by German Lopez
Pension proposal could reduce benefits, energy bill contested, needle exchanges approved
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
Local business groups, unions, progressive organizations,
the mayor and all council members are united against a tea party-backed
ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system,
and a Sept. 27 report from the conservative Buckeye Institute helps explain the opposition.
The report echoes concerns from both sides: It finds new employees
would have their benefits cut by one-third under the tea party’s
proposed system, but it also shows that, when measured differently,
Cincinnati’s unfunded pension liability might currently stand at $2.57
billion, more than three times the $862 million estimate city officials
typically use. The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
so future city employees contribute to and manage their own individual
retirement accounts; under the current system, the city pools pension
funds and manages the investments through an independent board. The idea
is to move workers from a public system to private, 401k-style plans.
Voters will decide on the amendment when it appears on the ballot as
Issue 4 on Nov. 5.
Environmental and business groups argued in front of the Ohio Senate yesterday that a new deregulatory bill would effectively gut Ohio’s energy efficiency standards and hurt the state’s green businesses,
but the bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), claims
it’s “not as loosey-goosey” as environmental and business groups make it
seem. The biggest point of contention: Seitz’s bill would allow utility
companies to count energy savings that are seen as “business as usual”
toward energy efficiency standards. That, green groups argue, would let
businesses claim they’re becoming more energy efficient without making
any real energy-efficiency investments. It could also cost Ohioans more
money: A previous report from Ohio State University and the Ohio
Advanced Energy Economy coalition found the bill could increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by
$3.65 billion over 12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s bill in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the deregulatory attempts here.
The Ohio House yesterday approved a bill
that expands local authority to pursue needle-exchange programs that
would provide clean needles to drug addicts. Supporters of the bill say
it would help local communities reduce drug-related infections and
perhaps drug addiction, but opponents claim it surrenders to drug pushers by enabling more
drug activity. A 2004 study from the World Health Organization
found “a compelling case that (needle-exchange programs) substantially
and cost effectively reduce the spread of HIV among (injection drug
users) and do so without evidence of exacerbating injecting drug use at
either the individual or societal level.” CityBeat covered the war on drugs and the changing approach to combating Ohio and the nation’s drug problems in further detail here.
Some help for voting: “2013 City Council Candidates at a Glance.”
The Cincinnati Bengals want a new high-definition scoreboard
that could cost county taxpayers $10 million. But taxpayers don’t have
much of a choice in the matter; the stadium lease requires taxpayers
purchase and install new technology, including a scoreboard, at the
Bengals’ request once the technology is taken up at 14-plus other NFL
Women gathered at the Ohio Statehouse
yesterday to protest measures in the recently passed state budget that
restrict access to legal abortions and defund family planning clinics,
including Planned Parenthood. CityBeat covered the state budget, including the anti-abortion restrictions, in further detail here.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio says Republican legislators should forget their fight against Obamacare
and instead focus on a deficit-reduction package. Republicans helped
cause a federal government shutdown by only passing budget bills that
weaken Obamacare, but Democrats have refused to negotiate over the
health care law, which is widely viewed as President Barack Obama’s
legacy-defining domestic policy. Meanwhile, Obamacare’s online
marketplaces opened on Tuesday, allowing participants to compare and
browse subsidized private insurance plans. CityBeat covered the marketplaces and efforts to promote them in further detail here.
The $2.5 billion Brent Spence Bridge replacement project will require tolls,
according to a study released by Kentucky and Ohio transportation
officials on Thursday. Officials at every level of government have been
pursuing a replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge as concerns mount
over its economy-damaging inadequacies.
A $26 million residential and retail development project is coming just north of Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino.Greater Cincinnati Water Works is using an extra layer of ultraviolet disinfection treatment to make local water cleaner.
The second round of Ohio’s job training program offers $30 million to help businesses train workers so they can remain competitive without shedding employees.
“Project Censored” analyzes the stories the mainstream media failed to cover in the past year. Check the list out here.
