by German Lopez 07.12.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, 2013 Election, Prisons at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley's inclusion plan, effort targets abortion limits, more charter school waste found

Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley is releasing a plan today that promises to reward more of the city’s business contracts to black people, Latinos and women if he’s elected. Cranley says he will hire an inclusion officer that would help him achieve the goals of the plan, which is modeled partly after the African American Chamber of Commerce’s OPEN Cincinnati Plan that was passed by City Council in 2009. “In order to make Cincinnati a world-class city, we have to have a thriving, diverse middle class. We can’t do that if we leave half of our residents behind economically,” Cranley said in a statement. Cranley’s main opponent in the mayoral race is Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who supported the OPEN Cincinnati Plan in 2009. So far, the main issues surrounding the campaign have been the streetcar and parking plan — both of which Cranley opposes and Qualls supports. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is asking Ohioans to take up a long, complicated petitioning process that could lead to the repeal of some of the anti-abortion measures in the state budget. The process could force the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing some of the measures unrelated to appropriating state funds, or it could put the repeal effort on the ballot in November 2014. FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal campaign through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back. CityBeat covered the state budget and its anti-abortion provisions, which Republican Gov. John Kasich signed into law, in further detail here. A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy (CCPA), Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The school’s former superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on charges of theft for previously discovered incidents. CCPA is set to receive $6 million from the state in 2014, up 3 percent from the previous year.The state’s prison watchdog released a new report that found force is more often used against blacks in Ohio prisons. Nearly 65 percent of “use of force” incidents in 2012 involved blacks, even though they only make up about 46 percent of the total prison population. After analyzing reports from the first quarter, Hamilton County revised its estimates for casino revenue downward. That means $500,000 less in 2014 for the stadium fund, which has long presented problems for the county’s budget. Still, the county says the revision isn’t a big problem and the focus should instead be on the bigger problem: a looming $30 million budget gap. Following an approved transfer from the governor and his staff, Ohio’s “rainy day fund” hit an all-time record of $1.5 billion. The fund is typically tapped into during emergency economic situations in which the state must spend a lot of extra money or take extraordinary measures to fix a sudden budget shortfall. Cincinnati area exports reached a record high in 2012. Ohio is No. 4 in the nation for foreclosures, according to a report from real estate information company RealtyTrac. The report adds more doubt to claims that Ohio is undergoing some sort of unique economic recovery, following a string of reports that found year-over-year job growth is lacking in the state. Still, Ohio added more jobs than any other state in May. If the robust growth holds in the June job report due next week, it could be a great economic sign for the state. Early streetcar work is leading to a downtown street closure this weekend, presenting yet another sign that the project is moving forward. Earlier this week, CityBeat published the top 10 misrepresentations surrounding the streetcar project. New evidence suggests a fraction of disposable wells used during the hydraulic fracturing process — also known as “fracking” — cause earthquakes, but the risk can be averted with careful monitoring, according to the researchers. Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water underground to free up oil and gas reserves. CityBeat covered its effects in Ohio in further detail here. A nanoparticle device can kill germs with sunlight.
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: Abortion, Budget, News at 03:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ed fitzgerald

FitzGerald Unveils Plan to Repeal Anti-Abortion Measures

State budget limits access to legal abortions through various changes

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is urging a coalition effort to begin a long, complicated petitioning process that could repeal some of the anti-abortion measures in the recently approved two-year state budget. If the petitioning process is successful, it would force the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing aspects of the budget that don’t involve appropriations of money. If the General Assembly changes, rejects or ignores the repeal proposal, it could be put on the ballot in November 2014.FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal effort through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back. Speaking at a press conference Thursday, FitzGerald also questioned the constitutionality of some of the anti-abortion measures, particularly those that require doctors give certain medical information regarding abortions and restrict publicly funded rape crisis centers from discussing abortion as a viable option. He said such rules might violate free speech rights. The state budget effectively defunds contraceptive care and other non-abortion services at various family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood. It also makes it more difficult for abortion clinics to establish mandatory patient transfer agreements with hospitals. The budget provides separate federal funding to crisis pregnancy centers, which act as the pro-abstinence, anti-abortion alternatives to comprehensive clinics like Planned Parenthood. The budget also gives money to rape crisis centers, but centers that take public funding are barred from discussing abortion as a viable option with rape victims. Days before the budget’s passage, Republican legislators also added an amendment that forces women to get an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion. As part of the amendment, doctors are required to inform the patient if a heartbeat is detected during the ultrasound and provide an estimate of the fetus’s chances of making it to birth. FitzGerald, who’s currently Cuyahoga County executive, plans to run against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014. Kasich signed the controversial state budget with the anti-abortion measures on June 30, despite calls for the governor to use his line-item veto powers — a move that would have kept the rest of the budget in place but repealed the anti-abortion provisions. CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: News, Education at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Audit Finds More Problems at City's Largest Charter School

