by German Lopez
It's Election Day, tolls appear inevitable for Brent Spence Bridge, county to pass budget
It’s Election Day. Polls will remain open today until 7:30 p.m. Find your voting location here. Check out CityBeat’s election coverage and endorsements here. Regardless of who you plan to support, go vote. The results will decide who runs Cincinnati for the next four years.A gathering in Covington, Ky. over the Brent Spence Bridge signaled the community is still divided about using tolls
to pay for the $2.5 billion bridge project, even as public officials admit tolls are most likely necessary to complete the project. Many local and state
officials believe the federal government should pay for the interstate
bridge, but they’re also pessimistic about the chances of receiving
federal funds. Covington Mayor Sherry Carran says she’s concerned about
safety at the functionally obsolete bridge, but she says tolls could
have a negative impact on Covington.On Wednesday, Hamilton County commissioners are expected to vote on an annual budget that nearly matches the county administrator’s original proposal. The budget is
the first time in six years that county officials don’t have to carry
out major cuts or layoffs to close a gap.
A study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
and three other community organizations found idling school bus and car
motors might pose a serious health risk to students. The most problematic pollutants are particularly
concentrated when cars and buses are standing, and the toxic particles
linger around schools and playgrounds for hours after the vehicles
leave, according to the study. For researchers, the findings are evidence buses and cars should
turn off their motors when dropping off children at school.
The Cincinnati Enquirer and other major newspapers lost thousands of readers in the past year,
even though some newspapers managed to buck the trend and gain in
certain categories, according to a circulation audit from the Alliance
for Audited Media. Between September 2012 and September 2013, The Enquirer’s circulation dropped by more than 10 percent, while The Toledo Blade and Dayton Daily News
increased their circulation. The drop coincides with
readers resorting to the Internet and other alternate sources in the
past few years. The losses have cost newspapers advertising revenue, and
many have responded with cutbacks in staff and overall news coverage.More than half a million Ohioans qualify for tax subsidies under Obamacare,
according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Anyone
between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or an annual income of $23,550 to $94,200 for a family of four, is eligible.
But for Ohioans to take full advantage of the benefits, the federal
government will first need to fix HealthCare.gov, which has been mired in technical problems since its launch on Oct. 1.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was one of seven Republicans to support a federal ban on workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians
in the U.S. Senate yesterday. All Senate Democrats backed the bill. But
the bill faces grim prospects in the U.S. House of Representatives,
where it’s expected to fail. CityBeat covered state-level efforts to ban workplace and housing discrimination against LGBT individuals in further detail here.
Mitt Romney’s code name for Portman, a potential running mate for the 2012 Republican presidential ticket, was Filet-O-Fish.
One in five sun-like stars host Earth-like planets.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Behind the parking plan drama, state budget cuts local funding, bridge to get federal bump
Being one of the first to discover a critical memo put Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld at the center of an ongoing drama
regarding the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and
garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The memo criticized
the financial details of the lease, but it was kept from the Port, City
Council and the public for nearly a month. Ever since the controversial
parking plan passed City Council and was upheld in court, concerned
citizens, business leaders and critics like Sittenfeld have been calling
on the city and Port to rework or halt the deal. So far, the city and
Port have stuck to their support. The city will get a $92 million lump
sum and at least $3 million a year from the lease, which it currently
plans to use to help balance city budgets and fund development projects,
such as the I-71/MLK Interchange.
The latest state budget secured more cuts to city and county governments,
putting local governments at a $1.5 billion shortfall in the next two
years compared to 2010 and 2011, according to a new report from
progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio.
Republican Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators slashed local
government funding in 2011 to help fix an $8 billion budget hole. But
the latest state budget, which Kasich signed into law in June, was awash
in extra revenues because of Ohio’s economic recovery — so much so that
legislators passed $2.7 billion in tax cuts. For Cincinnati, the
original cuts cost the city more than $22 million in revenue.
