0 Comments · Thursday, December 27, 2012
A lot happened in Cincinnati and Ohio in
2012, and, for the most part, the year was good to progressives around
the nation and in Cincinnati.
0 Comments · Thursday, December 27, 2012
WEDNESDAY DEC. 19: Like tattoos and blood pacts with the
devil, getting a pet is a decision that can have long-term effects. A
guest column in today’s Enquirer explains how pets aren’t the same as other
gifts people don’t like, because they cost a lot of money after you buy
them and will pee all over everything.
by German Lopez
Youthful prisons get mixed report, Leis to stay on public payroll, shelter move approved
Despite problems with staff and records, a report is calling changes to Ohio’s youth prisons system a model for the nation.
The report from a court-appointed monitor praised the Ohio Department
of Youth Services for reducing the number of offenders in secure
confinement and spreading services for youthful offenders around the
state. However, the report also points out staff shortages, inadequate
teachers and inconsistent medical records. Advocates for youthful
offenders claim the bad findings show a need for continued court
There’s a new sheriff in town, and the old one is becoming a visiting judge.
Simon Leis, who served as sheriff for 25 years, is best known for going
after an allegedly obscene Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and prosecuting
pornographer Larry Flynt. As visiting judge, he will take on cases other
judges are assigned but can’t get to due to full dockets.
An appeals court is allowing City Gospel Mission to move to Queensgate.
The special assistance shelter wants to move from its current
Over-the-Rhine property to Dalton Avenue, but businesses and property
owners at Queensgate oppose the relocation. In its opinion, the Ohio
First District Court of Appeals said opponents to the relocation “have
not raised any genuine issues of material fact in support of their
constitutional attack upon the notwithstanding ordinance in their
capacity as neighboring businesses and property owners.”
Butler County nonprofit services are worried that a greater need for their services in 2013 will force more budget tightening.
U.S. retailers did not have a good Christmas.
Holiday sales were at the lowest they’ve been since 2008. The
disappointing sales have forced retailers to offer big discounts in
hopes of selling excess inventory.
Former president George H.W. Bush is in intensive care “following a series of setbacks including a persistent fever,” according to his spokesperson.
The Food and Drug Administration says FrankenFish, a giant, genetically modified salmon, is environmentally safe.
Fun fact: More Iranians worry about global warming than Americans.
Colleges are now helping students scrub their online footprints.
Antifreeze now tastes bitter to deter animals and children from eating it.
Scientists have developed a highly advanced robot boy capable of doing chores. Keep its face in mind, for you could be looking at the first of our future robot overlords.
Recaps of six cover stories people talked about in 2012
1 Comment · Thursday, December 27, 2012
CityBeat covered a variety of topics in 2012. Here are the stories that really stuck through, from the former pit bull ban to the Anna Louise Inn to private prisons.
by German Lopez
CPS helps rework school funding, cuts mean less teachers, judges against double-dipping
Cincinnati Public Schools seems to be playing a big role in reforming Ohio’s school funding formula.
Superintendent Mary Ronan got a call from Gov. John
Kasich’s office about the per-pupil funding formula CPS uses to
distribute funds to its schools. It seems the state might adopt a similar
method, but Ronan is cautious: “I do think it's one of the ways you
could do it, a per-pupil funding, but I have to say, we were always
tweaking every year ... because sometimes those formulas can be a bit off
and any time we saw one school getting a lot more than another ... we
tried to refine it every year over probably the 15 years we have used
it.” She also notes schools are getting “bare minimum” funding right
now. CityBeat covered budget problems at CPS here.
In general, state budget cuts have led to fewer teachers in Ohio schools. Gov. Kasich previously urged schools to focus on classroom instruction, but it seems the words aren't being followed up with proper funding.
Southwestern Ohio judges are clashing over double-dipping.
The practice involves government workers retiring and getting rehired
so they can collect pensions and a paycheck at the same time. At a
meeting, Hamilton County Judge Melba Marsh said she wants to allow
Magistrate Michael Bachman to retire and then be rehired so he doesn't
lose a 3-percent increase to his retirement, which is otherwise being
eliminated by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System after 2012.
But the move has been met with resistance from other judges.
For Cincinnati hospitals, Medicare changes mean some loss and some gain.
The online campaign urging Macy’s to dump Donald Trump circled a “Dump Trump” billboard around Macy’s headquarters. The anti-Trump movement has gained about 680,000 signatures since it started.
