Republicans Push Anti-Abortion, Abstinence Agenda

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The Ohio House Finance Committee on April 16 approved a budget bill that would ban comprehensive sex education, defund Planned Parenthood and fund crisis pregnancy centers that pro-choice groups call “anti-choice.”   
by German Lopez 04.17.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Education, Streetcar at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar faces $22.7m budget gap, bill would restrict sex education, councilman resigns

In a memo to the mayor and City Council members last night, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. revealed the streetcar is facing a $22.7 million shortfall because construction bids were way over budget. The memo says $5.3 million of that budget gap could be brought down through cuts, but fixing the rest requires $17.4 million in additional funds. The memo comes at a time the city is attempting to balance its operating budget by laying off cops and firefighters. But as John Deatrick explained when the city moved to hire him for the streetcar project, the streetcar is part of the capital budget, which is separate from the operating budget and can't be used to balance the operating budget because of legal and traditional constraints.The budget bill heading to the Ohio House floor would ban comprehensive sex education, defund Planned Parenthood and fund crisis pregnancy centers that pro-choice groups consider "anti-choice." Citing "gateway sexual activity," the bill would open teachers to up to $5,000 in fines for explaining the use of condoms and other birth control to students, and it also bans the distribution of any birth control on school grounds. The bill takes its anti-contraceptive measures to promote an abstinence-only education program. Research has found abstinence-only programs to be generally ineffective, while birth control programs ultimately save money by avoiding costly pregnancies and sexually transmitted infection treatment.Councilman Cecil Thomas is stepping down, and he will be replaced by his wife of 32 years, Pam Thomas. The appointment has raised questions about how council members are replaced upon resignation, but Thomas says he's just following the rules. Under the current system, designees appoint successors to council seats, but the designees give great weight to the incumbent's input.JobsOhio repaid $8.4 million to Ohio yesterday — fulfilling a promise it made in March that it would fully repay the state for public funding received since it opened on July 5, 2011. The sum is much higher than the $1 million state officials originally said would go to the agency. JobsOhio's finances came under criticism after it was revealed that Gov. John Kasich was redirecting public funds to the agency, prompting a closer look from State Auditor Dave Yost. JobsOhio is a privatized development agency that Kasich and Republicans established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.In light of the Boston Marathon bombings, Flying Pig Marathon organizers are evaluating security measures, but they're not sure whether additional measures are needed just yet. The Flying Pig Marathon is expected to draw more than 20,000 participants on May 5 — close to the 23,000 who typically attend the Boston Marathon. Still, only about 150,000 spectators are expected at the Flying Pig Marathon, while about 500,000 typically spectate the Boston Marathon.City Council is expected to vote today in support of expanding mobile food vending in the city and make the program, which is handled by 3CDC, permanent. The new mobile vending spots will be near nightlife areas in Over-the-Rhine and during the day at Washington Park.TriHealth and Mercy Health are among the top 15 hospital systems in the United States, according to a new ranking from Truven Health Analytics.When renewing its contract with Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., Kroger asked the company to move its center from Des Moines, Iowa, to Cincinnati, bringing an estimated 55 new jobs to the city.New surgical tape works like a parasitic worm for extra stickiness.For the first time, scientists are being allowed to study psychedelics for potential medical treatments.

Sing Joy Spring

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 17, 2013
At the end of past spring classes I’d spend weeks in a thick-headed fog, obsessing over the state of America’s education system; I was confused by our simultaneous political demonization of China and our dependence on Chinese students to grow and improve our science and technology departments. Wow, I used to think. Then in spring 2009 — after three years of teaching it — I realized how piously I had been thinking.   
by German Lopez 04.11.2013
Posted In: News, Privatization, Health, Streetcar at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
health transparency

Morning News and Stuff

Health-care transparency is low, Medicaid expansion to stand alone, streetcar job approved