The Brent Spence Bridge was bumped up in a federal funding priority list
through a successful amendment from Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio
Republican. The amendment prioritized $500 million for obsolete and
structurally unsound bridges, but it’s so far unclear how much of the
money will go to the Brent Spence Bridge project, which state officials
estimate will cost $2.7 billion. Currently, Ohio and Kentucky officials
plan to pay for the bridge project by enacting tolls.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor this
year, is calling on the city manager to produce a plan that would
structurally balance Cincinnati’s operating budget by 2016. “To build on
the momentum Cincinnati is now experiencing, we must set a course now
for a fiscally sustainable future,” Qualls said in a statement. “That’s
why I’m urging that we have a plan to reach structural balance by 2016,
restore reserves and increase the city’s pension contribution, minimize
using the parking lease payment to restore budget cuts and continue to
invest in neighborhoods and jobs to grow revenue.” The announcement
comes more than one week after Moody’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating
and criticized the city for its exposure to unsustainable pension
liabilities and reliance on one-time sources to fix budget gaps.
Ex-Councilman John Cranley, who’s also running for mayor,
is rolling out his jobs plan today. The initiative will provide a job
training program for individuals facing long-term unemployment or
underemployment, which the Cranley campaign estimates will result in 379
individuals per year obtaining full-time, permanent jobs. The
program will be mainly paid for by pulling funds from the city’s Office of
Environmental Quality, Department of Finance, travel and the state
lobbyist. “My deepest conviction is that there is dignity in work. I
believe all able-bodied adults should work and be self-sufficient. And I
believe society has an obligation to ensure the opportunity to work
exists,” Cranley said in a statement.On Second Thought: “Facts vs. Perceptions in Trayvon Martin Coverage.”
Police yesterday shot and killed
Roger Ramundo, an allegedly armed Clifton resident. Officers had
been called to the area of Clifton and Ludlow avenues by a mental health
provider, who said there was a person with mental health issues armed with a gun, according to interim Cincinnati Police Chief Paul
Humphries. Police said they tried to first subdue Ramundo with Tasers
during an ensuing struggle, but they were unsuccessful and the man
pulled out his gun and fired a shot. That’s when one officer fired two
shots that hit Ramundo, who was then taken to University Hospital, where
he was pronounced dead.
Gov. Kasich isn’t providing clemency
to a Cleveland killer who stabbed his victim 17 times, overruling a
rare plea for mercy from prosecutors but siding with a majority of the
state parole board. Billy Slagle will be executed on Aug. 7.
Ohio will take a hands-off approach
to promoting Obamacare, even though outreach will be crucial for the controversial
health care law. President Barack Obama’s administration estimates it
will have to enroll millions of young adults into health care plans to turn the law into a success.
Meanwhile, Hamilton County is investigating if Obamacare could result in lower property taxes by allowing the county to shift costs to the federal government.
A Cincinnati money manager is being accused of running an “elaborate Ponzi scheme”
that cost investors “tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars,”
according to a July 20 complaint filed in the Hamilton County Common
The average price of a flight from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport dropped, but the airport is still the second-most expensive in the nation.
CityBeat gave Internet cat-celebrity Lil Bub an in-depth look in this week’s issue. Find it online here.
Want to maximize your tan? Here is how close you could get to the sun and survive.
by German Lopez
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
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.
by German Lopez
Kasich gives State of the State, Dohoney's parking plan, county rejects bridge tolls
Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State speech
yesterday. Kasich focused on his budget proposal and jobs, and he
urged lawmakers to take up the Medicaid expansion. Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer has a thorough report on the speech here. CityBeat gave an in-depth look at Kasich’s budget in this week’s cover story here.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. proposed an ambitious parking and economic development plan
yesterday. The 30-year plan, which Dohoney called a “public-public
partnership,” will lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of
Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to fund more than $100 million
in projects around the city, including the I-71/MLK Interchange, Tower
Place Mall and a high-rise that will house a downtown grocery store. As
part of the deal, the city will retain control over parking rates,
operation hours and the placement of meters.
