by German Lopez
8 days ago
Council to discuss streetcar, bills would protect LGBT, CPS to prevent data scrubbing
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is set to discuss the plan to close the streetcar budget gap today, which was proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
on April 30. The plan borrows funding from various capital funding
sources, including a temporary reallocation of Music Hall funds and
money from infrastructure projects surrounding the Horseshoe Casino.
None of the funding pulled can be used to balance the city’s $35 million
operating budget deficit, which is leading to cop and firefighter layoffs, because of limits established in state law
between capital budgets and operating budgets.
A group of bipartisan Ohio legislators proposed bills in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate that would change the state’s anti-discrimination law
to cover gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The
measures would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the
state’s anti-discrimination law, joining 21 other states and the
District of Columbia, which already have similar laws.The bills have to
be approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Republican
Gov. John Kasich to become law.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is making changes to prevent attendance data scrubbing following an audit in February
that criticized CPS for the practice. The school district says internal
investigations found no employees intentionally scrubbed data, but the
changes being made should help prevent further problems in the future. The
state auditor’s February report seemed to blame state policy over
individual school districts for the findings. Attendance data scrubbing
can make schools look much better in state reports, which could lead to
increased funds or less regulatory scrutiny from the state.
An audit revealed that the IRS targeted tea party groups
that were critical of government and attempted to educate people on the
U.S. Constitution. The extra scrutiny originated at a
Cincinnati field office.
Most Ohio public university presidents are paid more than the nationwide median salary for the job.
The two brothers of the Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for about a decade say they have no sympathy for him. One of them called his brother a “monster.”
Ohio gas prices are down this week.
A new study found people can better calm themselves down
by watching their brains on scanners. Participants learned how to
control activity in a certain brain region after just two sessions.
Watch a Canadian astronaut perform David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in space:
Local leaders pledge to support efforts to put more low- and middle-income kids in preschools
1 Comment · Thursday, May 2, 2013
Elected officials and business leaders
often claim preschool is one of the most impactful investments that can
be made in a child’s life. Now, local officials and leaders are
preparing to back that claim with the Cincinnati Preschool Promise.
by German Lopez
21 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:52 AM | Permalink
Seventy percent of schools cut budgets for 2012-2013 school year
released April 29 found Ohio schools are making cutbacks in response to
budget cuts previously approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and the
Republican-controlled Ohio legislature.
The 15-question survey from left-leaning Policy Matters
Ohio, which received responses from 42 percent of the state’s K-12
school districts in 82 counties, found 70 percent of Ohio schools made
cuts for the ongoing 2012-2013 school year, 82 percent cut positions, 84
percent reduced or froze compensation and 62 percent expect budget
shortfalls next year if the state doesn’t increase funding.
“Long-term investment in education is the best way to
build opportunity for Ohioans,” said Piet van Lier, education researcher
at Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement. “Instead, Ohio’s cuts to school
funding have forced schools to get rid of staff, reduce pay, cut
materials and increase class sizes.”
The survey found the cuts have led to a reduction in
education quality, with 43 percent of Ohio schools reporting larger
class sizes, 23 percent reporting less course options, 57 percent
cutting materials, supplies, textbooks or equipment for the 2012-2013
school year and 22 percent reducing extracurricular activities or introducing pay-to-play for them.
Policy Matters and Innovation Ohio, another left-leaning
think tank, previously found Kasich’s 2012-2013 budget slashed education
funding by $1.8 billion.
In his latest budget proposal, Kasich proposed increasing
education funding, although in a way that disproportionately benefited
wealthier school districts (“Smoke and Mirrors,”
issue of Feb. 20). Since then, the Ohio House passed its own budget
bill that rejects Kasich’s proposal and increases overall school funding
in a more equitable way.
But Policy Matters says the increases aren’t enough. Its analysis
found school funding is failing to keep up with inflation, with 2015
funding projected to fall $1.2 billion short of what funding would have
looked like if it had kept up with 2006’s inflation-adjusted levels.
“Neither Gov. Kasich nor the Ohio House have adequately
addressed the needs of Ohio’s schools in their budget proposals,” van
Lier said in a statement. “The Senate must now lead the way in crafting a
stronger, more predictable funding system for the next two years and
Cincinnati Public Schools said state funding cuts were one reason the school district needed Cincinnati voters to approve a school levy in 2012 (“Battered But Not Broken,” issue of Oct. 3). The levy, known as Issue 42, passed in the November election.Innovation Ohio previously found
Kasich’s budget cuts have led to levies all around the state,
effectively increasing local taxes by $1.3 billion since May 2011.
“By cutting taxes primarily for the wealthy at the state
level, Gov. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature have merely
pushed the need for tax increases down to the local level,” said
Janetta King, president of Innovation Ohio, in a statement.
Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols previously told CityBeat
that the cuts were necessary to balance the budget, as required by
state law. “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit,”
he said. “We had to fix that.”
by German Lopez
29 days ago
Democrats endorse candidates, parking petitions scrutinized, Senate to rework state budget
The Democratic Party’s nominating committee announced who it’s supporting
for City Council Friday: Greg Landsman, who heads the Strive
Partnership and worked for former Gov. Ted Strickland; Shawn Butler,
Mayor Mark Mallory’s director of community affairs; Michelle Dillingham,
a community activist; and the six incumbents, which include Laure
Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Pam Thomas
and Wendell Young. The nominations still have to be approved by the
Cincinnati Democratic Committee.
