by German Lopez
85 days ago
Federal cuts will hurt Ohio, casino revitalizes neighborhood, danger at private prison
The White House released a list
of what cuts will be made in Ohio as part of mandatory spending cuts
set to kick in March 1, which are widely known as the sequester. Among other
changes, 26,000 civilian defense employees would be furloughed, 350
teacher and aide jobs would be put at risk due to $25.1 million in
education cuts and $6.9 million for clean air and water enforcement would
be taken away. President Barack Obama and Democrats have pushed to
replace the sequester with a plan that contains tax changes and budget
cuts, but they’ve failed to reach a compromise with Republicans, who
insist on a plan that only includes spending cuts.
Community Council President David White told WVXU that the
streets and sidewalks of the long-neglected neighborhood of Pendleton
were previously crumbling, but the Horseshoe Casino’s development has helped transform the area.
With Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, the city has budgeted $6
million in neighborhood development that has led to new trees, expanded
sidewalks and the potential for further developments that will appeal to
A surprise inspection
of the private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)
on Feb. 22 revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high
presence of gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion and
theft, according to the report from the Correctional Institution
Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog. The
CIIC report found enormous increases in violence, with a 187.5-percent
increase in inmate-on-inmate violence and 305.9-percent in
inmate-on-staff violence between 2010 and 2012. Many of the problems are
being brought on by inadequate staff, according to the report. The
findings echo much of what privatization critics have been warning about
ever since Gov. John Kasich announced his plans to privatize the state
prison in 2011, which CityBeat covered in-depth here.
Kasich has highlighted funding increases in the education plan in his 2014-2015 budget proposal, but the plan also includes looser requirements for Ohio’s schools.
The plan will remove the teacher salary schedule from law, which sets a
minimum for automatic teacher pay increases for years of service and
educational accomplishments, such as obtaining a master’s degree. It
would also change the minimum school year from 182 days to 920 hours for
elementary students and 1,050 for high school students, giving more
flexibility to schools. CityBeat took an in-depth look at the governor’s budget and some of its education changes here.
Ohio Democrats want to change how the state picks its watchdog.
The governor currently appoints someone to the inspector general
position, but Democrats argue a bipartisan panel should be in charge of
making the pick.
Mayor Mark Mallory is in Spain to meet with CAF, the
company constructing the cars for Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Streetcar opponents, including mayoral candidate John
Cranley, say the cars are being built too early, but the city says it needs the time to build the cars, test them, burn the tracks and
train staff in the cars’ use. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race here.
The amount of Ohio prisoners returning to prison after being released hit a new low of 28.7 percent in 2009.
The numbers, which are calculated over a three-year period, indicate an
optimistic trend for the state’s recidivism statistics even before Gov. John
Kasich’s sentencing reform laws were signed into law.
Cincinnati’s real estate brokers say the city manager’s parking plan will revitalize Downtown’s retail scene
by using funds from semi-privatizing Cincinnati’s parking assets to
renovate Tower Place Mall and build a 30-story apartment tower with a
parking garage and grocery store.
The University of Cincinnati was the second-best fundraiser in the state in the past year. On Feb. 20, UC announced it had met its $1 billion goal for its Proudly Cincinnati campaign.
On Saturday, Bradley Manning, the American citizen accused of leaking a
massive stash of diplomatic cables and military reports to WikiLeaks, went through his 1,000th day in U.S. custody without a trial.Popular Science has seven ways sitting is going to kill us all.
