WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Bill Sloat 01.23.2013
Posted In: Republicans, Washington at 01:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
steve_chabot,_official_109th_congress_photo.nar

Chabot Refuses to Authorize Superstorm Sandy Disaster Relief

Congressman urged victims of Southwest Ohio tornadoes last march to seek federal aid

U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot called the deadly storms that hit the Cincinnati area last March “catastrophic,” and he offered shattered communities a financial lifeline through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s low-interest rate disaster loan program. In 1997, when Washington wrangling over budget issues held up relief after the Ohio River flooded Cincinnati, Chabot raged against “politics at its worst” and said his hometown truly needed federal assistance to rebuild. His words at the time: “Let us get the disaster relief to the people who truly need it.”  Fast-forward to January 2013, and Chabot is a refusenik when it comes to helping the battered Northeast United States with federal disaster relief. Former New York Sen. Al D’Amato is calling the Republican House members like Chabot who wouldn’t support $60 billion in aid for Hurricane Sandy-ravaged states a "bunch of jackasses.” The jackasses are members of his D’Amato’s own political party. Chabot apparently balked at the Sandy relief package because it offered federal cash to the National Park Service and other agencies that needed funding after the storm. Chabot saw pork where most in the House — the two Sandy bills passed by huge margins — saw responsible and necessary federal actions; to borrow his words, getting “disaster relief to people who really need it.” Chabot and his fellow travelers are getting pounded as short-sighted skinflints. And he probably can be criticized as a hypocrite. After the massive March tornado outbreak, Chabot posted links on his Twitter account and his official House website that guided Ohioans in the ravaged areas on how to apply for federal help. He pointed to the U.S. Small Business Administration as a source of disaster loans. On April 16, 2012, Chabot said, “The tornadoes on March 12 affected many in our region in various ways, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) may be able to help those who have experienced ‘uninsured’ losses caused by these catastrophic storms. If you are located in Brown, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton or Warren counties and experienced damages caused by the tornadoes, high winds or flooding, you may be eligible for assistance from the SBA’s Disaster Loan program. The Disaster Loan Outreach Center has reopened in Moscow, Ohio, with extended hours.” You can find the link from Chabot’s official House website by clicking here. But there is more to the story. In 1997, after a disastrous Ohio River flood wrecked much of Cincinnati’s riverfront, Chabot ripped into then President Bill Clinton for vetoing a disaster relief package. Clinton was furious that the GOP had tied flood aid to his showdown with former Speaker Newt Gingrich over a government shutdown. Chabot said stopping the 1997 disaster relief package was a refusal to help Cincinnatian rebuild and get on with their lives. Chabot took the House floor and gave a speech about Cincinnati needing federal disaster relief. Here is his speech from June 10, 1997: “Mr. Speaker, yesterday President Clinton sent a callous message to the flood-ravaged American families in the Midwest. Only minutes after receiving the disaster relief bill from Capitol Hill, the President who likes to say he feels our pain told thousands of flood victims that he was going to veto the bill that would help them rebuild their homes and get on with their lives.  “Why did President Clinton veto the legislation? Because the bill contained a provision that would stop him from forcing another Government shutdown. Let me repeat that. The President is withholding aid to thousands of flood victims so he can reserve the right to once again put thousands and thousands of government employees out of work and bring the work of the federal government to a halt. “Despite the fact that the President in a master of spin, Mr. Speaker, I do not think he is going to be able to spin this one much. The American people are going to see through this. It is politics at this worst. Let us get disaster relief to the people who truly need it most.”   You can read his House speech here.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.28.2013
Posted In: Economy, Education, Drugs, News, Budget, Prisons at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

School funding changes soon, prison union wants more security, drug abuse costs employers

