by German Lopez
110 days ago
Bill weakens energy standards, groups rally against global warming, county could cut taxes
Cincinnati’s State Sen. Bill Seitz says he will introduce a “compromise” bill
that still weakens Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable standards but
allows some of the current requirements for in-state renewable sources
to remain for a few years. Environmental and business groups argue
Seitz’s original bill would effectively gut the state’s energy standards
and, according to a study from Ohio State University and the Ohio
Advanced Energy Economy, force Ohioans to pay an extra $3.65 billion in electricity bills over 12 years.
But some utility companies, particularly Akron-based FirstEnergy, claim
the current standards are too burdensome and impose extra costs on
Meanwhile, Ohioans on Nov. 16 rallied in front of the Ohio Statehouse
to call on U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to support federal
regulations that would attempt to curtail human-caused global warming.
The regulations are part of President Barack Obama’s second-term plan to
limit carbon emissions from power plants, which Environment Ohio says
are responsible for 41 percent of U.S. carbon emissions — a primary
contributor to global warming. Although some conservatives deny
human-caused global warming, scientists stated in the 2013 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that they are at least 95 percent certain that human actions contribute to global warming.
Hamilton County commissioners will vote on Wednesday on a plan that would increase the tax return received by property taxpayers.
Republican Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s proposal would increase the
rebate from $10 million to $12 million, or $35 for each $100,000 of
property value in 2013 to $42 in 2014. But Democratic Commissioner Todd
Portune, the lone Democrat in the three-member board, says he would
rather focus on increasing the sales tax to make the stadium fund
sustainable and not reliant on casino revenue, which could go to other
Commissioners also agreed to not place a property tax levy renewal for the Cincinnati Museum Center on the ballot
until there’s a plan to fix Union Terminal. The informal decision followed the
recommendations of the Hamilton County’s Tax Levy Review Committee,
which reported that it will only support the levy renewal if the city,
county and museum develop a plan to transfer ownership of Union Terminal
from the city to a new, to-be-formed entity and locate public and
private funds to renovate and upkeep the terminal in a sustainable
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced on Monday that he’s forming a heroin unit
to tackle what he describes as a drug epidemic sweeping across Ohio’s
communities. The effort, which is estimated at $1 million, will focus on
education, outreach and law enforcement. David Pepper, DeWine’s likely
Democratic opponent for the attorney general position in 2014, argues
DeWine, a Republican, moved too slowly on the issue; Pepper says the
problem began in 2011, more than two years before DeWine’s proposal.
Cincinnati council members Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman yesterday reiterated their opposition to the city’s responsible bidder policy,
which requires bidders for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) work to
follow specific standards for apprenticeship programs. The law has
caused an impasse between the county, which owns MSD, and the city,
which is in charge of management. The conflict comes in the middle of a
federal mandate asking MSD to retrofit Cincinnati’s sewer system — a
project that will cost $3.2 billion over 15 years. CityBeat covered the conflict in greater detail here.
Cincinnati’s Department of Public Services will expedite the delivery of bigger trash carts.
The deliveries are part of Mayor Mark Mallory’s controversial trash
policy, which limits each household to one trash cart that can be picked
up by automated trucks in an effort to save money and avoid workers’ injuries.
Mayor-elect John Cranley says the policy is too limiting and causing people to
dump trash in public areas.
Cincinnati’s Metro is the most efficient bus service
compared to 11 peer cities, but it ranks in the middle of the pack when
it comes to level of service, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati Economics Center.
Metro plans to announce today that it will balance its operational
budget without fare increases or service cuts for the fourth year in a
For Thanksgiving Day, Metro will run
on a holiday schedule. The sales office will also be closed for Thanksgiving
and the day after.
Ohio will receive nearly $717,000
in a multi-state settlement involving Google, which supposedly overrode
some browsers’ settings to plant cookies that collect information for advertisements.
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday disbarred Stan Chesley,
which means the local attorney can no longer practice law in front of
the nation’s highest court. The controversy surrounding Chesley began
more than a decade ago when he was accused of misconduct for his
involvement with a $200 million fen-phen diet-drug settlement.
Some organisms might evolve the ability to evolve.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
111 days ago
Environmental groups call on Sen. Brown to show support
More than 200 Ohioans gathered at the Ohio Statehouse on
Saturday to call on U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to support federal
regulations that would attempt to curtail human-caused global warming.
The regulations would impose stricter pollution limits on
power plants across the nation, which Environment Ohio says are
responsible for 41 percent of U.S. carbon emissions — a primary contributor to
The new rules are part of the climate plan President
Barack Obama proposed in June to skip legislative action from a
gridlocked Congress and slow down global warming by using the
already-established regulatory arm of the Environmental Protection
“Our message today is clear. The time is now to act on
climate,” said Christian Adams, state associate with Environment Ohio,
in a statement. “Global warming threatens our health, our environment
and our children’s future. Ohioans support President Obama’s plan to
clean up the biggest carbon polluters.”
