by German Lopez
Local unemployment unchanged, schools could open enrollment, 2013 challenges schools
Facing tight budgets, Ohio schools, including Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), are considering open enrollment.
The move would open school doors to neighboring communities. It was
previously considered by CPS a decade ago, but the plan didn’t have
enough support from the district’s board. It might now.Next year could be challenging for Ohio schools.
Butler County schools will begin the year by implementing a transition
to the Common Core Curriculum, new evaluations for teachers and a new
method of rating and grading schools. The state is also expected to
change the school funding formula.Cincinnati’s
seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate remained relatively flat at 6.9
percent in November, according to data from the Ohio Department of Jobs
and Family Services. The city’s unemployment did not tick up or down
from the 6.9 percent rate in October, but about 1,300 dropped out from
the civilian labor force as it shrank from 145,600 in October to 144,300
in November. Hamilton County also remained flat at 6.3 percent as 3,500
left the labor force. Greater Cincinnati ticked up to 6.2 percent from
6.1 percent, with about 6,900 leaving the labor force between October
and November. In comparison, the state had a seasonally unadjusted rate
of 6.5 percent and nation had a seasonally unadjusted rate of 7.4
percent in November. Unemployment numbers are calculated through a
household survey. The unemployment rate gauges the amount of unemployed
people looking for work in contrast to the total civilian labor force.
Since the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in
later months. Federal and state numbers are typically adjusted for
seasonal factors.Police in Kentucky are now using playing cards to catch suspects.
Trooper Michael Webb says the effort has helped crack three out of 52
cases so far. That may not seem like a lot, but Webb puts it in
perspective: “Two of the cases were double homicides so that's four
families that have gotten closure and have had some kind of ability to
deal with the situation. The third one was a single murder and obviously
that family has been able to have closure. So we've got five families
that have been able to have closure as a result of this initiative.”Another casualty of the fiscal cliff: milk. It turns out milk prices could soar to $7 a gallon as Congress fails to adopt a farm bill. President Barack Obama and legislators are expected to discuss a fiscal cliff deal today.As some companies shift to social media, Facebook may topple CareerBuilder for job opportunities.On Christmas Day, 17.4 million smart devices turned on for the first time. In the first 20 days of December, only 4 million Android and iOS devices were turned on.What does 2013 hold for science and technology? Popular Science takes a look. Expect more supercomputers and less solar activity!Here is the dorkiest, cutest marriage proposal ever.
0 Comments · Thursday, December 27, 2012
A lot happened in Cincinnati and Ohio in
2012, and, for the most part, the year was good to progressives around
the nation and in Cincinnati.
Recaps of six cover stories people talked about in 2012
1 Comment · Thursday, December 27, 2012
CityBeat covered a variety of topics in 2012. Here are the stories that really stuck through, from the former pit bull ban to the Anna Louise Inn to private prisons.
by German Lopez
CPS helps rework school funding, cuts mean less teachers, judges against double-dipping
Cincinnati Public Schools seems to be playing a big role in reforming Ohio’s school funding formula.
Superintendent Mary Ronan got a call from Gov. John
Kasich’s office about the per-pupil funding formula CPS uses to
distribute funds to its schools. It seems the state might adopt a similar
method, but Ronan is cautious: “I do think it's one of the ways you
could do it, a per-pupil funding, but I have to say, we were always
tweaking every year ... because sometimes those formulas can be a bit off
and any time we saw one school getting a lot more than another ... we
tried to refine it every year over probably the 15 years we have used
it.” She also notes schools are getting “bare minimum” funding right
now. CityBeat covered budget problems at CPS here.
In general, state budget cuts have led to fewer teachers in Ohio schools. Gov. Kasich previously urged schools to focus on classroom instruction, but it seems the words aren't being followed up with proper funding.
Southwestern Ohio judges are clashing over double-dipping.
The practice involves government workers retiring and getting rehired
so they can collect pensions and a paycheck at the same time. At a
meeting, Hamilton County Judge Melba Marsh said she wants to allow
Magistrate Michael Bachman to retire and then be rehired so he doesn't
lose a 3-percent increase to his retirement, which is otherwise being
eliminated by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System after 2012.
But the move has been met with resistance from other judges.
For Cincinnati hospitals, Medicare changes mean some loss and some gain.
The online campaign urging Macy’s to dump Donald Trump circled a “Dump Trump” billboard around Macy’s headquarters. The anti-Trump movement has gained about 680,000 signatures since it started.
On Christmas Eve, some spent time with family, while Butler County Deputy David Runnells helped deliver a baby in the back of a car during an emergency call.
Ohio will use $20 million out of $200 million in casino funds to train incumbent workers. Gov. Kasich says the program could help avoid layoffs.
It seems Mitt Romney's presidential campaign really thought they were going to win.