A new study found eye contact makes people less likely to agree with a persuasive argument, especially if they’re skeptical in the first place.
by German Lopez
Ohio could weaken energy rules, city wins green award, Obamacare beats projections
CityBeat is participating in a City Council candidate forum on Oct. 5. Have any questions you would like to ask candidates? Submit them here.Ohio legislators appear ready to weaken environmental and energy regulations
after months of lobbying by Akron, Ohio-based utility company
FirstEnergy. The utility company argues the regulations, particularly
energy efficiency standards that require customers use less electricity,
cost businesses and customers too much money. But environmental groups
and other supporters of the rules say FirstEnergy is just looking out for its own
self-interests while putting up a front of caring about others. A
study by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy
coalition found eliminating the energy efficiency standards
would cost Ohioans $3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the
next 12 years. State Sen. Bill Seitz, who’s spearheading the
regulation-weakening efforts, formally introduced his bill yesterday, and business groups say it’s a backdoor way to eliminate energy efficiency standards and the in-state renewable business by weakening them so much.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati on Tuesday announced it won a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award
from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of local
efforts to draw down dirty energy production and replace it with clean
sources. The Cincinnati area currently produces nearly 408 million
kilowatt-hours through green energy sources, which is enough to cancel
out nearly 60,000 cars’ emissions and meet 14 percent of the community’s
purchased electricity use, according to city officials. To commemorate
the award, Mayor Mark Mallory unveiled a Green Power Community sign at
the Cincinnati Zoo, which installed solar panels on its parking lot in
2011 and became one of the region’s leading clean energy producers.
Raw health insurance premiums for Obamacare’s online marketplaces will be 16 percent lower than previously projected,
according to the latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional
Budget Office released less than one week before marketplaces open on
Oct. 1. In Ohio, the average family of four making $50,000 a year will
have to pay $282 a month after tax credits for the second cheapest
“silver” plan, or $486 less than the plan would cost without tax
credits. Under Obamacare, online marketplaces will allow consumers to
compare and purchase subsidized health insurance plans in the individual
market. The plans only apply to the individual market, which means the
majority of Americans, who are currently getting insurance through an
employer or public programs, will be under a different insurance system
and won’t qualify for the online marketplaces’ tax subsidies. CityBeat covered outreach efforts for the online marketplaces — and Republican attempts to obstruct them — in further detail here.
Commentary: “Let Them Eat Nothing?”
The Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s unofficial third
party, yesterday endorsed Roxanne Qualls for mayor. The endorsement
comes as little surprise to most election-watchers, considering the
Charter Committee has endorsed Qualls four times over the years.
The Cincinnati Enquirer is displeased
it couldn’t cover a private mayoral debate between Qualls and
ex-Councilman John Cranley because the group hosting the debate closed its doors
to the public.
Ohio Democrats yesterday made their endorsements for 2014: Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald for governor, former
Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper for attorney general, State
Sen. Nina Turner for secretary of state, State Rep. Connie Pillich for
state treasurer and Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John
O’Donnell for the Ohio Supreme Court.
This infographic released by an anti-privatization group shows the negative impact of private prisons. CityBeat covered Ohio’s own privately owned prison and the problems it’s faced, including rising violence, in further detail here.
A federal grand jury charged a North Canton man
for allegedly making illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Jim
Renacci and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. Both candidates returned the
campaign contributions after they became public in stories published by
the Toledo Blade and The New Republic.
A 43-year-old Hamilton man allegedly used a poison-laced knife to stab his brother-in-law.
A supposedly sexist gorilla is getting kicked out of the Dallas Zoo after 18 years.
by German Lopez
Local green power cancels out emissions from nearly 60,000 cars
Cincinnati officials announced on Tuesday that the city
had won a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) because of local efforts to draw down dirty
energy production and replace it with clean sources.
The Cincinnati area currently produces nearly 408 million kilowatt-hours
through green energy sources, which is enough to cancel out nearly
60,000 cars’ emissions and meet 14 percent of the community’s purchased
electricity use, according to city officials.
“EPA is pleased to recognize the Cincinnati, Ohio
community with a Green Power Community of the Year award for its
leadership and citizen engagement in dramatically increasing its use of
green power,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a statement. “We
applaud Cincinnati’s residents, businesses and organizations for
choosing green power that will help address climate change and support a
clean energy future.”
To commemorate the award, Mayor Mark Mallory unveiled a
Green Power Community sign at the Cincinnati Zoo, which installed solar
panels on its parking lot in 2011 and became one of the region’s leading
clean energy producers.
