Gov. John Kasich set up to drive economic growth in the state.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game could bring $60-$80 million to Cincinnati, according to Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center. It was recently announced Cincinnati will host the game in 2015.
Gov. Kasich said he won’t oust State Board of Education President Debe Terhar after she made a Facebook post comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler. Kasich is happy she admitted it was a mistake, and he said he will leave it at that. Democrats called for her ousting Tuesday.
American Military Partner Association, a national organization that supports LGBT veterans, endorsed FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment. If voters approve the amendment this November, gay marriage will be legalized in Ohio. CityBeat wrote more about FreedomOhio’s ballot initiative here.
Cincinnati Public Schools is piloting an after-school program focusing on the arts. The high-energy sessions are apparently proving to be a hit among students so far.
U.S. Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, says President Barack Obama is out to annihilate the Republican Party. I’m not seeing the problem here.
Moody’s doesn’t have confidence in U.S. nonprofit hospitals.
New science makes it possible to detect brain damage in football players that previously couldn’t be seen until a victim was dead. CityBeat covered how head trauma relates to former Bengals players' workers' comp claims here.
Popular Science explains how to make the perfect snowball.
Activists gathered on Thursday outside of the West Chester office of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, asking the House’s top official to look at reducing military spending when coming up with a budget.
The group of nearly two dozen — which included nuns, a veteran, a retiree advocate, a small businessman and progressive activists — held signs reading, “It is time for Nation Building in the United States. Cut Massive Pentagon Budget Now!” and “End Tax Breaks for Richest 2%.”
“We’re here today in front of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s West Chester office to drive home the fact that we believe that over 50 percent of the budget magically, this elephant in the House, has failed to be discussed as we discuss taking away services that provide human needs,” said David Little of Progress Ohio.
“Any discussion that fails to address excesses in that budget is failing the American people.”
Little added that it was possible to support the troops and veterans without spending billions on pointless wars.
Butler County attorney and Navy veteran Bruce Carter said the military can be more efficient in what he called the changing mission.
“When you refuse to have a discussion on over half of the budget, that’s like trying to tell the Bengals to win a game without going over the 50 yard line,” he said.
The group had a letter to deliver to Boehner, which contained what they called a statement of principles.
“We believe in a holistic approach to the budget crisis, and in order to protect the middle-class, cuts to the Pentagon need to be at the forefront,” the letter states. “We understand that Pentagon cuts are a controversial issue, however, Pentagon cuts in the sequester do not threaten our national security.”
The letter suggests that some of the money currently being spent on the Defense Department goes to providing services for veterans.
The military accounted for about 52 percent — or $600 billion — of discretionary spending in fiscal year 2011.
In contrast, education, training and social services collectively made up 9 percent of the budget.
The group of four activists weren’t allowed into Boehner’s office, but a young staffer met them outside. He said that the speaker thought everything should be on the table when it came to budget cuts.
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.
In a 5-4 vote today, City Council approved a plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance deficits for the next two fiscal years and fund development projects in Downtown, but the plan is now being held up by a Hamilton County judge's temporary restraining order (TRO).
The plan was approved with an emergency clause, which means it is not subject to referendum, according to City Solicitor John Curp. Councilman Chris Seelbach joined the parking plan’s five supporters in approving the emergency clause, which is meant to expedite the plan’s implementation by removing a 30-day waiting period.
Shortly after the parking plan was approved by City Council, Judge Robert Winkler signed a TRO that will halt its implementation for at least one week. The judge’s action will provide enough time to process a lawsuit filed by Curt Hartman, an attorney who represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), on behalf of local activists who oppose the plan and argue it should be subject to referendum.
Mayor Mark Mallory says the emergency clause was passed to speed up the plan’s implementation in time for the budget that will begin July 1, not to suppress voters: “I don't think that any member of council has ever voted for an emergency clause in an effort to keep voters from being able to reverse the decision that the council is making, so I take exception with that characterization.”
The parking plan got its required fifth vote, up from a 4-3 vote in the Budget and Finance Committee Monday, from Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who abstained from voting in the committee meeting because she said she was concerned about the city’s long-term fiscal outlook. She says her concerns were eased after she read the leasing agreement and listened to a presentation from City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. that gave City Council a few options for fixing the city’s structural deficits.
The parking plan’s other supporters were council members Roxanne Qualls, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young. Council members Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted against the plan.
The plan, which CityBeat previously covered (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), will lease the city’s parking assets to fund development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown grocery store, and help balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years. The deal will produce a $92 million upfront payment, and the city projects that additional annual installments will generate more than $263 million throughout the lease’s duration.
Opponents say they are concerned the plan will give up too much control of the city’s parking meters and garages, which they say could lead to spikes in parking rates.
