WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Republicans to Reintroduce Anti-Abortion ‘Heartbeat Bill’

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Ohio legislators on Aug. 15 reintroduced a bill that would ban abortions in the state as early as six weeks after conception, but questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality.   
by German Lopez 08.21.2013
Posted In: News, Human services, Economy, Privatization at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
poor priorities

Morning News and Stuff

Homeless shelters report rise in calls, Cincinnati loses jobs, JobsOhio controversy continues

Greater Cincinnati homeless shelters are reporting a 31 percent increase in the number of families calling for help — a sign that homelessness may be trending up. Meanwhile, City Council managed to avoid cutting funding to human services that help the homeless this year, but the local government has steadily provided less funding since 2004, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.Cincinnati lost 4,000 jobs from June to July, but it gained 14,000 between July 2012 and July this year, far above the 3,000 necessary to keep up with annual population growth, according to data released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was at 7.1 percent in July, down from 7.3 percent in June and 7.4 percent in July 2012. The labor force shrunk in comparison to the previous month and year, which means the unemployment rate fell partly because many people stopped looking for jobs. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July and the U.S. rate was 7.4 percent. More JobsOhio controversy: The state panel that approves tax credits recommended by the privatized development agency has never said no, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Gov. John Kasich and Republicans say the Ohio Tax Credit Authority is supposed to be an independent watchdog on JobsOhio, but both JobsOhio and the Ohio Tax Credit Authority have their boards appointed by the governor. Democrats have been highly critical of JobsOhio for its lack of transparency and privatized nature, but Republicans say both are good traits for an agency that needs to move fast to land job-creating development deals. Meanwhile, two Democrats in the Ohio House are pushing a ban on Ohio officials, including the governor, receiving outside pay. The proposal is largely in response to JobsOhio recommending $619,000 in tax credits in 2012 and 2013 to Worthington Industries, a company that paid Kasich through 2012 for his time on its board. The Ohio Ethics Commission refused to investigate the potential conflict of interest because it said Kasich made a clean break from Worthington when he was elected. Hamilton County taxpayers might have to put up $10 million to give the Cincinnati Bengals a high-definition scoreboard, thanks to the team’s lease with the county. Economists generally see stadiums as one of the most over-hyped, unsuccessful urban investments, according to The Nation. No City Council member supports the tea party-backed pension amendment that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city workers, excluding cops and firefighters, contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts. Currently, Cincinnati pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. City officials and unions claim the measure will cost the city more than the current system and hurt retirement gains for city employees. But tea party groups say the amendment is necessary to address Cincinnati’s growing pension costs, including an $862 million unfunded liability. CityBeat wrote about the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here. Ohio is partnering up with the Jason Foundation to provide training and information to teachers, coaches, other school personnel, parents and students about suicide, the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds after car accidents. The measure aims to curb down suicide rates. Hamilton County and Cincinnati are pursuing joint funding of technology upgrades for 911 services, and the two local governments are moving permitting services to one location, according to a statement from Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s office. Hartmann has long pursued more city-county collaboration so both can run more efficiently and bring down costs. The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati is now called Interact for Health. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) yesterday reported 2013’s first case of West Nile Virus. A 72-year-old woman in Cuyahoga County is apparently being hospitalized for the disease. ODH Director Ted Wymyslo said in a statement that, while Ohio has dealt with West Nile Virus since 2002, cases have dropped in the past year. The University of Cincinnati is set to break another record for enrollment this fall. Dunnhumby USA yesterday unveiled the design for its downtown headquarters. A new electric car can fold itself in half when parking.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.19.2013
Posted In: Library, News, Education, Death Penalty at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john becker

Morning News and Stuff

Lawmaker wants expanded death penalty, CPS getting 10-year plan, local library stays busy