by German Lopez
87 days ago
Report echoes concerns raised by privatization critics
A surprise inspection of the private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of
America (CCA) on Feb. 22 revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high
presence of gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion
and theft, according to the report from the Correctional Institution
Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog.The CIIC
report found the Lake Erie Correctional Institution had a 187.5-percent
increase in inmate-on-inmate violence between 2010 and 2012, leading to a rate of inmate-on-inmate violence much higher than comparative prisons and slightly
below the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC)
average for all state prisons. Rates of inmate-on-staff violence increased by 305.9-percent between
2010 and 2012 and were much higher than comparative prisons and the ODRC
average, according to the report.Safety
and security were major areas of concern, with the report noting
“personal safety is at risk.” Fight convictions were up 40 percent, but
they weren’t any higher than comparative prisons or the ODRC average,
the report found. Disturbances, use of force, access to illegal
substances, shakedowns and bunk searches were all in need of
improvement, but rounds were acceptable. How
staff handle the use of force and sanctions were particularly
problematic, the report said: “Incident reports indicate that staff
hesitate to use force even when appropriate and at times fail to deploy
chemical agents prior to physical force, risking greater injury to both
inmates and staff. Staff also do not appropriately sanction inmates for
serious misconduct. At the time of the inspection, the facility had no
options for sanctions other than the segregation unit, which was full.”Fair
treatment, fiscal accountability and rehabilitation and reentry
were all found by the report to be in need of improvement, with
many of the problems focusing on inadequate staff — a common concern
critics repeatedly voiced after Gov. John Kasich announced his plan to
sell the state prison to CCA in 2011. “The above issues are compounded
by high staff turnover and low morale,” the report said. “New staff
generally do not have the experience or training to be able to make
quick judgments regarding the appropriate application of force or how to
handle inmate confrontations. Staff also reported that they are often
required to work an extra 12 hours per week, which may impact their
troubling findings left CIIC with dozens of recommendations for
the private prison, including a thorough review of staff policy and
guidelines, stronger cooperation between staff, holding staff and
inmates more accountable and the completion of required state audits and
only positive findings were in health and well-being. The
report said unit conditions, mental health services and food services
were all good, while medical services and recreation were acceptable.The report echoes many of the concerns raised by private prison critics, which CityBeat previously covered (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19). A
September audit from ODRC also found the prison was only meeting two-thirds of the
state’s standards, and reports from locals near the prison in January warned about a
rise in smuggling.
by German Lopez
88 days ago
City could raise rate cap, Cranley's website against parking plan, superintendent pays up
While fact checking an interview, CityBeat
discovered it will be possible to circumvent the parking plan’s cap
on meter rate increases through a multilayer process that involves
approval from a special committee, the city manager and the Port of
Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. The process adds a potential
loophole to one of the city manager’s main defenses against fears of
skyrocketing rates, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says raising
the cap requires overcoming an extensive series of hurdles: unanimous
approval from a board with four members appointed by the Port Authority
and one selected by the city manager, affirmation from the city manager
and a final nod from the Port Authority. Olberding says the process is
necessary in case anything changes during the 30-year time span of the
parking deal, which CityBeat covered in detail here.
Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley launched DontSellCincinnati.org to prevent the city manager’s parking plan, which
semi-privatizes the city’s parking assets. The website claims the plan
gives for-profit investment companies power over enforcement, guarantees
3-percent rate increases every year and blows through all the money
raised in two years. The plan does task a private company with
enforcement, but it will be handled by Xerox, not a financial firm, and
must follow standards set in the company’s agreement with the Port
Authority. While the plan does allow 3-percent rate increases each year,
Olberding says the Port Authority will have the power to refuse an
increase — meaning it’s not a guarantee.
Arnol Elam, the Franklin City Schools superintendent who
sent an angry letter to Gov. John Kasich over his budget plan, is no
longer being investigated for misusing county resources after he paid $539 in restitution. CityBeat
covered Elam’s letter, which told parents and staff about regressive
funding in Kasich’s school funding proposal, and other parts of the
governor’s budget in an in-depth cover story.
To the surprise of no one, Ohio’s oil lobby is still against Kasich’s tax plan, which raises a 4 percent severance tax on oil and wet gas from high-producing fracking wells and a 1 percent tax on dry gas.
Local faith leaders from a diversity of religious backgrounds held a press conference
yesterday to endorse the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom
Amendment, an amendment from FreedomOhio that would legalize same-sex
marriage in the state. Pastor Mike Underhill of the Nexus United Church
of Christ (UCC) in Butler County, Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp of Temple
Sholom, Pamela Taylor of Muslims for Progressive Values and Mike
Moroski, who recently lost his job as assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School for standing up for LGBT rights all attended the event. CityBeat covered the amendment and its potential hurdles for getting on the 2013 ballot here.
Vanessa White, a member of the Cincinnati Public Schools board, is running for City Council.
White is finishing her first four-year term at the board after winning
the seat handily in 2009. She has said she wants to stop the streetcar
project, but she wants to increase collaboration between the city and
schools and create jobs for younger people.