The Cincinnati Zoo’s project is one of the many
developments that led advocacy group Environment Ohio to declare that
Cincinnati could become the solar capital of the region.
Cincinnati also adopted an aggregation program in 2012,
which supposedly allows residents and small businesses to get lower
electricity prices through 100 percent green power.
On June 14 and again on Sept. 1, the EPA ranked the Cincinnati area No. 6 in the nation
for locally purchased green power. The June ranking made Cincinnati the
first Green Power Community in Ohio and surrounding states.
The city administration says Cincinnati’s successes have
pushed other cities, including Cleveland and Chicago, to pursue their
own clean energy efforts.
In Ohio, state Republicans, led by State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, appear ready to adopt looser environmental regulations after months of lobbying from Akron, Ohio-based utility company FirstEnergy.
Seitz is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is attempting to weaken energy and environmental regulations across the country.
A report from the Ohio State University and the Ohio
Advanced Energy Economy found Seitz’s proposal would cost Ohioans $3.65
billion on electricity bills over the next 12 years.
FirstEnergy wants looser environmental regulations, and state Republicans seem ready to oblige
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
FirstEnergy wants looser environmental regulations, and state Republicans seem ready to oblige.
by German Lopez
County blocks sewer projects, sex toy company welcomed in Kentucky, Kasich fights for coal
Hamilton County once again froze new work on a $3.2 billion project that will retrofit Cincinnati’s sewers
because of a dispute concerning the city’s established bidding
requirements. City Council in 2012 passed and in 2013 further adjusted
rules that require companies bidding for lucrative sewer contracts to
meet specific local hiring and training standards. City Council says the
requirements will produce more local jobs, but Hamilton County
commissioners argue that the rules favor unions and cost too much for
businesses. Councilman Chris Seelbach and Commissioner Chris Monzel were
originally working on a compromise, but prospects fell through after
City Council rejected the deal. CityBeat covered the conflict in further detail here.
Covington, Ky., is publicly welcoming Pure Romance to the other side of the Ohio River,
which could cost Cincinnati and Ohio up to 120 jobs and $100 million in
revenue. Pure Romance was initially planning to move from Loveland,
Ohio, to downtown Cincinnati with some tax support from the city and
state, but after the state’s tax credit agencies rejected the plan, the
company has been getting better offers from out-of-state sources,
including Covington. Ohio officials say they denied Pure Romance because the
company isn’t part of a target industry such as biotech, energy or
logistics, but emails have suggested that the Republican state government is worried about the
deal coming off as politically embarrassing because some of Pure
Romance’s products include sex toys.
Ohio coal officials repeatedly complained about the state’s water pollution rules
to Gov. John Kasich, whose administration then carried on the
complaints to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Kasich’s
office insists it was just trying to collect “different viewpoints and then work
together to challenge each other to do the best job possible,” but
environmental advocates say the governor was putting unfair pressure on a
state agency just trying to do its job. The conflict might explain why
the Ohio EPA’s top water-quality official, George Elmaraghy, was forced
to resign after claiming that coal companies are pursuing permits “that
may have a negative impact on Ohio streams and wetlands and violate
state and federal laws.”
The tea party-backed pension reform effort on Thursday sued to change ballot language
approved by the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The lawsuit says
the current ballot language is making “conjecture and partisan
argumentation” by claiming the pension amendment will force the city to
raise taxes, fees or other revenues to cope with stricter requirements
for paying back Cincinnati’s $872 million pension liability. If it’s
approved by voters, the amendment would effectively privatize the city’s
pension system so future city employees, minus police and firefighters,
would be required to contribute to and manage an individual 401k-style
plan; currently, the city pools city employees’ retirement funds, makes
its own contribution and invests the funds through an independent board.
CityBeat covered the tea party-backed pension amendment in further detail here.
Hamilton County sheriffs are rolling out a three-phase plan
to move homeless squatters out of county buildings and especially the
Hamilton County Courthouse, where much of the city’s homeless population
has been sleeping and defecating. Sheriffs will first set up bathrooms,
such as portable potties, and try to identify the needs of the
squatters and whether they should be connected to mental health or other
services; during the month of the first phase, homeless people will be
allowed to remain in the buildings. Then sheriffs will get more strict
and forcibly remove people but still connect them to special services.
