by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: News
at 03:33 PM | Permalink
State parks, forests undergoing assessment
Imagine: You take your children to the park for a leisurely stroll beside some calm lake waters. You're looking for pure, unadulterated nature; an escape from the industrial hullabaloo that is city life. Instead, you find several areas of the park blocked off, occupied by massive machines sucking out shale and oil through the process known as "fracking." According to an investigative report from The Columbus Dispatch, that image might not be far off. Dispatch found that 18 employees from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) have been working to assess the availability of Utica shale in parks and forests across the state, resources that could eventually be marketed to oil and gas drilling companies. The concentrated push has involved a widespread, coordinated effort to examine public records and assess original mineral rights on Utica shale across the state. In the past, drilling companies have offered as much as $5,000 per acre to landowners in Eastern Ohio to procure mineral rights. The undertaking potentially signifies ODNR's interest in profiting from fracking sales in the future; cataloging mineral rights means easing the process of selling land to drillers once they make initial offers. Fracking, the relatively new drilling technology that involves blasting thousands of gallons of water into the earth to fracture shale and free trapped, valuable natural oil and gas. It's been touted as a way to expose previously unavailable areas underground for drilling and has been subject of discussion on its economic value and potential.
by Hannah McCartney
House hearing voices pro-choice concerns on House Bill 298
Planned Parenthood advocates and supporters packed a hearing room in Columbus this morning to demonstrate opposition against controversial House Bill 298, a measure that, if passed, would put family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for state funding, instead giving priority to health departments. The House Health Committee heard testimony from bill supporters and opponents. "If PP is defunded, we will still offer a full range of options for
care, but the working poor will have no way to pay for them," testified Beth Lonn, Chief Operating Officer of Planned Parenthood of
Central Ohio, according to a tweet from Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio. Opponents of HB 298 express concern that the reprioritizing of funds would deny high-need women, particularly those of low income, access to preventive, affordable health care services. "More
than 96% of what we do is to provide essential lifesaving cancer
screenings, breast exams, birth control, sex education and counseling to
nearly 100,000 Ohio women and families, regardless of one’s ability to
pay," reads a segment on the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio website. Rep. Nicki Antonio (D-Lakewood) expressed her concern for bill supporters' motivation, noting, "The proposed defunding bill is is a move based on ideology, not on practical needs of Ohioans...There are many counties in Ohio without alternatives to PP. It's a 'Health Care Desert.'"Supporters of the bill such as Ohio Right to Life tout the measure as a way to steer funds away from the "abortion industry." The bill is now awaiting a committee vote.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 16, 2012
The first in a series of nine events in
cities across Ohio, culminating with a rally at the Columbus statehouse,
kicked off in Cincinnati last week to protest the use of fracking
across the state of Ohio.
by Hannah McCartney
at 10:33 AM | Permalink
Advocates spread concerns over dangers in Kasich's energy plan
The first in a series of nine events in cities across Ohio, culminating with a rally at the Columbus statehouse, kicks off in Cincinnati tomorrow to protest the use of fracking across the state of Ohio. The event will take place 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 12 at the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church at 103 William Howard Taft Road. It's part of the Don't Frack Ohio Spring Roadshow, a project brainstormed by 350.org, which heads a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. According to Danny Berchenko, an Ohio organizer for 350.org, the roadshow is a much-needed venue for dialogue to discuss the problems fracking in Ohio poses to people and communities, including those related to public health, climate change and even potential to cause natural disasters such as earthquakes. "Kasich's office is not doing its job to protect people or communities — we need to focus on putting people to work in safe environments and employ people in sustainable, clean energy jobs," said Berchenko. Berchenko says that Saturday's event will involve a mix of discussing the generalities of fracking, why action is necessary, and tactics and strategies for how communities can rally together to strategically protect themselves from fracking and protest Kasich's energy plan, which heavily focuses on bringing frackers to Ohio, an integral part of his economic plan. Want to know more about fracking? Watch a kid with an Irish accent explain:
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 9, 2012
In another effort to save tax dollars and
fill holes in the state budget, Gov. John Kasich and his health care
advisers will streamline the state’s Medicaid system by altering the
availability of care plans and condensing care regions.
