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by German Lopez 11.05.2012
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Morning News and Stuff

Today is the last day of in-person early voting. Find your correct polling booth here. Check out CityBeat’s endorsements here.

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.

The groundwork is already being laid out for an amendment legalizing same-sex marriage in Ohio, which could be on the ballot as soon as November 2013.

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.

 
 
by 03.18.2009
Posted In: Government, Public Policy, Environment, News, Community at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Stealing Elections and the New Ohio Economy

Ohio, like every other state, has “issues.” When it comes to the political kind we’ve had more controversial elections than most in the recent past. On the other end of the spectrum – how we’re like everyone else – the “new economy” is supposed to be here any minute and it’s all green.

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by German Lopez 01.16.2013
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Morning News and Stuff

New restrooms stalled, Medicaid expansion saves money, there is no “climate debate”

City Council wants to do more research before it proceeds with freestanding public restrooms in downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The vote has been delayed. Critics say the restrooms are too expensive at $130,000, but supporters, particularly Councilman Chris Seelbach, insist the restrooms will not be that expensive. A majority of City Council argues the restrooms are necessary because increasing populations and growth in downtown have made 24-hour facilities necessary.

A new report found Ohio’s budget would benefit from a Medicaid expansion. The expansion would mostly save money by letting the federal government pick up a much larger share of the cost for Ohio’s population, particularly prison inmates. A previous study found Medicaid expansions were correlated with better health results, including decreased mortality rates, in some states. Another study from the Arkansas Department of Human Services found the state would save $378 million by 2025 with the Medicaid expansion. Most of the savings from the Arkansas study would come from uncompensated care — costs that are placed on health institutions and state and local governments when uninsured patients that can’t and don’t pay use medical services.

The Dayton Daily News has a wonderful example of how not to do journalism. In an article on the supposed “climate debate,” the newspaper ignored the near-unanimous scientific consensus on global warming and decided to give credence to people who deny all scientific reasoning. To be clear, there is no climate debate. There’s the overwhelming majority of scientists, climatologists and data on one side, and there’s the pro-oil, pro-coal lobby and stubborn, irrational conservatives who will deny anything that hurts their interests on the other side.

The Ohio Board of Education approved policies for seclusion rooms. The non-binding policy requires parents to be notified if their children are placed in a seclusion room, and the Ohio Department of Education can also request data, even though it won’t be made public. More stringent policies may come in the spring. Seclusion rooms are supposed to be used to hold out-of-control kids, but an investigation from The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio found the rooms were being abused by teachers and school staff for their convenience. 

If the city wants to buy Tower Place, the mall will have to be cleared out, according to City Manager Milton Dohoney. Last week, the remaining businesses at Tower Place were evicted, and Dohoney said the city did not sign off on the eviction orders. Apparently, the city really didn’t agree to or enforce eviction orders, but the city’s buyout requires evictions. Dohoney said the eviction notices should signify the deal to buy Tower Place is moving forward.

Dohoney appointed Captain Paul Humphries to the assistant chief position for the Cincinnati Police Department. Humphries has been on the force for 26 years, and he currently serves as the chief of staff to Chief James Craig.

Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP) is targeting Mt. Airy and Carthage. Starting March 1, police, businesses and civic groups will begin putting together accelerated revitalization and reinvestment plans for the communities. NEP emphasizes building code enforcement, crime, neighborhood cleanup and beautification.

Good news, everyone. Cincinnati is no longer the bedbug capital.

Bob Castellini, owner of the Reds, was named the region’s master entrepreneur by Northern Kentucky University.

The Ohio Department of Transportation released a website that has real-time traffic information.

Some people really suck at political slogans.

Oh, science. Apparently, particle physics could improve Netflix’s suggestions.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.08.2013
Posted In: Governor, News, Environment, Economy, Government at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tedstrickland

Morning News and Stuff

Strickland won't run in 2014, county reviewing MSD, freestanding restroom underway

Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland will not run for governor in 2014. In a statement released today, the Democrat who previously served four years as governor did not give a reason for why he won’t run. But he did promise his wife and him will “continue to be politically active private citizens.” Strickland also touted his accomplishments as governor, including energy, health care, social services and property tax reform. In September, Strickland faced criticism from the left for pushing for the Democratic platform to include a mention of God and a proclamation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The platform amendment contradicts decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Hamilton County wants an efficiency review of the Metropolitan Sewer District. Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel ordered the review. He says he expects “things at the Metropolitan Sewer District are being managed and operated in a highly efficient and effective manner,” but he wants to make sure. MSD is currently taking part in a multi-billion dollar, federally mandated upgraded system. CityBeat wrote about MSD’s green initiatives here.