Finally, the affected buildings will be cleaned up.
An upcoming report will likely place legislators and police and fire officials in conflict
over the state’s police and fire pension system. Supporters of the
pension system claim it’s financially stable, but a state consultants
predicted that an actuarial report will soon show the pension system is
failing to make its required commitments and will be unable to play for
health care benefits beyond 15 years. Despite the problems, pension
officials say they want to avoid more changes until the most recent
changes are in place for one year. The most recent reforms will be
officially in place for one year on July 2014, but they won’t show up on
actuarial reports until late 2015, which means further changes would
have to be held off until 2016 at the earliest under pension
A lengthy, scathing report from the state’s independent prison watchdog found skyrocketing violence and drug use, high staff turnover and low staff morale at the Toledo Correctional Institution.
Two private organizations and the city of Cincinnati are working to place 21 bike share stations with 10 bicycles each in Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati by spring 2014.
The reason reported mayoral primary results seemed to stall midway through counting: a memory card mix-up.
Hamilton County Board of Elections Director Amy Searcy says the memory
cards were never in an insecure environment, but some memory cards were
locked up and left behind, while others were accidentally taken to a
warehouse instead of the Board of Elections.
At four times their usual number, bats are forcing health officials to recommend rabies vaccinations and other disease-avoiding precautions to people in Kenton County in northern Kentucky.
Cincinnati’s largest mall, currently known as Forest Fair
Village and previously named Cincinnati Mall, Cincinnati Mills and
Forest Fair Mall, is apparently not for sale, despite early reports from The Business Courier.
Social robots can easily replace humans as dogs’ best friend, according to a new study in Animal Recognition.
by German Lopez
Advocates pursue LGBT protections, Ohio among worst polluters, local business could move
It’s legal in most of Ohio for an employer to fire someone
over his or her sexual orientation, but a new bipartisan bill being
pushed by Equality Ohio could make the practice and anti-LGBT discrimination for housing illegal.
Critics of the Equal Housing and Employment Act argue it could lead to a
flood of lawsuits against companies, but Equality Ohio argues that just
hasn’t happened in other states that passed nondiscrimination statutes.
The bill’s Democratic and Republican sponsors argue that it would
actually grow the economy by making Ohio more inclusive, which would
make it easier to keep “the best and the brightest” employees. The bill
was introduced in May and its sponsors expect it to be taken up after
the General Assembly reconvenes in October.
In the United States, Ohio’s power plants pollute more than all but Texas’ power plants,
making Ohio one of the nation’s leading contributors to global warming,
according to a Sept. 10 report from advocacy group Environment Ohio.
The report calls for all levels of government to create and enforce
stronger standards and regulations to curtail pollution and encourage
cleaner forms of energy. National conservative groups oppose the
stricter rules; they flat-out deny human-caused global warming despite the nearly unanimous scientific consensus that it’s at least partly caused by human actions. Some companies also argue efficiency standards impose too many costs on businesses and customers.
Cincinnati officials apparently expected Pure Romance to get tax credits from Ohio.
But the state ultimately refused to grant the credits, which are
regularly given to firms for job creation. Now the company, along with
its $100 million in annual revenues, is considering moving across the
river to Covington, Ky. Ohio officials won’t clarify why Pure Romance’s
request was refused, but the company suspects it’s because its product
lineup includes sex toys, which could have been politically embarrassing
for Gov. John Kasich’s administration.
Following the Sept. 10 mayoral primary’s historically low
voter turnout, the Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s unofficial third
political party, is supporting efforts to reform how the city elects its mayors.
“It is absurd that taxpayers paid $400,000 for a primary yesterday that
few people voted in, and that decided very little,” said Mike Goldman,
convener of the Charter Committee, in a statement. Voter turnout for the
Sept. 10 mayoral primary was a dismal 5.68 percent, much lower than the
15 percent that turned out for the primary held on Sept. 11, 2001 — the
day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon —
and the 21 percent of voters that participated in the 2005 primary.A City Council motion could strip council members’ support
for a controversial permanent supportive housing facility in Avondale.