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ (BMV) policy on providing driver’s licenses to the children of illegal immigrants remains unclear. Since CityBeat
broke the story on the BMV policy, the agency has shifted from internally pushing
against driver’s licenses for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
(DACA) recipients to officially “reviewing guidance from the federal
government as it applies to Ohio law.” DACA is an executive order from
President Barack Obama that allows the children of illegal immigrants to
qualify for permits that enable them to remain in the United States
without fear of prosecution.
A survey from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments found locals are generally satisfied with roads, housing and issues that affect them everyday. The survey included 2,500 people and questions about energy efficiency, infrastructure, public health, schools and other issues.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine revealed 7,000 Ohioans
have received more than $280 million in consumer relief as part of the
National Mortgage Settlement announced one year ago. The $25 billion
settlement between the federal government and major banks punishes
reckless financial institutions and provides relief to homeowners in the
aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
Ohio received a $3 million federal grant to continue improving the state’s health care payments and delivery programs.
Cincinnati home sales reached a six-year high after a 27-percent jump in January.
CityBeat’s Hannah “McAttack” McCartney interviewed yours truly for the first post of her Q&A-based blog, Cinfolk.
Crows have a sense of fairness, a new study found.
by German Lopez
89 days ago
Rush to rent underway, sales tax plan criticized, city's retirement system beats projections
A new report found “renters by choice” — those who
can afford to own a house but choose not to — and people returning to
the market in the Great Recession’s aftermath may be driving a rush to rent in Cincinnati, reports The Cincinnati Enquirer.
from CB Richard Ellis found the average apartment occupancy rate was
93.6 percent in 2012, underscoring the need for new apartments in
Downtown and Over-the-Rhine. News of the report came just one day after
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. announced his parking plan, which will add 300 luxury apartments to Downtown.
Gov. John Kasich and Ohio legislators are getting some bad feedback
on the governor’s plan to broaden the sales tax, reports Gongwer.
Numbers from Policy Matters Ohio found the sales tax plan would outweigh
sales and income tax cuts for the lower classes, but won’t be enough to
dent tax savings for the wealthiest Ohioans. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in detail here.
Not much new information came from a special City Council meeting last night that covered Cincinnati’s public retirement system, reports WVXU. The one piece of new information was that preliminary
numbers show Cincinnati's Retirement System had an 11.9 percent return
on its investments in 2012 — higher than the 7.5 percent that was
Mayor Mark Mallory is using his plan to lower Cincinnati’s infant mortality rate to try to win the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge. Mallory’s
proposal would create an Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which
allows pregnant women to enroll in First Steps, a care program that
maintains a secure database of new mothers and monitors pregnancies,
according to a press release from the mayor’s office. The program could be especially helpful in Cincinnati, which has a higher infant mortality rate than the national average. The Bloomberg challenge pits
mayors around the country against each other to win $5 million or one
of four $1 million prizes for their programs aimed at solving urban
problems and improving city life. With Mallory’s program, Cincinnati is
one of 20 finalists in the competition. Fans can vote on their favorite
program at The Huffington Post.
A local nun may have committed voter fraud,
reports WCPO. Rose Marie Hewitt, the nun in question, died Oct. 4, but
the Hamilton County Board of Elections still received a ballot from her
after she died. Hewitt apparently filed for an absentee ballot on Sept.
11 — less than one month before she died. In a letter to Board of Elections
director Tim Burke, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters wrote there’s
enough probable cause to believe criminal activity occurred.
In 2012, 88,068 new entities filed to do
business in the state — making the year the best ever for new state filings, according to Secretary of State Jon Husted.
A new bill in the Ohio legislature that allows poll workers to help blind, disabled and illiterate voters file their ballots is getting widespread support,
but another bill that makes it more difficult to get issues on the
ballot is getting a stern look from Democrats, reports Gongwer.
Think your landlord is bad? An Ohio landlord allegedly whipped a late-paying tenant, reports The Associated Press.
The University of Cincinnati surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal for the Proudly Cincinnati campaign, reports the Business Courier.
President Barack Obama is coming back to Ohio to give the commencement speech at Ohio State University, reports the Business Courier.