School superintendents will hear about Gov. John Kasich’s school funding proposal Thursday. The proposal, which will change how all of Ohio’s schools are publicly funded, will be released to the wider public Feb. 4. Many school officials are bracing for the worst, according to Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. Rob Nichols previously told CityBeat that the proposal is “a big undertaking”: “Many governors have tried before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something we have to take our time with and get it done right.” Ohio’s largest prison staff union is asking Kasich’s administration to increase the amount of prison security officers following a late December report from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The report found a correlation between rising prison violence and a decrease in prison security staff, affirming a position the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association has held for years. A Journal News report found substance abuse comes at a heavy loss for Ohio employers, including more workplace injuries, higher medical costs, more absenteeism and reduced productivity. Some experts advocate for drug testing to lower the costs, while others argue drug testing can often affect innocent, responsible drug users. Employers are much more likely to test for marijuana over alcohol, even though multiple studies show cannabis is less addictive and harmful. The flu epidemic may be leveling off in Ohio. The state health department revealed the amount of hospitalizations involving the flu have plateaued, but the department cautions the calm could be temporary. The women’s sections of county and regional jails are facing higher levels of overcrowding. The overcrowding is a result of a 2011 law that enables fourth- and fifth-degree felons to be held at county jails instead of state prisons. A new online tool reveals the salaries of public school teachers and staff. The extensive audit of Ohio schools and their attendance information will be released Feb. 11. The preliminary reports found Cincinnati Public Schools were clean. The investigation into attendance fraud began when Lockland schools in Hamilton County were caught falsifying attendance data. A new poll found an overwhelming majority of Kentucky parents favor raising the school dropout age to 18, up from the current age of 16. Ohio gas prices are still rising. Researchers made super-realistic lung tissue with levitating cells. The development allows researchers to better study how toxins affect the lungs.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.24.2013
Posted In: Budget, Courts, News at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

City Negotiating Settlement Over Pension-Funding Lawsuit

April deadline to settle with AFSCME over accusations of underfunding

The city of Cincinnati and a union representing city workers are currently negotiating an out-of-court settlement for a lawsuit involving the city's pension program. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) claimed in a 2011 lawsuit that the city government isn’t meeting funding requirements. A Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas motion filed Jan. 4 and accepted Jan. 23 gives the city and AFSCME until April to settle the case out of court. By law, Cincinnati is required to heed to the Cincinnati Retirement System (CRS) Board of Trustees when setting the percent of payroll the city must contribute to retirees. But the AFSCME lawsuit argues the city hasn’t been making contributions dictated by the board. The lawsuit, which dates back to June 2011, cites minutes from a CRS Board of Trustees meeting on July 20, 2010 to show the board accepted a report from Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting, LLC. The report asked the city to contribute 46.22 percent of payroll to retiree benefits — 12.32 percent to retiree health benefits and 33.9 percent to other CRS benefits — during the 2011 fiscal year. Instead, the city biennial budget for 2011 and 2012 established a contribution rate of 17 percent — way below the recommended sum. The AFSCME lawsuit alleges the low contributions reflect a “longstanding pattern” from city government. It points to a 2002 report from the CRS Board of Trustees that found the city was not meeting requirements set by the board then, either. The lawsuit asks for a court mandate requiring city government to find out how much it needs to contribute, establish a mechanism for collecting the amounts required and appropriate and contribute the required amounts.City Solicitor John Curp says the debate is between long-term and short-term interests. On AFSCME’s side, the union wants to get as much from payroll contributions as possible for represented retirees, even if it means a short-term economic and budget shock for the city. On the city’s side, City Council is more interested in meeting long-term requirements for the pension fund, instead of keeping up with shifting annual numbers that could negatively impact the city economy and budget.City government’s approach attempts to balance short-term and long-term needs with a long-term goal. It means the city pension is underfunded during some years, particularly when the economy is in a bad state. But it keeps rates steady, letting the city avoid sudden funding changes that would require spending cuts or tax hikes to keep the budget balanced.By adopting a large short-term contribution rate, the city would likely hurt its budget in ways that would negatively affect city employees represented by AFSCME. If the city was forced to contribute 46.22 percent of payroll to CRS — up from 17 percent — it would probably be forced to cut spending elsewhere, which would lead to layoffs.This story was updated on Jan. 25 at 12:40 p.m. to reflect comments from City Solicitor John Curp.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.25.2013
Posted In: Budget, Economy, News, Transportation, Spending at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio unemployment standards, state approves projects, Cincinnati's transparent spending