Findlay Market might soon host Cincinnati’s first freestanding restroom. If it goes well, it could be the start of a much bigger city-wide project, and freestanding restrooms will be built all around downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The test facility is being touted by Councilman Chris Seelbach and other city officials as they seek to provide better access to restrooms throughout the city.

Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing a possible ethics investigation from the Ohio House of Representatives. The controversy was prompted by a recently filed lawsuit, which alleges Beck participated in a fraud that cheated investors out of more than $1.2 million.

Some local educators are supporting the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio. The rooms, which are enclosed spaces used to calm or restrain children who become violent, have come under criticism after an investigation from StateImpact Ohio and The Columbus Dispatch found the rooms were being abused for the convenience of staff. Ohio does not currently regulate the use of seclusion rooms, but that is likely to change in an upcoming Ohio Board of Education meeting.

On the bright side, Ohio has the 10th best education laws, according to a study from StudentsFirst. Overall, Ohio got a C-, making it one of the 12 states to get a B or C. No state received an A. StateImpact Ohio has more on the grade here. State officials probably understand how I felt when I dropped out of a college history class because the professor was too strict of a grader. Then again, state education systems are probably more important than Colonial History 101.

The Blue Wisp, home of the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is looking to renegotiate its lease. Over the holidays, restaurant hero and Blue Wisp manager Ed Felson told customers his jazz-themed restaurant and club is having financial problems.

The most emailed phrase while committing fraud at work is “cover up.”

One major problem with prolonged space missions: Humans become lazy and sleepy. It seems like being an astronaut isn’t different from any other job. Who can we rely on when aliens finally invade?

 
 
by German Lopez 07.18.2013
Posted In: News, Fracking, Environment at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Boom, Bust or Both?

Report: Ohio’s Fracking Protections Fall Short

Environment Ohio finds taxpayers could be forced to pay millions for cleanups

A report released today suggests Ohio taxpayers could be on the hook for costs if something goes wrong at an oil and gas drilling operation.

The report from advocacy group Environment Ohio looks at the costs related to “fracking,” an extraction technique that involves pumping millions of gallons of water underground to unlock oil and gas reserves.

Recent technological advancements have spurred a boom in fracking, leading to hundreds of new wells in Ohio and thousands more around the nation.

When oil and gas companies obtain a permit to build a fracking well, they typically have to provide some financial assurance to the state in case something goes wrong. In Ohio, that assurance comes through bonds and specific insurance requirements.

If a well operation is completed without a problem, the cost of the bonds is returned to the operator. If something goes wrong, the company has to fix the mess before it gets its money back.

But Environment Ohio finds companies in Ohio only have to secure $5,000 in upfront bonds per well. That’s not enough for a company to fear the financial consequences of a disaster, which means it could act recklessly with little disincentive, according to the report.

The report says that could pose a huge cost to taxpayers: Simply reclaiming a well and its property can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Actually paying for damages, such as contaminated groundwater and ruined roads, can cost millions.

Under normal circumstances, private and public entities could sue for the damages, but that’s unrealistic if a well operator goes bankrupt or is otherwise unwilling or incapable of paying.

Another potential problem: The bond payments are only held by the state until a well is plugged and the site is reclaimed to the satisfaction of state operators. That doesn’t account for health and environmental damages that can surface after a drilling operation ends, according to the report.

The issues are further compounded by loopholes, which allow companies to avoid bonding requirements altogether if they prove they hold a certain amount of in-state assets. Environment Ohio calls it an exceedingly easy test to meet.

In what it calls common sense reforms, Environment Ohio says the state should impose more assurances for longer periods of time. The organization favorably cites other states that require $250,000 in upfront bonds — much higher than Ohio’s $5,000. For companies, that would mean a much higher financial hurdle when taking on a fracking project, but the high cost could provide a powerful incentive to avoid dangerous risks.

The report also finds that insurance requirements in the state are weak, with operators required to fulfill a $5 million liability cap regardless of whether they’re running one well or 100.

The organization recommends Ohio work to build stricter financial and regulatory safeguards.

“At a minimum, Ohio needs an adequate severance tax to fund impacts on communities and provide a cushion for long-term risk management,” said Wendy Patton, director at left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement released by Environment Ohio.

An oil and gas severance tax was suggested by Republican Gov. John Kasich to pay for income tax cuts, but Republican legislators rejected the proposal.