In Cincinnati, an ankle MRI can range in price from $367.46 to $2,865.42, but weak transparency laws make it difficult for consumers to compare prices. But to make up for the lack of transparency, some companies are providing compiled price and quality data to paying employers. A previous report from Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave 29 states an “F” for health-care price transparency, Ohio and six other states a “D” and only New Hampshire and Massachusetts an “A.”Ohio House Republicans killed Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion plan, but Ohio Democrats are planning to introduce the expansion as a standalone bill. The expansion, which was one of the few aspects of Kasich's budget that Democrats supported, would have saved the state money and insured 456,000 Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of Kasich’s budget proposal here. In two 5-4 votes yesterday, City Council approved the executive director position for the streetcar project and a repeal on a “double dipping” ban. The city says it needs the measures to hire John Deatrick, the current manager of The Banks project, to head the streetcar project, but critics argue the city should not be making hires when it’s threatening to lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters to balance the budget — even though the hire is through the capital budget used for the streetcar project, not the general fund that is used to employ cops and firefighters. CityBeat wrote more about the new position and the double dipping ban here. This week’s commentary from CityBeat: “Religious Birth Control Exemptions Are a Double Standard.” City Council also approved the Music Hall lease, which will enable extensive renovations. CityBeat covered some of the original details of the renovation plan when it was first announced here. StateImpact Ohio has some information on how Ohio House Republicans’ plan for school funding differs from Kasich’s proposal. The big difference is Kasich’s plan was based on property taxes, which ended up being regressive, while the House plan is based on the average cost to educate each student, which makes it so less schools, particularly poor and rural schools that fell under Kasich’s plan, have their funding reduced. The House plan also expands performance-based pay and school choice, which Policy Matters previously found may hurt students and teachers. CityBeat covered Kasich’s proposal in further detail here. Policy Matters Ohio posted an interactive map showing the county-by-county benefits of a state earned income tax credit. The credit, which mostly benefits low- and middle-income earners with children, is already used by the federal government and some states to progressively reward employment. Freedom Ohio and Equality Ohio will debate the Family Research Council today over whether Ohio should legalize same-sex marriage. The debate will be streamed here. CityBeat covered Freedom Ohio’s same-sex marriage legalization efforts here. The U.S. Postal Service will drop its threats to stop delivering on Saturdays after Congress denied the action. A new study found humans tend to think strangers are staring at them. Headline: “Why Are Monkey Butts So Colorful?”
by German Lopez 04.03.2013
Posted In: Budget, News, Economy, Education at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
mark mallory

Morning News and Stuff

Ruling kills project, council members ask for alternatives, Kasich's school formula scrapped

Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler’s ruling last week has already led to the dissolution of one project, according to Mayor Mark Mallory. The Kinsey Apartments project fell through after City Council was unable to expedite a change in the building’s classification that would have enabled access to state tax credits. Winkler’s ruling effectively eliminated the city’s use of emergency clauses, which the city used to remove a 30-day waiting period on passed laws, by ruling that all Cincinnati laws are open to referendum. The ruling means the city can no longer expedite laws even in extreme cases, such as natural disasters. The city is appealing the ruling. Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld are calling for a special session of City Council to get the city administration to answer questions about budget alternatives to laying off cops or firefighters. Mallory and other city officials claim the only way to balance the budget is to carry out Plan B, which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make cuts to other city services. But Sittenfeld and Seelbach have proposed alternatives with casino revenue and cuts elsewhere. The Ohio House may scrap Republican Gov. John Kasich’s school funding formula to use a “Building Blocks” model championed by former Republican Gov. Bob Taft. The legislators say the formula will give more certainty to local officials by always providing a base of funding based on the average cost to educate a student, but the governor’s office says the approach neglects recent increases in school mobility. Kasich’s formula has come under criticism for disproportionately benefiting wealthy districts, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. Ohio’s per capita personal income rose at one of the fastest rates in the nation last year, according to an analysis from Dayton Daily News. The news is another sign of Ohio’s strong economic recovery, but it remains unclear whether the rise will bring down the state’s income inequality. The Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus (ODWC) is criticizing Attorney General Mike DeWine’s efforts to exempt more health providers from providing contraceptive coverage based on religious grounds. “DeWine wants to allow all employers to deny crucial health care services like birth control, cancer screenings and vaccines if they disagree with the services due to their personal or political beliefs,” Amy Grubbe, chairwoman of the ODWC, said in a statement. As part of Obamacare, health insurance companies are required to provide contraceptive coverage — a measure that may save insurance companies money by preventing expensive pregnancies, according to some estimates. But DeWine and other Republicans say the requirement violates religious liberty. Ohio and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are partnering up to use technology to crack down on fraud in the federal food stamp program that costs the U.S. taxpayer millions of dollars a year. A public Ohio school is taking down a portrait of Jesus after being threatened with a lawsuit for allegedly violating separation of state and church. Duke Energy reached a settlement that will allow the company to raise the average electric bill for its Ohio customers by $3.72 per month. Hamilton County’s SuperJobs Center and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ Veterans Program are partnering with 28 employers, ranging from the University of Cincinnati to Coca Cola, to host the annual veteran hiring event at the SuperJobs Center, located at 1916 Central Parkway, on April 4 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The Midwest Homeschool Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center will bring former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and 15,000 visitors to Cincinnati. President Barack Obama says he wants to fund a research project that would map the human brain. By 2020, scientists estimate the world’s solar panels will have “paid back” the energy it took to produce them. Scientists are growing immune cells in space to study how astronauts’ immune systems change in space.
by German Lopez 03.25.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, 2013 Election, Education at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
evolution of equality

