0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The federal government reported slightly
better numbers in January for Obamacare’s once-troubled online
marketplaces, but Ohio and the nation still fall far short of key
by German Lopez
State plans for fracking in parks, mayor to help Obamacare, airport’s flood levee decertified
Gov. John Kasich’s administration in 2012 privately discussed a
public relations campaign to help bring fracking to three state parks. The
plan was apparently abandoned. But ProgressOhio, which released documents showing the discussions, says the plan highlights a trend in the Kasich administration
of looking out for business interests first. Fracking is a drilling technique
in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped
underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. In the past couple years,
the technique has been credited with bringing about a natural gas
production boom in much of the United States, including Ohio. But
environmentalists worry the poorly regulated practice contaminates air
and water. CityBeat covered fracking in greater detail here.Mayor John Cranley and Enroll America today plan to announce a partnership to get people enrolled in Obamacare. The goal is to fill the insurance pool
with healthier, younger enrollees, many of whom qualify for financial
assistance through HealthCare.gov, to help keep costs down. CityBeat previously interviewed Trey Daly, Ohio director of Enroll America, about the outreach efforts here.The two Republicans in charge of City Council’s Budget and
Finance Committee want to know why the city decertified a flood levee
surrounding Lunken Airport, instead of bringing it up to federal standards,
without consulting City Council. The decertification forced property
owners around the airport to buy costly flood insurance. City officials
say they made the decision because the city did not have the $20-$100
million it would cost to bring the levee up to standards.The W. Va. chemical spill cost Greater Cincinnati Water
Works about $26,000 in treatment chemicals, or about 11 cents per
customer.Getting ex-prisoners enrolled in Medicaid as they are
released could save Ohio nearly $18 million this year, according to state
officials.Duke Energy plans to sell 13 power plants, including 11 in Ohio. The company says the move is necessary because of the state’s increasingly unpredictable regulatory environment for electricity generators. Last week, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio rejected Duke’s request for a $729 million rate increase.With algorithms now capable of breaking CAPTCHA 90 percent
of the time, companies might need to find other anti-spam
protections.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Local politician faces charges, Ohio boosts solar jobs, Obamacare enrollment improves
State Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, now faces 69 felony counts
and increasing pressure to resign. Beck is accused of helping mislead
investors into putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into an
insolvent West Chester startup company and putting some of the funds
from the company into his own campaign. Beck says he's innocent, but
that hasn't stopped top Ohio Republicans from calling for him to resign
to avoid a potential scandal and losing a seat in the Ohio legislature.Ohio ranked No. 8 in the nation for solar jobs in 2013, with solar employment growing by roughly 31 percent over the year, according to the latest census from the Solar Foundation. The report found that U.S. solar jobs grew 10 times faster than overall employment across the country. Environment Ohio applauded the numbers, praising Cincinnati in particular for its own solar-friendly efforts. But the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate is looking into ways to weaken or undo the law that makes many solar projects possible across the state. A report from the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy indicates that repealing the law could end up costing Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014 and 2025.The federal government reported slightly better enrollment numbers in January for Obamacare's once-troubled website, but Ohio and the nation still fell short of key demographic roles previously perpetuated by the federal government. Specifically, monthly enrollment actually beat projections for the first time since HealthCare.gov launched. But the cumulative amount of young adults signing up through January only reached 25 percent in the country and 21 percent in Ohio — far below the 39 percent goal the White House previously deemed necessary to avoid filling the insurance pool with older, less healthy enrollees who tend to use more resources and drive up costs. With Obamacare's online marketplaces mostly fixed, some groups are now doubling efforts to get the uninsured, particularly young adults, enrolled. CityBeat interviewed Trey Daly, Ohio state director of one of those groups, here.Explainer: Everything you need to know about responsible bidder.Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a Democrat-backed petition that would create a statewide ballot initiative for a Voter Bill of Rights, but proponents of the initiative say they'll come back with tweaked language. In a statement, DeWine said the proposal ran afoul of federal law in two places. Even if DeWine approved the language from a legal standpoint, supporters would still need to gather roughly 385,000 valid signatures before a July deadline to get the issue on the ballot in November. CityBeat covered the Voter Bill of Rights in greater detail here.Following the large amount of charter school closures last year, State Auditor Dave Yost is launching an investigation into three Ohio charter school sponsors and the Ohio Department of Education.The Cincinnati area could get 2 inches of snow.A Ky. auditor says the former finance director of Covington stole nearly $800,000.Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes posted pictures of downtown Cincinnati circa 1968 here.Sam Adams is pouring millions into a Cincinnati brewery.Grizzly bears could offer a better solution for weight loss.Watch Dale Hansen, a Texas sports anchor, take on the NFL and Michael Sam’s anti-gay haters:
Video | News | Weather | Sports Mon Feb 10 20:43:08 PST 2014Hansen Unplugged: Celebrating our differences Michael Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL; says he knows there will be problems... and they’ve already started. view full articleFollow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Comment · Wednesday, February 12, 2014
With HealthCare.gov mostly fixed after its glitch-ridden rollout, outreach campaigns are now doubling efforts to get Americans enrolled in Obamacare.