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: News
at 11:51 AM | Permalink
Experts weigh pros and cons in transition
In yet another effort to save tax dollars and fill holes in the state budget, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his health care advisers will streamline the state’s Medicaid system by altering the availability to care plans and condensing care regions. There are currently 38 health plans and 10 regions in the state of Ohio, which provide services to more than 1.6 million Ohioans each year. When changes in the system are implemented January 1, 2013, the availability will condense to five statewide plans and only three geographic regions, according to a press release from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The change is billed by Kasich's office as a way to simplify the way it offers coverage, eventually making a more sustainable, efficiently run program, which will supposedly trump the short-term inconveniences caused by the switch. According to The Enquirer,
Medicaid costs the state of Ohio around $4.8 billion each year — nearly
one fifth of the state’s budget. Those costs continue to grow. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the new plan will also mandate higher care standards and offer financial incentives to doctors, hospitals and other providers to help improve care quality and patient health.Selected managed care organizations include: Aetna Better Health of Ohio, CareSource, Meridian Health Plan, Paramount Advantage and United Healthcare Community Plan of Ohio. Managed care organizations who lost the bid include incumbent providers Centene, AmeriGroup and Molina Healthcare, among others. According to the Wall Street Journal, the loss of business marks a blow for those providers, who have benefited from covering "dual-eligible" patients — those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid services. WSJ reports that dual-eligible patients are seen as a $300 billion opportunity for managed care firms. Because Ohio is pushing to start better coordinating care for dual-eligible patients, dropped insurers will likely lose a piece of that pie. Streamlining the selection of managed care organizations available should help, in turn, streamline processes for dual-eligible patients, who often encounter difficultly in coordinating coverage with both Medicaid and Medicare services, says Jim Ashmore, performance improvement section chief for Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services (HCJFS).ODJFS reports that the new providers were selected using a fair, through and open application process that was “based on applicants’ past performance in coordinating care and providing high-quality health outcomes.” Although the changes are generally perceived as a positive move forward, service providers, including doctors and health centers, acknowledge that the disruption in services could cause serious confusion when recipients are forced to find new providers and obtain new Medicaid cards. In Kentucky, the three private managed care companies
which provided Medicaid services to more than 500,000 patients have
received an influx of care-related complaints, including inefficiency in
authorizing services and payment issues. Ashmore challenges the notion that the transition will be a bumpy one, noting patients have little to worry about: When the transition is made, everyone will likely receive an enrollment package in the mail that will outline steps to switch over new care providers.
by Hannah McCartney
at 10:17 AM | Permalink
New bill might drop home phone services in parts of state
To a Generation Y-er, a touch-tone cord phone without access to Internet might sound like something from the stone ages — a trinket only found in the antique confines of a grandparent's cobwebbed homestead. It appears that's little more than perception, though: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,
more than three of every 10 American homes used only wireless
telephones during the first half of 2011 — an increase of almost 2 percent
since the second half of 2010. That means that aside from the 30
percent who do rely on cellphones, there's still a large hunk of the
population — about 70 percent — who rely on communication through landline
services. A bill currently pending in the state House of Representatives could eliminate landline phone services across several geographic areas of Ohio, leaving those who are unable or opposed to joining the wireless phone craze in a telecommunications pickle. The bill, Senate Bill 271, would no longer require phone companies to provide basic landline service in certain Ohio areas; similar bills have been passed in Indiana and Wisconsin. Tuesday's release of study commissioned by Technologies for Ohio's Tomorrow, which concluded that broadband investments in the state of Ohio create between 15,000 and 30,000 jobs in the state each year, has strengthened support for the bill's passage. Phone companies support the bill because they claim it would allow them to invest the under-utilized funds supporting landline services in newer, higher-demand technologies, such as cell phones. Opponents, including the AARP and the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, vocalize that that 70 percent marks rural, elderly and lower-income demographics who rely on landline services to make vital emergency calls. The language of the bill mandates that phone companies would be permitted to withdraw basic landline services the area is deemed "competitive" — meaning there are other phone service providers in the area, even if their service doesn't reach everywhere — by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. To maintain landline service, some residents would be forced to upgrade to packages including expensive services they don't need, or simply lose access to landline phone service altogether. “It is not hyperbole to
argue that a devastating consequence of the
deregulation of basic local exchange phone service will be higher
unaffordable rates that will force those living on fixed incomes to
sacrifice other necessities like food, medicine, heat and/or
electricity,” said Jane Taylor, state director for AARP Ohio, in a
letter written last week to the chairman of the House Public Utilities
Committee, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. There's no doubt that the bill would be a positive for phone companies — the telecommunications industry is rapidly evolving, and the wireless phone industry is booming more then ever with the fierce competition among smartphone retailers. Landline phone services are facing the sort of irrelevancy among today's telecommunications services also experienced by phone books, payphones and telegraphs. But even in if an area is considered "fully competitive," the availability of strong, reliable phone service isn't necessarily ubiquitous.It makes fiscal and technological sense that one day will bring the full transition from landline phone service to wireless phone use — but it appears that nearly 70 percent of telecommunications users aren't ready for that transition, and wireless phone providers haven't figured out a way to provide the same level of reliable, comprehensive service offered by landline phones. If the bill is approved by the Ohio House of Representatives and then signed into law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the new regulations would go into effect in 2013.
