"The Other Side of Lifeline" - Avoiding the Digital Divide
By John Funk, The Plain Dealer
on December 19, 2012 at 6:31 PM, updated
The gas and oil industry’s development of Ohio’s Utica shale supported nearly 39,000 jobs in the state in 2012 and generated $1.5 billion in taxes, a new economic study commissioned by the industry estimates.
Released Wednesday as part of a multi-state analysis by IHS, Inc., a global market information and analytical company, the study noted that of the 39,000 Ohio jobs, only 4,200 were directly involved in the oil and gas industry.
The remaining 34,000 jobs were not actual counts but the result of standard economic modeling, using federally published data, principally by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The study is part of a series conducted by the company into the impact of oil and gas exploration on the nation’s economy. The overall report looked at 16 states where unconventional oil and gas drilling is under way, meaning horizontal drilling into shale, sands and other dense rock where gas and oil are locked in the rock. Traditionally, oil and gas production involves vertical wells into pockets of oil and gas.
IHS analysts also looked at 32 other states, which are benefiting from the unconventional shale wells because they manufacture or supply materials and equipment to the industry. In addition to supply chain kinds of jobs, the study included estimates of unrelated jobs such as health care workers, department store employees and car salesmen supported by all of the spending the industry and its suppliers are doing.
The study estimated that for the nation, shale development in 2012, driven by $87 billion of investment, supported 1.7 million jobs. They include those involving people working directly in the industry, in companies supplying material or expertise to the industry, and others benefiting from the new spending by those employed by the industry or its suppliers.
The study also included economic impact projects for 2020 and 2035, predicting that across the nation, the industry will invest $172.5 billion in shale development by 2020 and $353 billion by 2035. That will support 3 million jobs by the end of the decade and up to 3.5 million jobs by 2035.
For Ohio, the models predict that by 2020, the industry will be supporting 143,600 jobs, including 38,700 direct jobs and 41,800 in the supply chain, and the remaining 63,000 in unrelated occupations.
Ohio projections for 2035 were even more robust: 266,600 total jobs, including 77,600 directly related to production and 77,300 in a long-standing supply chain, with about 112,000 unrelated, additional jobs buoyed by the spending of the industry and its suppliers.
The analysis concludes that in 2012, the industry directly or indirectly contributed about $4.1 billion into Ohio’s economy, or gross state product. It forecasts that by 2035, the total value added to the state’s economy will be more than $35 billion.
In comments about Ohio’s economy, the report’s authors noted the development of Utica Shale here is in the early stages but that early results “are highly encouraging” and that it appears half of the state’s land sits over oil and gas shale.
In a prepared statement announcing the report’s release, Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS, said “The unconventional oil and gas revolution is having a bigger impact across the country, including in non-producing states, than is generally recognized. What we found is that the economic and financial links reach out across all the states in our highly-interconnected national economy.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Institute, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Chemistry Council, America’s Natural Gas Alliance and the Natural Gas Supply Association commissioned the study.
By Robert Schoenberger, The Plain Dealer
on December 20, 2012 at 5:59 AM
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ohio can’t follow Michigan’s lead and quickly pass right-to-work legislation without a nasty public fight, a prospect that politicians and business leaders want to avoid at all costs.
Lawmakers in Michigan earlier this month attached $1 million in spending to bills that would allow workers to stop paying dues at union-represented workplaces across the state. That procedural tactic prevents organized labor from holding a statewide referendum to repeal the law.
State law in Michigan forbids recall votes on spending because such actions could wreak havoc with the state’s ability to pay its bills.
That tactic won’t fly in Ohio.
The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2011 that a Republican congressional redistricting plan could be challenged by voters, even though it contained spending. In its ruling, the court said the spending part of the bill was clearly separate from the other portions, so voters could challenge the non-spending provisions.
Brian Rothenberg, executive director of the liberal Progress Ohio advocacy group, said the ruling means if Republicans tried to push right-to-work legislation here, “It would get very complicated very quickly, and it would involve a lot of litigation.”
