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Cincinnati vs. The World 11.21.2012

1 Comment · Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Oil giant BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion in for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill — the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history. WORLD -2    
by German Lopez 11.19.2012
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Plan Cincinnati hearing tonight, fiscal cliff threatens schools, Kasich declines exchanges

City Council’s Livable Communities committee is expected to hear about and likely vote tonight on the city’s first master plan in more than 30 years. The plan, which CityBeat previously covered, seeks a renewed emphasis on Cincinnati’s urban core through new infrastructure and transportation options. It was put together largely based on public feedback. The “fiscal cliff,” which is really more of a self-induced austerity crisis from the federal government, could seriously hurt Ohio schools. Educators around the state, including Cincinnati schools, are expecting a cut of about 8 percent in federal funding. A Cincinnati Public Schools levy was recently renewed after a decade of cuts and problems at the school district. Gov. John Kasich has finally made a decision for Obamacare: The state will not run the health exchanges that are a big part of the plan. With the governor’s decision, managing the health exchanges now falls to the federal government. Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, defended the governor’s decision by pointing out that even if the state managed the exchanges, the federal government would always have the final say, creating an arrangement “just doesn’t make sense for the state.” Exchanges are subsidized, heavily regulated insurance markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace. Cincinnati’s economy is being carried largely by manufacturing, and that looks likely to continue. Business schools at the University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Xavier University and Northern Kentucky University were found to be among the nation’s best, according to the Princeton Review. Still, none of the schools made the top 10 rankings for the review’s 11 categories. City Council is holding a public hearing today to find out what the city should do with casino revenue. Some of the council members already have plans, but City Council wants public feedback to shape the final decision. In other council news, the Human Services Advisory committee recommended funding for 56 out of 58 programs. The two programs left out are the Over-The-Rhine Kitchen and a social education program offered by the Starfire Council of Greater Cincinnati. Cincinnati’s Metro bus service will be getting a revamp in the next few years. The company released a comprehensive plan with short-term and long-term goals that focus on increasing travel speed and reach. Charter schools are where a large amount of Ohio kids are getting their education. This is despite the fact that, in general, traditional public schools perform better than charter schools, according to state standards. Food stamps for Ohio families are getting reduced by about $25 a month. The good news is the cut is lower than expected. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction released a “re-inspection report” for the Lake Erie prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America. According to the new report, CCA has come a long way and corrected many of the violations the state originally found in the private prison. The last report found the prison, which CCA bought in 2011, was riddled with problems. CityBeat looked at private prisons, their problems and the shady connections between state officials and CCA in an in-depth report. A report found more Ohioans are taking advantage of a national settlement that lets households refinance their mortgages. In total, more than 4,500 Ohioans have refinanced for $165 million in consumer relief. Still, many eligible Ohioans are not taking advantage of the opportunity. Here are pictures of a tiny octopus, fighting female robots and an orange-powered battery.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.16.2012
Posted In: Governor, News, Health care at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
kasich_2

Kasich Says No to State-Managed Health Exchanges

Decision means federal government will take over

Gov. John Kasich is refusing to work with Obamacare. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the governor today declined to have the state government run its health insurance exchange. With the move, the federal government will be put in charge of managing Ohio’s exchange. Exchanges are subsidized, heavily regulated insurance markets that will go into effect in 2014 as part of Obamacare. They are supposed to bring down costs by offering more transparent, open competition through a fair, regulated marketplace. As part of Obamacare, states have to decide by Dec. 14 whether they’ll manage the exchanges or let the federal government do it. Conservatives were quick to praise Kasich's decision. Americans for Prosperity applauded the choice in a statement. The Buckeye Institute put up a blog post calling the move “the right decision for Ohio.” The Coalition Opposed to Additional Taxes and Spending (COAST) called the move the right choice. At first, the choice seems like a contradiction for conservatives. After all, they’re the group that normally rails against a big federal government. Why let the federal government take over a new, major part of the health-care system? Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, justified the decision in a statement: “Ohio would have no flexibility to shape an exchange to our needs and its costs will be so high that it just doesn’t make sense for the state to operate a health exchange under Obamacare.” In other words, even if the state managed the exchanges, it would still have to answer to the federal government. In his letter, Kasich also stated Ohio will not give up its right to regulate the insurance market. So the federal government will have the final say on exchanges, but Kasich wants to keep the rest of the market under state regulatory control. The state will also keep control over deciding Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) eligibility. Ohio is not alone in declining to supervise exchanges. Other states have signed off on letting the federal government manage them, including Florida and Texas. Still, Republicans may want to proceed cautiously. Recent polling has shown that support for repealing Obamacare has massively dropped. That shift could reflect reality catching up to public opinion. Republicans tend to rail against Obamacare by saying it’s too expensive, but a Congressional Budget Office report found repealing Obamacare would increase the deficit by $109 billion between 2013 and 2022.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.16.2012
Posted In: News, Transportation at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Metro