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: Equality
at 12:45 PM | Permalink
Governor's male staffers earn 56 percent more than women
As of late, the media has been shoving it in my face that being a woman kind of sucks. Yesterday in particular was a painful reminder that aside from women's highly publicized birth control and body woes as of late, our male counterparts still earn more than $10,000 per year more the rest of us working females. April 17 was "Equal Pay Day," a holiday created to illuminate the gap between the wages of women and men, even in the 21st century. We've been "celebrating" the holiday in April since 1996 in order to signify the point in the year into which women must work (on top of the previous year) to earn what male counterparts earned in one year. Jezebel reported it best with a lovely chart illustrating all the things men can buy with the extra moolah they make (I'd pay off my student loans and then buy a modest beach bungalow on the Mediterranean. You?). Political website plunderbund.com recently took the time to dig up some even more grim statistics — ones that bode far more ominously for anyone working under Ohio Gov. John Kasich's regime. A simple examination of public salary records found massive inequities between Kasich's male staffers and female staffers. The findings, which highlight the biweekly earnings of employees working in the governor's office, showcase that Kasich's male staffers earn a whopping 56 percent more than female staffers. The below image shows women's salaries highlighted in yellow, while men's are left blue. Granted, the positions of the people named aren't listed, but the gap exists nonetheless. "Of the 34 people listed as Governor’s office employees, only 4 of the
top 17 paid staffers are women (76 percent are men). And only 4 of the bottom
17 are men (76 percent are women)," reports Plunderbund. If you compute the average salaries earned by men and women in Kasich's office, respectively, you'll find the numbers even more stark; $77,730.88 versus $49,498.52. According to the latest Census statistics, women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. If the numbers in Kasich's offices meshed up with that statistic, women working in his office should, in theory, be making about $60,000 compared to men's $77,730.88. What gives? Perhaps it has something to do with Kasich simply not wanting to employ women in high-power positions in his office, instead relegating them to lower positions; it was Kasich, after all, who famously said, "I had a woman campaign manager, I have a woman lieutenant governor, I
have a woman finance chairman, and I’m married to a woman with two
daughters, OK? I’ve said all along, I really wish I could get some guys around me."Either way, the gap in Kasich's office should raise some eyebrows about staffing and salary decisions by the state governor. Critics of the existing pay gap nationwide insist that it continues to triumph because of occupational and lifestyle choices (e.g., not as many women pursue high-paying, elected positions), "rigorous analysis of data by labor economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn found
that over 40 percent of the pay gap cannot be explained by such
differences, concluding that 'there is evidence that…discrimination does
still continue to exist.'" according to this article published by the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan educational institute.
0 Comments · Tuesday, April 17, 2012
WVXU’s decision to hire retiring Enquirer politics reporter Howard Wilkinson is the rare bright spot in the increasingly constricted world of local news gathering. Adding him to WVXU’s reporting staff
scored a twofer for news director Maryanne Zeleznik. In addition to his
sense of local and state politics, Howard is as passionate and
knowledgable about the Reds.
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: Courts
at 08:53 AM | Permalink
Judge rules state again capable of carrying out death penalty
Ohio can now resume carrying out executions for the first time since November 2011, after a ruling Wednesday from U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost of Newark. In January, Frost halted the Ohio execution of condemned murderer Charles Lorraine in light of several slip-ups by the state in following its own execution protocol. On Feb. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Frost’s decision, ruling that the number of documented failures to follow procedure were enough to place an official moratorium on executions. The failures to follow protocol were reportedly mostly minor paperwork technicalities, including not properly documenting that an inmate’s medical files were reviewed and switching the official whose job it was to announce the start and finish times of the lethal injection. The state argued that the errors were minor, and didn’t legitimately affect the state’s ability to carry out humane executions. Frost, however, expressed frustration at the state’s failure to follow codes it had set itself. "Ohio has been in a dubious cycle of defending often indefensible conduct, subsequently reforming its protocol when called on that conduct, and then failing to follow through on its own reforms," Frost wrote in his January ruling. Frost's ruling means that the state will move forward with the April 18 execution of Mark Wiles, who was found guilty for stabbing a 15-year-old boy to death in1985. Frost recently denied Wiles' request for a stay of execution. Although his ruling sided with the state, Frost seemed somewhat wary of the state's promises to reform. Since the moratorium, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has allegedly scrutinized its procedural policies and implemented a new "Incident Command System," which sounds like an initiative for ORDC Director Gary Mohr to more closely micromanage the processes during state executions.
"This court is therefore willing to trust Ohio just enough to permit
the scheduled execution," Frost wrote regarding his rejection of Wiles' stay of execution. "The court reaches this
conclusion with some trepidation given Ohio's history of telling this
court what (they) think they need to say in order to conduct executions
and then not following through on promised reforms." To date, Ohio has executed 386 convicted murderers. Click here for a schedule of upcoming executions in Ohio.