The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber released its positions on this November’s ballot issues. The chamber supports the Cincinnati Public Schools tax levy and Hamilton County mental health and services levy, but it does not support extending City Council’s terms to four years. The chamber also opposes Issue 2, which would place the redistricting process in the hands of an independent citizens commission instead of a commission run by politicians. The chamber said it opposes Issue 2 partially because it excludes “some Ohioans” from the redistricting process. The excluded Ohioans are lobbyists and politicians, who have a vested interest in redrawing district boundaries in politically advantageous ways in a process known as “gerrymandering.” In Cincinnati’s district, the district was redrawn by the Republican-controlled commission to include Warren County, which puts more emphasis on the rural vote that tends to vote Republican instead of the urban vote that tends to vote Democrat. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting issue here and here.
Related to Issue 2, the controversial ballot language that was approved by the state seems to be weighing down the amendment. Public Policy Polling said voters are confused by the ballot initiative.Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost found Value Learning and Teaching (VLT) Academy, a charter school in downtown Cincinnati, to be wasteful and unethical. According to a state audit, the school had multiple instances in the 2010-2011 school year in which it made excessive payments in possible conflicts of interest.
In another audit, Yost also criticized his own political party. Yost found the Ohio Republican Party accepted prohibited contributions and improperly spent money.A recent police chase that resulted in a crash and the the injury of minors is coming under scrutiny. The cop involved was found to be in violation of department procedure.
Even though he resigned abruptly, the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees is considering separation payments for former UC President Greg Williams. Board Chairman Fran Barrett says the payments will tie up “loose ends” and buyout Williams’ tenure.Gov. John Kasich is asking public colleges to collaborate on a funding formula. He says the schools should have a better idea than the state government of what they need. The schools previously collaborated on a construction wishlist, which apparently impressed Kasich.
A proposed state policy will force schools to keep better
track of who is kept in seclusion rooms and for how long, but the
details will be closed to the public.
The fired Democrats suing Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted will be getting their day in court. Yesterday, a federal judge agreed to a hearing on Sept. 21. The fired Democrats are suing Husted after he dismissed them for attempting to extend in-person early voting, which broke Husted’s uniform rules on voting hours.
Even Republicans are now demanding more substance from presidential candidate Mitt Romney.A North Dakota college football player says he got kicked off his team for kissing his boyfriend.
In February, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, from 7.9 percent in January, and the nation added 236,000 jobs. Many of the new jobs — about 48,000 — came from construction, while government employment saw a drop even before sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts, began on March 1. Economists seem quite positive about the report.
In January, Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent, from 6.7 percent in December, with the number of unemployed in the state rising to 399,000, from 385,000 the month before. Goods-producing and service-providing industries and local government saw a rise in employment, while jobs were lost in trade, transportation, utilities, financial activities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, state government and federal government. In January, U.S. unemployment rose to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in December.
A new report outlined renovations for the city-owned Tower Place Mall, which is getting a makeover as part of Cincinnati’s parking plan. A lot of the retail space in the mall will be replaced to make room for parking that will be accessed through what is currently Pogue’s Garage, but two rings of retail space will remain, according to the report. The parking plan was approved by City Council Wednesday, but it was temporarily halted by a Hamilton County judge. The legal contest has now moved to federal court, and it’s set to get a hearing today.
Meet the mayoral candidates through CityBeat’s two extensive Q&As: Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley. Qualls spoke mostly about her support for immigration, the parking plan and streetcar, while Cranley discussed his opposition to the parking plan and streetcar and some of his ideas for Cincinnati.
A Hamilton County court ruled against the controversial traffic cameras in Elmwood Place, and the Ohio legislature is considering a statewide ban on the cameras. In his ruling, Judge Robert Ruehlman pointed out there were no signs making motorists aware of the cameras and the cameras are calibrated once a year by a for-profit operator. The judge added, “Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-card Monty. … It is a scam that motorists can’t win.” Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced to prohibit traffic cameras in Ohio.
JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit corporation, quietly got $5.3 million in state grants, even though the state legislature only appropriated $1 million for startup costs. JobsOhio says it needed the extra funds because legal challenges have held up liquor profits that were originally supposed to provide funding. In the past few days, State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, has been pushing Republican Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio to release more details about the nonprofit corporation’s finances, but Kasich and JobsOhio have been pushing back.
