Battle Rages Over Office of Environmental Quality

Residents at an Aug. 16 public hearing wore green to express their support for the Office of Environmental Quality.

Among a standing-room-only crowd at a former Catholic church in South Cumminsville, a swath of green t-shirts materialized Aug. 16 on residents opposing a budget proposal that would dismantle Cincinnati’s Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ).

The public hearing of City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee began with City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.’s presentation and defense of his proposal, and concluded only after 36 residents had responded before the committee. Council will vote on the plan Aug. 31.

Among those who addressed council, 18 spoke in support of continuing to fund OEQ, with two using the phrase “penny-wise and pound-foolish” to describe the proposal; none defended it.

“Why on earth are you even considering dismantling an office whose effect on the budget alone is positive, in excess of 25 times its cost?” William Messer demanded of Council.

City statistics reveal the single OEQ project of overhauling Cincinnati’s recycling program this year will save more money — $930,731 in 2011 — than the city expects to save by eliminating the office, which is estimated at $225,030 by 2012.

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National whistleblower leaks 800 “model” bills to local activist

Aliya Rahman was contacted by a whistleblower from within the American Legislative Exchange Council, hours after organizing a Cincinnati protest in April.

Within two hours of helping stage a loud protest outside a spring convention of conservative policymakers, Over-the-Rhine resident Aliya Rahman got a telephone call that has now triggered a media groundswell.

“I have information about ALEC,” said a voice.

Six weeks earlier, 29-year-old Rahman had been a Miami Univeristy Ph.D. student and labor organizer who wondered why an Ohio budget clause threatening to deregulate wages and class sizes at her school, was coming so close upon the heels of a similar proposal in Virginia.

Then a link on Facebook got her attention.  A Wisconsin history professor had proposed that conservative bills arising simultaneously in multiple states, like those aimed at reducing workers’ bargaining rights, were rolling quietly out of a nonprofit group known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

And ALEC was coming to Cincinnati.

Continue reading the full story in CityBeat »

This Little Piggie Gets Tortured ~ Kroger stops shipments, asks for probe

        A piglet at Iowa Select Farms’ Kamrar, IA facility.       Photo courtesy of Mercy for Animals

Three years ago, floodwaters engulfed Iowa and swept hundreds of pigs down the Mississsippi River, sparking a rescue effort that moved over 60 survivors to new lives on sanctuaries. When Iowa’s levees burst again last week, its pigs took the national spotlight once more to tell a different story.

A hard-to-watch undercover video from the Chicago- based group Mercy for Animals (MFA) was released on June 29, showing live piglets getting sliced, slammed and thrown across a building in a small Iowa town.

A former Iowa Pork Princess became its unwitting star, by assuring the undercover camerawoman that “pigs are very bouncy,” and then describing their flights through the air as “a rollercoaster ride for piglets.”

Continue reading the full story in CityBeat »

Protest Greets Legislative Ghostwriters in Cincinnati; Enquirer Absent

Yesterday inside the Netherland Hotel, a discreet committee drafted America’s next season of conservative state legislation.  Outside, bucket drums, megaphones, and a hundred angry voices roared in protest.  And three blocks away, The Cincinnati Enquirer stayed home.

ALEC members convene privately; image from an organizational brochure.

Courageous members of the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC), peeked out of the hotel’s grand entrance during their recess, to survey the opposition.  Until now, their organization of 2000+ state legislators and corporate executives has stayed under the public radar, while crafting 1000+ items of legislation each election cycle since 1973.  *Numbers reported by ALEC.

Their goal: an economic climate friendlier to corporations.  This year’s anti-collective-bargaining bills in Ohio and Michigan were two recent triumphs. Continue reading

Livestock Care Standards Advance Without Enforcement Plan

Livestock Care Board members Harold Dates (l) and Dominic Marchese (r) at last week’s board meeting.

Ohio’s Livestock Care Standards Board moved with unusual swiftness and cheer last week, to vote the final 25 pages of their document one step closer to entering the Ohio Revised Code. Likely to become effective this July, these will be the state’s first statutes regulating the care of chickens, pigs, cows, horses, turkeys, sheep, goats, alpacas and llamas—all of whom are excluded from the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Congratulations have hummed within the board and animal protection groups, for arriving at mutually-palatable standards after a year-long haul.  But as the whittled rules move forward, no structure exists to enforce them. Continue reading

Livestock Care Board scrambles for consensus on veal calves, seeks public input

Jeff Wuebker, a pork producer and member of the Livestock Care Standards Board, deliberating.

Responding to pressure from veal farmers, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board voted last week—by a 6-5 margin—to erase a new standard that would have granted veal calves enough space to turn around in their stalls.

The vote has jeopardized a delicate compromise between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and agricultural trade groups.  Now, the board has until April 5 to reach a consensus, and is accepting public comments on veal standards until Tues. March 15, at ecomments@agri.ohio.gov. Continue reading

High turnout of “elefriends” protest Big Top cruelty

Over 40 concerned tri-state citizens gathered outside the US Bank Arena last night, to protest Ringling Bros. Circus’ methods of training and punishing animals. As costumed elephants were led into the building behind them, several of the demonstrators explained why they were there.