The Kenton County Fiscal Court unanimously voted against tolls
to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project, reports WVXU. County
residents are concerned the tolls will be a financial drain for
commuters and travelers, but finding other sources of funding for the project has been an ongoing struggle.
An Ohio woman claims she was fired after voting for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, reports Dayton Daily News.
Patricia Kunkle’s lawsuit claims her former employer, Roberta “Bobbie”
Gentile of Q-Mark Inc., threatened to fire workers if Obama won election
and that Obama supporters would be first on the list.
John Cranley, former Democratic council member, will
formally launch his mayoral campaign today. The kick-off will be at 20th
Century Theater in Oakley at 5:30 p.m. Cranley’s main opponent will
most likely be Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a fellow Democrat. The two
Democrats have split on one issue: the streetcar. Qualls supports it,
while Cranley is against it. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the mayor’s race here.
The University of Cincinnati is conducting research for how to locate food deserts, reports the Business Courier.
Professor Michael Widener is looking at where people live and work,
with a focus on how many people are able to stop by a grocery store
after a workday.
Failing to yield caused 37,475 crashes in 2012,
according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Altogether, the crashes
killed 187 people and injured 23,353. Young drivers, aged 16 to 25, were at
fault for 30 percent of the crashes — nearly twice as high as those aged
26 to 35, who caused 16 percent of accidents. The full county-by-county
report is available here.
UC will spend $2 million on design work for Nippert Stadium, reports WLWT. UC hopes the work will attract an Atlantic Coast Conference invitation.
Popular Science has a demonstration of scientists teaching language to a childlike robot.
by German Lopez
Secretary of state race underway, bridge may need private funding, sewer policy dismissed
Is the race for Ohio secretary of state already underway? Ohio
Sen. Nina Turner, who is considering a run against Secretary of State
Jon Husted in 2014, says she will introduce legislation to protect voters against Republican efforts to limit ballot access. She also criticized Husted for how he handled the 2012 election, which CityBeat covered here. Husted responded by asking Turner to “dial down political rhetoric.”
Build Our New Bridge Now, an organization dedicated to building the Brent Spence Bridge, says the best approach is private financing.
The organization claims a public-private partnership is the only way to
get the bridge built by 2018, rather than 2022. But critics are worried
the partnership and private financing would lead to tolls.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners threw out
a Metropolitan Sewer District competitive bidding policy yesterday. The
policy, which was originally passed by City Council, was called unfair
and illegal by county commissioners due to apprenticeship requirements and rules that favor contractors within city limits. Councilman Chris Seelbach is now pushing for compromise for the rules.
Believe it or not, Cincinnati’s economy will continue outpacing the national economy this year, says Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.
Three Cincinnati-area hospitals are among the best in the nation,
according to new rankings from Healthgrades. The winners: Christ
Hospital, Bethesda North Hospital and St. Elizabeth Healthcare-Edgewood.
Democrat David Mann, former Cincinnati mayor and congressman, may re-enter politics with an attempt at City Council.
In its 2013 State of Tobacco report, the American Lung Association gave Ohio an F for anti-smoking policies.
The organization said the state is doing a poor job by relying
exclusively on federal money for its $3.3 million anti-tobacco program.
The Centers for Disease Control says Ohio should be spending $145
The Air Force is gearing up for massive spending cuts currently set to kick in March. The cuts will likely affect Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Dennis Kucinich, who used to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, will soon appear on Fox News as a regular contributor.
For anyone who’s ever been worried about getting attacked by a drone, there’s now a hoodie and scarf for that.
by German Lopez
School report card reform passed, governors call for bridge tolls, casino to open March 4
School report card reform is about to head to Gov. John Kasich, who is likely to sign it. The bill, which places higher grading standards on
the Ohio Senate yesterday with some minor tweaks. The Ohio House is
expected to approve the bill again, and then Kasich will need to sign it
for it to become law. In an early simulation
of tougher report card standards in May, Cincinnati Public Schools
dropped from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current
system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School
retaining its top mark with an A.