State Rep. John Becker, a Cincinnati Republican, is pushing to expand the death penalty to include some sex-related crimes. His proposal, made Friday, would allow the state to consider execution in cases of rape, sexual battery and improper sexual contact if the suspect has a previous sex crime conviction and there are aggravating circumstances. Becker says he was inspired to propose the death penalty expansion after hearing about three Cleveland women who were kidnapped, held and raped for years by Ariel Castro before they escaped in May. But Castro, who was convicted earlier this month, wouldn’t have been eligible for the death penalty under Becker’s plan because he didn’t have a previous sex crime conviction. Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) officials are developing a 10-year plan for the school district, following in the footsteps of the Columbus and Cleveland systems and their unique plans. The school district is asking for more community support and $29 million from the state to, among other plans, boost its community learning center initiative, a nationally recognized program that turns schools into community hubs with extra services such as dental care and college preparation; expand early education, which is often heralded as one of the best economic investments; and provide more options through charter schools, which have generally performed worse than public schools but provide more choices for students. Unlike the other big city systems, CPS has posted decent academic ratings in the past few years, so the changes might not be as drastic or require legislative involvement.The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was found to be the busiest central library in the country for the second year in a row by a report from the Public Library Association. Overall, the report found the Cincinnati system is the seventh busiest public library system in the country and second busiest in Ohio right after Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland.The Over-the-Rhine Foundation will use an $8,000 grant from the Ohio Development Services Agency and Ohio Historic Preservation Office to help revitalize approximately 13 buildings in the neighborhood. The grant will allow the Over-the-Rhine Foundation to research and apply for federal designation on the National Register of Historic Places, which would unlock more tax credits for the buildings and area. The rest of the money for the project will come from private funds. “Exciting things are happening in Over-the-Rhine,” said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, in a statement. “Helping the neighborhood receive this historic designation will allow the continued revitalization of this growing community.”With a state ban lifted, Ohio is getting more online schools for the first time in eight years. Three e-schools were approved to open this fall, and five more could be approved this year. The moratorium on new e-schools was held until the state approved e-school standards, which were drafted by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, an association funded in part by e-schools, and include no mention of proper budgeting or attendance tracking. A CityBeat look at e-schools last year found e-schools generally perform much worse but get more state funding than traditional public schools. Five Miami University students helped install a wheelchair-accessible swing in Hanover Township. Ohio gas prices are rising but still below the national average. Ohio is among 24 states asking the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drone manufacturers to test unmanned flying vehicles within state borders. The Western & Southern Open had record attendance this year, with nearly 200,000 people turning up. A 12-year-old electronics prodigy and teacher is working on a plan to revamp the U.S. education system to make it more fun.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.15.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, Republicans at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Republicans to Reintroduce Anti-Abortion ‘Heartbeat Bill’

Measure would ban abortion as early as six weeks after conception

Ohio legislators today reintroduced a bill that would ban abortions in the state as early as six weeks after conception, even as questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality. The bill has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill” because it prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. In the past, some of Ohio’s anti-abortion groups, including Ohio Right to Life, raised concerns about the heartbeat bill because they said it could lead to legal challenges that would endanger the anti-abortion movement. So far, Ohio Right to Life’s concerns might be proving true in North Dakota. A federal judge on July 22 blocked a similar law in that state after deeming it unconstitutional. “The United States Supreme Court has unequivocally said that no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” wrote U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who was appointed to the District of North Dakota seat by former President George W. Bush in 2002.Health experts generally agree viability is not reached until 24 weeks into the pregnancy. When contacted earlier today, Ohio Right to Life said it’s not providing comment on the bill yet. Abortion-rights advocates are already standing against the proposal, which they call “the heartless bill” and an attack on women’s rights. “Here we go again,” says Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “A month after Gov. Kasich signed one of the worst anti-choice bills in the nation that is already closing abortion facilities, you’ve got this group coming back and saying, ‘No, no, no, that’s not good enough. You have to outlaw abortion before women even know they’re pregnant.’ ” Forty of 99 legislators in the Ohio House have signed onto the bill, according to The Associated Press. The Ohio Senate majority caucus and Gov. John Kasich have so far declined to comment on the bill when asked by various reporters. In June, the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Kasich passed a two-year state budget that imposes regulatory hurdles that make it more difficult to get an abortion in Ohio and have already forced various abortion clinics to shut down in Ohio.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.13.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, Business, Pensions at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
vote logo

Morning News and Stuff

Pension amendment to appear on ballot, city cuts ties with SoMoLend, heartbeat bill returns

