City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has proposed changing Cincinnati’s litter laws to allow for a full refund of fines for first-time violators if they remedy the problem within 10 days of being cited.
Currently, when the city issues citations for littered properties, owners can recoup half their money if they clean up the property within that time period.
The proposal already has the signatures of six other City Council members, giving it enough support for passage.
Sittenfeld's proposal is an acknowledgement that illegal dumping is widespread in Cincinnati, he said, and the problem isn’t always the fault of the owner.
Of all customer service requests to the city in 2011, more than 9,000 — or 14.2 percent of all requests — were related to litter, making it the single most frequent complaint.
Sittenfeld timed the proposal’s introduction to coincide with the Great American Cleanup and Earth Day, both of which happen this weekend.
To increase the public’s interest, Sittenfeld is asking residents to take a before-and-after picture of the area they clean up over the next week, and send the photos to his council office no later than April 27. Sittenfeld will then personally mow the lawn of whoever has the most dramatic cleanup.
The photos may be mailed to email@example.com.
Ohio ranked No. 8 among states for solar jobs in 2013, with solar employment growing to 3,800 from 2,900 over the year, according to the Feb. 11 census report from the Solar Foundation.
Still, the state actually dropped five spots to No. 23 in per-capita rankings, which measure the amount of solar jobs relative to a state’s overall population.
The U.S. solar industry employed more than 142,000 Americans in November, representing an increase of nearly 24,000 over the year, according to the Solar Foundation. At nearly 20 percent growth, the solar sector grew more than 10 times faster than the overall economy, which on average increased employment by 1.9 percent.
Advocacy group Environment Ohio applauded the latest numbers.
“The sun is an unlimited energy source that could provide all of our energy without the air and water pollution associated with coal, oil and gas,” said Christian Adams, state associate at Environment Ohio, in a statement. “This report shows that the solar industry is putting people to work to meet a growing percentage of our energy needs with a pollution-free energy source that has no fuel costs.”
Environment Ohio praised Cincinnati in particular. In 2012, Cincinnati became the first major city in the nation to support 100 percent renewable energy through electric aggregation. Last year, City Council adopted a motion to put solar panels on one in five city rooftops by 2028 and develop new financing programs to support the goal.
In a 2012 report, Environment Ohio found Cincinnati could become the solar capital of the region and lead a boom of solar jobs.
Under a 2008 state law, utility companies must meet benchmarks that require them to get 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, hydro, biomass and solar, and save 22 percent of electricity through new efficiency efforts by 2025.
A 2013 report from the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found the law will save Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014 and 2025.
Pressured by Akron-based FirstEnergy and the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate is currently looking for ways to weaken the renewable energy and efficiency standards. The renewed effort comes after attempts to dismantle the law by State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who often compare Ohio’s energy law to Stalinism, failed to gain support.
Meanwhile, Environment Ohio says the state should actually increase its standards to help combat global warming and boost renewable energy jobs.
The Enquirer today broke out its Freedom of the Press Card, pressing the city to release details of the bids to build the streetcar's five vehicles. Enquirer Editor and Vice President Carolyn Washburn says the newspaper is being a good watchdog by investigating all the redacted parts of documents released by the city, which reportedly include typical streetcar parts, performance data and personal information of employees. A firm called CAF USA, which won the bid for more than $20 million, is trying to block the release of the data, along with two losing bidders who claim the information is trade secret.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear are considering a private-public partnership that includes tolls to fund renovations to the Brent Spence Bridge.
President Obama enjoyed an enthusiastic welcome from Los Angeles LGBT supporters at an event in Beverly Hills. Republicans are saying Obama is being all glitzy in California so he's out of touch with Americans' struggles.
The U.S. is losing patience with Pakistan, too.
George Zimmerman's bond hearing has been set for June 29. He returned to jail on Sunday after a judge revoked his bond for failing to disclose $135,000 in funds raised for his legal defense.
Do you use LinkedIn or eHarmony? Well, you shouldn't. Also, both sites were hacked and had user passwords breached.
A car called the Honda Fit EV has earned the highest ever miles-per-gallon equivalency rating from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — 118 mpg.
More than 80 lawsuits by former NFL players have been consolidated and filed in a Philadelphia federal court, accusing the league of hiding details that linked head trauma to permanent brain injuries. The NFL denies culpability.
The Reds are still in first place.
Dan Whitten, a vice president at America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a Washington-based trade group, had already expressed opposition to the idea, on March 8 telling Bloomberg in an email: “Natural-gas production is a capital-intensive undertaking and we believe generally that fees should be directed to communities where we work, with careful consideration of the possible direct jobs impacts.”
Other trade organizations today spoke out against the increased tax rates, as they would prefer to take all the energy out of Ohio’s land and not pay higher taxes.
Thomas Steward, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer that his organization will fight the tax increase when the plan goes before lawmakers.