In campaign memos leading up to the election, campaign staff said the
race was “unmistakably moving in Mitt Romney’s direction,” and the
campaign ridiculed the possibility of losing Ohio due to the Romney
campaign’s “better ground game.” But President Barack Obama had a much larger
ground game for one-on-one interaction, which is one of the factors
former Romney staff now say led to their demise. But whatever. Romney didn't want to be president, anyway, says son Tagg Romney: “He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He had no desire to ... run.”
Fiscal cliff talks aren’t going well. President Obama cut his vacation early to work out negotiations.
If Republicans and Democrats can’t work out their problems, a series of
spending cuts and tax hikes dubbed the “fiscal cliff” will kick in
throughout 2013. But it’s looking more and more likely the nation will head
off the cliff, considering U.S. Speaker John Boehner can’t even pass tax hikes on people making more than $1 million a year.
Ever wonder what dinosaur meat would taste like? Well, Popular Science has that covered.
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.
COAST files two new lawsuits over old issues
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST) is making a lot of use of member and lawyer
Chris Finney these days. The group was recently involved in two lawsuits
filed within one week: one regarding the Blue Ash Airport deal and
another accusing Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) of campaigning for
by German Lopez
Conservative group involved in two lawsuits related to streetcar, CPS levy
A local conservative group is making a lot of use of member and
lawyer Chris Finney. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST) was involved in two lawsuits filed this week: one regarding the Blue Ash Airport deal and another regarding Cincinnati
Public Schools (CPS).
Criticism of the Blue Ash Airport deal is not new for
COAST. The group has repeatedly criticized the deal, largely because as
much as $26 million from the deal will be used to fund Cincinnati’s $110
million streetcar. In the past, COAST has repeatedly characterized the streetcar
as a “boondoggle.”
The deal between Blue Ash and Cincinnati is not new, but
it did get reworked earlier this year. In 2006, the $37.5 million deal
had Cincinnati selling Blue Ash some land on the Blue Ash Airport
property, which Blue Ash would then use to build a park. Blue Ash voters
approved the deal, which contained a 0.25 percent earnings tax hike, in
a two-to-one margin.
When Cincinnati couldn’t get a $10 million grant from the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the city stopped working on the
airport as it became too costly. The city then tried to shift the
proceeds from the deal to the Cincinnati streetcar, but the FAA said
funding must be used for airports since the property is classified as an
Eventually, Cincinnati asked Blue Ash to rework the deal.
The plan was Blue Ash would rescind the deal, and then Cincinnati would
officially close down the airport and resell the land to Blue Ash while
it’s no longer classified as an airport.
At first, city officials said $11 million of the opened-up
money would go to the streetcar and $26 million would go to municipal
projects. Since then, the city has shifted $15 million of that municipal
project funding — supposedly temporarily — to help Duke Energy move
underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route,
at least until the city and energy company can work out an ongoing
The reworked deal, which was approved by
Blue Ash City Council in a 6-1 vote on Aug. 9, seemed like a win-win for
both sides. Cincinnati would get more funding for ongoing projects,
and Blue Ash netted $2.25 million from the deal — $250,000 to cover fees
for Blue Ash’s new park and $2 million was subtracted from the deal
since Blue Ash would no longer have to match the FAA grant.
But COAST does not approve. The organization doesn’t want
any funding redirected to the streetcar, and it claims the reworked deal
is not allowed. The lawsuit filed by Blue Ash resident Jeffrey Capell
and Finney cites a section of the Blue Ash City Charter that disallows
some contracts: “No contract shall be made for a term longer than five
years, except that franchises for public utility services and contracts
with other governmental units for service to be received or given may be
made for any period no longer than twenty years.”
Mark Vander Laan, Blue Ash’s city solicitor, says the
city charter section the lawsuit is referencing is irrelevant. He argues the deal is
not a contract as the city charter defines it; instead, it’s a mortgage and debt
instrument. In the Blue Ash City Charter, there’s another section that
deals with debt instruments, and that’s what the rescinded deal falls
under, according to Vander Laan. He says the city would not function as
it does today if the lawsuit’s claim was correct: “If that were the
case, all the bonds we’ve ever issued would have been incorrect.”
Vander Laan says the real issue here is disapproval of the
streetcar, not any legal technicalities: “They may have a complaint
about the streetcar, but that’s not the city of Blue Ash’s issue at all.
We don’t think it’s even an appropriate basis to challenge this.”
He added, “Frankly, if somebody had an issue with (the
deal), they should have taken that issue back in 2006 and 2007.” That’s
when Blue Ash voters first approved the airport deal, but back then, the
money wasn’t going to the streetcar, which didn’t even exist at the
In another legal battle, COAST filed a lawsuit against CPS
over staff allegedly campaigning for Issue 42, a ballot initiative that will
renew a CPS levy voters approved in 2008. The case goes back to 2002, when Tom Brinkman, chairman
of COAST, sued CPS for “illegal and unconstitutional use of school
property for campaign purposes,” according to the lawsuit. That case
ended in a settlement, which forced CPS to enter into a “COAST Agreement” that says, “CPS will strictly enforce a policy of preventing … Other
Political Advertisements on CPS Property.”
But COAST now says that agreement has been broken, and the
lawsuit cites emails as evidence. The emails show staff promoting voter
registration drives, which aren’t directly linked to Issue 42, and
staff offering to contribute and volunteer to the campaign. In the
emails, there are a few instances of Jens Sutmoller, Issue 42’s campaign
coordinator, asking CPS staff to give him personal emails, which shows
he was trying to avoid breaking any rules.
In CityBeat’s experience, CPS officials have been
pretty strict with following the settlement with COAST. In a Sept. 20
email, Janet Walsh, spokesperson for CPS, told CityBeat she could
not provide some levy-related information during work hours: “Yes, but
due to constraints about doing levy-related work on work time (we
can't), it may have to wait until I can get on my home computer.”
COAST has endorsed a “No” vote on Issue 42. In CityBeat’s
in-depth look into CPS and Issue 42 (“Battered But Not Broken,” issue
of Oct. 3), Brinkman defended COAST’s position by saying they’re not
necessarily against the school getting funding. COAST is more
interested in holding the school accountable: “It’s a five-year levy.
The reason we have five-year levies is so the public can gauge after
four or four and a half years how the entity where the taxes are going
to is doing with the money.” In that sense, for COAST, it’s important to
bring the levy renewal to voters as late in the game as possible —
November 2013 in this case. CityBeat this week endorsed a "Yes" vote on Issue 42 here. Criticism of CPS levies is
also not new for COAST. The group campaigned against last year’s new, permanent $49.5 million
levy, which CPS said it needed to meet new technology needs and keep
some buildings open.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 31, 2012
CityBeat recently covered
Cincinnati Public School’s (CPS) financial problems and what makes the
levy renewal a necessity for the school (“Battered But Not Broken,”
issue of Oct. 3). Under the broken state funding system for schools, CPS
has to rely on levies to sustain and improve its education program. If
CPS doesn’t get this levy renewed, it will be down $51.5 million — or
approximately 11 percent of its budget — in 2015. That’s a hard hit to
take after a decade of budget cuts at CPS. The school district has
already cut about 22 percent of its total staff in the last 10 years and
closed down 17 buildings. It shouldn’t have to do more.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 24, 2012
After two years of racking up an
excellent rating on its state report card, Robert A. Taft Information
Technology High School appears headed for a lower grade.
by James McNair
Posted In: CPS
at 04:27 PM | Permalink
Scores down after controversial ascension from "academic emergency" to "excellent"
years of racking up an excellent rating on its state report card, Robert
A. Taft Information Technology High School appears headed for a lower
school report cards released Wednesday by the Ohio Department of
Education show an “effective” rating for Taft, a technology-magnet
school for grades 9-12 in Cincinnati’s West End. Taft had won accolades
nationally for its steady climb from academic futility during the past seven
years. In that span, Taft went from “academic emergency” in the 2004-05
school year to excellent in 2009-10 and 2010-11, mainly on the strength
of Ohio Graduation Test pass rates that were the highest of all public
high schools in Southwest Ohio. The U.S. Department of Education gave it
a coveted National Blue Ribbon Award.[Download the Ohio Preliminary Report Cards spreadsheet here.]
CityBeat called those achievements into question in a February article ("Miracle or Mirage," issue of Feb. 22). CityBeat
found that the same graduating classes (2009-10 and 2010-11) that were
posting regionally high OGT pass rates had average composite ACT test
scores of 15, or the 10th percentile in Ohio. CityBeat also took
the first hard look at an independent audit showing that, of 1,707
erasures on Taft OGT exams in 2006, 88 percent resulted in correct
answers, an outcome one nationally prominent testing expert called “not
logical.” Cincinnati Public Schools, then led by former superintendent
Rosa Blackwell, refused to investigate the matter, and ODE let the
district get away with it.
2011-12 school year, Taft still posted high pass rates on the OGT, but
its graduation rate of 82.1 percent (down from 91.4 percent in 2010-11)
and attendance rate of 91 percent (down from 96.7 percent) were below
state benchmarks, leading to the effective rating on its interim report
fell from excellence among the city’s public schools, another school,
James N. Gamble Montessori High School in Spring Grove Village, received
its first-ever excellent rating. And Walnut Hills extended its
long-running streak of excellent ratings. Winners of effective ratings
were Clark Montessori and Withrow University high schools.As for the
district, Cincinnati Public Schools itself fell one notch on its state
report card. Last year, CPS was rated effective, making it the
highest-rated urban school district in Ohio. For 2011-12, it dropped to
“continuous improvement.” Said CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh: “We really
would have loved to have gotten effective again, but the fact remains
that overall performance, as rated by the state performance index, did
reach 88.5, which is our highest score ever, and we continue to