A new analysis found Ohio has some of the toughest requirements for unemployment benefits. The Policy Matters Ohio report shows Ohio is the only state besides Michigan where a worker who makes minimum wage for 29 hours a week would not qualify for unemployment compensation. Ohio’s standards require workers to earn an average of at least $230 a week for at least 20 weeks of work to qualify for benefits. The state also does not allow unemployed workers seeking part-time work to receive benefits, which is permissible in most other states. Every state must set qualification standards for unemployment compensation, which is supposed to hold people over while they search for work if they’re laid off. Ohio’s transportation projects council unanimously approved 32 different projects totaling more than $2 billion. The projects approved by the Transportation Review Advisory Council come amidst debate over Gov. John Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan, which leverages the turnpike’s profits for renewed infrastructure spending. Ohio Department of Transportation officials say they’re optimistic about the turnpike plan and the bond revenue it will produce in the short term. A new report from the Ohio Public Interest Research Group found Cincinnati is a lot more transparent about spending than Cleveland. Cincinnati got a B+ for spending transparency, while Cleveland got an F. The city of Cincinnati and a union representing city workers are currently negotiating an out-of-court settlement over a lawsuit involving the city's pension program. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) claimed in a 2011 lawsuit that the city is not meeting funding requirements set by the Cincinnati Retirement System Board of Trustees. The local branch of the NAACP is facing increased tensions. Three former presidents are calling for a national investigation to look into the local branch’s relationship with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a local conservative group. City Council Member Chris Smitherman, current president of the NAACP’s local branch, has close ties with COAST, but the three former presidents say partnering with COAST is the wrong direction for the NAACP. Some Ohio schools need to do more to protect students from concussions. Many schools are already improving standards in anticipation of a state law that goes into effect in April, but some large school districts are falling behind. The new law requires school districts educate parents and families about concussions, train coaches in recognizing symptoms of head injuries and pull injured or symptomatic students from the field until a doctor clears a return. CityBeat wrote about head injuries and how they relate to the NFL and Bengals here. President Barack Obama renominated Richard Cordray, former Ohio attorney general, to head the Consumers Financial Protection Bureau. The nomination could have repercussions for the 2014 governor’s race; Cordray was seen as a potential Democratic candidate. Lightning could be a source of headaches and migraines, according to a new University of Cincinnati study. Catholic Health Partners and Mercy Health are looking to fill 80 positions. The Ingalls Building, which was the world’s first reinforced-concrete skyscraper when it was built in downtown Cincinnati in 1903, was sold for $1.45 million. A Catholic hospital chain killed a lawsuit by arguing a fetus is not a person. IBM developed a warmth-activated gel that could kill superbugs and break up tough bacterial biofilms. Maybe humans won’t need panda blood after all.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.24.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Economy, Education, Privatization, Budget at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Morning News and Stuff

Seelbach tired of streetcar delays, Pentagon to lift combat ban for women, JobsOhio in court

Council Member Chris Seelbach says he’s getting impatient with streetcar delays. During a series of complaints aired on Twitter, Seelbach wrote the deadline for streetcar operation should be the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2015. This week’s CityBeat cover story explains some of the delays and how the streetcar relates to the 2013 mayor’s race. The Pentagon is planning to lift the ban on women in combat situations. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the decision came after a recommendation from his Joint Chiefs of Staff. Between the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and this decision, President Barack Obama’s administration has been one of the most inclusive when it comes to the military. The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case questioning the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Policy group ProgressOhio says it might be illegal to use state liquor profits to fund JobsOhio, a private nonprofit organization Gov. John Kasich set up to drive economic growth in the state. The Major League Baseball All-Star Game could bring $60-$80 million to Cincinnati, according to Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center. It was recently announced Cincinnati will host the game in 2015. Gov. Kasich said he won’t oust State Board of Education President Debe Terhar after she made a Facebook post comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler. Kasich is happy she admitted it was a mistake, and he said he will leave it at that. Democrats called for her ousting Tuesday. American Military Partner Association, a national organization that supports LGBT veterans, endorsed FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment. If voters approve the amendment this November, gay marriage will be legalized in Ohio. CityBeat wrote more about FreedomOhio’s ballot initiative here. Cincinnati Public Schools is piloting an after-school program focusing on the arts. The high-energy sessions are apparently proving to be a hit among students so far. U.S. Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, says President Barack Obama is out to annihilate the Republican Party. I’m not seeing the problem here. Moody’s doesn’t have confidence in U.S. nonprofit hospitals. New science makes it possible to detect brain damage in football players that previously couldn’t be seen until a victim was dead. CityBeat covered how head trauma relates to former Bengals players' workers' comp claims here. Popular Science explains how to make the perfect snowball.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.23.2013
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