"This sounds like something that would have come from the left," Steward said.
Among the methods of extracting the natural gas is a controversial process called fracking, which involves blasting pressurized slurries of water, chemicals and sand into ancient shale formations, thousands of feet below ground. CityBeat reported on Jan. 24 that 43 households have filed a class-action lawsuit in response various environmental hazards allegedly caused by fracking in Geauga County, Ohio. From the story:
Fracking in Ohio is booming rapidly, thanks in part to the barely tapped potential of the vast Utica Shale, a gassy, 445-million-year-old rock formation that lies beneath a third of the state, at a depth of around 7,000 feet. Until last year, only three permits had been granted for horizontal drilling into the Utica, but in 2011 the number exceeded 40.
In 2004 Ohio’s State Legislature repealed the abilities of elected local governments to regulate or refuse gas drilling, instead handing full authority to the industry-friendly Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). In 2005, the U.S. Congress ruled to exempt fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The gas extraction
process has been found to be so environmentally detrimental that
France and Bulgaria have banned the practice in their countries. New
Jersey is the only U.S. state where it is banned. CityBeat in
January reported that State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Price Hill) had
sponsored one of three state bills that would tighten fracking
regulations and Rep. Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown) introduced a bill to
put a moratorium on wastewater injection.
Kasich’s interest in reducing income taxes comes one year after his two-year budget cost counties, municipalities and townships $167.1 million, according the The Columbus Dispatch, which described the plan’s impact on the state in the following manner: “Kasich's budget slashes aid to local governments: Tuition hikes limited to 3.5% for higher education.”
Ohio’s budget deficit was $8 billion when Kasich offered his 2011 budget, which his administration said would save $1.4 billion through reform measures that included reduced funding for social service programs such as the health and developmental disability departments.
Despite the still existing state budget deficit, Kasich wants to reduce income taxes, even though his spokesman Scott Milburn proudly told Bloomberg that, “the governor has already cut taxes by more than $800 million.”
More than 200 people attended Imago’s Earth Spirit Rising conference at Xavier University this weekend, where they were challenged to rethink their actions and their effect on the planet.
Speaker Paula Gonzalez, a Dominican nun and futurist, cast the challenges ahead in stark terms: “We must realize the scale of our times, which is on the scale of transitions like going from hunter-gathering to agriculture, or industrialization. You must take the messages of this conference home in your heart, in your soul, in your gut, and get off your butt and act.”
CityBeat is participating in a City Council candidate forum on Oct. 5. Have any questions you would like to ask candidates? Submit them here.
Ohio legislators appear ready to weaken environmental and energy regulations after months of lobbying by Akron, Ohio-based utility company FirstEnergy. The utility company argues the regulations, particularly energy efficiency standards that require customers use less electricity, cost businesses and customers too much money. But environmental groups and other supporters of the rules say FirstEnergy is just looking out for its own self-interests while putting up a front of caring about others. A study by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy coalition found eliminating the energy efficiency standards would cost Ohioans $3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the next 12 years. State Sen. Bill Seitz, who’s spearheading the regulation-weakening efforts, formally introduced his bill yesterday, and business groups say it’s a backdoor way to eliminate energy efficiency standards and the in-state renewable business by weakening them so much.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati on Tuesday announced it won a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of local efforts to draw down dirty energy production and replace it with clean sources. The Cincinnati area currently produces nearly 408 million kilowatt-hours through green energy sources, which is enough to cancel out nearly 60,000 cars’ emissions and meet 14 percent of the community’s purchased electricity use, according to city officials. To commemorate the award, Mayor Mark Mallory unveiled a Green Power Community sign at the Cincinnati Zoo, which installed solar panels on its parking lot in 2011 and became one of the region’s leading clean energy producers.Raw health insurance premiums for Obamacare’s online marketplaces will be 16 percent lower than previously projected, according to the latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released less than one week before marketplaces open on Oct. 1. In Ohio, the average family of four making $50,000 a year will have to pay $282 a month after tax credits for the second cheapest “silver” plan, or $486 less than the plan would cost without tax credits. Under Obamacare, online marketplaces will allow consumers to compare and purchase subsidized health insurance plans in the individual market. The plans only apply to the individual market, which means the majority of Americans, who are currently getting insurance through an employer or public programs, will be under a different insurance system and won’t qualify for the online marketplaces’ tax subsidies. CityBeat covered outreach efforts for the online marketplaces — and Republican attempts to obstruct them — in further detail here.
Commentary: “Let Them Eat Nothing?”
The Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s unofficial third party, yesterday endorsed Roxanne Qualls for mayor. The endorsement comes as little surprise to most election-watchers, considering the Charter Committee has endorsed Qualls four times over the years.
The Cincinnati Enquirer is displeased it couldn’t cover a private mayoral debate between Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley because the group hosting the debate closed its doors to the public.