The governors of Ohio and Kentucky agree tolls will be necessary
to fund the Brent Spence Bridge project. The governors also said there
will be a financing plan by next summer and construction will begin in
2014. Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear met yesterday with U.S.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss funding for the bridge
The Horseshoe Casino will open in Cincinnati on March 4. What can Cincinnatians expect? According to one Washington Post analysis, casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.
Sewer rates in Hamilton County will go up next year, but not as much as expected.
Cincinnati has 1,300 properties awaiting demolition.
With same-sex marriage likely coming on the ballot in
2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found Ohio voters thinly oppose its
legalization 47 percent to 45 percent, but it’s within the margin of error of 2.9 percent. A Washington Post poll in September found Ohioans support same-sex marriage 52 percent to 37 percent — well outside of the poll’s margin of error of 4.5 percent. CityBeat recently wrote about the same-sex marriage legalization in Ohio here.
The same poll found Ohio voters deadlocked on whether
marijuana should be legalized with 47 percent for it and 47 percent
against it. The results are slightly more conservative than the rest of
the nation. Washington state recently legalized marijuana and same-sex
marriage in the same day, and the world didn’t end.
Ohio gained approval
on a coordinated Medicare-Medicaid initiative that will change funding
for low-income seniors who qualify for both public health programs. With
the go-ahead from the federal government, the plan will push forward in
coordinating Medicare and Medicaid more efficiently to cut costs.
But on the topic of a Medicaid expansion, Ohio will not make a final decision until February.
As part of Obamacare, states are encouraged to expand their Medicaid
plans to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. If they do it, the federal
government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016. After that,
federal funding drops annually, eventually reaching 90 percent for 2020
and beyond. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid improved lives.
Another study found Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion saves states money
in the long term by reducing the amount of uncompensated health care.
Cleveland's The Plain Dealer says Gov. Kasich will not privatize the Ohio Turnpike, but he will ask for a toll hike to help finance new projects. Kasich will officially announce his plans later today.
With opposition from law enforcement, a Senate committee is pushing ahead with a bill that lessens restrictions on gun-carrying laws.
Redistricting reform will soon be taken up by the Ohio Senate. The measure passed committee in an 8-1 vote. Redistricting is often used by politicians to redraw district borders in politically beneficial ways.
Gov. Kasich signed into law a measure that cracks down
on dog breeders in Ohio. The measure has long been pushed by animal
advocates, who say lax regulations for puppy mills have made the state a
breeding ground for bad practices. CityBeat previously wrote about how these bad practices lead to abusive dog auctions in Ohio.Homosexuality may not be in our genes, but it may be in the molecules that regulate genes.
by German Lopez
Anti-abortion agenda on hold, court upholds redistricting, blacks falling behind in school
The Ohio Senate will not take up the heartbeat bill and a
bill to defund Planned Parenthood in the lame-duck session. The
heartbeat bill was called the most radical anti-abortion legislation in
the country when it was first proposed. It sought to ban abortion after a
heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into
pregnancy. However, there have been some rumblings of bringing a new
version of the heartbeat bill to the Ohio legislature, and recent moves
by Ohio Republicans show a clear anti-abortion agenda.
In a statement, Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio cautioned the
bills will come up again next year: “Make no mistake about it, the
threat to women’s health may be delayed, but it remains. We fully expect
anti-choice forces to reintroduce these dangerous attacks on women’s
health when the legislature reconvenes in January.”
In a 4-3 ruling,
the Ohio Supreme court upheld the state’s redistricting map. Democrats
claimed the Ohio House and Senate districts were unconstitutional, while
Republicans insisted the map was fine. The Republican-controlled
government redrew the districts in a way that favors Republican
candidates for public office. The Ohio Supreme Court is skewed heavily
in favor of Republicans; six justices are Republicans, while only one is
a Democrat.Ohio high schools have a bit of work to do, according to federal data. Apparently, the state has worse graduation rates for blacks
than all but five other states and the District of Columbia. Ohio did
manage to improve its graduation rates by more than 2 percent over four
years, as required by the federal program Race to the Top.
To avoid an estimated $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, a coalition wants to speed up the Brent Spence Bridge project.