On Christmas Eve, some spent time with family, while Butler County Deputy David Runnells helped deliver a baby in the back of a car during an emergency call.
Ohio will use $20 million out of $200 million in casino funds to train incumbent workers. Gov. Kasich says the program could help avoid layoffs.
It seems Mitt Romney's presidential campaign really thought they were going to win.
In campaign memos leading up to the election, campaign staff said the
race was “unmistakably moving in Mitt Romney’s direction,” and the
campaign ridiculed the possibility of losing Ohio due to the Romney
campaign’s “better ground game.” But President Barack Obama had a much larger
ground game for one-on-one interaction, which is one of the factors
former Romney staff now say led to their demise. But whatever. Romney didn't want to be president, anyway, says son Tagg Romney: “He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to ... run.”
Fiscal cliff talks aren’t going well. President Obama cut his vacation early to work out negotiations.
If Republicans and Democrats can’t work out their problems, a series of
spending cuts and tax hikes dubbed the “fiscal cliff” will kick in
throughout 2013. But it’s looking more and more likely the nation will head
off the cliff, considering U.S. Speaker John Boehner can’t even pass tax hikes on people making more than $1 million a year.
Ever wonder what dinosaur meat would taste like? Well, Popular Science has that covered.
by German Lopez
End of world today, state unemployment dips, fiscal cliff plan abandoned
Today is the end of the world. Whatever. Life sucks anyway.
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.9 percent to 6.8 percent in November.
Gains were concentrated in trade, transportation, and
utilities, financial activities and educational and health services,
with losses in construction, leisure and hospitality, government,
professional and business services and information services. Overall,
the state’s non-agricultural wage and salary employment increased by
But could the recovery last? U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is now ditching efforts to avoid the fiscal cliff,
a series of spending cuts and tax hikes set to kick in at the end of
the year. Boehner could not get Republicans to vote on a tax hike for
people making more than $1 million a year, which isn’t even enough to
make President Barack Obama’s demand of increased taxes on anyone making
more than $400,000. If the United States goes over the fiscal cliff, the
spending cuts and tax hikes will likely devastate the economy. CityBeat wrote about U.S. Congress’ inability to focus on jobs here.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich finished the lame-duck session by signing 42 bills into law.
The laws include loosened restrictions on gun control, an update to
Ohio’s education rating system and $4.4 million in appropriations. The
loosened gun control law in particular is getting criticized from
Democrats in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre. The law allows
guns in the Ohio Statehouse garage, loosens concealed carry rules and
changes the definition of an unloaded gun so gun owners can have loaded
clips in cars as long as they are stored separately from guns. CityBeat wrote about the need for more gun control in this week’s commentary.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters suggested arming
teachers to avoid school shootings, but a considerable amount of
research shows that doesn’t work. Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig says arming teachers is a bad idea:
“Certainly we can look at other options, but when you talk about arming
school teachers or a school administrator without the appropriate
training, and training is not just going to a target range and being
able to hit center mass. How do you deal with a crisis? We're talking
about a place with children.” Craig is now pushing crisis training as a
Meanwhile, Sen. Rob Portman says school shootings need a holistic approach. The Ohio Republican says he will consider further restrictions on guns and armed school officials.
It seems a housing recovery is well underway. Cincinnati home sales are showing no signs of a slowdown.
Cincinnati is getting six historic preservation tax credits
from the state government. As part of the ninth round of the program,
the Ohio Development Services Agency is giving the city credits for
parts of Main Street, parts of East 12th Street, parts of East McMillan
Street, Abington Flats, Eden Park Pump Station and Pendleton Apartments.
The U.S. Department of Education is looking into whether Ohio charter schools discriminate against students with disabilities.
Overall, charter schools in the state enroll as many students with
disabilities as traditional public schools, but students with
disabilities are concentrated in a few charter schools.
A federal judge upheld Ohio’s exotic animal law, which restricts who can own the animals in the state.
Judith French, a Republican, will replace retiring Justice Evelyn Stratton
on the Ohio Supreme Court. Gov. Kasich’s appointment of
French keeps the court’s makeup of six Republicans and one Democrat.
Genetics is perfecting the Christmas tree. From the Twilight Zone archives comes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Christmas special.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
, Gun Violence
at 12:13 PM | Permalink
Considerable research suggests it wouldn’t help
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre,
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters suggested to WCPO TV that teachers “trained to
handle a weapon” should be armed.