Metro Plan Brings Big Changes

Transit company calls for public feedback

Metro is nearing completion of its new comprehensive transit plan. Throughout the year, the nonprofit, tax-funded transit company has worked on Way to Go, a plan with short-term and long-term goals meant to revamp lines for faster, wider-ranging travel. The plan, which is the first comprehensive plan since the late 1990s and early 2000s, has a short-term part and a long-term portion. Both parts came together with a lot of community feedback gathered through on-board surveys, stop-by-stop analyses, online surveys, special event surveys and public meetings. Sallie Hilvers, spokesperson for Metro, says the plan has a lot of little changes to stops and lines, but she emphasized some key parts. In the short term, the plan will establish more crosstown connections, which will bring together different parts of Cincinnati so traveling requires fewer downtown transfers. Metro will also make a few changes to improve frequency of travel in major corridors like Montgomery Road, Reading Road and Vine Street, while shortening travel times all around. For the short term, “We don’t have a lot of big changes,” Hilvers says. “No routes are going away. There’s no fare increase associated with this. It’s simply reallocating the resources.” The long-term plan has bigger, more expansive changes. The biggest part is probably the bus rapid transit system (BRT), which will allow quicker travel in major corridors by using traffic signal priority, fewer stops and special bus lanes. Stops will be getting a makeover in some areas to be more comfortable for passengers waiting for transfers. There will also be changes to improve service at current stops, add more crosstown routes and add more routes that go beyond downtown and into dense areas with lots of jobs. The long-term plan is currently unfunded, but public opinion will help establish and reshape priorities before any money is attached. Hilvers says Metro will be doing a “demonstration project” for BRT next year. In the demo, buses will “dart across” the Montgomery Road corridor, Xavier University, the University of Cincinnati and downtown. The plan will help gauge the popularity of the idea, says Hilvers: “It gives us a test to see how people like this. If they really like the concept, then we can maybe go for federal funding, etc. to go for the full-blown BRT in the future.” “You just have to have a vision of where you’re going,” Hilvers says. “This is our vision of where we’re going. We have to know from the community what it wants to ultimately support.” Metro is still taking public feedback for the Way to Go until the end of the year. More information on the plan and how to provide feedback can be found at www.go-metro.com/about-metro/way-to-go.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.16.2012
Posted In: Budget, News, Economy, Anna Louise Inn at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City manager gets raise despite deficit, GE food regulations, Ohio unemployment drops

Cincinnati may have a deficit estimated to be between $34 million and $40 million, but that didn't stop City Council from voting 6-2 Thursday to approve a $23,000 raise and one-time $35,000 bonus for City Manager Milton Dohoney, the highest-paid city employee. The raise brings his salary up from $232,000 to $255,000. Council members Chris Seelbach and Chris Smitherman voted against the raise. P.G. Sittenfeld also opposed the raise and bonus, but he missed the vote because he was out of town for personal reasons. If City Council balances the budget for the next year and fires someone making $58,000 or less to help do so, the raise and one-time bonus could have meant one person’s job. City Council also voted 8-0 to encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce mandatory labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) food. Alison Auciello, Ohio-based organizer for Food & Water Watch, praised the move in a statement: “Genetically engineered foods are potentially unsafe, and consumers should have the right to decide for themselves if they want to eat GE foods. It took regulation to get food processors to label ingredients and nutrition facts on labels, and now we’re calling for federal lawmakers to require the labeling of GE food.” Ohio’s unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in October, down from 7.1 percent in September, according to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. The numbers were mostly positive with the amount of unemployed dropping by 10,000 and the amount of employed rising by 13,900. The civilian labor force also grew, although it was still below Oct. 2011 levels. Most gains were seen in service-providing industries, professional and business services and government. In comparison, the federal unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in October, up from 7.8 percent in September. The Anna Louise Inn won another zoning appeal yesterday. The victory upheld a conditional use permit for the Inn, which will allow Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Inn, to carry on with $13 million renovations. Western & Southern has vowed to appeal the ruling. Income inequality in Ohio is wide and growing. A new study found the gap between the rich and poor is widening, with the lower and middle classes actually losing real income since the 1990s.  After Thanksgiving, the Cincinnati Zoo team will be studying penguins off the coast of Chile. Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is having no part in the good unemployment news. The company announced another round of job cuts as part of a large restructuring program. It’s unclear how the cuts will impact Cincinnati. Hostess, maker of Twinkies, is going out of business. The company blamed a workers’ strike for the move, but Hostess has been having problems for a long time. The company has already filed for bankruptcy twice this decade. The Ohio Board of Regents launched OhioMeansSuccess.org, a website meant to place students on a path to college and a successful career. Russia can get pretty hardcore. While herding sheep, one grandmother fended off and killed a wolf with an axe. The U.S. Navy is retiring its mine-sweeping dolphins and replacing them with robots.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.15.2012
Posted In: News, Economy, Equality at 02:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cbpp

