by German Lopez
Austerity hurts U.S. economy, voter suppression returns, state income tax benefits rich
Between October and December, the U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank by 0.1 percent — the first contraction since 2009. The downturn was
primarily caused by the threat of conservative fiscal policies,
particularly defense spending cuts. Dropping business inventories also
helped drag down the economy. Otherwise, consumer and business spending
was actually strong.
Some Republicans want another go at reducing voting rights.
Rep. Mike Dovilla, chairman of the newly created House Policy &
Legislative Oversight Committee, says he wants to consider measures that
crack down on alleged voter fraud, including reduced voting
times and a photo ID requirement to vote. But in-person voter fraud is not a real problem. News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found only 10 cases of in-person voting fraud in the United States between 2000 and 2012.
That’s not even one case of in-person fraud each year. The real reason
Republicans want to enact stricter voting measures is to hinder young, minority
voters that typically support Democrats. One study found 700,000 young, minority voters were excluded by photo ID laws in 2012.
A Policy Matters Ohio report found Ohio’s income tax hits the poor and middle class
a lot harder than the wealthy. The numbers from the report: “The top 1
percent of non-elderly Ohio families by income, who earned at least
$324,000 in 2010, on average pay 8.1 percent of their income in state
and local income, property, sales and excise taxes. By contrast, the
lowest fifth, who make less than $17,000, on average pay 11.6 percent.
Families in the middle fifth of the income spectrum, who make between
$31,000 and $49,000, on average pay 10.6 percent.”
Cincinnati is extending its contract
with Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) for a month
despite an ongoing conflict, but the supposed conflict is really much ado about nothing.
SORTA wants the city to guarantee it won’t use the transit fund for the
streetcar, but City Council has already passed a resolution saying it
won’t and Mayor Mark Mallory has repeatedly stated he will not use the
transit fund for the streetcar. Due to the mayor’s race, the streetcar
will be facing another contentious year at the ballot box,
which CityBeat covered in-depth here.
More than 60 percent of Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurs are expecting a net profit
in 2013. Most of them also expect to hire part-time employees,
according to a new survey from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. The
survey is another sign of rising confidence in the U.S.
economy.The Dayton Daily News reports manufacturing is driving economic growth in Ohio, to the benefit of more than half of the state’s counties.
When defending Ohio's charter school and voucher programs, conservatives often tout the magic of “school choice,” but a Policy
Matters report found school choice may hurt education standards in the state.
Ed FitzGerald, a popular Democrat from Cuyahoga County, is gearing up to run for the governor's race in 2014.
Scientists have taught bacteria to eat electricity. The trick could eventually be used to turn microorganisms into a biofuel source.
by German Lopez
School funding changes soon, prison union wants more security, drug abuse costs employers
School superintendents will hear
about Gov. John Kasich’s school funding proposal Thursday. The
proposal, which will change how all of Ohio’s schools are publicly
funded, will be released to the wider public Feb. 4. Many school
officials are bracing for the worst, according to Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. Rob Nichols previously told CityBeat
that the proposal is “a big undertaking”: “Many governors have tried
before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something
we have to take our time with and get it done right.” Ohio’s largest prison staff union is asking Kasich’s administration to increase the amount of prison security officers
following a late December report from the Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction. The report found a correlation
between rising prison violence and a decrease in prison security staff,
affirming a position the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association has
held for years.
A Journal News report found substance abuse comes at a heavy loss
for Ohio employers, including more workplace injuries, higher medical
costs, more absenteeism and reduced productivity. Some experts advocate
for drug testing to lower the costs, while others
argue drug testing can often affect innocent, responsible drug users.
Employers are much more likely to test for marijuana over alcohol, even
though multiple studies show cannabis is less addictive and
The flu epidemic may be leveling off in Ohio. The state
health department revealed the amount of hospitalizations involving the
flu have plateaued, but the department cautions the calm could be temporary.
The women’s sections of county and regional jails are facing higher levels of overcrowding.
The overcrowding is a result of a 2011 law that enables fourth- and
fifth-degree felons to be held at county jails instead of state prisons.
A new online tool reveals the salaries of public school teachers and staff.
The extensive audit of Ohio schools and their attendance information will be released Feb. 11. The preliminary reports found Cincinnati Public Schools were clean. The investigation into attendance fraud began when Lockland schools in Hamilton County were caught falsifying attendance data.