Ohio Democrats yesterday made their endorsements for 2014: Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald for governor, former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper for attorney general, State Sen. Nina Turner for secretary of state, State Rep. Connie Pillich for state treasurer and Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell for the Ohio Supreme Court.
This infographic released by an anti-privatization group shows the negative impact of private prisons. CityBeat covered Ohio’s own privately owned prison and the problems it’s faced, including rising violence, in further detail here.
A federal grand jury charged a North Canton man for allegedly making illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. Both candidates returned the campaign contributions after they became public in stories published by the Toledo Blade and The New Republic.
A 43-year-old Hamilton man allegedly used a poison-laced knife to stab his brother-in-law.
A supposedly sexist gorilla is getting kicked out of the Dallas Zoo after 18 years.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is under fire for alleged voter suppression once again. In response to recent court rulings on provisional ballots, Husted sent out a directive on Nov. 2 that shifts the burden of proper identification during the provisional ballot process from poll workers to voters. The directive may not even be legal, according to a lawsuit quickly filed by voters’ rights activists in response to the new rule: “Ohio Rev. Code § 3505.181(B)(6) provides that, once a voter casting a provisional ballot proffers identification, ‘the appropriate local election official shall record the type of identification provided, the social security number information, the fact that the affirmation was executed, or the fact that the individual declined to execute such an affirmation and include that information with the transmission of the ballot.’”
President Barack Obama was at the University of Cincinnati yesterday to make a closing argument to Ohioans. In his speech, Obama compared his own ideas and policies to those of Bill Clinton, while comparing Mitt Romney’s ideas and policies to those of George W. Bush. With just two days of voting left, all eyes are on Ohio as it could play the decisive role in the presidential election. In aggregate polling, Obama is up 2.9 points in Ohio and 0.4 points nationally. FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times’ election forecast model, has Obama at an 86.8 percent chance to win Ohio and an 86.3 percent chance to win the election.
Early voters packed polling places around the state yesterday. The line around the Hamilton County Board of Elections wrapped around the entire building for much of the day. Butler County had a lot of early voters as well. Early voting was only available to all Ohioans yesterday thanks to a lawsuit from Obama and Democrats, which opened up in-person early voting during the weekend and Monday before Election Day despite strong opposition from state Republicans.
Election Day may be tomorrow, but the entire process may not be finished at the end of the day. In 2008, Ohio took weeks to count the last 490,852 ballots.
Slate reenacted the entire presidential campaign, from finding the Republican nominee to today, through video games.
Some in northeast Ohio are still without power due to Hurricane Sandy’s fallout. Most people affected are in Cleveland and surrounding suburbs.
Ohio gas prices are dropping.
Early results from air quality tests show no signs of pollution near shale gas drilling wells. But the results are early, and more tests are ongoing. CityBeat wrote in-depth about fracking and concerns surrounding the process here.
The deadline for Ohio’s exotic animal registration is today. The new requirement came about after an Ohio man released 50 exotic animals, including some dangerous predators, shortly before committing suicide in 2011.
A lonely Asian elephant learned how to speak some Korean, and scientists want to know how and why.
A healthy environment for learning makes sense, but a school as a green school as “learning tool” – what does that mean?
Find out on April 23, 5 - 7:30 p.m. at the Pleasant Ridge Montessori School (5945 Montgomery Rd. - rear entrance) when the Green and Healthy Schools network explains the concept.
With a resolution passed Wednesday, City Council is urging state legislators to maintain the energy efficiency standards that helped drive Cincinnati’s clean energy growth.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, sent out a memo Feb. 1 that suggested “a meaningful review” of the state’s energy efficiency standards, which were previously established by Senate Bill 221 in 2008 and Senate Bill 315 in 2012. In the memo, Seitz wrote he was open to freezing and weakening some of the established standards.
Environmental groups responded by calling on local governments to defend the standards. In Cincinnati, the
call was picked up by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who touted
the city’s past clean energy efforts in a statement: “Cincinnati has
made great strides in energy efficiency by seeking cost savings while
boosting our city’s green image. Energy efficiency is helping Cincinnati
support a double bottom line of environmental and economic
sustainability, and we endorse full implementation of our state
The city estimates it saves $1 million a year on energy bills because of the law’s efficiency programs, which includes upgrades and weatherization projects.
Christian Adams, a clean energy associate of Environment Ohio, praised Cincinnati for passing the resolution in a statement: “From efficiency to solar, Cincinnati [is] a state leader on clean energy, and it’s proving to be a win-win-win for consumers, the environment and the economy. If state lawmakers want to change our clean energy law, they should follow Cincinnati’s lead and double-down on wind, solar and energy efficiency.”
In a previous report, Environment Ohio claimed Cincinnati could become the solar energy capital of the region. CityBeat covered the report and Cincinnati’s — particularly the Cincinnati Zoo’s — success with solar energy (“Solar Cincinnati,” issue of Dec. 19).