Morning News and Stuff

Ohioans support same-sex marriage, Portman's son explains coming out, charter schools fail

A new Saperstein Poll suggests Ohioans have dramatically shifted on same-sex marriage, with 54 percent now supporting a new amendment to legalize gay marriage and only 40 percent against it. FreedomOhio’s amendment would repeal Ohio’s 2004 same-sex marriage ban and instead grant marriage rights to the state’s many LGBT individuals. CityBeat covered the same-sex marriage amendment in further detail here and the inevitability of gay rights here. Last week, Gov. John Kasich reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions, which likely holds bad political consequences because of changing demographics. Will Portman, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s son, wrote about coming out to his father and the experiences that followed in today’s Yale Daily News. In the column, Portman explained why his father took two years to shift on same-sex marriage: “Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.” If the Ohio Department of Education adopts the more rigorous school report cards demanded by lawmakers, many of the state’s charter schools will get F’s. Most schools would fall under the new standards, but 72 percent of charter schools would fail — an unwelcome sign for alternative schools often touted by Republicans for offering more school choice. The schools’ advocates claim the discrepancy between charter schools and other traditional public schools is driven by demographics and greater diversity. But Ohio’s charter schools are also safer for LGBT individuals than traditional schools, according to StateImpact Ohio. City Councilman Chris Seelbach announced Friday that City Council is poised to support a motion that will prevent companies and other groups from discriminating if they take public funds. The initiative is coming together after the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) was prevented from marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Western & Southern has launched the next phase of its ongoing legal attack to run the Anna Louise Inn out of the Lytle Park neighborhood: The financial giant is now accusing ALI and the city of lying and discrimination. In a letter to City Solicitor John Curp, Western & Southern’s attorneys claimed ALI can’t take federal funds and continue refusing services to men. The city and ALI are so far unsure whether Western & Southern has a case. Cincinnati’s Catholic schools have grown into the sixth largest Catholic schools network in the nation, serving 44,732 students in preschool through 12th grade. New condos are opening in Over-the-Rhine. Thousands of jobs are opening at Ohio’s insurance companies. Ohio gas prices are up this week. A comet, not an asteroid, may have killed the dinosaurs. The study may provide fuel to those worried about an impending apocalypse: There are about two million asteroids more than one kilometer wide in the solar system, but scientists estimate that there are up to one trillion comets.
by German Lopez 03.21.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Education, Parking at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
local government funding

Morning News and Stuff

Officials seek local funding, parking plan delayed again, poor schools may get more funding