If the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition is successful, the project
will begin in 2014 — four years ahead of schedule. But the organization
is pushing a public-private relationship that would likely involve
tolls, and Kentucky lawmakers oppose that idea.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County were picked to participate in a program that puts the long-term unemployed back to work.
The program was originally started in southwest Connecticut in 2011 by
WorkPlace with some success. It placed 70 percent of participants in
jobs, with 90 percent moving to full-time employment.
Tourism is boosting Greater Cincinnati’s economy.
An impact study from the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network found
tourism is responsible for one in 10 local jobs. Visitors to Cincinnati spent $4.1
billion in the area last year.
Another good sign for the economy: Personal income went up in Greater Cincinnati and nationwide. In Cincinnati, personal income went up by 4.6 percent in 2011, lower than the nationwide rise of 5.2 percent.
Unfortunately, Greater Cincinnati still has a lot of vacant homes. On Numbers ranked the area No. 31 out of 109 in terms of vacant homes.
The Cincinnati Police Department is encouraging fitness through intra-department competition.
The University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning is one of the five best design schools in the world.
Councilman Chris Smitherman was re-elected to the presidency of the local chapter of the NAACP.
Seven AIDS activists protested nude in U.S. House Speaker
John Boehner’s office yesterday. The protesters were part of ACT-UP, and
they were protesting federal budget cuts to HIV programs that are set
to kick in next year.
The bill regulating puppy mills passed the Ohio Senate. Animal advocates claim lax regulations and oversight have made Ohio a breeding ground for poor practices. CityBeat previously covered puppy mills and how they lead to Ohio’s dog auctions.
The Ohio inspector general released a report
criticizing the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for
mismanaging stimulus funds going to southwest Ohio. The findings echoed a
lot of what was found in previous reports for other regions of the state.
The Earth’s core may have clues about our planet’s birth.
by Kevin Osborne
The Enquirer ran a lengthy, glowing article over the weekend about the ongoing redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine and 3CDC's central role in helping it occur — all of which is well and good. But the piece, which contained more than 1,900 words, could only find space for 125 words critical of the effort and none at all for a direct quote from 3CDC's critics. (That's about 1/16th for the those keeping track at home.) Maybe that's because Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan sits on 3CDC's executive committee and is in charge of publicity for the group, which was yet another fact curiously missing from the article.Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, Hamilton County's new coroner, attended a screening of the film, Bully, over the weekend. Her appearance was part of an effort to draw attention to bullying and child abuse during Child Abuse Awareness Month. The documentary relates the tales of several students across the United States who have been tormented by their peers. Its distributor, The Weinstein Co., released the film without a rating after the MPAA announced it would give it a “NC-17” rating for coarse language, which would've prohibited anyone under the age of 17 — the movie's primary audience — from seeing it.Cincinnati Reds superstar Joey Votto hit a two-run double in the 11th inning Sunday, which allowed his team to avoid a four-game sweep by giving it an 8-5 victory over the Washington Nationals. Some Covington business leaders are upset that a current plan to build a new span to replace the Brent Spence Bridge doesn't include any exits into the city's downtown. As proposed, motorists on southbound Interstate 75 would have to exit the highway about a mile earlier, near Ezzard Charles Drive in Cincinnati, to reach the Northern Kentucky locale.Just up I-75 a bit, a new report reveals the city of Dayton has the highest office vacancy rate among the nation’s metropolitan areas, and the portion of its office space that is unoccupied is at least at a 13-year high. The struggling Rust Belt city had about 27.3 percent of its office space vacant in the first quarter of this year, according to Reis Inc., a New York-based commercial real estate research group.In news elsewhere, Taliban insurgents and government security forces clashed over the weekend in Afghanistan. A series of insurgent attacks Sunday left four civilians and 11 members of the security forces dead. Afterward, security forces launched a counter-offensive that killed three dozen assailants, including some suicide bombers.President Hamid Karzai linked Sunday's militant attacks to intelligence failures, especially on the part of NATO. In his first response to the attacks, Karzai praised the performance of the Afghan security forces. He gave tribute to the "bravery and sacrifice of the security forces who quickly and timely reacted to contain the terrorists," a French news agency reported.The trial began today for Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-Islamic militant who allegedly killed 77 people last summer during a shooting rampage in Norway. Breivik, 33, was defiant at the proceedings. Asked by a judge whether he wished to plead guilty, Breivik replied, “I acknowledge the acts but I don’t plead guilty as I claim I was doing it in self-defense.” He has previously said his actions were meant to discourage further Islamic immigration.As the deadline looms for the filing of federal income tax returns, a new Gallup Poll finds Americans fall into two almost evenly matched camps: those who believe the amount they pay in federal income tax is too high (46 percent) and those who consider it "about right" (47 percent). Just 3 percent consider their taxes too low.The United States and China have been discreetly engaging in "war games" amid rising anger in Washington over the scale and audacity of Beijing-organized cyber attacks on western governments and Big Business, London's Guardian newspaper has reported. State Department and Pentagon officials, along with their Chinese counterparts, were involved in two war games last year that were designed to help prevent a sudden military escalation between the sides if either felt they were being targeted. Another session is planned for May.