Under the initial plan, downtown rates will remain at $2 an hour and neighborhood rates will be hiked to 75 cents. Afterward, parking meter rates will be set to increase annually by 3 percent or the rate of inflation on a compounded basis, with actual increases coming in at 25-cents-an-hour increments. That should translate to 25-cent increases every three years for downtown and every six years for neighborhoods, according to Meg Olberding, city spokesperson.
The city will be able to bypass the so-called “cap” on parking meter rate increases through a unanimous vote from a five-person advisory committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The process, which begins with an advisory committee that will include four members appointed by the Port Authority and one selected by the city manager, will allow the city to raise and lower rates to adjust for changing economic needs, says Olberding.
Opponents also say the money from the parking plan is being used too quickly, which does little to alleviate the city’s structural deficits.
Dohoney previously argued the plan will help reduce the deficit by generating recurring revenues through long-term economic growth and development.
“The situation that we’re in requires that we accelerate growth right now, not later,” he said Monday. “If we do not do that, then we’re going to have further negative ramifications to deal with.”
With the lease agreement approved, it is now up to the Port Authority to develop and publicize the bond documents that will further detail the framework of the parking plan.
in the same meeting, City Council unanimously passed a resolution
asking the federal government to take up comprehensive immigration
Update: This story was updated to reflect Judge Robert Winkler's actions.
Despite problems with staff and records, a report is calling changes to Ohio’s youth prisons system a model for the nation. The report from a court-appointed monitor praised the Ohio Department of Youth Services for reducing the number of offenders in secure confinement and spreading services for youthful offenders around the state. However, the report also points out staff shortages, inadequate teachers and inconsistent medical records. Advocates for youthful offenders claim the bad findings show a need for continued court supervision.
There’s a new sheriff in town, and the old one is becoming a visiting judge. Simon Leis, who served as sheriff for 25 years, is best known for going after an allegedly obscene Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and prosecuting pornographer Larry Flynt. As visiting judge, he will take on cases other judges are assigned but can’t get to due to full dockets.
An appeals court is allowing City Gospel Mission to move to Queensgate. The special assistance shelter wants to move from its current Over-the-Rhine property to Dalton Avenue, but businesses and property owners at Queensgate oppose the relocation. In its opinion, the Ohio First District Court of Appeals said opponents to the relocation “have not raised any genuine issues of material fact in support of their constitutional attack upon the notwithstanding ordinance in their capacity as neighboring businesses and property owners.”
Butler County nonprofit services are worried that a greater need for their services in 2013 will force more budget tightening.
U.S. retailers did not have a good Christmas. Holiday sales were at the lowest they’ve been since 2008. The disappointing sales have forced retailers to offer big discounts in hopes of selling excess inventory.
Former president George H.W. Bush is in intensive care “following a series of setbacks including a persistent fever,” according to his spokesperson.
The Food and Drug Administration says FrankenFish, a giant, genetically modified salmon, is environmentally safe.
Fun fact: More Iranians worry about global warming than Americans.
Colleges are now helping students scrub their online footprints.
Antifreeze now tastes bitter to deter animals and children from eating it.
Scientists have developed a highly advanced robot boy capable of doing chores. Keep its face in mind, for you could be looking at the first of our future robot overlords.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
In case you missed it, CityBeat is hosting a party
for the final presidential debate at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. There
will be live tweeting, and Councilman Chris Seelbach will be on-hand to discuss this year's key issues. Even if you can’t come, make sure to live tweet during the
presidential debate using the hashtag #cbdebate. More info can be found
at the event’s Facebook page.
A new study found redistricting makes government even more partisan. The Fair Vote study says redistricting divides government into clear partisan boundaries by eliminating competitive districts. In Ohio, redistricting is handled by elected officials, and they typically use the process for political advantage by redrawing district boundaries to ensure the right demographics for re-election. Issue 2 attempts to combat this problem. If voters approve Issue 2, redistricting will be taken out of the hands of elected officials and placed into the hands of an independent citizens commission. The Republican-controlled process redrew the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, by adding Warren County to the district. Since Warren County typically votes Republican, this gives an advantage to Republicans in the First Congressional District. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting reform effort here.
Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel will face off in another debate for Ohio’s seat in the U.S. Senate today. The two candidates met Monday in a feisty exchange in which the men argued over their records and policies. Brown and Mandel will face off at 8 p.m. The debate will be streamed live on 10TV.com and Dispatch.com. Currently, the race is heavily in Brown’s favor; he is up 5.2 points in aggregate polling.
Cincinnati is moving forward with its bike sharing program. A new study found the program will attract 105,000 trips in its first year, and it will eventually expand to 305,000 trips a year. With the data in hand, Michael Moore, director of the Department of Transportation and Engineering, justified the program to The Business Courier: “We want Cincinnatians to be able to incorporate cycling into their daily routine, and a bike share program will help with that. Bike share helps introduce citizens to active transportation, it reduces the number of short auto trips in the urban core, and it promotes sustainable transportation options.”
Cincinnati’s school-based health centers are showing promise. Two more are scheduled to open next year.