Anti-abortion agenda could return, budget group speaks up, Green Cincinnati update

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, House Health and Aging Chairman Lynn Watchman said anti-abortion legislation could come back in the current legislative session. That includes the heartbeat bill, which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, and a plan to defund Planned Parenthood. CityBeat wrote about the anti-abortion legislation last time Ohio Republicans tried to bring it up here. One Ohio Now, a group focused on the state budget, has a few requests for Gov. John Kasich. They don’t want an income tax cut when the revenue could be used to expand Medicaid and raise school funding. In other states, a Medicaid expansion correlated with better health results, and one study found expanding Medicaid could save Ohio money. More school funding could also make up for the last budget's massive cuts to education, which are explained on a county-by-county basis at Cuts Hurt Ohio. While the state government is tearing down solar power initiatives, Cincinnati is working to update Green Cincinnati. Environmental Quality Director Larry Falkin told WVXU, “We’re broadening the plan to be not just focused on climate protection, but more broadly on all areas of sustainability.” He added, “It’s going to show us how Cincinnatians can live a better lifestyle using less resources.” The plan was originally drafted in 2007 and adopted a year later to prepare the city for changing environmental realities. Last year was good for local home sales. The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors says home sales were at the highest levels since 2008. A federal judge ended most of his court-mandated oversight of Ohio’s youth prisons last Friday. The ruling shows how much progress has been made in state youth facilities, according to Alphonse Gerhardstein, a Cincinnati lawyer representing juvenile inmates. Ohio Democrats are now calling for Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar to resign. Terhar is facing criticism for comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler when she posted an image of Adolf Hitler on her personal Facebook page that read, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.”  Amy Murray is running for City Council. Murray was appointed to City Council in 2011 when Chris Monzel left and became Hamilton County commissioner. But she lost her seat in the 2011 election, which swept Democrats into City Council. Cincinnati and Columbus airports saw a drop in traffic, but it seems Dayton International Airport more than made up for it. The National Council of Teachers wants Ohio to make its colleges more accountable and selective. An investigation into the massive accident on I-275 could take days. The accident, which is believed to have caused at least 86 cars to crash, led to the death of a 12-year-old girl. Blockbuster still exists, and it’s shutting down stores and cutting jobs. A smoke screen company wants to use its product to prevent more school shootings. The smoke screens fill up a room with non-toxic smoke on demand, which could obscure a shooter’s vision. Update for any women looking to have a neanderthal baby: The Harvard scientist was only saying it’s a possibility someday.
 
 

All Part of the Game

Ruling against former Bengals players illustrates the next step in NFL concussion saga

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 23, 2013
As America spends the next two weeks readying for its largest annual sporting event, the spectacle, hype and excitement of the Super Bowl will undoubtedly overshadow the toll our enjoyment takes on the players on the field.   

Bringing All-Star Game to Cincinnati Is a Castellini Triumph

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 23, 2013
It’s tough, at this point, to debate the fact that Bob Castellini might be the greatest thing to happen to the Cincinnati sporting scene in the last decade. Coaches and players come and go, but a commitment from ownership is the most important thing any pro sports franchise needs for sustained success.   

Back on the Ballot

Why the streetcar will be at the center of the 2013 mayoral race despite its progress

13 Comments · Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Facing new delays and political controversy, the streetcar is once again in the news — and, for better or worse, this year’s mayoral campaign will keep it there for much of the coming year.    

Study Finds Cancer Link Among Fernald Hourly Workers

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 23, 2013
More than 18 years later, Hamilton County’s Fernald Feed Materials Production Center is in the news again. A new study found a correlation between higher rates of cancer mortality and hourly workers, with some evidence of radiation causing intestinal cancer.   

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