A new poll found an overwhelming majority of Kentucky parents favor raising the school dropout age to 18, up from the current age of 16.
Ohio gas prices are still rising.
Researchers made super-realistic lung tissue with levitating cells. The development allows researchers to better study how toxins affect the lungs.
by German Lopez
Terhar compares Obama to Hitler, Cincinnati unemployment drops, Portman's deficit plan
Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar posted an image
of Adolf Hitler on Facebook that said, “Never forget what this tyrant
said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.”
But the Cincinnati Republican, who was referencing President Barack
Obama’s gun control proposals, now insists she was not comparing Obama
to Hitler. It’s pretty obvious she was, though.
Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate
dropped to 6.7 percent in December, down from 6.9 percent in November.
The drop is largely attributed to a decrease in the civilian labor force,
which could imply less people are looking for work or seasonal changes
are having an impact. Whatever the case, the amount of people who are
employed and unemployed both dropped. Hamilton County’s seasonally
unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent in December, down
from 6.4 percent in November, but that drop was also attributed to a declining labor
force or seasonal factors. Greater Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted
unemployment rate was unchanged from 6.4 percent, despite 2,600 less
people working. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted
rate was 6.6 percent in December, up from 6.5 percent in November, and
the U.S. rate was 7.6 percent, up from 7.4 percent.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, suggested the Dollar-for-Dollar
Deficit Reduction Act. The plan requires debt ceiling increases to be
matched by an equal amount of spending cuts. Increasing the debt ceiling
is essentially Congress agreeing to pay its bills. During the budget
process and while passing other legislation, Congress agrees to a
certain amount of spending. Increasing the debt ceiling just makes it
possible for the president to pay those bills, even if it means
surpassing a set debt level. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by May 18,
the United States will default on its debts, plunging the country into
depression. But the threat of destroying the U.S. economy has not
stopped Republicans from using the debt ceiling as a negotiation tool to
get the spending cuts they so badly want.
Public employees are avoiding changes to Ohio’s public pension system
by retiring before the changes kick in. The changes make it so any teacher who
retires before July 1 will get a 2 percent cost of living increase to
their pensions in 2015. Anyone who retires after July 1 will not get the
increase until 2018. After that, retirees will get a pension increase
every five years. Experts are also expecting a rush of retirees in 2015,
when age and years-of-service requirements for full benefits are set to
A new report found Ohio’s graduation rate is still improving.
The U.S. Department of Education report found the state’s graduation
rate was 81.4 percent in the 2009-10 school year, higher than the
nation’s rate of 78.2 percent, and an increase from 78.7 percent rate in
the 2006-2007 school year.
A study found a link between hourly workers at Hamilton County’s Fernald Feed Materials Production Center and intestinal cancer.
As Ohio cuts back its solar program, Canada is shutting down the rest of its coal-fired power plants by the end of 2013.
The Cincinnati Reds may get to host the 2015 All-Stars Game.
Scientists are rushing to build robots that save lives in disaster zones. Will John Connor please stand up?
by German Lopez
State unemployment drops, GOP embraces redistricting, Cincinnati climate-friendly
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December, down from 6.8 percent in November, according to new numbers
from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. In comparison, the
U.S. unemployment rate was at 7.8 percent in December. The amount of
unemployed dropped from 391,000 to 388,000. Unfortunately, the amount of
employed also dropped, indicating that some people are leaving the
The Republican State Leadership Committee admitted the only reason Republicans kept a House majority was politicized redistricting.
The admission from a memo titled “How a Strategy of Targeting State
Legislative Races in 2010 Led to a Republican U.S. House Majority in
2013.” The report even singled out Ohio as a state that benefited
Republicans due to redistricting. CityBeat previously covered the issue in-depth here.
Cincinnati is among three finalists in the World Wildlife
Fund’s (WWF) Earth Hour City Challenge. The contest judges efforts to
combat global warming. Cincinnati, Chicago and San Francisco were chosen
by WWF and global management consultancy Accenture for
preparing their cities for a “climate-friendly future,” according to a
statement from WWF.
At this point, it’s looking like Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposals will take months for legislators to sort through. The proposals include major changes to taxes, the Ohio Turnpike, education and Medicaid.
Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky signed a landmark water agreement to leverage Greater Cincinnati’s water technologies. The agreement seeks to spur legislation, according to the Business Courier.
The Cincinnati Zoo may need a levy to stay afloat.