School administrators already accused of misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars

A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The school’s former superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on charges of theft for previously discovered incidents. The audit reviewed Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy’s (CCPA) records for fiscal year 2010, finding Stephanie Millard, the school’s former treasurer, was overpaid by $8,307. At the same time, founder and ex-superintendent Lisa Hamm used the school credit card for $8,495 in payments to the Cincinnati Bengals, Benihana Japanese Steakhouse, Wahoo Zip Lines, Omaha Steaks and Dixie Stampede. “These two officials saw no boundaries in how they used taxpayer dollars,” State Auditor Dave Yost said in a statement. “With each audit, we find more of the same: total disregard for the trust placed in them.” CCPA responded to the audit by stating it has terminated the credit card and replaced it with two debit cards, which supposedly have controls in place to require approval and keep track of who’s using the cards and for what. The school is also reviewing contracts for the next school year to ensure no further overpayments are made, on top of requiring payments be board-approved. In March, the school fired Hamm and Millard, and the two former school officials were indicted on 26 counts of theft in office. Their attorney, Mike Allen, claims the school board approved the spending, which could mean the women didn’t break any laws. In June, another special audit found CCPA had inappropriately spent $520,000 for various unnecessary expenditures, including bonuses, Christmas gifts, Nutrisystem weight loss products and Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber concerts. CCPA enrolls nearly 1,200 students for kindergarten through 12th grade, with more than 95 percent coming from low-income households, according to Ohio’s school report card data. The Ohio Department of Education gave the school’s K-12 building in the West End a “D” and its K-6 building in Madisonville a “B” for the 2011-2012 school year. The school is set to receive roughly $6 million in state dollars in 2014, up 3 percent from the year before. That follows the funding trend for Ohio’s charter schools, which are generally receiving more state money in the recently approved two-year state budget.
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: News, Economy at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Ohio No. 4 in Nation for Foreclosures

Another statistic adds doubt to state’s economic recovery

A new report shows Ohio has the fourth highest housing foreclosure rate in the nation — another troubling statistic for a state that, according to state officials, is supposed to be undergoing a major economic boom. The report from RealtyTrac, a real estate information company, put Ohio’s foreclosure rate at 0.96 percent during the first half of 2013, a 2-percent increase from a comparable period in 2012. Ohio’s foreclosure rate beat only Florida (1.74 percent), Nevada (1.4 percent) and Illinois (1.2 percent) in the rankings. Ohio’s bump up in foreclosures defies the national trend: Foreclosure starts are on track to hit about 800,000 this year, down from 1.1 million in 2012, according to RealtyTrac. The recovery follows the 2007-2008 recession and the housing crisis that helped cause it, which led to a spike in foreclosures. State officials, particularly Gov. John Kasich, often claim Ohio has led the nation in job and economic growth following the recession, but recent statistics have raised doubts about the claim. A June 16 infographic from Pew Charitable Trusts found Ohio was the No. 46 state for job creation between April 2012 and April of this year, supporting claims from liberal and conservative think tanks that Ohio’s job growth has been stagnating in the past year. Still, Ohio had a 7 percent unemployment rate in May, lower than the national rate of 7.6 percent. The state also added 32,100 jobs in May — more than any other state for that month. Whether that job growth holds up will be made clearer on July 19, when the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will release state job numbers for June. Kasich on June 30 signed a state budget approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that Republicans claim will spur further job growth, but a CityBeat analysis calls that claim into question.
by German Lopez 07.10.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion at 03:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Anti-Abortion Group to Show Graphic Video on Fountain Square