Advocates for Ohio’s charter schools say Kasich’s budget amounts to a per-pupil cut, with funding dropping from $5,704 per pupil to $5,000 plus some targeted assistance that ranges from hundreds of dollars to nothing depending on the school. A previous CityBeat report on online schools found traditional public schools get about $3,193 per student — much less than the funding that apparently goes to charter schools.
Fountain Square will be getting a new television from Cincinnati-based LSI Industries with the help of Fifth-Third Bank and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The new video board will have better image quality and viewing angles, but it will also come with more screen space for sponsors.
Ohio’s casino revenues rose in January. That could be a good sign for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which opened Monday.
In light of recent discussion, Popular Science posted a Q&A on drones.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The final presidential debate is tonight. It will cover
foreign policy. The debate will likely focus on the recent attack on
the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya and Iran’s nuclear program. Whatever happens, political
scientists say debates typically have little-to-no electoral impact. In
aggregate polling, Obama is up 2.2 points in Ohio and Romney is up 0.3 points nationally. Ohio is considered a must-win for Romney, and it could play the role of 2000's Florida. The debate begins at 9 p.m. It will be streamed live on YouTube and C-SPAN.
CityBeat will host a debate party tonight at MOTR
Pub in Over-the-Rhine from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Come watch the debate and live
tweet. Councilman Chris Seelbach will make an appearance. If you can’t
show up, at least tweet if you watch the debate with the hashtag
#cbdebate. Check out the event’s Facebook page for more information.
If Gov. John Kasich gets his way, 60 percent of bachelor’s
degrees will be completable in three years by 2014. The move intends to
raise graduation rates and save money for students. Currently, very few
students graduate in three years. Only 1 percent of Miami University
students and 2 percent of University of Cincinnati students graduate
Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a new education
policy approved by Kasich that requires all students to be proficient in
reading in third grade before they can move onto fourth grade, could
cause 40 percent of students to be held back in some schools.
The policy is meant to encourage better progress and higher reading standards, but some studies
have found retention has negative effects on children.
The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati announced a merger and expansion into Dayton. The organization will now be called the Urban League of Southwest Ohio.
Greater Cincinnati home sales ticked up in September, but there was some slowdown.
The end of the Scripps trust that funded the Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Company could lead to the end of a few newspapers. But Ohio will not be affected; the company no longer owns newspapers in the state.
Plant identification has never been easier at Cincinnati parks.
University of Cincinnati researchers are using a $2.7 million grant to see if there’s a difference between generic versus brand drugs for transplant patients. The study could potentially save money and lives.
Tired of traditional bridges? Meet the trampoline bridge.
Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,” according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education.
Chris Monzel is now in charge
of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as
president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice
president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.
City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost. City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost $130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility for about $40,000.
Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges.
King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions.
Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality. Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea.
An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring.
Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president.
Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world, say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world.
Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.
A new report from the state auditor found Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and Winton Woods City Schools were manipulating attendance data for the 2011-2012 school year, but the report seems to lay much of the blame on state policy, not just irresponsible school districts.
CPS and Winton Woods were cited among nine school districts by State Auditor Dave Yost for improperly withdrawing students from enrollment. More than 70 other schools had errors in their attendance reporting, but they were not found to be purposely manipulating — or “scrubbing” — attendance data.
The report largely focused on flaws in state policy that enable bad attendance reporting — particularly a single “count week” in October that encourages school districts to boost attendance during that one week and no other time in the school year.
“Kids count every day, all year long,” Yost said in a statement. “They deserve better than what we're giving them — Ohio's current system for measuring attendance and performance is obsolete and in too many places, filled with error and bad information and even outright fraud. It's amazing that it works at all, and sometimes, it doesn't.”
As a solution, Yost is calling on legislators to change school funding so it’s based on year-long attendance reporting.
The report also made 12 other recommendations, including increased oversight and monitoring, more programs for at-risk students, better training, use of automated data reporting, more accessibility to pertinent information for the Ohio Department of Education and clearer rules.
Winton Woods was one of the few schools to self-report issues to the auditor. Jim Smith, interim superintendent of Winton Woods, admits the school made mistakes and will make adjustments. But he says most of the issues were explained away as errors, not intentional data manipulation. Only four of the 15 issues couldn’t be reasonably explained, according to Smith.
Smith says the Education Management Information System (EMIS), which is used to report attendance data, is problematic for highly mobile
students, particularly in urban school districts. He argues the system
is too complicated and difficult to use for tracking such students.
In a Feb. 8 press release, Winton Woods claimed the reporting issues were related to confusion regarding expelled students, poor record keeping and a lack of well-defined procedures and reporting systems.