The proposed facility, Commons at Alaska, would be a 99-unit housing
facility with residency and supportive services for the homeless,
particularly those with mental health issues, physical disabilities and
histories of substance abuse. Several Avondale residents are concerned
the facility would further deteriorate an already-blighted community. CityBeat covered the dispute in further detail here.
Cincinnati Public Schools is asking the state to force the Emery Center, home of the embattled Emery Theatre, to pay taxes.
The property taxes could produce $130,000 a year for CPS, which the
school district says it needs because local property taxes make up more
of its funding than the typical urban district in Ohio. The Emery Center
was originally tax exempt under a plan that used the ground floor for
education purposes and a renovated Emery Theatre for community events.
But neither happened; the ground floor is currently used by the Coffee
Emporium, and the theater currently isn’t being renovated or used.
A judge ordered Duke Energy to destroy or return a memo
that was apparently embarrassing for Cincinnati officials because the
memo, which was sent by the city’s Law Department to the city manager,
was supposed to remain private under attorney-client privilege. Duke
wanted to use the memo in its current case against the city. The city
and Duke are in court as part of an agreement between the two entities
to legally settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate
for the streetcar project.
The Ohio Department of Insurance hasn’t received any applications or certified individuals for Obamacare’s formal outreach effort.
The “navigators,” as officials call them, are a crucial part of Obamacare because they’re
supposed to promote the law’s benefits to ensure the federal government
meets its health insurance enrollment goals to keep costs down. Health
care advocates claim the lag is driven by federal training requirements
and a state law enacted in July. The state law made it so some groups,
including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, can no longer
participate in the navigator program, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Debe Terhar, the president of Ohio Board of Education, wants Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye removed from the state’s Common Core education standards
because the book contains a rape scene. Terhar called the book
“pornographic” at a Sept. 10 Board of Education meeting. But Terhar
clarified that she doesn’t want to ban the book, and she would still
allow different school districts keep it in their curriculums.
State Auditor Dave Yost says Ohio’s cities and counties need to do a better job complying with public record requests.
A sampling of 20 cities and counties found eight, or 40 percent, had
weaknesses in compliance. The most common problem was inadequate
measures to track public record requests.
The Cincinnati area’s largest mall is up for sale for $45 million.
The struggling mall has gone through several names over the years:
Forest Fair Village, Cincinnati Mall, Cincinnati Mills and Forest Fair
Mall.Orangutans apparently announce their travel plans a day in advance.
by German Lopez
Environment Ohio calls on regulators to limit effects on global warming
In the United States, Ohio’s power plants pollute more
than all but Texas’ power plants, making Ohio one of the nation’s
leading contributors to global warming, according to a Sept. 10 report
from Environment Ohio.
“America’s dirtiest power plants are the elephant in the
room when it comes to global warming,” said Kathryn Lee, field associate
for Environment Ohio, in a statement. “If we want a cleaner, safer
future for our kids, we can’t afford to ignore power plants’
overwhelming contribution to global warming. For Ohio, tackling the
problem means cleaning up the dirtiest power plants.”
Power plants are responsible for 41 percent of the United States’ carbon dioxide pollution, which means they contribute more to
global warming than any other source in the nation, according to the
“Dirty power plants produce a disproportionate share of
the nation’s global warming pollution — especially given the relatively
small share of total electricity they produce. For example, despite
producing 30 percent of all power-sector carbon dioxide emissions, the
50 dirtiest power plants only produced 16 percent of the nation’s
electricity in 2011,” the report found.
The report narrows down the pollution problem to specific power plants and the disproportionate amount of greenhouse gases they emit: “The dirtiest power plant in the United States, Georgia Power’s Plant
Scherer, produced more than 21 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in
2011 — more than the total energy-related emissions of Maine.”
The report ultimately calls on regulators to encourage
alternative energy sources and curtail greenhouse gases that contribute
to global warming.
Specifically, the report asks the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) to meet a timeline put forth by President Barack
Obama for setting strict limits and regulations on how much future and existing power
plants can pollute. It also calls on all levels of government to
continue setting standards and incentives that encourage clean energy.
In 2008, Ohio passed its Clean Energy Law to require and
incentivize Ohio companies to pursue energy portfolios that are cleaner,
more efficient and more diverse.