During Gov. John Kasich’s term as governor, local government funding has fallen by nearly half — from nearly $3 billion to about $1.6 billion — and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading an effort to get that funding back. With the support of Democratic officials from around the state, Sittenfeld is launching a website called ProtectMyOhio.com, which is gathering petition signatures that will eventually be sent to Kasich and members of the Ohio General Assembly. Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler extended the temporary restraining order on the city’s parking plan yesterday, potentially delaying any ruling on the city's plan to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority for another two weeks. In response, the city said it’s approaching a “pressure point” for budget cuts for fiscal year 2014, which must be executed by July 1. Ohio House Republicans are looking to bolster education funding to poor districts in response to criticisms of Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal. A previous CityBeat analysis found Kasich’s budget proposal disproportionately benefits the wealthy in a few ways, including education funding. City Council did not vote on funding for a feasibility study for Westwood Square Wednesday, but the vote could happen as early as next week. The delay came after the Westwood Civic Association said in a letter that the plan needs more discussion. The controversial election bill moved through the Ohio House yesterday despite calls for more time for debate. The bill, which will now head to Kasich to be signed into law, limits the referendum process by giving referendum and ballot initiative petitioners 10 days to get more signatures if the initial batch is found to be inadequate. Under current law, petitioners can continually search for more signatures while the secretary of state and ballot board sort through signatures. Republicans argue the change makes the petition process fair and uniform, but Democrats say it goes too far in weakening ballot initiative and referendum powers. The state’s $7.6 billion transportation budget, which includes plan to fund transportation projects around the state with Ohio Turnpike funds, breezed through the Ohio Senate Wednesday. It will reach the House for a scheduled vote today. Attorney General Mike DeWine announced new efforts to help sexual assault victims around Ohio by ensuring each county has adequate services. The efforts are in response to a survey that found 59 percent of counties don’t have comprehensive services and eight counties have very few or no services. “It is our goal to ensure that a quick and compassionate emergency response is available to any victim of sexual assault at any time of the day, any day of the week and in any area of the state,” DeWine said in a statement. The federal government released data that shows serious safety violations in hospitals that occurred since Jan. 1, 2011, and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Christ Hospital are both on the list. Hamilton County ranked No. 65 out of Ohio’s 88 counties for health in a new survey from Patrick Remington at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. The study found suburban counties fare much better than urban counties, and premature death is at a 20-year low. Accusations of inappropriate teacher behavior in Ohio are on the rise. Voyager 1 is or may soon become the first object humanity has ever sent out of the sun’s reach.
by German Lopez 03.13.2013
Posted In: Education, News, Budget, Economy, Development at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
richard ross

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich adviser named superintendent, bridge costs may change, educators protest budget