The idea isn’t surprising coming from the Republican
county prosecutor. In the onset of tragedies like the one in Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., conservatives tend to counter
liberal cries for more gun control by saying the United States actually
needs more guns. They argue an armed society deters and is more
effective in stopping criminals.
The problem is the idea contradicts broader scientific
research. Following the attack at Tucson, Ariz., that nearly killed
former U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords, economist Richard Florida
looked state-by-state into what factors correlate with gun violence.
He found no correlation between gun violence and mental illness, higher
stress levels, neurotic personalities, higher unemployment or
inequality. However, his research did find that the places with the most
gun control tend to have less gun violence.
Researchers at Harvard Injury Control Research Center found another correlation:
Whether looking at countries or states, more guns means more homicides.
More specifically, men and women in places with more firearms are at a
larger risk for gun-related homicide.
The University of Pennsylvania tackled the issue from a different angle
in 2009: The researchers looked at gun assault cases to see if gun
owners were more or less likely to be shot. They found people with guns
were 4.46 times more likely to be shot and people who had a chance to
resist were 5.45 times more likely to be shot.
In 2009, ABC News ran a 20/20 special
that used a simulation to gauge whether armed civilians can stop
attacks. The simulation placed trained and armed students into a
classroom, where they thought they would be getting additional
firearms training. In the middle of the lecture, an armed gunman broke
into the classroom and began shooting the teacher and students with fake
rounds. In all the examples shown, none of the students were able to
stop the gunman before taking shots that would have been deadly in a
real scenario. Essentially, being trained in the use of a firearm was
not enough to prepare someone for the high levels of distorting stress
experienced in a real crisis.
In their defense, conservatives typically point to a few stories, including one in which a gun-toting Florida senior stopped an armed robbery at an Internet cafe.
But are a few feel-good stories enough to trump scientific research?
After all, one of the main purposes of the social sciences is to sort
through outliers and find real tends with strong evidence.
Looking at the facts and research available, perhaps it’s better
to focus on mental health services and gun control than it is to arm
school teachers and staff, as suggested in CityBeat’s Dec. 19 news commentary.
CityBeat could not immediately reach the
prosecutor’s office for comments through phone or email. This story will
be updated if comments become available.
by German Lopez
DeWine calls for school staff training, Music Hall to be leased, bus money not for streetcar
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is proposing
training school staff and teachers to be first responders in the case
of an attack. The news comes in the wake of the massacre in Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which caused the deaths of 20
children and six adults. CityBeat proposed its own solution in this week’s commentary: Make this time different by focusing on mental health services and gun control.
Cincinnati will lease Music Hall for 75 years to the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC). The lease
is part of a plan to renovate the iconic building to include more
comfortable seating, extra restroom capacity, heating, air conditioning,
improved plumbing and new escalator models. During the renovations,
Music Hall will be closed for 17 months.
City Council passed
a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money for the streetcar.
The supposed conflict between the city of Cincinnati and the Southwest
Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is being drummed up by the
media, but it’s really much ado about nothing.
Metropolitan Sewer District rates will go up by 5 percent in early 2013.
The Cincinnati Health Department is pushing
recommendations from a lead hazard study. The recommendations would
prohibit lead-based paint hazards and require all properties to be free
of lead-based paint, dust and soil. City Council is asking the health
department to carry out the regulations, and it expects from a plan and
timetable from regulators within 60 days. One study found getting rid of lead would do wonders for school performance
A Brookings Institute ranking placed Greater Cincinnati among the worst areas in the country due to falling home prices.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank agreed
to a $16 million settlement in a securities fraud case. The
four-year-old lawsuit was brought in the onset of 2008’s financial
crisis, when the bank’s stock plummeted as it took several large
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino still needs to fill 450 positions in food and beverage, marketing, finance, security and more. A Washington Post analysis found casinos tend to bring jobs, but they also bring crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.
As expected, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is helping
Ohio’s economy. The state has 39,000 jobs attached to oil and gas this
year, and the number is expected to triple by the end of the decade. To
take advantage of the boom, Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he will push his oil-and-gas severance tax in 2013. But the plan faces opposition from liberals and conservatives.
If Ohio Republicans tried to push “right-to-work” legislation, it would lead to a very nasty public fight, The Plain Dealer reports. Kasich and Republican lawmakers didn’t rule out
using ballot initiatives to push conservative ideas like right-to-work
in a press conference yesterday, but he did say he’s like a horse with
blinders on, focusing on job creation.