A tea party-backed pension amendment yesterday cleared the hurdle of 7,443 petition signatures required to appear on the November ballot. Cincinnati for Pension Reform, the group behind the amendment, had previously paid nearly $70,000 to petitioners to gather signatures. The amendment would privatize pension plans so the city and city employees hired after January 2014 would contribute to individual retirement accounts that the employee would then manage by independently selecting investments. That’s a shift from the current system in which the city pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. But unlike private-sector employees, city workers might not qualify for Social Security, which means they’ll lack the safety net that typically comes with risky 401k-style plans. If workers do qualify for Social Security, the city would have to pay into the federal entitlement program, which would cost the city more money, according to an Aug. 5 report from the city administration. Cincinnati is cutting ties with SoMoLend, the local startup that had previously partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with $400,000 in loans. SoMoLend has been accused of fraud by the Ohio Division of Securities, which says the local company exaggerated its performance and financial figures and lacked the proper licenses to operate as a peer-to-peer lending business. The Division of Securities won’t issue a final order until after a hearing in October. SoMoLend’s specialty is using crowdfunding tactics to connect small businesses and startups with lenders. Ohio Republicans are considering bringing back the “heartbeat bill,” the controversial anti-abortion bill that would ban induced abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which could happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill could be reintroduced next week. That would come just a couple months after Republican legislators and Gov. John Kasich approved a slew of anti-abortion measures through the two-year state budget. The Ohio Senate will today hear testimony from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio about projections that show the state could save money if it takes up the Medicaid expansion. As part of Obamacare, states are asked to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In return, the federal government will pay for the expansion for the first three years and wind down to paying 90 percent of the costs after that. The Health Policy Institute previously estimated the expansion would save Ohio roughly $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans in the next decade. Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan is touting Cincinnati Safe Student Housing, a website that allows university students to pick from housing options that passed a free fire inspection. The website was unanimously approved by City Council following several university students’ deaths to fires, which council members argue could have been prevented with stronger standards. The new owner of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel says he will reopen the building as a hotel. Alan Friedberg, managing principal of the company that bought the building earlier this year, says the process of bringing back the building will take a lot of time and work, considering it’s now been vacant for three years. Four Greater Cincinnati hospitals have been recognized for protecting the LGBT rights of patients and employees by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation: Bethesda North Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, the Veterans Affairs Cincinnati Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana in Ohio. DeWine claims the summary for the ballot initiative is untruthful and leaves out various important details. Mason, a Cincinnati suburb, was ranked one of the top 10 places to live by CNNMoney. Maybe CNN really likes Kings Island. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown was in Cincinnati yesterday to call on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to expedite processing on benefit claims. The VA currently has a backlog of 500,000 veterans, according to a press release from Brown’s office. Introducing Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, a proposal for a railway system that would use high-pressure tubes to shoot passengers around the country. It’s estimated traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco, which normally takes about five and a half hours, would only take 30 minutes in the tubes.
 
 

GOP Continues Playing Politics with Ohioans’ Health

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Ohio officials announced on July 23 that they’ll take a hands-off approach to promoting the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), leaving it to the federal government to inform citizens about opportunities and benefits provided under the law.   
by German Lopez 07.31.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Development, Stadiums at 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

More JobsOhio controversy, Council undoing cuts, stadium improvements to cost millions