In an emailed statement, CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan wrote the school district made mistakes, but internal audits did not find evidence of data manipulation or scrubbing. She linked the errors to confusing state policy and issues with highly mobile students.
School attendance data is one of many ways states measure school performance, as required by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Update (Feb. 12, 10:29 a.m.): Originally, this story did not include comments from CPS. It was updated to reflect comments CityBeat obtained after publishing.
The Ohio Department of Education is caught in a bit of a mess. This morning, the state auditor’s office announced it would be conducting a probe into the Ohio Department of Education over school test and attendance data. Yesterday, Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner said the Ohio Department of Education will be investigating more schools for possible instances of fraudulent data reporting. The superintendent’s announcement came on the same day Lockland School Districts were found to be reporting false attendance data for better test results.
Delta Airlines announced it will be closing down Comair, which is headquartered in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. The move could have a significant impact on jobs in the region.
Only 6,000 out of 140,000 eligible Ohioans have initiated a foreclosure review process, according to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. The review could potentially save Ohioans a lot of money.
The Ohio Supreme Court still thinks Ohio’s smoking ban is constitutional.
Skype is making chat and user data more accessible to police.
There is now a reason to be jealous of Kansas City. Google will be offering its ultra-fast Internet service in the area for only $70 a month.
Nearly one in five voters thinks President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Mitt Romney had a bad couple days during his trip to London: An aide allegedly made racist comments about Obama’s commitment to “Anglo-Saxon heritage,” Romney questioned if London is ready to host the Olympics, and he talked about meeting with the leader of MI6, the British intelligence agency. And he said he’s excited to return the “bust of Winston Churchill” to the Oval Office. Whatever that means.
Nobody has a case of the Mondays, according to a new study in the Journal of Positive Psychology.
Scientists have found a way to temporarily restore eyesight in blind mice. But it requires a direct chemical injection into the eyes.
President Barack Obama will visit Cincinnati Monday. No
details were given for the event. Last time Obama was in
Cincinnati, he held a town hall meeting to tout his support for small
businesses and the LGBT community. Ohio is considered a vital swing
state for the presidential election, and it’s widely considered a
must-win for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. However, after the
Democratic National Convention, aggregate polling at FiveThirtyEight and
RealClearPolitics hugely favors Obama, establishing many paths for the
Democrat to clinch the presidency. Obama could lose Ohio, Virginia and
Florida and still win the election, which shows how many options he has to victory.
The 2013 Hamilton County budget process is “challenging,” says Commissioner Greg Hartmann. He says the county is dealing with a $200 million budget instead of the $300 million budget of six years ago, which is presenting new problems. Hamilton County Sheriff Si Leis said budget cuts could lead to up to 500 jail bed cuts. CityBeat previously covered the county commissioners’ inability to tackle challenging budget issues — sometimes at the cost of the taxpayer.
State Auditor Dave Yost says his investigation into attendance fraud at Ohio schools could last well into the year. The investigation, which began after Lockland Schools in Hamilton County were found of attendance fraud, is slowed down by the state’s data-reporting system, according to Yost. Schools may falsely alter their attendance reports to improve grades in the state report card.Secretary of State Jon Husted has been sued again. This time he’s being sued by the Democratic Montgomery County election officials he fired. The officials tried to expand in-person early voting hours in Montgomery County to include weekend voting, but the move violated Husted’s call for uniform hours across the state.
The Ohio EPA will host a workshop in Cincinnati on Sept. 25. The workshop will focus on the Ohio Clean Fund and other tools and incentives to help individuals and groups embrace clean energy.
For the first time since December, Ohio's tax collections were lower than expected. The state was $43 million below estimates in August.
A study found wind power could meet the world’s energy needs. Wind currently supplies 4.1 percent of the United States’ energy needs. Obama greatly boosted the production of wind energy with tax credits. Romney vowed to repeal the tax credits in a brief moment of substance.
Mitt Romney’s big loss is finally getting to Ohio Republicans. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus made procedural moves to block the heartbeat bill from a vote before the end of the lame-duck session. Niehaus, a Republican, said his decision was largely influenced by Romney’s loss on Nov. 6. When the heartbeat bill was originally proposed, it was labeled the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country. It banned abortion as soon as a heartbeat was detected, which can happen six weeks into pregnancy. It made no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. CityBeat recently wrote about the GOP's renewed anti-abortion agenda, but if Republicans begin taking lessons from the most recent election, the renewed agenda will never come to light.