by Kevin Osborne
Duke Energy lost its appeal Thursday that sought to get more money from its customers to reimburse the firm for damages it sustained to equipment in the September 2008 windstorm. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) involving the restoration of electrical service after the storm that was caused by Hurricane Ike. In January 2011, PUCO ruled to allow Duke to recover about $14.1 million of the $30 million it had requested. With revenues of $14.53 billion for 2011, we're confident Duke can absorb the loss. Besides, isn't that the sort of thing that qualifies as “the cost of doing business?” Buck up, James Rogers.The Reds emerged victorious Thursday in its season opener against the Marlins, winning 4-0. Reds Manager Dusty Baker credited pitcher Aroldis Chapman's performance for helping put the team over the top. It was the team's first Opening Day shut-out since 1980. Players might have been buoyed on by the 42,956 people watching them play – the second-largest attendance at Great American Ball Park, surpassed only by a playoff loss to Philadelphia in 2010.As might be surmised from the above figures, the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade before the game also had one of its largest crowds ever. Organizers credited the turnout to sunny weather, a later start time and optimism about the Reds' prospects this season.Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig is asking Avondale residents to help patrol the neighborhood as part of efforts to stop an uptick in shootings there. At least five people were shot Sunday night a few blocks from the Avondale Pride Center, police said. Officers have increased their presence in the neighborhood, but residents said they know the solution must involve a network of community members working with police.A series of meetings will be held this month to give the public a chance to offer input on various plans for updating or replacing the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River. The first meeting will be held at 6 p.m. April 11 at Covington City Hall, with later sessions planned for April 24 at Longworth Hall and April 25 at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.In news elsewhere, the U.S. economy added a relatively weak 120,000 jobs in March, compared with 240,000 in February, but the unemployment rate dipped to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent, the Labor Department reported today. Analysts had forecast a 205,000 gain in non-farm payrolls, according to a Bloomberg survey.Some critics are alleging the Republican National Committee was actively helping Mitt Romney win the GOP's presidential nomination, instead of serving as an impartial arbiter of the process. The list of grievances ranges from “issues the party acknowledges are legitimate, to those that they dismiss as desperate fixations from Romney’s flailing rivals,” Politico reports. The committee agrees that some states that went for Romney jumped the line in the primary schedule, a violation of party rules. But it shrugs off other complaints, like that it undermined rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich by formatting a delegate tracking list to pad Romney’s tally.An Iraqi defector whose lies helped spark the United States' decision to invade Iraq, starting a nine-year war that cost more than 100,000 lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, confessed to making up his tale to get U.S. leaders to act. In his first British TV interview this week, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi – known as “Curveball' in intelligence circles – admitted that he knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, as he had alleged.A Florida woman was arrested after allegedly offering to have sex in exchange for two hamburgers off of McDonald's dollar menu. Christine Baker, 47, was walking on a Southwest Florida street last Friday when she was approached by a detective working in the Manatee County Sheriff Office’s special investigations division, according to a sheriff’s office report. After the undercover detective invited Baker into his car and the talk turned to sex, she said her fee would be two double cheeseburgers.A British infant that essentially was born without any blood is being hailed by doctors as a miracle baby by her doctors for surviving her ordeal. Olivia Norton, who is now six months old, was born completely white because she had such a low count of hemoglobin – the chemical which carries oxygen in red blood cells – that it could not officially be classified as “blood.” She was nicknamed "ghost baby" and given less than two hours to live, but survived thanks to emergency transfusions.