Ohio hospitals spent $3.1 billion in free health care in 2010, up from $2.9 billion in 2009, according to an Ohio Hospital Association report.
On the bright side, overall crime is down in Cincinnati.
Bad news, everyone. Chipotle is likely to raise prices this year.
To avoid Obamacare’s health care requirements for businesses, some businesses may begin cutting jobs.
Some in the scientific community want to establish national parks on Mars.
The Catholic Church’s interference with its employees’ private lives is becoming an increasingly public matter
5 Comments · Wednesday, January 9, 2013
In the 1940s, upholding a dainty, proper
nuclear family wasn’t just common — it was the absolute standard for
social acceptance. Seventy years later, that’s no longer the case.
by German Lopez
Streetcar delayed to 2016, unemployment steady, Boehner re-elected speaker
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Cincinnati streetcar is being delayed until 2016.
The streetcar has been delayed time and time again, much to the cheer of opponents. Some opponents have taken
the delay as yet another chance to take shots at the streetcar, but the
city says a lot of the delays have been due to factors out of the city’s
control, including ballot initiatives, the state pulling out a massive
$52 million in funding and a dispute with Duke Energy.The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent in December,
with November’s rate being revised upward to 7.8 percent as well.
Employers reported adding about 155,000 jobs last month, but about
192,000 entered the labor force, meaning the amount of people joining
the labor force outmatched the newly employed. The unemployment rate
looks at the amount of unemployed people in the civilian labor force,
which includes anyone working or looking for work.
U.S. Speaker John Boehner was re-elected U.S. House speaker.
Just moments after securing the top House seat, Boehner said he will
make the U.S. debt a top priority. But continuing to make the debt and
deficit top issues could hurt the economy, as the fiscal cliff and
recent developments in Europe have shown.
Uncle Sam is helping out Cincinnati firefighters. The Cincinnati Fire Department will be getting $6 million in federal grant money to hire 40 additional firefighters. The money will be enough to fund salaries for two years.
Cincinnati’s biggest cable provider dropped Current TV
after it was sold to Qatar-based Al Jazeera. The Pan-Arab news network
has had a difficult time establishing a foothold in American markets,
largely because of the perception that it’s anti-American. But Al
Jazeera has put out some great news stories, and some of the stories won
awards in 2012.
If anyone is planning a trip through New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Dayton International Airport now has that covered.A small town in Ohio is being accused of covering up an alleged gang rape to protect a local football team.
But KnightSec, a hacking group affiliated with the organization Anonymous, is
fighting back by releasing evidence related to the case.
Despite a solved fiscal cliff deal extending emergency unemployment benefits, Ohio’s unemployed will soon be getting less aid. The decrease was automatically triggered by the state’s declining unemployment rate.
Ohio’s universities are adopting more uniform standards for remedial classes.
The newest Congress is a little more diverse.
In what might be the worst news of the century, the Blue Wisp Jazz Club could close down. The club, which has the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is facing financial problems.
People who recently obtained gift cards for Rave Motion Pictures may want to get a move on. The theater is being sold to AMC Theatres.
A new theory suggest Earth should have been a snowball in its early days, but it wasn’t due to greenhouse gases.
by German Lopez
Local unemployment unchanged, schools could open enrollment, 2013 challenges schools
Facing tight budgets, Ohio schools, including Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), are considering open enrollment.
The move would open school doors to neighboring communities. It was
previously considered by CPS a decade ago, but the plan didn’t have
enough support from the district’s board. It might now.Next year could be challenging for Ohio schools.
Butler County schools will begin the year by implementing a transition
to the Common Core Curriculum, new evaluations for teachers and a new
method of rating and grading schools. The state is also expected to
change the school funding formula.Cincinnati’s
seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate remained relatively flat at 6.9
percent in November, according to data from the Ohio Department of Jobs
and Family Services. The city’s unemployment did not tick up or down
from the 6.9 percent rate in October, but about 1,300 dropped out from
the civilian labor force as it shrank from 145,600 in October to 144,300
in November. Hamilton County also remained flat at 6.3 percent as 3,500
left the labor force. Greater Cincinnati ticked up to 6.2 percent from
6.1 percent, with about 6,900 leaving the labor force between October
and November. In comparison, the state had a seasonally unadjusted rate
of 6.5 percent and nation had a seasonally unadjusted rate of 7.4
percent in November. Unemployment numbers are calculated through a
household survey. The unemployment rate gauges the amount of unemployed
people looking for work in contrast to the total civilian labor force.