The report’s findings were not exclusive to Ohio. It also found issues and suggested solutions for other states and the federal government, including a similar call for stronger bonding requirements on federal lands.

CityBeat covered the fracking boom and its effects on Ohio in further detail here.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.19.2012
 
 
layoffs

Morning News and Stuff

In an effort to avoid an estimated $43 million deficit, the Cincinnati Board of Education decided Wednesday to eliminate 237 teaching jobs for next school year. Of the job cuts, 35 are layoffs, 112 are retirements or resignations, and 90 are long-term substitutes. In March, the board also approved laying off 40 administrators. The actions are expected to create $20 million in savings, but officials say more cuts are needed.

Cincinnati City Council has approved an ordinance cracking down on so-called “predatory towing.” Some local towing companies haven't been following state guidelines about how much may be charged for the towing and impoundment of vehicles. The city law clarifies that they must be complied with, and companies that violate the fees can lose lucrative towing contracts with the Cincinnati Police Department.

As part of their standard procedures, state regulators are reviewing the background of a company slated to open the state's first casino next month and Cincinnati's casino next year. The Ohio Casino Control Commission meets this week to review a newly completed report on Rock Ohio Caesars. It will include details about the company's financial stability and whether it has any criminal background.

Although Earth Day isn't until Sunday, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is marking the holiday early by sponsoring an e-waste recycling drive today to collect and recycle unwanted electronic waste from guests. Collection is from 4-6:30 p.m., and all electronic devices will be recycled by 2trg, a certified recycler that operates under zero landfill and zero export policies. A $10 cash fee will be charged for each TV set, and all other acceptable items will be recycled for free. Other acceptable items include cables, CD-ROM drives, cellular phones, DVD players, keyboards, laptops, LCD monitors, microwave ovens, printers and more.

Locally-based Fifth Third Bank says its first-quarter net income quadrupled, thanks in part to its stake in the payment processor Vantiv, which had its initial public offering. The company reported net income of $421 million today, or 45 cents per share. That compares with $88 million, or 10 cents per share, reported in the same period last year. Apparently, there's only a recession going on for some of us.

In news elsewhere, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) is dismissing criticism brought against the Republican budget plan by Catholic bishops. Referencing Matthew 25, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on Congress to put the poor first in budget priorities and rethink cuts to programs that help them. But Boehner, a Catholic, said at a press conference Wednesday the cuts were necessary, despite the impact they may have on the poor. “What’s more of a concern to me is the fact that if we don’t start to make some decisions about getting our fiscal house in order there won’t be a safety net,” he said. “There won’t be these programs.” (Hey, John: Maybe you should take another look at the Pentagon's budget.)

Six former employees of a company connected to a firm founded by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney filed a federal lawsuit this week, alleging they were fired because they weren't Mormon. The plaintiffs worked for Sorenson Capital Partners, whose managing directors and officers are former partners or executives at Bain Capital and Bain & Co. Romney founded Bain Capital in 1984 after working for Bain & Co. The plaintiffs seek $5.35 million in damages for breach of contract, discrimination and retaliation.

If the CIA gets its way, acting suspicious will be enough to get you killed in Yemen. The spy agency is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed, U.S. officials said. Securing permission to use these “signature strikes” would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives. Remember: They hate us because we love freedom.

Syria and the United Nations have reached a tentative deal to deploy observers to monitor the nation's ceasefire, officials from both sides said. A spokesman for peace envoy Kofi Annan said the agreement covered the observers' functions and Syrian government's responsibilities. It came after the U.N. secretary general said Syria was failing to comply with its peace plan obligations. The plan seeks to end unrest which has killed at least 9,000 people.

The global economic downturn is even visible in China, where large amounts of retail and office space sit vacant, in nearly pristine condition, having never been used. Part of the problem is Chinese industry has been producing massive amounts of steel, cement, and aluminum, so much that its economy cannot absorb all of the output. For example, the seven-story Global Furnishing Design and Exhibition Center in Shanghai, the most populous city in the world, is known as “the ghost mall of China” due to its empty corridors and vacant stores.
 
 
by 01.14.2010
Posted In: News, Environment, Human Rights at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Freedom Center Helps Haitian Children

Visitors to downtown’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will receive free admission Monday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. People who visit are asked to bring clothing or a personal care item that will be donated to Haitian children affected by the recent earthquake there.

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 02.14.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Environment, Energy, City Council at 04:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

City Pushes Energy Efficiency Standards

Council resolution embraces Cincinnati’s past clean energy successes

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 efficiency law.”