by Kevin Osborne
One day a few years from now Cincinnati motorists might drive their vehicles across the Procter & Gamble Bridge. Ohio's transportation officials are considering ways to create public-private partnerships to help pay for large, expensive projects like the planned replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge, which is estimated to cost $2 billion. The Ohio Department of Transportation has formed a new Division of Innovative Delivery to ponder new methods for raising revenue, which might include selling the naming rights to bridges and roads or using more tolls. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Corporate States of America.The expansion of Cincinnati's recycling program is yielding good results. 2011 was the first full year for the expanded program that included larger containers and the use of the RecycleBank rewards program. The amount of recycled material increased 49 percent when comparing 2011 to 2009, while participation jumped by 75 percent. As a result, the city saved more than $900,000 in dumping fees and related costs. Each ton of refuse shifted from the landfill to recycling saves the city about $100.A transgender student at Miami University in Oxford is challenging campus officials for not allowing him to serve as a resident assistant in an all-male residence hall. Instead, he was offered a position in a suite living with female students. Kaeden Kass, who was born a female but dresses and identifies as male, filed a complaint against the dean of students and the university council.Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order this week creating an “employment first” policy requiring case managers for disabled people to first look for job placement at private businesses rather than turning to more typical sheltered workshop environments, where nearly all the employees are disabled. The new policy applies to the state departments of Developmental Disabilities, Mental Health and Education; the Rehabilitation Services Commission; and school districts.Cincinnati firefighters are investigating the cause of a series of fires that occurred early this morning in the city's Carthage neighborhood. Crews had to extinguish blazes involving at least three garages and two vehicles in separate incidents. Officials are calling the fires suspicious and are working to find a possible suspect. Damage is estimated at $20,000.In news elsewhere, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney easily won the Illinois primary Tuesday. Romney received 46.7 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for Rick Santorum. Oh, yeah: Ron Paul got 9.3 percent and Newt Gingrich got 8 percent. (That's right, Paul beat Gingrich.) The results give credibility to GOP fears that Santorum's appeal is limited to the Deep South and conservative areas in the West.The next primary is Saturday in Louisiana, which is causing some controversy. A super PAC that supports Romney has started sending mailers to Louisiana voters but didn't quite get the details correct. Restore Our Future told voters in the mailer they should vote for Romney on Tuesday, March 24. But the 24th is actually a Saturday, not Tuesday. The super PAC has said the mixup was accidental, but some Santorum supporters suspect it was intentional to confuse voters.A detailed study shows increased oil drilling in the United States doesn't affect gasoline prices at the pump. A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by the Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and gas prices. If more domestic oil drilling worked as some politicians allege, motorists would now be paying about $2 a gallon for gas. Hey, Mitt and Rick: It's time to try a new scare tactic.French police were locked in a standoff this morning and exchanged gunfire with an Islamic militant barricaded in an apartment who is suspected of being the gunman who killed three French soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi over the past eight days. Authorities identified the suspect as Mohammed Merah, 24, a French citizen who has spent time with Islamic groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan.At least 11 boys were castrated while in the care of the Dutch Roman Catholic church in the 1950s to rid them of homosexuality, a newspaper investigation reports. One person, who was 18 at the time, was castrated in 1956 after telling police he was being sexually abused by a priest. Dutch officials ordered an investigation after the report was published in the NRC Handelsblad newspaper.