Ohio Income Inequality Growing

State follows nationwide trend between wealthiest and poorest

Occupy Wall Street may have been onto something. A new report from left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) found Ohio’s income gap — the income difference between the rich and poor — is wide and growing.  Since the 1970s, the poorest 20 percent saw no change in real income, the middle 20 percent gained 21.1 percent, the top 20 percent gained 50.6 percent and the top 5 percent gained 85.1 percent. In terms of real dollars, low-income and middle-income Ohioans have actually seen their income drop since the 1990s. The drop caused a “lost decade” for Ohio’s lower and middle classes, according to the report. The bottom 20 percent saw a 6.9 percent drop in real income from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, while the middle 20 percent saw a 2.9 percent drop. Real incomes for the top 20 percent and top 5 percent remained the same. The shifts have caused a startling difference in real income, which the report calculated by looking at real dollars after federal taxes and including the value of the Earned Income Tax Credit, housing subsidies and food stamps. The poorest 20 percent make on average about $20,500, and the middle 20 percent make on average about $58,100. Meanwhile, the top 5 percent make about $221,800 — 10.8 times as much as the bottom 20 percent and 3.8 times as much as the middle 20 percent. Real dollars are a measurement used to gauge the value of money and income after inflation. If a family sees its income in real dollars drop, it means income increases, if they exist, are not keeping up with inflation. The widening income gap is part of a nationwide trend. In comparison to other states, Ohio mostly did better than the national average. Ohio was not included in any of the six top 10 ranks for inequality, which ranked states for rises in inequality during different time periods. During the late 2000s, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Georgia and New York had the greatest gaps between the wealthiest and poorest. In the same time period, New Mexico, California, Georgia, Mississippi and Arizona had the biggest gaps between the wealthiest and middle. Part of the cause for the widening gap is the recent recession, but the CBPP report found that the wealthiest have seen their incomes rise again in the recession’s aftermath, while middle and lower incomes have not. The report also blamed government policies — deregulation, trade liberalization, the weakening safety net, the lack of effective laws regarding collective bargaining and the declining real value of the minimum wage — and the expansion of investment incomes, which the CBPP says “primarily accrue to those at the top of the income structure.” The report finished with some suggestions for states: raise minimum wage and index it for inflation, improve unemployment insurance systems, make state tax systems more progressive and strengthen safety nets. Policy Matters Ohio, which pointed to the findings in a statement, says the report warrants action. “Poor and middle-income families are seeing their income fall in real dollars and relative to higher earners,” said Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, in the statement. “When households already subsisting on less than $23,000 a year see their incomes drop, that means hunger, instability, poor school performance and worse. Ohio needs to do more to improve the lives of families in this state.”
 
 
by German Lopez 11.15.2012
Posted In: Anna Louise Inn, News, Development at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
anna louise inn