Donald Trump is threatening Macy’s protesters with a lawsuit because they want the Cincinnati-based retailer to cut ties with Trump, who is currently contracted as a spokesperson, reports the Business Courier.
Popular Science has seven reasons coffee is good for you.
by German Lopez
90 days ago
Kasich gives State of the State, Dohoney's parking plan, county rejects bridge tolls
Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State speech
yesterday. Kasich focused on his budget proposal and jobs, and he
urged lawmakers to take up the Medicaid expansion. Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer has a thorough report on the speech here. CityBeat gave an in-depth look at Kasich’s budget in this week’s cover story here.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. proposed an ambitious parking and economic development plan
yesterday. The 30-year plan, which Dohoney called a “public-public
partnership,” will lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of
Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to fund more than $100 million
in projects around the city, including the I-71/MLK Interchange, Tower
Place Mall and a high-rise that will house a downtown grocery store. As
part of the deal, the city will retain control over parking rates,
operation hours and the placement of meters.
The Kenton County Fiscal Court unanimously voted against tolls
to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project, reports WVXU. County
residents are concerned the tolls will be a financial drain for
commuters and travelers, but finding other sources of funding for the project has been an ongoing struggle.
An Ohio woman claims she was fired after voting for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, reports Dayton Daily News.
Patricia Kunkle’s lawsuit claims her former employer, Roberta “Bobbie”
Gentile of Q-Mark Inc., threatened to fire workers if Obama won election
and that Obama supporters would be first on the list.
John Cranley, former Democratic council member, will
formally launch his mayoral campaign today. The kick-off will be at 20th
Century Theater in Oakley at 5:30 p.m. Cranley’s main opponent will
most likely be Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a fellow Democrat. The two
Democrats have split on one issue: the streetcar. Qualls supports it,
while Cranley is against it. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the mayor’s race here.
The University of Cincinnati is conducting research for how to locate food deserts, reports the Business Courier.
Professor Michael Widener is looking at where people live and work,
with a focus on how many people are able to stop by a grocery store
after a workday.
Failing to yield caused 37,475 crashes in 2012,
according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Altogether, the crashes
killed 187 people and injured 23,353. Young drivers, aged 16 to 25, were at
fault for 30 percent of the crashes — nearly twice as high as those aged
26 to 35, who caused 16 percent of accidents. The full county-by-county
report is available here.
UC will spend $2 million on design work for Nippert Stadium, reports WLWT. UC hopes the work will attract an Atlantic Coast Conference invitation.
Popular Science has a demonstration of scientists teaching language to a childlike robot.
2 Comments · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
I’ve been a longtime supporter of the
streetcar project, but I have to admit I’m a bit worried after finding
out the streetcar might be delayed once again because construction bids
for the project were way over budget.
How the new streetcar’s story will differ from the one that ended 60 years ago
1 Comment · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
After signing a utility relocation
agreement with Duke Energy on Feb. 1, Cincinnati City Manager Milton
Dohoney, Jr. declared, “The streetcar is happening.”
While state legislators overhaul Ohio’s energy industry, questions about the sustainability and safety of fracking go unanswered
2 Comments · Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Ohio's rush to embrace fracking has raised questions about the
sustainability and safety of the process during a time when legislators are
moving full-speed ahead with legislation that will regulate the
industry for the next 20 years — if it lasts that long.
by German Lopez
91 days ago
State of the State today, Ohio's next superintendent, fire safety legislation underway
Gov. John Kasich will give his State of the State address today in Lima, where he is expected to cover his
budget plan, jobs and tax reform. It will air live at The Ohio Channel at 6:30 p.m. During his last State of the State speech, the
governor lacked focus, imitated a Parkinson’s patient and called Californians
“wackadoodles,” leading outlets like The Hill to call the speech “bizarre.”
The next state superintendent of public instruction could be
Richard Ross, Gov. John Kasich’s education policy adviser, or acting
superintendent Michael Sawyers, according to StateImpact Ohio. Ross
apparently has Kasich’s support, making him a favorite. Stan Heffner,
the previous state superintendent, was forced to resign after misusing state resources.
New legislation will be introduced by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld to City Council today to require all rental properties to be equipped with photoelectric smoke detectors.