Created Equal cites First Amendment rights for protest

Fountain Square will bear witness on July 11 to an explicit anti-abortion video as part of a Midwest tour by Created Equal, a Columbus-based anti-abortion group that describes itself as “a social action movement seeking to end the greatest human rights injustice of our time.” The “graphic abortion video,” as the group calls it, utilizes images familiar to anyone who regularly passes by protests outside of Planned Parenthood clinics: bloodied fetuses, separated fetal limbs and other images that are meant to link fetuses to defenseless, dismembered babies. Mark Harrington, executive director of Created Equal, says the display is necessary to grab people’s attention. “Unfortunately, it’s required. This type of message has to be strong because of the apathy in our culture to issues like abortion and injustices like this,” he says. Abortion-rights advocates have taken steps to stop Created Equal, with some signing a MoveOn.org petition to convince 3CDC, which manages events on Fountain Square, to pull its permit for the event. “It is time to tell Created Equal that they are not permitted to show graphic abortion footage on public space,” the petition reads. “Fountain Square is a family friendly public space and such footage is not appropriate in this venue. Their viewing date is Thursday, July 11, 2013, stop this from going forward.” Harrington says groups like MoveOn.org are attacking his First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. He argues political speech, such as his display, is completely protected by the U.S. Constitution. “If they wanted to come out and show bloody images of women who had used coat hangers for abortions … it’s protected under the First Amendment,” Harrington says. “We would defend their right to do so. I would never circulate a petition to stop them.” In general, the U.S. Supreme Court has been supportive of free speech as long as it’s politically motivated, with the notable exceptions of sexual content and airwave broadcasts. Still, the Supreme Court on June 10 refused to consider overturning an injunction from the Colorado Court of Appeals that’s preventing an anti-abortion group from displaying graphic images outside of a Denver church. The Colorado court argued that the images were too “gruesome” and barred their display in areas where they might disturb children. Keeping with tradition, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for declining to hear the case. For those who are genuinely offended by the graphic nature of the images and not just obstructing the organization’s anti-abortion message, Harrington says the message is worth the downsides: “I would urge them to be equally if not more concerned for the children that are dying and not simply for their own children, who might be disturbed by this.” Created Equal is against abortion in most contexts, with the sole exception of a situation in which the mother’s life is undoubtedly in danger. “You do the best you can to save both. When you can’t save both, you got to save one,” Harrington says. Even then, Harrington says letting miscarriages naturally occur is typically his preferred option. Thursday’s event will take place less than two weeks after Gov. John Kasich signed a two-year state budget that limits access to legal abortions, among other changes to school funding and taxes. CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.

Meet Daniela

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Republican policies are driving Ohioans — particularly the poor, women and minorities — into a perpetual cycle of near-poverty, and the victims sometimes can't even vote against it.  
by German Lopez 07.10.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Health care, Infrastructure at 09:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich pushes Medicaid expansion, county to repeal sewer hold, riverfront link coming

It’s not even two weeks since Gov. John Kasich signed the two-year state budget, and he’s already pushing for the federally funded Medicaid expansion again. Kasich, a Republican, called on fellow advocates and Democrats to lobby Republican legislators into supporting the expansion. The administration says it would need legislation passed by the end of the summer if it’s to get federal approval for an expansion by Jan. 1. Studies found the expansion would save the state money and insure nearly half a million Ohioans in the next decade. But Republican legislators passed on it, claiming the federal government can’t afford the expansion even though the federal government has long upheld its commitment to Medicaid. CityBeat covered the state budget and Medicaid expansion in greater detail here. Hamilton County commissioners are expected later today to repeal a funding hold on sewer projects, just a couple months after the hold was passed in response to controversial city laws. The city and county originally reached a compromise over the laws, but the deal appeared to have fallen through when City Council failed to approve its end of the bargain. Still, commissioners are moving forward with removing the funding hold, according to WVXU. CityBeat covered the city-county conflict in greater detail here. Designers, engineers and architects will compete over how they’ll cover Fort Washington Way in a few months, and Business Courier has some possibilities for where the project may go. The project is supposed to connect downtown and the riverfront, maximize economic development, encourage recreational activities, preserve openness and more. Although the first phase is just finishing, The Banks has already won awards, making the final connection between the area and downtown all the more important to city and county officials. The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) will hold a meeting tonight for its regional strategic plan. Details are sparse, but OKI’s first plan since 2005 will likely put a big emphasis on Cincinnati. A draft of the plan will likely be available in 2014. The meeting will be at Memorial Hall from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow was caught in a “pants on fire” statement by Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer after she claimed Ohio’s budget mandates women seeking an abortion to undergo a vaginal probe. The budget imposes new limits on legal abortions in Ohio and effectively defunds contraceptive care, cancer screenings and other non-abortion medical services at family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood, but it doesn’t require women undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. Cincinnati topped Terminix’s annual bed bug list for most calls related to the critters, but it avoided a spot on another list for the highest increase in calls. Warren County’s racino is now hiring. One good thing that came out of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign: swag for needy Kenyan youth. Antimatter particles were detected erupting from solar flares. One major problem in brain training studies: People always realize they’re being tested, particularly if they’re playing Tetris for hours.
by German Lopez 07.09.2013
Posted In: News, Casino, Budget, Infrastructure at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
brent spence bridge

Morning News and Stuff

Bridge project to use tolling, governor prepares budget victory lap, casino revenue down