Environment Ohio has consistently called on state
legislators to strengthen the standards, with the latest report
suggesting goals that would require even more clean, renewable energy
sources than Ohio currently mandates.
But even the renewable energy standards that Environment Ohio deems too weak are likely to be diminished
by a proposal from State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), following an
aggressive lobbying effort from national conservative groups.
Seitz is a member of the conservative American Legislative
Exchange Council (ALEC), which has teamed up with the conservative
Heartland Institute to dismantle state energy regulations. The two
conservative groups deny global warming is driven by human
actions, even though scientists reportedly said they’re 95 percent
certain humans are contributing to global warming in a leaked report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Another report from Environment Ohio
found Ohio’s standards, which require utility companies get 12.5
percent of their energy needs from renewable sources, have spurred clean
energy projects in Cincinnati and the rest of the state. In 2011, the
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden used the state incentives to install
solar panels in its parking lot that will generate enough electricity
to meet 20 percent of the zoo’s electricity needs and reduce pollution
associated with global warming by 1,775 tons annually, according to the
report.Meanwhile, Cincinnati has taken its own actions.
“The city has been a leader in greenhouse gas reduction
efforts since adopting the Green Cincinnati Plan in 2007,” said Larry
Falkin, director of the Office of Environmental Quality of the City of
Cincinnati, in a statement. “We have succeeded in reducing emissions by
more than 8 percent through measures including energy efficiency,
renewable energy and alternative fuel vehicles. What we have learned is
that if you do it right, climate protection work saves more than it
costs, improves public health and improves the quality of life.”Still, some companies argue the standards impose unreasonable costs on businesses and customers. Akron-based utility company FirstEnergy previously asked for a review of Ohio’s energy efficiency standards to address the concerns, but Seitz told Gongwer that the efficiency standards will remain untouched by his legislation.
Scientists have historically called for reducing global
warming to 2 degrees Celsius. That wouldn’t involve immediately
eliminating all carbon pollution — such a goal is widely viewed as
unrealistic — but it would likely require the United States and other
developed countries to cut their carbon pollution by 80 to 95 percent
below 1990 levels by 2050, according to the IPCC’s 2007 report.
With its latest report, Environment Ohio is aiming to push the country in that direction.
by German Lopez
Metro moves forward with changes, bill to weaken energy standards, Berns criticizes media
As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Metro, Greater Cincinnati’s bus system, is moving forward
with changes that seek to improve services that have dealt with funding
shortfalls and cuts in the past few years. The biggest change is
Metro*Plus, a new limited-stop weekday bus service that will be free
through Aug. 23. Metro spokesperson Jill Dunne says Metro*Plus is a step
toward bus rapid transit (BRT), an elaborate system that uses limited
stops, traffic signal priority and bus-only lanes. Metro*Plus is mostly
federally funded, and Metro says an expansion into BRT, which could cost
hundreds of millions of dollars, would also be carried by federal
grants. Besides Metro*Plus, Cincinnati’s bus system is also adding and
cutting some routes.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce legislation
capping how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and
scrapping requirements for in-state solar and wind power — two major
moves that will weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy Law. But Seitz says the
changes would keep mandates for utilities to provide one-fourth of their
electricity through alternative sources and reduce consumer consumption by 22
percent by 2025. Environmentalists have been critical of
Seitz’s review ever since he announced it in response to pressure from
Akron-based FirstEnergy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. (Correction: This paragraph previously said utilities are required to provide one-fourth of their electricity through renewable sources; the requirement actually applies to “alternative sources.”)
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns yesterday declared his campaign dead and blamed local media, including CityBeat,
for its demise. Berns said the media has done little to promote him
over Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, who have
similar views on every major issue except the streetcar and parking
plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. In response,
Berns attached a picture of himself playing dead in front of a vehicle. The
stunt was just the latest in the Libertarian’s campaign, which has
included Berns quitting the race for one day before deciding to stay in,
the candidate giving away tomato plants while claiming they’re
marijuana and lots of free ice cream.
Commentary: “Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy.”
Cranley is airing a new advertisement attacking Qualls. The ad focuses largely on the streetcar and parking plan. As Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier points out, the ad “takes some factual liberties”:
Parking meters are being leased, not sold, to the quasi-public Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority, and it’s so far unclear how the money from the
lease is going to be spent and if the resulting projects will really
favor downtown over neighborhoods.