Since the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in
later months. Federal and state numbers are typically adjusted for
seasonal factors.Police in Kentucky are now using playing cards to catch suspects.
Trooper Michael Webb says the effort has helped crack three out of 52
cases so far. That may not seem like a lot, but Webb puts it in
perspective: “Two of the cases were double homicides so that's four
families that have gotten closure and have had some kind of ability to
deal with the situation. The third one was a single murder and obviously
that family has been able to have closure. So we've got five families
that have been able to have closure as a result of this initiative.”Another casualty of the fiscal cliff: milk. It turns out milk prices could soar to $7 a gallon as Congress fails to adopt a farm bill. President Barack Obama and legislators are expected to discuss a fiscal cliff deal today.As some companies shift to social media, Facebook may topple CareerBuilder for job opportunities.On Christmas Day, 17.4 million smart devices turned on for the first time. In the first 20 days of December, only 4 million Android and iOS devices were turned on.What does 2013 hold for science and technology? Popular Science takes a look. Expect more supercomputers and less solar activity!Here is the dorkiest, cutest marriage proposal ever.
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
Governor reveals turnpike plan, city to approve budget, Kroger could buy Hostess brands
It’s official: Gov. John Kasich won’t privatize
the Ohio Turnpike. Instead, the Republican governor wants to increase
tolls at the rate of inflation and issue bonds backed by the turnpike’s
profits to raise an estimated $3 billion for infrastructure projects — more than 90 percent of which will be in northern Ohio, where the turnpike is located. To
ease the short-term burden of the plan, tolls for local passenger trips
using E-ZPasses will be frozen at current levels for 10 years. In a video
unveiling the announcement, Kasich says the projects could generate an
estimated 75,000 jobs. To most, the plan, which will require approval
from the legislature, probably seems like a fairly liberal proposal: use
a public asset to leverage revenue, then use the revenue on a large,
statewide stimulus program. But Democrats are criticizing the plan
because they say the toll hike will hurt individuals, families and businesses
that use the Ohio Turnpike. Let the eye-rolling at blatant politicking begin!
City Council is getting ready to approve the budget today. The final plan has made a few tweaks to City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposal. Parking privatization will remain, but the budget will provide a
one-year stopgap in funding for Media Bridges. Previously,
all of Media Bridges’ funding was being cut, which CityBeat wrote about here.
The plan will also keep the mounted patrol unit, maintain income tax
reciprocity and restore funding for human services and arts grants.
Will Cincinnati-based Kroger soon own Twinkies? It’s possible. The grocery store giant is considering buying Hostess brands in the aftermath of Hostess’ bankruptcy. CityBeat previously wrote about the Hostess bankruptcy here.
A study found a gap
in Hamilton County’s housing stock. The report suggests the county
doesn’t need any more housing than it already has; instead, it should
build on current properties. The report also found vacant housing that
isn’t for sale and serves no purpose has increased by 107 percent.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has unveiled a new master plan. It’s proposing $450 million in projects.
The Hamilton County recorder’s office will remain open
on Fridays. The office was previously planning to close every Friday
due to funding cuts, but restored funds have made staying open possible.
In its last session of the year, the Ohio Senate approved redistricting reform
32-1. The House could not take up the measure before the end of the
lame-duck session, but the vast bipartisan support could be a good sign
for next year’s legislative session. Redistricting is widely used by
politicians to redraw district boundaries in politically beneficial
ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was
redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include
Republican-leaning Warren County, effectively diluting Cincinnati’s
Democratic-leaning urban vote in the district.
Ohio lost more residents than it gained last year, but the trend might be reversed by a growing economy. Economic improvements have already slowed down what Dayton Daily News calls an “exodus.”
A new Ohio law would increase the amount of auto insurance motorists are required to carry.
A drop in gas prices lowered U.S. consumer prices by 0.3 percent.
NASA discovered the largest river
ever seen on another world. The river is on Titan, Saturn’s largest
moon, and it is made up of hydrocarbons. The river is still unnamed, so I
encourage everyone to email NASA to name the river the German Lopez
Climate change isn’t just bad for humans. It will also hurt cuddly land mammals.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 12, 2012
If someone turned on the news during the
past few weeks, it would be hard to blame him if he thought the most
pressing issues in the world right now are budgets and abortions.