Petitioners against the city’s parking plan are supposed to get their final tally on referendum today, but a new video shows at least some of the petitions may have been signed without a legitimate witness, which are needed to validate a signature.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections announced Thursday that
petitioners had met the necessary threshold of 8,522 signatures, but the
video casts doubts on whether those signatures were legitimately
gathered. The city wants to lease its parking assets to help balance the
deficit for the next two years and fund development programs around the
city (“Parking Stimulus,”
issue of Feb. 27), but opponents worry higher parking rates and
extended hours will harm the local economy. Here is the embedded video:
The Ohio Senate could restore
Gov. John Kasich’s tax, school funding and Medicaid plans when it votes
on the biennium budget for 2014 and 2015. Kasich’s tax and education
funding plans were criticized by Democrats and progressive groups for
favoring the wealthy, but the Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio
says would expand Medicaid coverage to 456,000 low-income Ohioans and
save the state money, was mostly opposed by state Republicans. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here.
New polling from Quinnipiac University found a plurality of Ohio voters now support same-sex marriage rights — granting promising prospects to Freedom Ohio’s ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage in the state this year.
An audit on JobsOhio could take months,
according to State Auditor Dave Yost’s office. Gov. John Kasich was
initially resistant to a full audit, but Yost eventually won out,
getting full access to JobsOhio’s financial records. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency that is meant to eventually replace the
Ohio Department of Development.
In response to not getting a Democratic endorsement for his City Council campaign, Mike Moroski, who was fired from his job at Purcell Marian High School for supporting gay marriage, launched the Human Party.
Cincinnati received an “F”
for business friendliness in the 2013 Thumbtack.com U.S. Small
Business Friendliness Survey from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Embattled attorney Stan Chesley will no longer practice law in Ohio.
Chesley, who has been criticized for alleged misconduct, was recently
disbarred in Kentucky. He recently resigned from the University of
Cincinnati Board of Trustees after being asked to in a letter from
fellow board members.
Ohio gas prices are shooting back up.
PopSci has an infographic showing sharks should be much more scared of humans than humans should be afraid of sharks.
by German Lopez
32 days ago
Boston violence continues, parking referendum moves forward, House budget bill passes
Boston and surrounding communities went through another night of terror and chaos
last night, with the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects allegedly rampaging
through the city just hours after their photos were released to the
public by authorities. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects, died
after apparently suffering multiple wounds from a police shootout and
what’s now believed to have been an explosion, but his brother, Dzhokhar
Tsarnaev, 19, remains at large while a massive manhunt is underway.
Authorities are telling people in Boston and the surrounding area to
stay indoors as the manhunt continues.
Opponents of the city’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port Authority gathered enough petitions
to put the issue on the ballot this November. The news comes as a huge
blow to local officials who supported the plan to help balance the
budget for the next two years and fund development projects around the city. Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. previously warned that without the parking plan the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters.
Before approving the budget bill in a 61-35 vote, the Ohio House voted to remove an amendment from the bill that would have banned comprehensive sex education in a 76-19 vote
yesterday, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. Still, the budget bill contains language that would defund Planned Parenthood
and redirect other funding to abstinence-only, anti-abortion crisis
pregnancy centers. The budget bill was also amended to ask for a
Medicaid waiver that give Ohio more time to mull over a Medicaid expansion and could lead to a revamp of the state-backed health care program. The budget bill must now be approved by the Ohio Senate and Gov. John Kasich.
Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in March,
unchanged from February’s revised rate and a small drop from 7.4
percent in March 2012. The number of people unemployed rose by 1,000,
while the amount of people employed dropped by 20,400. March was also a
weak month for the U.S. jobs report, so Ohio’s numbers may be following a
nationwide slowdown. Jobs in manufacturing, mining and logging,
financial activities and trade, transportation and utilities increased,
while other areas dropped by varying degrees.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Mayor Mark Mallory still support the streetcar project, touting its economic benefits to the city. Still, Qualls told CityBeat Wednesday that she wants to have a “very robust public conversation” about the project with the public and city officials to see how it can move forward.
On the two-year anniversary of his death, the lawsuit for David “Bones” Hebert has been expanded
to include the city of Cincinnati and three Cincinnati
Police officers. Since he was killed by
police in 2011, Bones has built a following that wants to bring what
they perceive as justice to his death.
A state representative announced he will run against
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman in 2016 because of Portman’s vote against a
federal gun control bill. State Rep. Bob Hagan wrote on Facebook,
”Senator Portman shows his lack of courage and testicular fortitude. The
NRA Owns him. I am declaring my candidacy for US Senate to run against
him in the next election. I will be his hair shirt for the next three
years.” A poll from The New York Times and CBS found about 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks, the major policy proposal in the gun control bill.
A new app allows Icelanders to make sure their hookups don’t qualify as accidental incest.
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
by German Lopez
34 days ago
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.
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
40 days ago
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
48 days ago
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.