Hamilton County commissioners approved the next phase of The Banks, which could include another hotel
if developers can’t find office tenants to fill the currently planned
space. The second phase of the project already includes a one-block
complex with 305 apartments.
State officials are reporting a 467-percent increase
in the amount of seized meth labs this year. “We’re seeing a continuous
spike,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “It is easier (for
people to make the drug). We used to talk about ‘meth houses,’ or places
people would make this. Well, today, you can make it in a pop bottle.”
Ohio’s school report cards will be released today, allowing anyone to go online and see what a school is rated on an A-F scale.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday
announced more than $317,000 will be directed to Ohio to provide critical
housing and clinical services for homeless veterans. The grants are
part of the $75 million appropriated this year to support housing needs for
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a new initiative
called #RunTheCity, which will allow citizens to run or walk alongside
local officials in an event that’s supposed to simultaneously encourage access and healthy living. The first event with City Solicitor
John Curp, Cincinnati’s top lawyer, will be tonight at 6 p.m. at Wulsin
Triangle, corner of Observatory Avenue and Madison Road in Hyde Park.
Two Greater Cincinnati companies — U.S. Logistics and ODW Logistics & Transportation Services — made the Inc. 500 list for fastest-growing companies, and more than 50 others made the Inc. 5,000 list. Four landed on the Inc. 500 list last year and one got on the list in 2011.
Another good local economic indicator: Greater Cincinnati home sales jumped 30 percent in July.
Mouse skin cells were successfully transformed into eggs, sperm and babies, but a similar treatment for infertile humans is likely a few decades away.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 28, 2013
State Sen. Bill Seitz says he’s working
on a bill that would cap how much utilities can spend on energy
efficiency programs and eliminate requirements for in-state wind and
by German Lopez
State senator pushing new bill is on group’s board of directors
State Sen. Bill Seitz says he’s working on a bill that
would cap how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and eliminate requirements for in-state wind and solar power. But the proposal isn’t completely unique to Ohio, which is just one of many states
in which national conservative groups are working to weaken state energy
Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, told Gongwer
that his bill will keep requirements for utilities to provide 25
percent of their electricity from alternative sources and reduce
customers’ consumption by 22 percent by 2025. But the other measures will likely weaken renewable energy and efficiency standards set by Ohio’s Clean Energy Law in 2008.The bill is presumably the result of Seitz’s review of Ohio’s energy rules, which the state senator announced earlier in the year. FirstEnergy, an Akron-based utility company, says the review is necessary because the regulations impose too many costs. But there’s another major group involved: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Seitz is on the board of directors of ALEC,
a conservative group that’s gone from state to state to push legislation
that typically favors corporate interests. Some state officials, including Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, reportedly attended ALEC’s 40th annual meeting in Chicago Aug. 7-9.
Just a couple weeks after that meeting, Seitz announced he still intends to rework Ohio’s energy standards.
ALEC previously teamed up
with the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank that gets much of its funding from oil
companies, to write the standard for legislation that pulls back state
energy rules. Many of the effort’s backers, particularly at the
Heartland Institute, deny man-made global warming, even though scientists are 95 percent certain climate change is influenced by human actions.
ALEC’s efforts have so far failed in every state in which legislation has been proposed, as shown in this map from ThinkProgress:
But Ohio may be the first state to buck that trend if
Seitz insists on pushing his review.A report from advocacy group Environment Ohio found the current energy standards, which require Ohio utility companies get 12.5 percent of their energy needs from renewable sources, have successfully spurred clean
energy projects all around the state, particularly in Cincinnati. One local example: The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden in 2011 installed solar panels in its parking lot that will generate enough electricity to meet 20 percent of the zoo’s electricity needs and reduce pollution associated with global warming by 1,775 tons annually, according to the report.But the standards are written in a way that favors in-state sources, which was supposed to ensure that at least half of the renewable energy development spurred by the Clean Energy Law happened in Ohio. A June 2013 ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals indicated that the in-state preference is an unconstitutional violation of the Commerce Clause.Seitz will introduce his bill in the next two weeks.