Anna Louise Inn Wins Another Zoning Appeal

Western & Southern set to appeal for third time

The Anna Louise Inn today won another case in front of the Cincinnati Zoning Board of Appeals. The ruling upheld a Historic Conservation Board decision that gave Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the inn, a conditional use permit that will allow the social service agency to carry on with a planned $13 million renovation. Western & Southern in a statement given to reporters following the decision vowed to appeal the ruling. At the hearing, Western & Southern attorney Francis Barrett, who is the brother of Western & Southern CEO John Barrett, continued his argument that the Anna Louise Inn is a “high-crime area.” The accusation is meant to disqualify the Inn for the conditional use permit, which requires that the building’s use will not be detrimental to public health and safety or negatively affect property values in the neighborhood. During an Aug. 27 hearing, the Historic Conservation Board found no direct evidence connecting residents of the Anna Louise Inn to criminal activity in the neighborhood. Barrett also emphasized Western & Southern’s stance that continuing on the current path set by the Historic Conservation Board is a waste of taxpayer money because the Inn is receiving public funds. Barrett labeled the funds “excessive expenditures.” However, that argument has little bearing on whether the Inn deserves a conditional use permit, because it’s not relevant to zoning laws and rules. Tim Burke, Cincinnati Union Bethel’s attorney, began his defense of the Anna Louise Inn by calling the ongoing case one of the most “frustrating” of his career. He suggested Western & Southern is just continuing its attempts to delay the Inn’s renovations as much as possible. Regarding the charge that the Anna Louise Inn has adverse effects on public health and safety, Burke told the Zoning Board of Appeals that the only adverse effect is on Western & Southern because “they want the property and can’t get it.” He claimed there is no proof that the Anna Louise Inn perpetuates crime in the area, and testimony and evidence presented in the case has proven as much. The case is only one of many in the ongoing conflict between Cincinnati Union Bethel and Western & Southern, which CityBeat previously covered in-depth (“Surrounded by Skyscrapers,” issue of Aug. 15). Cincinnati Union Bethel wants to renovate the Anna Louise Inn in part with $10 million in tax credit financing from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency and a $2.6 million loan funded by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that was awarded by the city. Western & Southern says it wants to use the Lytle Park area, where the Inn is located, for private economic development. The series of cases began when Judge Norbert Nadel ruled on May 27 that the Anna Louise Inn classifies as a “special assistance shelter,” which requires a different kind of zoning permit than the previous classification of “transitional housing.” That ruling was appealed by Cincinnati Union Bethel to the Ohio First District Court of Appeals, which held hearings on Oct. 30 and is expected to give a ruling soon.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.15.2012
 
 
milton dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

Council approves raise amid deficit, GOP versus Planned Parenthood, puppy mills regulated

It’s official: Cincinnati’s budget proposal will arrive Nov. 26. The budget will seek to close a deficit estimated to be between $34 million and $40 million. Part of the budget plan was revealed when the city manager’s office suggested privatizing parking.Despite the deficit the city is facing, City Council pushed forward a $21,000 raise and a one-time $35,000 bonus for City Manager Milton Dohoney in a 6-3 vote. It’s the first raise Dohoney is getting since 2007, but some are unhappy with the decision in light of the deficit, which could lead to job cuts. “The city manager is a good man, he is a hard worker, but to me this just feels out of touch with the economic reality that we are in right now,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld told Fox 19. “You don't give the highest paid employee in the city a raise, a significant raise, when you're facing a potentially huge budget deficit. Plus, you know, there's a very real possibility of layoffs.”Ohio Republicans are pushing forward with HB 298, a bill that cuts funds to Planned Parenthood. The organization has become a popular target for Republicans because it provides abortions, but abortion services only make up 3 percent of what Planned Parenthood offers. The move is just one of many recent moves in the Republican agenda against abortion rights. They recently advocated renewing the heartbeat bill, and Gov. John Kasich recently appointed two anti-abortion advocates to government positions.The Ohio House overwhelmingly approved a bill that will put large-scale puppy mills under more scrutiny with new state standards and yearly inspections. Animal rights activists have argued Ohio has become a haven for bad breeding practices due to lax laws and regulations. CityBeat previously covered the puppy mills issue and how it enables Ohio’s dog auctions.But that’s not all the Ohio legislature got done. The Ohio House passed a bill that further regulates “pill mills” — doctors, pharmacies or clinics that distribute narcotics inappropriately or for non-medical reasons — and a bill that cracks down on “cyber stalking.” The Ohio Senate passed a bill that essentially lowers taxes for companies that increase payroll by 10 percent.A new study highlighted the success of some Ohio schools, including Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School in Cincinnati. The research found the schools succeeded despite high poverty and tight budgets. The study indicated some key attributes of success: principals play pivotal roles, teachers and administrators are obviously engaged and invested, school leaders provide major incentives to teachers, data is used to measure progress and teachers and administrators do not see a lack of parent or community engagement as an insurmountable barrier to success. The report also made some recommendations: establish clear transitional protocols in case a principal leaves, engage teachers, hire teachers that are on-board with the school’s goals, leverage great reputations and celebrate success.Hamilton County could issue securities to raise revenue. County commissioners are currently working on ways to close a $20 million deficit. The securities idea comes from Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the Board of Commissioners.The investigation into U Square worker payments is ongoing. A City Council committee wants to see if the workers are being paid what they are supposed to be paid. Under Ohio law, workers on city-funded projects must get a prevailing wage, which is equivalent to the wage earned by a union worker on a similar project. But City Solicitor John Curp argues developers do not have to pay prevailing wages for parts of the project that aren’t getting public funding. City Manager Dohoney also argued that overzealous requirements could drive businesses out of Cincinnati.Despite the pleas of more than 500,000, it does not look like Cincinnati-based Macy’s will dump Donald Trump. The billionaire has gained recognition as a big-name Republican and “birther” — someone who ignores all facts to call into question President Barack Obama’s country of origin. Brian Williams, news anchor at NBC News, described Trump aptly during election night: “Donald Trump, who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and peered into something closer to irresponsible here, is tweeting tonight.”Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is leading a new efforts to stop the use of synthetic drugs, including bath salts.To fill a vacancy, a new interim chair has been named at the Ohio Board of Regents: Regent Vinny Gupta. He will be replacing James Tuschman, who successfully pushed a ban on smoking in Ohio’s college campuses. Gupta’s term will run through March 2013.Meet the loneliest planet of them all. It’s an orphan that drifted away from its parent star.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.14.2012
 