The photoelectric detectors have better protection against smoldering,
smoky fires, which cause more fatalities than the flaming, fast-moving
fires picked up by ionization form of detectors, according to the vice
mayor’s office. Qualls and Sittenfeld are introducing the legislation
after hearing stories from Dean Dennis and Doug Turnbull of Fathers for
Fire Safety, who both lost children to house fires.
The Horseshoe Casino’s parking plan was revealed
yesterday, reports WVXU. Parking will be free for guests on opening day
from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. It will also remain free on weekends. Weekday
parking will be free for guests who play slots or table games for 30
minutes, play an hour of poker or spend at least $25 in a restaurant or
gift shop. Otherwise, parking will cost $1 for the first hour, up to a
daily maximum of $14.
Restaurants around the country are discovering that fewer calories brings better health and business, according to Dayton Daily News.
Ohio gas prices are continuing their movement up, according to the Associated Press.
Glass was found in Kellogg’s Special K Red Berries cereal, prompting a recall, reports WCPO.
Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked yesterday, which
raises all-important questions: How did anyone notice? Why are people
following fast food chains on Twitter?
Popular Science has an in-depth report on how neuroscience will allow scientists to rewire the brain to
battle seizures, dementia, blindness, paralysis and deafness.
by German Lopez
92 days ago
PUCO appointment criticized, poll supports school funding, superintendent investigation
Gov. John Kasich appointed a former Republican to a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) seat that must go to a Democrat or Independent, according to The Plain Dealer.
M. Beth Trombold will finish her term as the assistant director in
Kasich’s Ohio Development Services Agency in April, when she will then
take up the PUCO position. The appointment immediately drew criticism
from some Democrats. State Rep. Mike Foley of Cleveland called the
appointment “another example of Kasich cronyism running rampant.”
A poll from Innovation Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, found Kasich’s budget proposals aren’t popular with most Ohioans.
The poll found 62 percent of Ohioans prefer prioritizing school funding
over reducing the state income tax, while only 32 percent prefer tax
reduction. When asked what Ohio lawmakers should prioritize in the
coming months, 56 percent said job creation, 38 percent said school
funding, 24 percent said keeping local property taxes low and 18 percent
said cutting the state income tax.
A school superintendent from Warren County may face prosecution for misusing public resources after he wrote a letter to parents urging them to campaign against Kasich, reports Dayton Daily News.
Franklin City Schools Superintendent Arnol Elam was apparently angry with
Kasich’s new school funding formula, which did not increase funding for
poor school districts like Franklin Cities, but did give increases to
Springboro, Mason and Kings — the three wealthiest districts in Warren
County. County Prosecutor David Fornshell said he will be investigating
Elam for engaging in political activity with public resources.Kasich will give his State of the State Tuesday. The speech is expected to focus on the governor’s budget and tax reform plans.
As part of an agreement with the city, Duke Energy is suing over the streetcar project, according to WLWT. The lawsuit is meant to settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar. CityBeat covered the agreement between the city and Duke here and how the streetcar will play a pivotal role in the 2013 mayor’s race here.
Thousands of people in Butler County, mainly students, are benefiting from Judge Robert Lyons’ criminal record seals, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Lyons’ practice of sealing cases came to light after he sealed the case for the Miami University student who posted a flyer on how to get
away with rape. In the past five years, Lyons has sealed 2,945 cases — more
than a third of the new misdemeanor cases filed.
Ohio’s casinos are falling far short of original revenue projections, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
It’s uncertain why that’s the case, but some are pointing to
Internet-sweepstakes cafes. Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which will
open March 4, was spurred by the original projections.
StateImpact Ohio reports that many Ohio teachers are concerned with new teaching evaluation rules.
Two Cincinnati Republicans will begin reviewing the effects of legislation
that deregulated phone companies in Ohio, reports Gongwer. State Rep.
Peter Stautberg, who chairs the House Public Utilities Committee, and
State Sen. Bill Seitz, who chairs the Senate Public Utilities Committee,
will hear testimony from PUCO Tuesday.
Downtown’s Chiquita center has landed in bankruptcy, reports WCPO. The building lost its major tenant last year when Chiquita Brands relocated to Charlotte, N.C.
“Star Trek” is becoming reality. University of Cincinnati researchers are developing a tricorder device to help users monitor their own health, reports WVXU.Are you worried about space rocks recently? Popular Science says NASA is concerned as well.