The Obama administration proposed regulations on new power
plants on Sept. 20 that effectively prevent any new coal power plants
from opening up if they don’t capture and sequester carbon pollution.
Experts argue those limits will have little effect on future carbon emissions because new coal power plants are already being phased out by natural gas.
But the statehouse rally asked Ohio’s senators to support
incoming regulations that will impose further restrictions on existing
power plants and — if they’re effective — reduce the amount of carbon
going into the atmosphere.
The regulations could have large implications for Ohio. A previous report from Environment Ohio found Ohio’s power plants pollute more than those in any state except Texas.
Coal companies warn the regulations could cost jobs. St. Louis-based Patriot Coal says “burdensome environmental and governmental regulations” have already “impacted demand for coal and increased costs.”
But the regulations could simply shift jobs to cleaner energy sectors. A 2012 report from Environment Ohio found Cincinnati could become the regional capital of solar power and help revitalize its economy with new jobs in the process.
Scientists have historically called for reducing global
warming to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst effects of climate
change. That would involve greatly reducing the amount of carbon that
goes into the atmosphere over the next few decades, according to the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In the IPCC’s 2013 report, scientists said they are at least 95 percent certain that human actions contribute to global warming.
Many economists argue a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system
are better ways to tackle climate change than regulations. But those
policies would require legislative action that is unlikely in the
current political climate, especially since many Republican legislators deny the science behind human-caused global warming.
by German Lopez
137 days ago
Medicaid expansion challenged, jails go uninspected, local senator's energy bill criticized
Republican legislators filed a lawsuit against Ohio’s two-year, federally funded Medicaid expansion
after Republican Gov. John Kasich went through the Controlling Board,
an obscure seven-member legislative panel, instead of the
Republican-controlled Ohio House and Senate to get approval for the
expansion. The lawsuit, filed to the Ohio Supreme Court, claims, “Each
representative is disenfranchised in his legislative capacity through
the Controlling Board’s exercise of legislative authority.” Kasich put his request to the Controlling Board
to bypass the legislature after months of unsuccessfully wrangling
legislators in his own party to approve the expansion. The Health Policy
Institute of Ohio previously found
the expansion would insure between 300,000 and 400,000 Ohioans through
fiscal year 2015; if legislators approve the expansion beyond that, the
institute says it would generate $1.8 billion for Ohio and insure nearly
half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
Meanwhile, some state senators plan to use the savings from the Medicaid expansion to cut taxes. For Ohioans making up to $50,000 a year, the 4-percent income tax cut would mean annual savings of less than $50.
State officials haven’t inspected southwest Ohio jails for five years,
which means the jails could be breaking minimum standards set by the
state without anyone knowing. The inspections were supposed to occur each
year, but a lack of resources, which left only one inspector in the
department, forced the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
(ODRC) to stop the practice and instead ask jails to inspect themselves —
with limited checks on jails fabricating claims. The inspections are
starting back up now that ODRC has a second jail inspector on its staff,
but the inspections are announced beforehand, meaning jails can plan
for them, and the punishment for failing to meet standards is
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce two amendments
to walk back controversial provisions of an even more controversial
bill that weakens Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards.
Critics say the bill would water down and effectively eliminate Ohio’s
cost-saving energy standards, but Seitz, who has ties to a national conservative group that opposes energy standards,
argues the rules impose too many costs on utility companies. A previous
study from Ohio State University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found
repealing the standards would increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by
$3.65 billion over the next 12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s proposal and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
City Solicitor John Curp and Ohio Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said in an Oct. 22 email exchange
that it was ethically OK for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls to retain her
job as a realtor and vote in support of the streetcar project, even
though the project could indirectly benefit Qualls by increasing
property values — and therefore her compensation as a realtor — along
the route. The exchange was provided to CityBeat and various
media outlets after mayoral candidate John Cranley criticized Qualls,
who is also running for mayor, for the alleged ethical violation at an
Oct. 22 press conference. But Curp and Nick, who cited two previous
opinions from the Ohio Ethics Commission, agreed that Qualls’ financial
connection to property values was too indirect and speculative because
she only picks up a flat fee for the “arms-length transactions between
private parties.” Curp also noted that Qualls had asked about the
potential ethical conflict two times before.
A state prison in Toledo is no longer accepting new inmates
after reports of increasing violence. The goal is to cut down on the
amount of prisoners sharing a cell, ODRC spokeswoman JoEllen Smith told
The Associated Press. Smith said the change was already in the works
before a recent bout of killings. The facility holds roughly 1,300 prisoners, which
is close to capacity.
Former Ohio State University President Gordon Gee is heading a state committee created by Gov. Kasich that’s trying to figure out how to curb college costs while improving quality.
Gallup says a majority of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana. CityBeat previously covered legalization and how it could affect Ohio in further detail here.
Women’s breasts apparently age more quickly than the rest of their bodies, according to a new study.
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.
On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback
to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free
pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29
at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
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.