Because of that court ruling, a push to make Ohio right to work would almost certainly lead to a union-backed recall effort.
Republicans and their allies in the business world don’t want a replay of 2011′s Issue 2, a union-backed recall of a bill that blocked collective bargaining rights for state employees. The fight left Republican Gov. John Kasich bruised politically and soured many to the idea of going after Ohio’s unions again.
“I don’t really have a point of view on right-to-work. It’s not something that I’m interested in,” said Richard Stoff at the Ohio Business Roundtable, a politically conservative group of chief executive officers of Ohio corporations that vocally supported Senate Bill 5, the law repealed by Issue 2.
Andrew Doehrel, president and chief executive of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, said the state’s biggest business lobbying group has received no overtures from lawmakers on the right-to-work question.
“I’ve not had any legislators calls us,” he said. “The normal channels of discussion have not occurred.”
Right-to-work has been a concern of chamber members since at least the 1958 crusade to make Ohio a right-to-work state, Doehrel said. It was more than a half century ago, but business leaders still remember the issue’s defeat.
“It was a high profile, very nasty situation that a lot of folks have not wanted to revisit over the years because it was so divisive,” Doehrel said.
Gov. John Kasich, the most public supporter of Senate Bill 5, has said he will not seek right-to-work legislation. The governor’s popularity has begun to recover in recent months after hitting a low during the union fight.
A spokesman for Ohio Speaker of the House William Batchelder said the speaker doesn’t believe there is an appetite for the 130th General Assembly to tackle right-to-work legislation. He added that the speaker has said voters spoke very clearly on the issue during the Issue 2/Senate Bill 5 vote. Voters supported the repeal by a 61-to-39 margin
Rothenberg added that things have calmed down in Ohio since the Issue 2 clash, and he doesn’t think Republicans want to rile up union supporters again. Issue 2 galvanized workers and may have cemented President Barack Obama’s win in the state and the re-election of Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rothenberg said.
“It’s really a headache that John Kasich doesn’t need right now,” said Rothenberg.
There is one group that wants to put the right-to-work issue before voters.
Ohioans for Workplace Freedom is collecting signatures to put the issue up for a vote as soon as possible. The organization placed an issue on the ballot last year that was a symbolic protest of the mandate in Obama’s health care law to buy health insurance. Ohio voters approved the issue by a 2-to-1 margin, but the health law was a nationwide mandate — one the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this year.
“We fully expect to get (right-to-work) signatures,” campaign spokesman Chris Littleton said, adding that Michigan’s actions this month have raised his group’s profile. “Let the people decide it. Let people have their say on the issue.”
The group needs to collect more than 385,000 valid signatures to get its proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. So far, it has collected fewer than 100,000.
Littleton said he’s encountering some resistance from Republicans who don’t want to do battle with labor again. But he said there are distinct differences between his proposal and Senate Bill 5.
SB 5 restricted union rights, he said. Right-to-work gives workers new rights to choose either to pay dues or not.
“It’s wildly popular,” said Littleton. “It was popular in Michigan before and after what happened. It was popular in Indiana. And it’s popular in Ohio, before and after SB5.” Indiana passed right-to-work legislation early this year.
Union leaders don’t think right-to-work gives employees more options.
“It’s a very clever way to destroy unions without saying unions are eliminated,” said Harriet Applegate, executive secretary of North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor.
At unionized workplaces, employees always had the right to not join the union, but they still had to pay dues. Applegate said in right-to-work states, where workers can opt out of dues, they still benefit from labor contracts, making them “freeloaders.”
“Many call it a right-to-work-for-less, because in every state with right-to-work laws, employees are paid less, benefits plummet and working conditions are worse,” Applegate said.
Littleton said having right-to-work in the news has helped his group raise money and collect more signatures. But so far, the business and political community has been far less generous than it was in trying to defeat Issue 2.