 
planned-parenthood-logo

Planned Parenthood Defunding Bill Moves Forward

Committee hearing filled with protesters, chants

One week after the major Democratic victories of Election Day, Ohio’s Republican legislators are pushing HB 298, a bill that will keep federal funds from Planned Parenthood. In a Health and Aging Committee hearing at today, Ohio Republicans voted to push the bill through committee and into the Ohio House of Representatives floor. If the bill passes the Republican-controlled General Assembly and is signed by Gov. John Kasich, it will block $2 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood and prioritize other family services. In the past few years, Planned Parenthood has become a popular target for Republicans because the organization provides abortion services. But that’s not all Planned Parenthood offers; a chart released by the organization in February demonstrated abortions only make up 3 percent of its services. Another criticism leveled by Planned Parenthood supporters is the federal funding is legally barred from being used for abortions. Instead, the funding would go to other health services within Planned Parenthood, which provides general women’s health services to poor and rural women. Some Democratic lawmakers say the bill shows an out-of-touch Republican Party. “For the life of me, I cannot understand why Republicans are so intent on taking away from women the right to make their own choices about their bodies,” said Ohio Sen. Nina Turner in a statement. “Voters soundly rejected the foolishness of the radical right on Election Day in favor of the dignity of American women, but some lawmakers must not have heard.” She added, “While Republicans rail against women making their own choices, they are cutting funding for education and critical social services that children need after they are born. They want small government, all right — small enough to fit into a woman’s womb.” The strong words showcase what was a loud, feisty exchange between Planned Parenthood supporters and Republican lawmakers. At the committee hearings, supporters and opponents of HB 298 testified. Some opponents cited their personal experience, including an emotional account from one woman regarding her own rape at age 13. She said she was glad young women like her can turn to Planned Parenthood for help. Ohio Rep. John Carney, a Columbus Democrat, pointed out that throughout the hearings, no health care provider testified in favor of HB 298. One doctor testified against the bill. Carney also pointed out that no tax dollars that go to Planned Parenthood pay for abortions.  The bill isn’t the only action Republicans have recently taken against women’s health rights. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus told The Cincinnati Enquirer about the possibility of a renewed heartbeat bill on Nov. 8. In October, Kasich appointed two anti-abortion advocates to government positions. In this week’s news commentary (“Ohio Republicans Continue Anti-Abortion Agenda,” issue of Nov. 14), CityBeat covered the ensuing Republican campaign against abortion rights.
 
 

Ohio Republicans Continue Anti-Abortion Agenda

5 Comments · Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Here they go again. With recent appointments and renewed legislation, Ohio Republicans are once again taking aim at women’s health rights. Gov. John Kasich recently appointed two anti-abortion advocates, a new version of the heartbeat bill is set to appear in the Ohio legislature and a bill that will defund Planned Parenthood is getting renewed attention.   

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