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).

 
 
by Danny Cross 07.03.2012
 
 
cover_worldchoirgames_2

Morning News and Stuff

Someone really smart in Todd Portune’s office warned his or her superiors that the monthly first-Wednesday siren test might scare the living hell out of tens of thousands of foreign people visiting Cincinnati for the World Choir Games, so there will be no siren test this month. 

River Downs applied for some slot machines, the second racetrack in the state to do so.

Here’s the latest person to write about how screwed Mitt Romney is due to the constitutional health care mandate or, more importantly, the similar one he passed in Massachusetts. MSNBC says the Bain attacks are hurting Romney. And Mother Jones says this: “Romney Invested in Medical-Waste Firm That Disposed of Aborted Fetuses, Government Documents Show.”

And Obama is “feeling the pain” of campaign fundraising. Whatever that means. 

Here’s all you need to know about torture in Syria. Thanks, Human Rights Watch. 

Anderson Cooper publicly announced that he’s gay after a discussion with friend and journalist Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast regarding celebrities coming out. Cooper emailed Sullivan about the matter and gave him permission to print it. 

“I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.

“The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”

Chrysler’s sales are up 20 percent, but the company hasn’t specifically thanked JLo for boosting the Fiat marketshare.

Scientists are saying that recent heat waves, wild fires and other seemingly random natural disasters are due to global warming. And we thought it was only going to be our kids’ problem. :(

Meanwhile, European physicists hope to find the God particle by the end of the year, explaining the creation of the world. Here’s video of a British guy trying to explain what the particle is using a plastic tray and ping pong balls.

The NFL is going to back off some of its local blackout rules. Teams now must only hit 85 percent of their ticket sales goal rather than 100 percent to avoid making local markets watch crappy regional games instead of their favorite teams.  That means more Bengals games, less crappy Browns broadcasts.

 
 
by Danny Cross 05.04.2012
 
 
rob portman

Morning News and Stuff

Sen. Rob Portman is sitting on more cash than nearly all of his GOP colleagues in the Senate, despite the fact that he’s not up for re-election until 2016. There has been widespread speculation that Portman is a Republican vice presidential candidate, and only three Senators have more money on-hand than his Promoting Our Republican Team PAC (PORTPAC) leadership committee.

Companies upstream from Cincinnati have been dumping pollutants into the Ohio River since the 1940s, and federal authorities have reached a $5.5 million settlement to start cleaning it all up. Eighteen companies and several federal agencies will collectively contribute to restoring the Ashtabula River and Harbor in northeast Ohio. Here's the latest from Dredging Today (the authoritative voice of underwater excavation activity and other earth-altering digs).

Locals who have recently “pimped their rides” might want to read up on a bill passed by Ohio lawmakers yesterday that bans hidden compartments in vehicles. Police don’t want to have to open those fancy compartments to check whether there are drugs inside or just a 10th tiny TV. Hear that, Colerain?

Here’s what Obama and his advisers do on Sundays (after the prez’s round of golf, of course): size up Mitt Romney.

More insights from the letters and notes released on Thursday by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point: “Bin Laden worried about legacy and sought to kill Obama.

U.S. job growth was down in April, adding only 115,000 positions after seeing 154,000 added in March. The unemployment rate dropped .1 percentage point to 8.1 percent, largely due to workers leaving the labor force. Republicans have some thoughts on the matter (Obama’s fault).

Ted Nugent is not looking so hot these days. He’s also thoroughly offended at the notion of not being a moderate. The following are comments he made today on CBS This Morning:

"If you examine how I conduct myself," Nugent said, "I don't think a day goes by in my life for many, many years now that we don't do charity work for children. ... Call me when you sit down across from someone who has more families with dying little boys and girls who get a call to take them on their last fishing trip in life.

"Call me," Nugent continued in a raised, irritated voice, "when you meet someone who does that more than I do. Because that's really moderate. In fact, you know what that is? That's extreme. ... I'm an extremely loving, passionate man, and people who investigate me honestly, without the baggage of political correctness, ascertain the conclusion that I'm a damned nice guy. ... And if you can find a screening process more powerful than that, I'll [expletive]. Or [expletive]. How's that sound?"

Headline: “Tech world is out for blood.” Apparently Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s decision to start a patent war was not such a good idea.

New York Yankees future Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera tore his ACL during pregame batting practice yesterday, putting the 42-year-old’s career in jeopardy. There had already been speculation that Rivera would retire after this season, and recovery from ACL surgery usually takes more than nine months.

 
 

 

 

 
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