The Ohio Board of Education named Richard Ross, one of Gov. John Kasich’s top education advisers, to the state school superintendent position. Ross’ appointment links the Ohio Department of Education more closely with Kasich, according to StateImpact Ohio. Ross is replacing Stan Heffner, who resigned in August after an ethics investigation found he had misused state resources for personal matters and testified in favor of legislation that could have benefited a company he planned to work for.In a study that should be out next month, Ohio and Kentucky officials are reviewing the Brent Spence Bridge project to make it more affordable. Many officials want to use tolling to help pay for the bridge, but northern Kentucky residents and elected officials have pushed back because they’re concerned tolls will divert traffic to other bridges in Ohio and hurt the local economy. In a press conference in front of the Ohio Statehouse yesterday, more than 100 educators and members of the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools (CORAS) asked Kasich to rework his education reform proposal in a way that would raise per-pupil funding, fully fund transportation, career technical and special education programs and pay for new initiatives like the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Under Kasich’s current proposal, the state is reducing aid from $5,700 for each student to $5,000, but CORAS says funding should be increased to $6,270. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal, which includes his education reform plan, here. While funding in Kasich’s plan is mixed for traditional public schools, charter schools will get 4.5 percent more funding, according to the Legislative Service Commission. Conservatives typically tout charter schools for providing more “school choice,” but in a previous report, Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, found more choices may bring down results from teachers and students. Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan and friends and family of fire victims are pushing for a review of Cincinnati’s fire ordinance codes to avert fire deaths. The proposed changes include more required fire exits, annual inspections, a mandatory fire drill at the beginning of each school semester, the removal of all exceptions in the code and a measure that would prevent air conditioning units from being placed on windows that are supposed to act as exits. Quinlivan is also encouraging the University of Cincinnati to restart a certified list of preferred rental locations around campus, which would only include housing properties that pass fire safety inspections. The first public hearings on Kasich’s budget proposal to expand Medicaid contained mixed testimony, with supporters touting greater accessibility to health care and improved health results and opponents claiming that Medicaid leads to worse outcomes and will discourage people from improving their economic situation. Previous studies, which CityBeat covered along with the rest of Kasich’s budget proposal here, found Medicaid expansions led to lower mortality rates and better health outcomes in certain states. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio says the Medicaid expansion will save the state money in the next decade and provide health insurance to 456,000 Ohioans by 2022. The Cincinnati Enquirer has posted the full lawsuit filed against the city’s parking plan, which is set to have a hearing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on Friday. CityBeat wrote more about the lawsuit here. Judge Robert Ruehlman ruled that Elmwood Place can’t collect on tickets from speed cameras that he recently deemed a violation of motorists’ due process. The city and police are filing an appeal to the initial ruling, which halted the use of the cameras. Eighteen percent of Greater Cincinnati’s chief financial officers plan to hire for new professional-level positions in the second quarter, while 66 percent say they will only fill jobs that open in the next three months. Ohio joined 37 states and the District of Columbia in a $7 million settlement with Google yesterday that is expected to net $162,000 for the state. The case centered around Google collecting data from unsecured wireless networks nationwide and taking photographs for its Street View service between 2008 and March 2010. The effort to effectively ban Internet sweepstakes cafes passed an Ohio House committee. The federal government may not need to balance its budget at all, according to Bloomberg. Trained Soviet attack dolphins with head-mounted guns are on the loose.
by German Lopez 03.11.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, City Council, Taxes, Privatization, Parking at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking plan on hold, mall renovations to go ahead, Kasich's sales tax plan under fire

Cincinnati’s plan to lease parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority remains on hold as a lawsuit arguing the law should be subject to referendum works through the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. The legal dispute is focused on City Council’s use of the emergency clause, which eliminates a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws and takes away the possibility of a referendum. Emergency clauses are routinely deployed in City Council, but opponents of the parking plan say that doesn’t make them right. Whether the parking deal does go through or not, the Tower Place Mall renovations will be carried out. The city originally included the renovations as part of the plan, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the city is planning on selling the the property to a subsidiary of JDL Warm Construction for an undisclosed sum, and the company will then pay an estimated $5 million for the redevelopment. Gov. John Kasich’s plan to expand the sales tax to fund tax cuts is being heavily criticized by some members of the business community, but Rep. Ron Amstutz, chairman of the Ohio House Finance & Appropriations Committee, says he is looking into ways to save the proposal. Kasich’s plan would expand the application of the sales tax to include more services, including cable TV and admission to sport events, but it would lower the sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5 percent and carry out 20-percent across-the-board income tax cuts. CityBeat wrote about Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here. As part of Kasich’s education plans, the state’s school voucher program is expanding to help students meet a Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires third-graders pass a test in reading proficiency before they can move onto fourth grade. Supporters argue the voucher program provides more choice and control for parents, but opponents say the state should not be paying for private educations. A previous Policy Matters Ohio report found expanded school choice through more vouchers can have negative effects on education, including worse results for students and teachers. State Auditor Dave Yost is pushing for a full audit of JobsOhio, the publicly funded private, nonprofit agency, but Republican state legislators are joining Kasich in opposition. The opposing Republicans say the state auditor can track any public funds used for JobsOhio, but they say the agency is allowed to keep its private funds under wraps. Kasich says he plans to replace the Ohio Department of Development, which can be fully audited by the state auditor at any time, with JobsOhio. The Ohio Department of Education apparently knew or should have known of ongoing data scrubbing in schools as early as 2008, according to The Toledo Blade. Emails acquired by The Blade show officials analyzed and discussed data reports that year after media reports detailed how urban districts excluded thousands of test scores on state report cards. Supporters of the Anna Louise Inn gathered Friday in celebration of International Women’s Day and to stand against Western & Southern’s repeated efforts to run the Inn out of the neighborhood. The U.S. Census Bureau says Cincinnati commutes are much shorter than the national average, with only 2.9 percent of Cincinnatians spending more than 60 minutes one-way during their commute, as compared to the 8.1 percent national average. The Cincinnati Enquirer unveiled its new tabloid format today. Ben Kaufman says it looks nice and arrived on time. The Killers are coming to the Horseshoe Casino. A new study says results from fMRI scans are unintentionally distorted and inaccurate — to the point that some studies on the human brain that use fMRI results may be seriously questionable.
by German Lopez 02.28.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, Governor at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking plan's final public hearing, officials list Plan B, governor's approval hits highs