The Ohio House of Representatives approved Cincinnati’s tougher school report card standards. An early simulation of the proposed system in May showed Cincinnati Public Schools would drop from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A. The bill will also impose more regulations and oversight on charter schools. As part of the overall reform, the state is replacing its standardized tests, but some Democrats are worried the new tests and system will be too tough on schools.
Standard & Poor's is not optimistic about Cincinnati. The firm gave the city’s debt rating a negative outlook due to structural budget problems. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says ratings firms are looking for spending cuts or revenue growth from Cincinnati to achieve structurally balanced budgets in the next two years, but Dohoney’s most recent budget proposal largely balances the deficit with a one-time source from privatizing parking services. On the other hand, pursuing austerity during a weak economic recovery is a bad idea.
The Cincinnati Fire Department says it doesn’t have enough personnel to man fire trucks. The problem is only getting worse as retirements increase, according to Fire Chief Richard Braun.
The University of Cincinnati’s campus was ranked among the most dangerous in the country.
Ohio has some of the lowest graduation rates in the Midwest. Low-income, black and Hispanic students are all much less likely to graduate than their wealthier and white peers.
Gov. John Kasich met with college and university leaders today to discuss higher education. After the meeting, Kasich and the leaders suggested attaching state funding to graduation rates, among other reforms.
It looks like Ohio’s financial institutions tax bill will make it through the Ohio Senate without major changes. The bill was already passed by the Ohio House. A memo from nonprofit research organization Policy Matters Ohio recommended making changes so the bill cuts tax loopholes without cutting rates on big banks. Zach Schiller, research director from Policy Matters, said in the memo, “Big banks aren’t better banks, as their role in the recent financial crisis made clear. It is questionable policy for the state to favor them with lower rates.”
It’s official: Cincinnati is “cougar capital of Ohio.”
Heart-lifting story of the day: A New York City cop helped a homeless person by buying him a pair of boots.
Has the modern art world lost touch with its audience?
NASA confirmed the presence of ice water on Mercury.
President Barack Obama is in town today. Expect some coverage from CityBeat this afternoon. Last time Obama was in Cincinnati, he discussed gay rights, small business support and girl scout cookies. Ohio is typically considered a must-win for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but he is currently losing in aggregate polls.
Ohio Rep. Connie Pillich of Cincinnati criticized the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees for former UC President Greg Williams’ severance package. She told The Enquirer, “It’s really disappointing that the trustees would make such a decision while so many students and families are struggling with rising tuition costs. As the trustees vote to needlessly spend over a million dollars, the University is trying to decide how to fund $10 million for the Cintrifuse project and students are taking out more loans to pay a tuition that was increased by 3.5 percent this year.” Williams got a package totaling $1.3 million after abruptly leaving the university, citing personal reasons. Despite the allegedly rocky past between the Board and Williams, the Board of Trustees insists it did not force him out.
Local governments setting 2013 budgets are feeling big cuts from the state government’s Local Government Fund.
Eligible residents could save $163 a year with natural gas thanks to a new aggregation program in Cincinnati. The city announced Friday it's working on the new plan with Duke Energy, and customers should get details about the deal soon. The city says the deal will reach about 64,000 residents and small businesses.
Voter fraud is still not a widespread problem. A Butler County Tea Party group found zero complaints with sufficient proof to remove anyone from the voter rolls.
As part of its expansion at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, DHL is adding 300 jobs.
U.S. senatorial candidate Josh Mandel of Ohio claims he
has seen a recent surge in the polls, closing a 13-point gap. But a new
poll from Rasmussen Reports, which typically has a Republican-leaning
in-house effect, says Mandel is still very far from Sen. Sherrod Brown
in the polls with an eight-point gap. Aggregate polls show Brown leads
Mandel by 7.2 points.
There is a lot of criticism being hurled at public charter schools. While some charter schools are successful, some have serious financial and educational problems. Critics say the schools need tougher standards.Romney is facing criticism for saying middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less. However, Obama made a similar distinction in the past when he said income up to $250,000 is middle class. The reason for this strange distinction from both sides — most Americans would find $250,000 to be beyond middle class — is to protect small businesses. Typically, politicians try to bundle up small businesses with middle class protections, and taxing income between $200,000 and $250,000 as if it’s not middle class could potentially hurt small businesses.
Dissatisfied with the lack of innovation in the iPhone 5? Apparently, you might be alone.
Scientists can now levitate fluids with ultrasonic sound.