The animal and robot takeover have been merged in the BigDog robot. It can now obey voice commands, follow and roll over.
by German Lopez
City will lease Music Hall to private company for 75 years
Cincinnati’s Music Hall will be getting renovations, but
the project will be much smaller than anticipated. Instead of the
previously estimated $165 million, the project, which involves the city
leasing the iconic building to the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC) for 75 years, will only
cover approximately $95 million.
At a joint press conference Wednesday, Mayor Mark Mallory
and Otto Budig, president of MHRC,
officially announced the plan, which City Council will take up early
Not many details or a timeline were announced at the press
conference, but some information did come to light. The renovations will
include more comfortable seating, extra restroom capacity, heating, air
conditioning, improved plumbing and new escalator models. During the renovations, Music Hall, home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Ballet, will be closed for an estimated 17 months.
“We will do this in a manner that carries with it the
surety that the project will be complete,” Budig said. “The worst thing
we could do is start this project without the natural resources and
On top of the leasing agreement, the city will also help fund the project through tax credits.
The lease continues the trend of public-private
partnerships city government has used to revitalize Over-the-Rhine and
downtown Cincinnati in recent years. From the Banks to Washington Park, the city of
Cincinnati has pushed to be seen as a more attractive, business-friendly
However, that has come with some push back. The Cincinnati
Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) and city have previously
faced criticisms from homeless advocates for allegedly discriminatory
rules at Washington Park, which were later voted down by the Cincinnati Park Board.
Some public officials have also raised concerns about the
city giving away too many of its public assets. The 2013 budget
currently relies on a proposal that will privatize Cincinnati’s parking
assets, a plan that has faced heavy criticism from Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and mayoral candidate John Cranley. City Manager Milton Dohoney argues the privatization plan is necessary to avoid 344 layoffs.
by German Lopez
SORTA wants to limit transit fund, Mallory refuses
In the past few days, local media outlets have reported
heavily on a supposed conflict between Southwest Ohio Regional Transit
Authority (SORTA) and the city of Cincinnati. Essentially, SORTA wants
the transit fund limited, while the city government says it doesn’t want
to “undermine the city charter” with limitations.
At its heart, the argument is a political back-and-forth
with little consequence. It’s two government agencies at a small divide
over legalese in an intergovernmental agreement about how the streetcar
will operate and how it will be funded.
The specific issue is SORTA, which runs the Metro bus
system and will operate the streetcar, wants to include phrasing in its
agreement with the city that makes it so the transit fund can’t be used
for the streetcar. In a 7-6 vote Tuesday, SORTA's board pushed its preferred wording along with an application for an $11 million federal grant that will help fund the streetcar.But the city government claims the limitation would go
against the spirit of the city charter, which says the transit fund can
be used for “public transit purposes generally and without limitation.”UPDATE: City Council on Wednesday
passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the
streetcar, although it has no legal standing preventing council
from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar.
Still, Mayor Mark Mallory’s office has insisted time and
time again that funding for the streetcar’s construction and operation is already
allocated, so taking any money from the transit fund will be
unnecessary. Specifically, the city will tap into casino revenue to
operate the streetcar, on top of the $11 million federal grant.
In an op-ed for The Cincinnati Enquirer Monday, Mallory said
the real issue goes back to an ongoing lawsuit between SORTA and the
city. In 2010, the city diverted money from the transit fund to
pay for street lights. That prompted a lawsuit from SORTA, asking the courts to
define the limits of the transit fund.
The mayor’s office sees the wording from SORTA as an attempt from the transit agency to score a minor victory in the legal battle. If the city government accepted the wording, it
would be agreeing to a limited transit fund, which is essentially what
SORTA’s wording also makes it so all transit fund money
will continue going to the Metro bus system, which is the agency’s sole
But even SORTA says the disagreement is getting blown out of proportion by media outlets and public
officials. Sallie Hilvers, spokesperson for SORTA, says the wording in the approved agreement was the board’s attempt to ensure the transit fund
isn’t used for the streetcar, but, for the most part, it’s “really just
Hilvers insisted the disagreement over wording has plenty
of time to be worked out, and it will not hinder collaboration between
the city of Cincinnati and SORTA. The agreement will need to be worked out before summer 2013 for the streetcar to stay on track.