Six of nine JobsOhio board members have direct financial ties to companies that have received tax credits and other help from the agency and state government, an investigation from Dayton Daily News discovered. The members are connected in various ways: Some are employed by the companies, others sit on their boards and a few just own stocks. The conflicts of interest that could undermine JobsOhio’s goals. The privatized development agency was established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators to replace the Ohio Department of Development. Republicans claim JobsOhio’s privatized nature allows it to move at “the speed of business” when luring companies to the state. But Democrats argue that the agency is unaccountable and draining state funds without any clear indication of where the money is going. Meanwhile, JobsOhio gave financial aid to a company that simply shifted jobs from one city to another. The agency gave Timbertech a 50-percent credit to create 85 jobs in Wilmington, Ohio. The company is abiding, but it’s simultaneously closing down a Columbus factory at the loss of 58 jobs. Cincinnati will end up not laying off any city employees after City Council undoes $4 million in budget cuts with leftover revenue from the previous budget year. The restorations will reverse some or all of this year’s cuts to human services, parks, the Health Department and other city programs. Council members called the higher-than-projected revenue evidence that Cincinnati’s economic strategy is working. But the reversals also raise questions about the city administration’s original claims: When the 2014 budget was first being considered, Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration said the city would have to lay off 344 workers, including many cops and firefighters, to balance the budget without the parking lease. But without any of the parking money allocated, the city managed to avert all layoffs and undo a bulk of cuts, largely by using better-than-expected revenues from the past budget year. Fixing up the Great American Ball Park for the All-Star Game could cost county taxpayers $5 million. The All-Star costs are just one part of the $27 million taxpayers will pay to improve stadiums in Hamilton County over the next five years. Stadiums are often touted by local officials as a way to boost the economy, but economists and urban planners have found that publicly funded sports arenas don’t lead to sizable economic growth. Ohio’s job growth is so slow that it will take nearly five years to recover all the jobs lost during the Great Recession. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading fundraising for this year’s Council campaigns. The Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce is hosting two mayoral debates. This year’s candidates are Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, ex-Councilman John Cranley, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble. Qualls and Cranley are considered the two frontrunners. The Cincinnati Art Museum is calling on community contributions to finish the second half of its renovations. The museum has raised $2.7 million out of the $6 million it needs. Red Squirrel, a local restaurant chain, is closing down three of five eateries. Internet-based psychotherapy apparently works.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.18.2013
Posted In: News, Fracking, Environment at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Boom, Bust or Both?

Report: Ohio’s Fracking Protections Fall Short

Environment Ohio finds taxpayers could be forced to pay millions for cleanups

A report released today suggests Ohio taxpayers could be on the hook for costs if something goes wrong at an oil and gas drilling operation. The report from advocacy group Environment Ohio looks at the costs related to “fracking,” an extraction technique that involves pumping millions of gallons of water underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. Recent technological advancements have spurred a boom in fracking, leading to hundreds of new wells in Ohio and thousands more around the nation. When oil and gas companies obtain a permit to build a fracking well, they typically have to provide some financial assurance to the state in case something goes wrong. In Ohio, that assurance comes through bonds and specific insurance requirements. If a well operation is completed without a problem, the cost of the bonds is returned to the operator. If something goes wrong, the company has to fix the mess before it gets its money back. But Environment Ohio finds companies in Ohio only have to secure $5,000 in upfront bonds per well. That’s not enough for a company to fear the financial consequences of a disaster, which means it could act recklessly with little disincentive, according to the report. The report says that could pose a huge cost to taxpayers: Simply reclaiming a well and its property can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Actually paying for damages, such as contaminated groundwater and ruined roads, can cost millions. Under normal circumstances, private and public entities could sue for the damages, but that’s unrealistic if a well operator goes bankrupt or is otherwise unwilling or incapable of paying. Another potential problem: The bond payments are only held by the state until a well is plugged and the site is reclaimed to the satisfaction of state operators. That doesn’t account for health and environmental damages that can surface after a drilling operation ends, according to the report. The issues are further compounded by loopholes, which allow companies to avoid bonding requirements altogether if they prove they hold a certain amount of in-state assets. Environment Ohio calls it “an exceedingly easy test to meet.”In what it calls “common sense” reforms, Environment Ohio says the state should impose more assurances for longer periods of time. The organization favorably cites other states that require $250,000 in upfront bonds — much higher than Ohio’s $5,000. For companies, that would mean a much higher financial hurdle when taking on a fracking project, but the high cost could provide a powerful incentive to avoid dangerous risks.The report also finds that insurance requirements in the state are weak, with operators required to fulfill a $5 million liability cap regardless of whether they’re running one well or 100. The organization recommends Ohio work to build stricter financial and regulatory safeguards. “At a minimum, Ohio needs an adequate severance tax to fund impacts on communities and provide a cushion for long-term risk management,” said Wendy Patton, director at left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement released by Environment Ohio. An oil and gas severance tax was suggested by Republican Gov. John Kasich to pay for income tax cuts, but Republican legislators rejected the proposal. The report’s findings were not exclusive to Ohio. It also found issues and suggested solutions for other states and the federal government, including a similar call for stronger bonding requirements on federal lands. CityBeat covered the fracking boom and its effects on Ohio in further detail here.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.17.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking, Fracking at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City debt outlook worsens, Port apologizes for email about parking memo, fracking tax fails