Echoing earlier comments by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, Ohio Senate Republicans are now talking about using the lame duck session to take up a bill that would set standard early voting hours and tighten voting requirements. Republicans are promising broad consensus, but Democrats worry the move could be another Republican ploy at voter suppression. Republicans defend the law by saying it would combat voter fraud, but in-person voter fraud isn’t a real issue. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office found zero examples of in-person voter fraud in the last 10 years. Another investigation by News21 had similar results. Republicans have also justified making voting tougher and shorter by citing racial politics and costs.
A Hamilton County judge’s directive is causing trouble. Judge Tracie Hunter sent out a directive to hire a second court administrator because she believes the current county administrator is only working for the other juvenile judge. The county government is trying to figure out if Hunter has the authority to hire a new administrator.
This year’s school report card data held up a long-term
trend: Public schools did better than charter schools. In Ohio, the
average charter school meets slightly more than 30 percent of the
state’s indicators, while the average traditional public school meets 78
percent of the state’s indicators, according to findings from the
education policy fellow at left-leaning Innovation Ohio. The data for
all Ohio schools can be found here.
Some in the fracking industry are already feeling a bit of a bust. The gas drilling business is seeing demand rapidly drop, and that means $1 billion lost in profits. CityBeat wrote in-depth about the potential fracking bust here.
Ohio student loan debt is piling up. A report by Project
on Student Debt says Ohio has the seventh-highest student loan debt in
the nation with an average of $28,683 in 2011. That number is a 3.5
percent increase from 2010.
What if Abraham Lincoln ran for president today?
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could soon be reality. Scientists are developing a drug that removes bad memories during sleep.
Cincinnati City Council took the first step Tuesday in repealing the city's ban on owning Pit Bull terriers. Council's Livable Communities Committee voted 5-1 to support repeal, saying it was unfair to single out a specific breed for harsher treatment. Experts have said Pit Bulls aren't inherently vicious, and that their treatment and training by their owners is responsible for any bad behavior. Councilman Cecil Thomas opposed the repeal, stating he was concerned about “enforcement issues.” The full City Council could make a final decision as soon as this afternoon. CityBeat examined the ban in-depth here.
Police Chief James Craig met Tuesday morning with 19 ministers and community leaders in an Avondale church. Craig wants to create a partnership with clergy to combat youth violence and shootings. It was the second such session that Craig has held this month. Since police presence was increased in Avondale April 2, no more shootings have occurred in the neighborhood.
A Cincinnati police officer was hospitalized after being hurt for the second time on the job. Officer Jerry Enneking has survived four car crashes while on-duty. The 23-year police veteran was rear-ended in a five-car crash Tuesday. Seeing another driver trapped, Enneking ignored his own injuries and helped rescue the person.
Tim Tebow, the prayerful quarterback for the New York Jets, will be in town today for two events at Cincinnati Christian University in Price Hill. The first already is sold out, but there are $500 tickets still available for a banquet. Both events will focus on how Tebow balances his life in the NFL with his faith.
The School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in Over-the-Rhine is being awarded a $45,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The SCPA competed with more than 300 other groups for the cash, which will be used to support the school's Master's Artist Series and Artists in Residence programs for the next school year.
In news elsewhere, an ex-drilling engineer for BP Oil has been arrested on charges of intentionally destroying text messages sought by federal authorities as evidence in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. The charges of obstruction of justice filed against Kurt Mix, in the Eastern District of Louisiana, are the first criminal charges connected to the oil spill. If found guilty, Mix could face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each count.
As expected, Willard Mitt Romney swept the five Republican presidential primaries held Tuesday. The former Massachusetts governor got 67.4 percent of the vote in Connecticut, 56.5 percent in Delaware, 62.4 percent in New York, 58 percent in Pennsylvania, and 63.2 percent in Rhode Island. Most of the other GOP contenders have conceded the nomination race to Romney.
During the presidency of George W. Bush, the United States had the worst job creation record in decades, suffered the worst recession since the Great Depression and borrowed billions of dollars from China to support two wars. If you've been wondering how Romney or other Republican politicians running for office would do anything differently, wonder no more. Alexandra Franceschi, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said in an interview last week that the GOP's economic platform will be the same as that under Bush, just “updated.” There, voters: You have been warned.
A Brooklyn district attorney is resisting a public records request to divulge the names of 85 Orthodox Jews arrested on sex charges there during the past three years. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes says the "tight-knit" nature of the Orthodox community makes it impossible to disclose the identities of abuse suspects without also identifying their victims. A Jewish newspaper might file a legal challenge to the decision.
Despite numerous cuts to government spending in the name of austerity — or perhaps because of it, if you listen to some economists — the United Kingdom has now officially sunk into a double-dip recession, its first since the 1970s. Economic indicators reveal the U.K. economy has performed even more weakly since the current financial crisis began than in the Great Depression.