Statewide group asks Ohio voters to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp
2 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
While two states have successfully
legalized marijuana, Ohio is beginning to move forward with ballot
initiatives that could legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes and to
produce industrial hemp.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
I have always taken for granted simple
things like balance, mobility, independence and 10 toes and, as a raging
diabetic, I am particularly obsessed with my feet.
by German Lopez
The civil rights icon embraced many progressive causes
If his speeches and other comments are any indication,
Martin Luther King Jr. would likely stand in sharp opposition to modern
Ohio Republicans and many of their proposed policies.
In reviewing King’s work, speeches and quotes, it’s clear
he was a progressive on a wide range of issues — from voting rights to collective bargaining rights to
reproductive rights. In contrast, modern Republicans are doing their
best to dilute such rights and scale back progressive causes on a host
of other issues.
Given that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what
better time to look back at some of King’s positions and analyze what
they could mean in terms of today’s politics? Warning: The results might upset some Republicans.
On voting rights:
“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the
right to vote, I do not possess myself,” King said, according to PBS. “I
cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a
democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can
only submit to the edict of others.”King and other civil rights activists saw the right
to vote as the most crucial stepping stone to equality. In fact, one of the defining accomplishments of the Civil Rights
Movement was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which attempted to ban discrimination
in the voting booth.
“Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient
misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly
citizens,” King said.
More specifically, the Voting Rights Act helped undo
several voting restrictions taken up against minority voters in the South. The restrictions rarely outright banned black voters; instead,
Southerners took up backhanded standards, such as literacy tests and
poll taxes, that many black voters couldn’t meet.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because, by at least one top
Ohio Republican’s admission, growing restrictions on early voting also
help curtail black voters — who, by the way, happen to vote for Democrats in
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the
voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American —
voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin
County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, in an
email to The Columbus Dispatch.
In other states, Republicans are taking similarly restrictive approaches
and passing stringent voter ID laws, even though one study found it discriminates against young, minority voters.Especially given Preisse’s comments, it’s clear King would not approve of Republican actions. King saw enough oppression in Southern voting booths to know better.On labor unions and “right to work”:
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard
against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a
law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to
destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which
unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone,” King
said, according to the Economic Policy Institute. “Wherever these laws
have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there
are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We
demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”In this statement, King unequivocally disavows restrictions on unions and collective bargaining rights.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kasich and top Ohio Republicans remain mum
on whether they support anti-union laws like “right to work,” much to
the chagrin of tea party groups that strongly support such efforts.
But it’s clear Kasich and Ohio Republicans support some
restrictions on unions and collective bargaining. In 2011, the
Republican-controlled legislature and governor approved Senate Bill 5, a
bill that significantly curtailed public unions and their collective
Almost immediately, labor unions rallied in opposition to
the effort and took the issue to referendum. Voters overwhelmingly
rejected S.B. 5 the following November, dealing a major blow to Republicans and a huge
political boost to unions and Democrats.Despite the rejection, some conservatives continue pushing anti-union causes. The
tea party-backed group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom aims to get an
anti-union “right to work” initiative on the ballot in 2014.Considering King’s strong pro-union statements, it’s clear he would stand against Ohio Republicans’ and the tea party’s anti-union efforts if he lived today. On the death penalty:
“I do not think God approves the death penalty for any
crime — rape and murder included,” King said, according to Stanford
University. “Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern
criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in
the nature of God.”King’s comment clearly disavows the death penalty, even
for the gravest crimes, based on his religious perspective and
study of criminology.
Perhaps more than any other issue on this list, King’s stance on the death penalty could upset some Democrats as much as some Republicans. But even though support for the death penalty crosses partisan lines, it’s much more pronounced on the Republican side of the spectrum.
In recent days, the debate over the death penalty reignited in Ohio after Gov. Kasich’s administration took 26 minutes to execute a gasping, grunting convicted killer with a new cocktail of drugs that was never tried before in the United States.
The prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed
use of the death penalty in 1999, led some legislative Democrats to push
new limits or even an outright ban on capital punishment. It’s expected
the Republican majority will ignore the bills.Based on his claims, King would oppose the state-sanctioned killing of a convicted killer, and he certainly would reject any defense that touts vengeance as a justification for killing another human being.On health care:
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care
is the most shocking and inhuman,” King said, according to Dr. Quentin
Young, who attended King’s speech at the 1966 convention of the Medical
Committee for Human Rights.
Whether King’s quote indicates support for Democrat-backed
legislation like Obamacare or other measures, such as a single-payer
system, is completely unclear. But King’s rhetoric certainly comes
closer to Democrats’ support for universal access to health care than Republicans’
opposition to governmental incursions into the U.S. health care
To Gov. Kasich’s credit, he helped alleviate the
“inequality” and “injustice in health care” King referred to by
aggressively pursuing the federally funded Medicaid expansion.But Kasich was in the minority of the Ohio Republican
Party in his pursuit. The state legislature’s Republican majority
refused to approve the Medicaid expansion in the two-year state budget
and later bills. When Kasich finally got the Medicaid expansion done
through the seven-member Controlling Board, several legislative
Republicans joined an unsuccessful lawsuit to reverse the decision.Accordingly, King would probably praise Kasich for opening up access to health care, and it’s doubtful he would support Republicans in their attempts to block health care for the poor.On reproductive rights:
“For the Negro, therefore, intelligent guides of family
planning are a profoundly important ingredient in his quest for security
and a decent life,” King said, according to Planned Parenthood. “There
are mountainous obstacles still separating Negroes from a normal
existence. Yet one element in stabilizing his life would be an
understanding of and easy access to the means to develop a family
related in size to his community environment and to the income potential
he can command.”King’s comments on reproductive rights came as he accepted the first round of the Margaret Sanger Awards from Planned Parenthood, an organization now demonized by Republicans for its support for abortion and reproductive rights.
Now, nothing in King’s comments implies he supported
abortion rights, even though some historians believe King, a strong Christian,
accepted a more liberal interpretation of the Bible.But King’s comments — and even his mere acceptance of the
Planned Parenthood award — show strong support for reproductive
rights for low-income men and women. In that respect, King is clearly
going against Ohio Republicans’ pursuits.
In the 2014-2015 state budget, a Republican majority
passed new funding restrictions on Planned Parenthood and other
comprehensive family planning centers. Some of the restrictions hit
family planning clinics that don’t offer abortions.
Even though King’s stance on abortion is unclear, his
comments clearly contradict efforts to restrict access to family
planning clinics and reproductive rights. Once again, he would not approve of the Republican agenda.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 15, 2014
In the third month of open enrollment,
Obamacare failed to meet crucial demographic goals for young adults in
Ohio and across the nation.
by German Lopez
Early voting tomorrow, Obamacare enrollment to open, pension amendment cuts benefits
Have any questions for City Council candidates? Submit them here and CityBeat may ask your questions at this Saturday’s candidate forum.
Early voting for the 2013
City Council and mayoral elections begins tomorrow. Find your voting
location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
Tomorrow is also the first day of open enrollment at Obamacare’s online marketplaces, which can be found at www.healthcare.gov.
At the marketplaces, an Ohio individual will be able to buy a
middle-of-the-pack health insurance plan for as low as $145 a month
after tax credits, while a family of four making $50,000 will be able to
pay $282 a month for a similar plan, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers.
Starting in 2014, most Americans — with exemptions for religious and
economic reasons, the imprisoned and those living outside the country —
will be required to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
Organizations from around the state and country will be working over
the next six months to help insure as many Ohioans and Americans as
possible, but some of those efforts have been obstructed by Republican
legislators who oppose the president’s signature health care law, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Meanwhile, the federal government is nearing a shutdown because of Republican opposition to Obamacare, including local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup.
A report from the conservative Buckeye Institute echoes claims made by both sides in Cincinnati’s pension debate:
A tea party-backed amendment, if approved by voters, would
reduce retirement benefits for new city employees by one-third. At the
same time, the city’s unfunded pension liability might be $2.57 billion,
or three times what officials currently estimate. The amendment would
semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system by forcing future city
employees to contribute to and manage their own individual retirement
accounts, which would imitate private 401k plans commonly seen in the
private sector. Under the current system, the city pools pension funds
and manages the public system through an independent board. The pension
amendment is backed by tea party groups, some of who may reside outside Cincinnati and Ohio, and will appear on the ballot as Issue 4.
To celebrate early voting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against ex-Councilman John Cranley,
will name her vice mayor today. Qualls is expected to select
Councilman Wendell Young. Cranley and Qualls are both Democrats, but
they’re heavily divided on the streetcar project and parking plan, both
of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. The mayoral candidates mostly focused on the two issues in their first post-primary mayoral debate,
which CityBeat covered here.