Ohio and Kentucky officials will roll out a plan in September to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project with tolling — a decision that could lead to opposition from Northern Kentucky officials who have long advised against using tolls to finance the $2.5 billion project. The funding choice comes as little surprise, given the lack of major federal support for the interstate bridge project. But tolling could put the plan in danger if the Kentucky legislature follows the lead of its Northern Kentucky delegation. The announcement follows a December agreement between Ohio and Kentucky’s governors to get the project done. Gov. John Kasich will be using a month-long tour to show off the new two-year state budget. The schedule for the tour is still being worked out, but at least one stop in southwest Ohio is expected. The $62 billion budget has many moving parts, but a CityBeat analysis found the plan disproportionately favors the wealthy and limits access to legal abortions and contraceptive care in Ohio. Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino posted its worst monthly revenue gains since its grand opening in March. It was an equally poor month for the rest of the state, which saw the worst casino revenue gains since Cincinnati’s casino opened. If the trend holds up, that could be a troubling sign for proponents of using casino revenue to balance local and state budgets. A prominent Ohio Republican and former Kasich cabinet member says he supports overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, giving a bipartisan jolt to FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on the ballot in 2014. Jim Petro, former attorney general and previous head of the state’s higher education board, has a daughter who’s gay, which may have influenced his decision. He was joined by Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, when announcing his support. CityBeat covered FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment when it was originally slated for the 2013 ballot here. Cincinnati Gardens is for sale. Kenko Corporation, which has owned the garden for 35 years, announced its plans yesterday. “Our hope would be to sell, and see the historic venue move forward in its current state: a sports and entertainment venue,” explained Pete Robinson, president of the Cincinnati Gardens, in a statement. “However, we are prepared to explore other opportunities.” At least two county commissioners are expected to approve the Cincinnati Zoo’s levy request, which could put the flat renewal of the five-year levy on the ballot this November. In other zoo news, here is Gladys the gorilla with her family. As City Council winds down its sessions, Councilman Chris Seelbach will keep busy and help other city employees pick up garbage and clean sewers. Seelbach will be tweeting about his experiences in a different kind of public service here. Kroger led Cincinnati stocks to a big start in July — a good sign for an ailing national economy that has struggled to get back on its feet. The Cincinnati-based grocer also announced on Tuesday that it will buy rival Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc. in a $2.4 billion deal. Here are some pictures of carnivorous plants in action.

Bad News Budget

State Republicans lower taxes for the rich, defund Planned Parenthood and try to block health care for the poor in Kasich-signed budget

1 Comment · Wednesday, July 3, 2013
With Gov. John Kasich’s signature, Republican state officials on June 30 passed a budget that alters taxes, schools, Medicaid and abortion services in Ohio, putting the state in a controversial and politically charged path for the next two years.   
by German Lopez 07.02.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Voting, Budget at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Seelbach calls for Voting Rights Act rework, 3CDC upkeep criticized, politics in budget veto

Councilman Chris Seelbach and other local leaders are calling on Congress to rework the Voting Rights Act following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions. Supporters of the Voting Rights Act argue it’s necessary to prevent discrimination and protect people’s right to vote, while critics call it an outdated measure from the Jim Crow era that unfairly targeted some states with forgone histories of racism. “Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, five states are already moving ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had previously been rejected by the Department of Justice as discriminatory,” Seelbach said in a statement. “The right to vote is one of the most sacred values in our nation and Congress should act immediately to protect it”. Nonprofit developer 3CDC says it’s restructuring staff and guidelines to take better care of its vacant buildings following criticisms from residents and the local Board of Housing Appeals. The board has fined the 3CDC three times this year for failing to maintain Cincinnati’s minimum standards for vacant buildings, which require owners keep the buildings watertight and safe for emergency personnel to enter. Gov. John Kasich said the funding allocation belonged in the capital budget — not the operating budget he signed into law — when he vetoed money going to State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office, but The Columbus Dispatch reports it might have been revenge for Mandel’s opposition to the Medicaid expansion and an oil-and-gas severance tax. Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols says the allegation is “silly” and “absurd,” adding that Kasich said he would work with Mandel on allocating the money during the capital budget process. The state treasurer’s office says it needs the $10 million to upgrade computers against cyberattacks. Mandel was one of the first state Republicans to come out against the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered here and here. A series of mandatory across-the-board federal spending cuts was supposed to take $66 million from Ohio schools, but state officials say they’ll be able to soften the blow with $19 million in unspent federal aid. The federal cuts — also known as “sequestration” — were part of a debt deal package approved by Congress and President Barack Obama that kicked in March 1. Prior to its implementation, Obama asked Congress to rework sequestration to lessen its negative fiscal impact, but Republican legislators refused. CityBeat covered some of sequestration’s other statewide effects here. The mayoral race officially dropped down to four candidates yesterday, with self-identified Republican Stacy Smith failing to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot. Check out the Cincinnati Zoo’s latest expansion here. Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Where does John Cranley live?” It’s now legal to go 70 miles per hour in some state highways. Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s came in at No. 2 and No. 14 respectively in an annual list of the nation’s top 20 retailers from STORIES magazine. The Tribune Co. is buying Local TV LLC in Newport for $2.7 billion to become the largest TV station operator in the nation. Human head transplants may be closer than we think (and perhaps hope).