It may become more expensive for the city to issue debt after Moody’s downgraded the city’s bond rating. The credit rating agency pinned the blame on the city’s exposure to local and state retirement systems, as well as the city’s reliance since 2001 on one-time sources to balance the operating budget. Still, Moody’s does give the city some credit for its economically diverse population and recently stabilized earnings tax, despite docking the city for bad socioeconomic indicators, particularly resident income levels and historical unemployment rates. The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority’s CEO Laura Brunner is apologizing to the public and council members following the exposure of an email that implied she was trying to keep a critical parking memo away from public sight. Brunner says she was just trying to buy time so she could directly show the memo to the Port Authority’s board before it was reported by news outlets, but she acknowledges that her email was ill-conceived and came off as an attempt to stifle transparency. The memo suggests Cincinnati is getting a bad deal from its parking lease agreement with the Port Authority and several private operators, but the Port Authority and city officials argue the memo is outdated and full of technical errors. The Cincinnati Enquirer has a report detailing political contributions from oil and gas companies that may have helped bring down a state “fracking tax,” which was supposed to raise state revenue from Ohio’s ongoing oil and gas boom. Apparently, many of the Republican legislators who staunchly opposed the oil and gas severance tax also took in a lot of money from the same companies who would have to pay up. The tax proposal was effectively dead on arrival, even with the hyperbolic support of Republican Gov. John Kasich. Fracking is an extraction technique that pumps millions of gallons of water underground to free up oil and gas. CityBeat covered its effects on Ohio in further detail here. Water utility leaders are meeting in Cincinnati this week to discuss sustainable business models. In Cincinnati, water usage has dropped while expenses to treat water and waste water have escalated, causing the Metropolitan Sewer District to take in less money. The conference will discuss models that can adjust around this trend while keeping rates low for customers. The owners of The Hanke Exchange, a collection of buildings in Over-the-Rhine, say occupancy is going up as a result of the promise of the Cincinnati streetcar. The property is now at 84 percent occupancy rate, up from 28 percent three years ago. Dayton and Cincinnati will hold rallies Saturday showing support for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black 17-year-old who was killed by George Zimmerman last year. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder by a jury last Saturday. Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general, was confirmed to direct the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the top agency that will regulate the financial institutions that played a role in causing the Great Recession. The Hamilton County Young Democrats are hosting a free event today to meet Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner, who’s also running for secretary of state next year against Republican incumbent Jon Husted. If the sun suddenly went out, humanity could take a few weeks to die out and perhaps live in Iceland.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: Abortion, Budget, News at 03:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ed fitzgerald

FitzGerald Unveils Plan to Repeal Anti-Abortion Measures

State budget limits access to legal abortions through various changes

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is urging a coalition effort to begin a long, complicated petitioning process that could repeal some of the anti-abortion measures in the recently approved two-year state budget. If the petitioning process is successful, it would force the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing aspects of the budget that don’t involve appropriations of money. If the General Assembly changes, rejects or ignores the repeal proposal, it could be put on the ballot in November 2014.FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal effort through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back. Speaking at a press conference Thursday, FitzGerald also questioned the constitutionality of some of the anti-abortion measures, particularly those that require doctors give certain medical information regarding abortions and restrict publicly funded rape crisis centers from discussing abortion as a viable option. He said such rules might violate free speech rights. The state budget effectively defunds contraceptive care and other non-abortion services at various family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood. It also makes it more difficult for abortion clinics to establish mandatory patient transfer agreements with hospitals. The budget provides separate federal funding to crisis pregnancy centers, which act as the pro-abstinence, anti-abortion alternatives to comprehensive clinics like Planned Parenthood. The budget also gives money to rape crisis centers, but centers that take public funding are barred from discussing abortion as a viable option with rape victims. Days before the budget’s passage, Republican legislators also added an amendment that forces women to get an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion. As part of the amendment, doctors are required to inform the patient if a heartbeat is detected during the ultrasound and provide an estimate of the fetus’s chances of making it to birth. FitzGerald, who’s currently Cuyahoga County executive, plans to run against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014. Kasich signed the controversial state budget with the anti-abortion measures on June 30, despite calls for the governor to use his line-item veto powers — a move that would have kept the rest of the budget in place but repealed the anti-abortion provisions. CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.
 
 

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