The tone was negative once again in the final public hearing for the city manager’s plan to lease the city’s parking system. Of the two dozen speakers, only four were positive. Tabitha Woodruff, who is with the Ohio Public Interest Research Group, voiced mixed feelings about the plan: “As we feared it provides a short-term solution to a long-term budget problem, raises hours and rates on citizens, and has the potential to incur high transaction costs. … We’re encouraged, however, by the selection of a public entity, the Port Authority and by numerous proposed provisions of the lease intended to insure the city maintains control of details like rates and hours.” CityBeat wrote about the plan in detail here. If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, and eliminate Human Services Funding, but critics argue there are better alternatives. Mayoral candidate John Cranley says casino and parking revenue and cuts to non-essential programs could help clear the deficit without the plan.Gov. John Kasich’s job approval rating has risen above 50 percent for the first time, and he’s beating all the potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates in theoretical match-ups, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. CityBeat covered the governor’s budget plan, which will set the state’s policy blueprint for the next two years, here. The Ohio House will vote on Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan today, which leverages the Turnpike for a statewide infrastructure program. With the approval of Metro’s operating budget, City Council and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) have ended their dispute over streetcar funding. Council members had been approving monthly budgets as they worked things out with SORTA, which manages the region’s bus system. SORTA filed a lawsuit disputing the limits of the transit fund, but it dropped the suit after the city said it will not use the money for maintenance of streets, sidewalks and streetlights. (Correction: This previously said the city will “only use the money for streets, sidewalks and streetlights” when the opposite is true.)The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) says the state’s schools are making improvement, but they still “have room to grow.” In the latest state report cards, Ohio schools improved in 14 of 26 categories and met the state’s performance goal on 21 out of 26, with particularly strong gains in math and science, but ODE says, “The performance of Ohio’s economically disadvantaged students and minorities remains unacceptably low.” The state auditor has a problem with how Ohio’s schools report data through what he calls a “just-trust-me” system. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a 40-year agreement with the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) that will lease the county-owned Memorial Hall and provide renovations to the 105-year-old building. County officials have long said the building, which is used to host concerts, shows and speaking events, is in dire need of upgrades, particularly overhauls to its roof, windows, facade work, floors, air conditioning and bathrooms — all of which will now be financed by 3CDC with the help of tax credits.The commissioners also approved a two-year policy agenda, which generally outlines their plans for county finances and taxes, infrastructure and economic development. The Over-the-Rhine Eco Garden could be forced to relocate if the city approves CitiRama’s development proposal. The move would be fully funded by the city’s Department of Community Development, with startup and relocation costs paid for. Ohio’s concealed weapon carry permits reached record highs in 2012 with more than 76,000 permits issued. Fewer Ohioans are starting their own businesses, and the state’s level of self-employment is one of the lowest in the nation, according to a report from Dayton Daily News. With Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino set to open March 4, gambling addiction could be one of the downsides to the casino’s glitz and job creation, but extra funds for the state’s treatment programs and special training for casino employees could help combat the problem. A medical marijuana amendment could be on Ohio’s 2013 ballot, but anti-drug groups are already speaking out against it. Think the 114-year-old Japanese woman has reached an impressive age? Guffaw. Popular Science lists six much older animals.