Jeffrey Blackwell, Cincinnati’s new police chief, starts on the job today.
He’s replacing former Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to
take the top police job in his hometown of Detroit. The city has praised
Blackwell for his 26 years at the Columbus Division of Police, where he
reached out to youth and immigrants, advanced the use of technology,
worked closely with community members and helped reduce operating costs.
Cincinnati Councilwoman Pam Thomas today announced that
she’s introducing a motion to hire a 40-member police recruit class. The
motion addresses a drop in the amount of Cincinnati police officers in
recent years: Staffing levels since the last recruit class have dropped
by 15.2 percent, according to Thomas’ office. “Our police staffing
levels are dangerously low,” Thomas said in a statement. “We cannot
afford to sacrifice our public’s safety by not hiring this recruit
class.” In this year’s budget, the city managed to prevent cutting
public safety jobs by slashing other city services, including city
parks. But Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan argues that Cincinnati’s public
safety forces, which are proportionally larger than most comparable
cities, need to be “rightsized” and reduced over time.
The amount of local children and teens going to the hospital with a concussion massively increased
between 2002 and 2011, and the number is expected to increase further
because state law now requires medical clearance to continue playing
sports after a concussion.
Ohio gas prices are back below the national average.
AdvancePierre Foods, Cincinnati's largest private company, got a new CEO.
Earth may have stolen its moon from Venus.
by German Lopez
Obamacare misses target, state to investigate CPS staff, chemical spill forces local measures
In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to
hit key demographic targets for young adults in Ohio and across the
nation. White House officials say about about 39 percent of those who
sign up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov and state-run
marketplaces must be young adults. The idea is to get enough young,
healthy enrollees to hold down costs as an older, sicker population
signs up for health insurance made more easily available through
Obamacare’s systems and regulations. But in December, only 19 percent of
signups in Ohio and 24 percent of signups nationwide were young adults.
The Ohio Department of Education will recalculate report
card data and investigate whether to punish staff after Cincinnati
Public Schools (CPS) and six other Ohio school districts that scrubbed
student attendance data. By manipulating the data, schools can appear to
be performing better, but the actions obviously jeopardize the
authenticity of Ohio’s school accountability system. CPS says its
internal investigations found no evidence of deliberate manipulation and
the data errors shouldn’t be enough to alter the school’s standing in
state report cards. For CPS and the six other school districts, the
issues began after the state auditor in 2012 launched an investigation
into school data scrubbing.To avoid contamination from a W. Va. chemical spill,
Cincinnati Water Works will shut down its water intake system along the
Ohio River and instead rely on the water intake system at the
groundwater treatment facility in Fairfield. Mayor John Cranley said the
shutdown will last two days, or more than twice the roughly 20 hours
required for the chemical slick to pass by. Consumers shouldn’t notice a
difference, according to Water Works officials.
In the coming weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard will decide
whether to allow fracking wastewater to travel along
the Ohio River and other federal waterways and how strictly regulated
the shipments should be. Fracking is a drilling technique in which
millions of gallons of water are pumped underground to unlock oil and
gas reserves, but the process produces a lot of wastewater as a result. CityBeat previously covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
With legislation repealing Ohio’s energy rules now
stalled, Champaign County residents are challenging the
constitutionality of Ohio’s in-state renewable energy requirements in
court. Supporters of the law claim the rules help foster a green energy
sector in the state, while opponents argue the rules increase costs for
businesses and consumers. CityBeat previously covered State Sen. Bill Seitz’s legislative attempts to repeal the rules here.Another tea party-backed candidate might challenge Gov.
John Kasich in the Republican primary. The reveal comes just days after a
tea party leader abruptly dropped his challenge against the incumbent
governor.If state legislators approve, Gov. Kasich will hold his state of the state address this year at Medina, Ohio, on Feb. 24.Three judges will cover for Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter while she fights felony charges in court.
State Rep. Pete Beck of Mason, who was indicted on 16 felony counts for alleged fraud and theft, is facing a primary challenger.Cincinnati repaved 130 lane miles of road in 2013, according to city officials.Duke Energy cut a check for the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority today to help redevelop Bond Hill and Queensgate.A blind student is suing Miami University for alleged discrimination that prevented her from completing coursework.One vote made the difference in 43 of Ohio’s 2013 elections, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.Ky. developers are still pursuing the Noah’s Ark theme park, despite troubles raising funds for the project.Today is the last day to vote for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.An infection can turn swarming locusts into solitary grasshoppers, a study found.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez