by German Lopez
Ohio may allow open containers, Medicaid may be on ballot, pollution afflicts region
State Sen. Eric Kearney, a Cincinnati Democrat, introduced a bill
in the Ohio Senate yesterday that would allow opened alcoholic
beverages in “entertainment districts,” which must have populations of more than
50,000 within one-half mile by one-half mile. Kearney said Over-the-Rhine
would be an ideal benefactor of the new bill. “Senate Bill 116 will
promote tourism and business development across the state,” Kearney said
in a statement. “By modifying Ohio’s law, this will provide an
opportunity for developments such as the Over-the-Rhine Gateway in
Cincinnati and The Flats in Cleveland to create an entertainment
experience and attract more customers.”
Supporters of the Medicaid expansion say they may attempt to put the issue on the November ballot
if the Ohio General Assembly fails to take action by fall. Republicans
in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate have so far rejected Gov. John
Kasich’s pleas for an expansion, instead moving toward asking the federal government for a Medicaid waiver
that would allow the state to make broader
reforms. At least 90 percent of the expansion would be funded by the
federal government. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.
The Greater Cincinnati region and Hamilton County ranked among the worst in the nation
in the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report.
The report, which used 2009-2011 U.S. EPA data, found Greater Cincinnati
to be No. 10 worst for year-round particle pollution and No. 14 for
ozone pollution. Still, the report did find overall improvement around
the nation, with Greater Cincinnati making some advances in pollution
reduction in the past few decades.
A new Ohio law going into effect today will require school coaches to acquire additional concussion awareness training.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross says the
training will make it easier for coaches to identify symptoms of
concussions and get help for students.
A University of Cincinnati study found it could be cost-effective to screen at-risk populations for hepatitis C.
A vegetarian lifestyle may fit some of CityBeat’s most beautiful employees, but Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble says pets need a more expansive diet.
Not only do they have multiple cultural traditions, but humpback whales also learn new tricks by watching their friends.
by German Lopez
Report finds region 10th worst for year-round particle pollution
Cincinnati area and Hamilton County ranked poorly in the American Lung
Association’s annual “State of the Air” report, released April 24, with failing grades in a couple categories.
The report, which used 2009-2011 U.S. EPA data, gave
the Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington region an “F” for ozone pollution,
a “D” for 24-hour particle pollution and a “fail” for year-round particle
pollution. The region ranked 10th worst for year-round particle
pollution and No. 14 worst for ozone pollution.
Meanwhile, Hamilton County received an “F”
for its overall performance, with an “F” in ozone pollution, a “D” in
24-hour particle pollution and a “fail” in year-round particle
But the report found overall improvement around the
nation, with most cities reducing year-round particle pollution and days
of high ozone pollution.
Despite its current standing, Greater Cincinnati has also
improved in the past few decades. In comparison to 1996, the region has
16.9 fewer high ozone days per year. In comparison to 2000, the region
has 19.9 fewer days of high particle pollution and a lower concentration
of pollutants in the air throughout the year.
Exposure to ozone and other pollutants can damage lung
tissue, putting Greater Cincinnati at a higher risk for
Particle pollution occurs when the air is tainted by a
complex mix of pollutants. Year-round exposure can lead to death and cancer, while 24-hour spikes in exposure can cause
illness and even death under some circumstances.
To help combat the issue, the report makes policy recommendations
to the U.S. EPA, asking for stronger regulations on various sources of
pollution, including power plants, gasoline, cars and even wood smoke.
The Clean Air Act, which was strengthened in 1990, gives the EPA the regulatory power necessary to hand down regulations on many of these issues, but funding more
enforcement would likely require congressional action.
States and cities can also curtail air pollution by passing clean energy policies. Ohio began supporting clean energy
when it passed its Clean Energy Law in 2008, but State Sen. Bill Seitz, a
Cincinnati Republican, is reviewing the law’s energy efficiency and
clean energy standards and may ultimately weaken them (“How Clean is Too Clean?” issue of March 27).
In Cincinnati, the state standards have helped foster more solar energy developments, which Environment Ohio says could turn Cincinnati into the solar capital of the region (“Solar Cincinnati,” issue of Dec. 19).
More public transportation options can also help reduce
air pollution. The advocacy group American Public Transportation
Association says switching from private to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon footprint:
“A single commuter switching his or her commute to public
transportation can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10 percent
and up to 30 percent if he or she eliminates a second car. When compared
to other household actions that limit CO2, taking public transportation
can be 10 times greater in reducing this harmful greenhouse gas.”
Cincinnati is currently pursuing plans to build a streetcar, but the project is being threatened by a major budget gap. The city is also planning to build more bike trails
and other transportation options as part of Plan Cincinnati, the city’s
first master plan since 1980.
by German Lopez
Seitz compares energy efficiency to Stalin, Music Hall lease coming, casino revenues today
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, compared Ohio’s energy efficiency laws
to former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s five-year plan. Seitz is
leading the charge on a review of the state’s energy efficiency and
renewable energy standards, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
The review has been supported by Akron-based First Energy, an energy
company that has long opposed Ohio’s energy efficiency standards. But
environmental groups say they’re worried the review will water down a
law that has brought clean energy and jobs to the state.
Cincinnati is poised to approve
a lease of Music Hall that will allow renovations to move
forward. The plan would lease the Music Hall for 75 years to carry out
renovations that will likely cost between $50 million and $100 million,
with the city contributing about $10 million. CityBeat covered the plan when it was first announced here.
In the midst of Cincinnati’s heated budget battle, the
Ohio Casino Control Commission will release its monthly revenue estimates for
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino today. City officials estimated that about
$9 million to $11 million will be available at a City Council meeting
Thursday — seemingly the only point of agreement in a testy exchange over the city’s budget
that left city leaders with no consensus on local
budget woes. Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley and others have
proposed using casino revenue to help balance the city’s budget without
layoffs, but Cranley’s $21 million estimate has drawn criticism for being unrealistic.
The Ohio House is likely to propose alternatives
to Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan this week. State legislators have
criticized Kasich’s plan for favoring the wealthy, raising taxes for
many Ohioans and expanding Medicaid with the use of federal funds. CityBeat covered the governor’s plan in further detail here.
National parks around Ohio are cutting hours and hiring
because of sequestration, a series of across-the-board budget cuts that
began March 1 after congressional inaction. The cuts have forced the
James A. Garfield National Historic Site at Mentor, Ohio, to close on
Sundays, which means about 30,000 tourists will be unable to visit this
year, according to Todd Arrington, chief of
interpretation and education at the park.
Ohio’s rural speed limit is being changed to 70 mph, and signs will soon reflect that.
Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain’s only female prime minister, died at age 87.
A fusion rocket could shoot people to Mars in 30 days.
by German Lopez
City officials warn of budget cuts, budget woes pinned on Kasich, fracking causes earthquake
Yesterday, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler gave a ruling that effectively opened the parking plan to referendum, but city officials said the decision poses major fiscal and legal challenges to the city.
Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the lack of
a parking plan will force the city to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance fiscal
year 2014’s budget in time for July 1, and City Solicitor John Curp said
the ruling, which concludes emergency clauses do not eliminate the
possibility of a referendum, greatly hinder the city’s ability to
expedite the implementation of laws. The parking plan, which was
previously approved by City Council, would lease the city’s parking assets to the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the
budget for the next two years and fund economic development projects,
but the court ruling means the plan must be put on hold at least until a
referendum effort is complete.
Ohio Democrats say Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts are to blame for Cincinnati’s budget woes. In a statement, Chris Redfern,
chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said, “Make no mistake, the only
reason Cincinnati has been forced to debate firing hundreds of police
and firefighters is because Gov. Kasich cut tens of millions of dollars
to the city in his last state budget. As communities like Cincinnati
struggle to deal with the last round of cuts, Kasich’s at it again,
proposing to steal another $200 million from local communities to help
pay for tax giveaways to the rich. If Kasich gets his way and passes his
proposed handout to his friends, more communities across the state will
see layoffs, skyrocketing local tax levies, and deep cuts to schools.”
Kasich’s local government funding cuts have caused Cincinnati to lose
$40.7 million in state funding over two years, according to Policy Matters Ohio. CityBeat covered Kasich’s local government funding cuts here and his budget proposal here.
A study found a wastewater injection well used for fracking caused Oklahoma’s largest-ever earthquake.
The findings echo fears from Youngstown residents, who experienced an
earthquake early in 2012 that was pinned on nearby wastewater injection
wells, which are used to dispose of waste produced during the fracking process. CityBeat
covered fracking, the relatively new drilling technique that injects water
underground to open up oil and gas reserves, in further detail here.
In private budget news, a survey by Card Hub found Cincinnati residents have some of the nation’s worst budgeting habits.
In the 30-city survey, Cincinnati ranked No. 28 for budgeting habits,
ahead of only Tampa, Fla., and Orlando, Fla. Boston was ranked No. 1 in
The Port Authority is carrying out a demolition in Jordan Crossing that will pave the way
for $75 million in redevelopment. Mayor Mark Mallory described his
experience with the development, “This has been a source of frustration,
but also a source of hope. … This area is prime for job creation and
State legislators are once again trying to get student members of schools’ board of trustees the ability to vote
— a move that would empower students in public universities. The bill
was introduced last year, but it died a slow death after facing
opposition from administrators at Ohio University and Bowling Green
State University. Gov. John Kasich and Ohio State officials reportedly
support the idea.
A Sunday school teacher at a local church near Dayton was fired after declaring her support for same-sex marriage.
Cincinnati Financial Corp. and Meridian Bioscience Inc. were named among the country’s most trustworthy firms.
Headline: Man accused of using fake penis for drug test.
New national science education guidelines say climate change should be in classrooms.
Caffeine-addicted bacteria die if they get decaf. Scientists say they want to use the bacteria to clean caffeine-polluted waterways.
by German Lopez
Youth Jobs Fair today, groups clash over energy law, GOP considering election reform
Cincinnati’s Youth Jobs Fair will be held today at the
Duke Energy Convention Center between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The fair
provides an opportunity for young people, typically aged between 16 and
24, to look for work from a variety of participating employers. Mayor
Mark Mallory says attendees should “dress for success,” as if they were
going to their first day on the job.
State environmental groups and an Akron-based energy company are at odds over a 2008 law
that tasks the state and utility companies with meeting stringent
requirements for renewable energy and energy efficiency. State Sen. Bill
Seitz, the Cincinnati Republican who heads the Senate Public Utilities
Committee, has agreed to review Ohio’s Clean Energy Law, while
FirstEnergy, an Akron-based energy company, protests the requirements as
too expensive for the company and consumers around the state. But
Seitz’s decision has alarmed environmental groups who largely see the
law as effective three years later.
Republicans in the General Assembly are considering an incremental approach to elections reform
after their comprehensive efforts in 2011 and 2012 were received with widespread
accusations of voter suppression. The details aren’t worked out yet, but Seitz is planning on
introducing bills that he says will cut down on provisional ballot
voting and provide clearer rules for poll workers collecting provisional
ballots, and other Republicans are looking to set uniform statewide
early voting hours. Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner says she wants to
see a more comprehensive approach to elections reform, including a more
relaxed approach to provisional ballots.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners are considering raises for county employees,
but they first have to find a way to pay for the increases. Board
President Chris Monzel, a Republican, says he would like to wait to see
how Gov. John Kasich’s budget turns out to institute a merit-based raise
system. Commissioner Todd Portune, a Democrat, says he wants to
guarantee all employees a 1-percent increase.
City Council held a special meeting last night to discuss the city’s pension system,
which many are worried is costing the city too much in the long term.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says the city needs to take more steps
to stabilize the system: “More money in, figuring out where that more
money will come from, looking at the current picture of the benefits
themselves, and some way of financing it short of putting lump sums of
The U.S. Supreme Court showed doubts
over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which
effectively banned same-sex marriage at a federal level, at hearings
President Barack Obama’s administration released a proposal that will help deal with the effects of global warming on wildlife, including arctic foxes.
Watch a nine-year-old discuss the meaning of life and the universe:
Ohio considers relaxing energy efficiency standards; environmental groups take exception
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 27, 2013
State environmental groups and an
Akron-based energy company are at odds over a 2008 law that tasks the
state and utility companies with meeting stringent requirements for
renewable energy and energy efficiency.
by German Lopez
GOP questions Medicaid expansion, Qualls' streetcar concerns, council backs efficiency
State legislators, particularly Republicans, have a lot of questions regarding Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion.
Legislators are worried the state won’t be able to opt out of the
expansion if the federal government reneges its funding promise, raising
potential financial hurdles. As part of Obamacare, the federal
government pays for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first
three years, and the share phases down to 90 percent after that.
Kasich’s budget includes a trigger — called a “circuit breaker” — in
case the federal government ever funds less than currently promised. A
study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found
the Medicaid expansion could insure nearly 500,000 people and generate
$1.4 billion by raising revenue and shifting funding burdens from the state to federal
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a longtime supporter of the streetcar, is getting concerned
about some of the problems surrounding the project. In a memo to the
city manager, Qualls suggested putting the streetcar project through
“intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and
timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League
Baseball All-Star Game. The memo was in response to streetcar
construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget — a
setback that could cause further delays or more funding problems.
With Councilman Chris Seelbach’s strong support, City Council passed a resolution urging the state government to maintain its energy efficiency standards.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public
Utilities Committee, sent out a memo Feb. 1 that pledged to review the
state’s standards, causing much concern among environmental groups.
Tolls for the Brent Spence Bridge could be as low as $2,
according to financial consultants involved with the project. The tolls
will help pay for the massive rehabilitation project, which gained
national attention when President Barack Obama visited Cincinnati to support rebuilding the bridge.
State Democrats and Republicans have some questions
about the governor’s Ohio Turnpike plan. Some Democrats are concerned
the state government won’t actually freeze toll hikes at the rate of inflation for
EZPass users. Others are worried
about language in the bill. The plan leverages the Ohio Turnpike to fund a statewide construction program.
The man accused of dumping fracking waste into the Mahoning River in Youngstown was arrested and charged with violating the Clean Water Act.
Dayton wants to help
illegal immigrants who are victims of crime. The Dayton City Commission
approved a $30,000 contract with a law firm to help potential
victims. CityBeat previously covered the recent struggles of children of illegal immigrants in Ohio.
A Dayton Daily News report found Ohio overpays unemployment compensation claims by millions of dollars.
The University of Cincinnati is launching a technology incubator for mobile apps.
In his State of the County address yesterday, Commission President Chris Monzel said Hamilton County is “on the move and getting stronger.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine and officials from other states announced a $29 million settlement with Toyota over the unintended acceleration debacle. Ohio will get $1.7 million from the settlement.
A meteor flew over Russian skies and exploded with the strength of an atomic bomb Friday, causing a sonic blast that shattered windows and injured nearly 1,000 people.
Scientists engineered mice that can’t feel the cold. Certain people on CityBeat’s
staff would probably do anything for this superpower, but scientists
are probably going to use it to make better pain medication.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 30, 2013
In line with the country’s increasing energy usage trends,
statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Agency found that China now
uses 47 percent of the world’s coal; its usage grew by 325 million tons
in 2011. WORLD -1
by German Lopez
Kasich lacks re-election support, budget faces scrutiny, city increasing green incentives
For the first time since inauguration,
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has a positive approval rating, but a plurality
of registered voters say Kasich doesn’t deserve a second term. The
Quinnipac University poll attributed the increase in Kasich’s approval
rating to “high levels of satisfaction among Ohio voters with life in
the Buckeye State.” About 42 percent of respondents approved of Kasich,
while 35 percent disapproved. About 42 percent said Kasich doesn’t
deserve a second term, while 36 percent said he does. The poll surveyed
1,165 registered voters with a margin of error of 2.9 percent.
Last night, Cincinnati held its final public hearing
on City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposed budget. About 40 people spoke
during the meeting, with many voicing concern about Media Bridges
funding, which CityBeat recently covered here. The budget has also come under scrutiny due to its privatization of parking services, but Dohoney says the choice is privatization or 344 layoffs.
Cincinnati plans to bolster its green building incentives.
City officials are trying to amend the city’s Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED) standards to encourage higher levels of
investment in green projects. Since LEED standards were first approved
in 2009, they have been criticized for only offering strong incentives
for lower levels of certification. The amendment seeks to make the
higher levels of certification more appealing.
University Hospital is being renamed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
An “anti-immigrant bill” proposed by Cincinnati’s Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz is not being received well by Innovation Ohio.
S.B. 323 seeks to limit workers’ compensation to illegal immigrants,
but the Ohio policy research group is not sure that’s a legitimate
problem. The organization is also worried the bill will impose a
regulatory burden on the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and Ohio’s
workers without providing extra funds and training to carry out the
Ohio is improving in its battle against human trafficking.
The state earned a “C” and it was labeled “most improved” in a new
report from the Polaris Project. But one state legislator wants to go
further by placing tougher standards on “johns” participating in the sex
trade. CityBeat previously wrote about the human trafficking problem in Ohio here.
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved enough credits to help create about 500 jobs in Greater Cincinnati.
Michigan may have recently passed its anti-union “right-to-work” law, but Gov. Kasich does not share a similar interest.
Kasich will announce
his changes to the Ohio Turnpike Thursday and Friday. The governor says
his proposed changes will unlock “greater wealth,” but critics are
worried Kasich is about to sell off a major public asset.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is still defending his decisions during the lead-up the election. Husted has now become infamous nationwide due to his pre-election record, which CityBeat wrote about here.Even Jesus would be jealous. Science can now turn human urine into brain cells.
by German Lopez
Environment Ohio touts renewable energy’s health, job benefits
A Dec. 5 report is encouraging Cincinnati to become the solar
energy capital of Ohio and the broader region. The report, titled
“Building a Solar Cincinnati,” was put together by Environment Ohio to
show the benefits and potential of Cincinnati regarding solar power.
Christian Adams, who wrote the report along with Julian
Boggs, says Cincinnati is especially poised to take charge in this
renewable energy front, in contrast to the rest of the state, which gets
82 percent of its electricity from coal. Adams points to
the sustainability-minded city officials and public, a “budding solar business
sector” and the great business environment as the city as reasons why
Cincinnati could become a pivotal leader.
With 21 public solar installations to date, the city has
already seen some of the benefits of solar power. The most
obvious benefit is cleaner air, which leads to better overall health and
helps combat global warming. But the report points out that local solar
initiatives mean local jobs. “You can’t export these jobs,” Adams says.
“It’s a great opportunity for economic revitalization.”
With solar energy comes an array of job opportunities for
solar installers, solar designers, engineers, construction workers,
project managers, sales associates and marketing consultants. That’s
enough to create brisk job creation. The report points out
“energy-related segments of the clean economy added jobs at a torrid
pace over the last few years, bucking trends of the Great Recession.”
Still, there are hurdles.
Although solar energy saves money in the long term, installing solar
panels has a high upfront cost. The cost can make the short term too bleak for many potential customers.
To help overcome the short-term problem, the report suggests
third-party financing. In these financing agreements, customers agree to
give up roof space to have a solar power company install solar panels,
and then customers agree to buy their power needs from the company. It’s
a win for the solar power company because the panels eventually pay for
themselves through new customers, and it’s a win for the customer because
he sees more stable, lower energy costs and cleaner air. Adams points
out that a few businesses and individuals in the area have already taken part in such agreements with great success.
There are also some incentives already in place to
encourage solar energy. Ohio’s Clean Energy Law, which was passed in
2008, pushes utility companies into the renewable energy market with
Solar Renewable Energy Credits. These are credits utility companies must
earn to meet annual benchmarks by installing solar panels or purchasing
them from third parties. Duke Energy has followed the law’s
requirements by establishing its own renewable energy credit program.
Ohioans also have access to some tax breaks — the Energy
Conversion Facilities Sales Tax Exemption, Air-Quality Improvement Tax
Incentives and Qualified Energy Property Tax Exemptions — and loan
programs — the Energy Loan Fund and Advanced Energy Fund — that
encourage solar and other renewable energy sources.
Falkin, director of the city’s Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ),
says the report didn’t have much new information, but he’s glad
it can be used to push solar energy to the broader public. He touted the
benefits of job creation and reducing reliance on foreign energy
sources by moving toward energy independence.
For now, the city is mostly taking the approach of leading
by example. Falkin says the city is acting like a “model” for solar
energy. Cincinnati added solar installations to two city facilities this
year, and another will be added by the end of the month. Falkin’s
office is also working together with different organizations to keep any
Adams and Falkin both attended a Dec. 5 roundtable discussion
that engaged regional officials, including solar businesses,
environmental and sustainability groups, education leaders and the
Cincinnati Zoo. They both said the roundtable went well.
“I think all the right people are coming together and doing the right things to try to move us forward,” Falkin says.