“No one person has jumped up and said, ‘Hey, here’s $1 million, go and get this done,’” Littleton said. And he acknowledged that if his group manages to get an initiative on the ballot, voters in Ohio should expect massive ad campaigns from union and anti-union forces.
Following the Issue 2 fight last year and the hard-fought senate and presidential race in Ohio this year, he understands that few want another high-profile, vitriolic political campaign.
Still, Littleton predicted the battle will occur. “Tens of millions of dollars will be spent before it’s done.”
Written with Plain Dealer Reporter Alison Grant.
Plain Dealer Reporter Henry J. Gomez contributed to this story.
At the Plain Dealer website, this article is accompanied by an interesting photo gallery.
By Joe Guillen, The Plain Dealer
on December 21, 2012 at 2:00 PM, updated
COLUMBUS, Ohio — More Ohio children with autism will have access to treatment services under an insurance policy directive Gov. John Kasich announced today.
Services including occupational therapy and psychiatric care will be available beginning in 2014 through state employee health insurance, health insurance plans sold on the private market and the forthcoming federally mandated health insurance exchange.
“We know that with early intervention, kids with autism do better at school, they find employment and become more independent and connected adults in our communities,” said Greg Moody, director of Kasich’s office of health transformation.
Autism treatment services already are available to about 40 percent of Ohio children through the state’s Medicaid program.
The Republican governor’s order is part of a requirement that states define an “essential health benefit” package for insurance plans sold on the private market and through the health care exchange mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act.
The services available under Ohio’s benefit package will be similar to those already established in 32 other states, said Ben Kanzeg, the governor’s deputy director of policy, who joined Moody and others on a conference call with reporters to announce the expansion of services.
“It’s going to be a limited benefit to attempt to keep costs low, and will include about 20 hours a week of services to help these folks,” Kanzeg said.
There were 329 open cases to follow in Mahoning County last year
On a drizzly August day, probation officers Ramon Cuevas and Brian Carnie are driving through the city’s North Side on their way to check on kids on probation.
They pull into the driveway of a three-story house with a spacious, but spartan front porch. Carnie grabs his paperwork, turns off the radio and heads to the front door.
He’s there to check on Ronnie, a 15-year-old who has been on probation for several months after a charge of disorderly conduct. [To protect the youth’s identity, The Vindicator is using a fictitious name at the request of the court.]
“What are you planning to do for school?” Carnie asks.
“I’d like to go online,” Ronnie said.
Ronnie will turn 16 this fall and would be entering seventh grade. Rather than being in a class with people so much younger, he would like to work on his own.
Carnie talks options, including a program that could get a computer to Ronnie’s house for him to take classes, and reminds Ronnie and his mom about setting up a payment plan for court fines and fees that are still due.
“I’ve been cutting grass and doing work for neighbors,” Ronnie said.
He’d like to get other work, but with only a bicycle and no high-school diploma, his options are limited.
As the home visit wraps up, Ronnie’s mom mentions a $200 water bill she received from her landlord. It was due a few days ago, but she says her landlord only just gave it to her and now she’s worried about paying the large sum and late fees.
Carnie promises to look into any programs that might be able to help, and says goodbye.
He climbs into the car and asks Cuevas, “Where to next?”
In Mahoning County last year, there were 329 open probation cases and 314 cases were closed, for a total of 643 probation cases.
That’s a decline from 2010, 2009 and 2008, when there were 1,143; 1,391 and 875 total cases respectively, and correlates with a countywide decline in juvenile intake numbers and cases referred to prosecution.
To be on probation, a youth must be a juvenile traffic offender, unruly or adjudicated delinquent, the juvenile equivalent of being found guilty of a criminal offense.
The length of a probation term varies.
“They could be on probation for six months or six years,” Carnie said.
The list of probation requirements is lengthy and if violated could lead to a bench warrant for a youth to be arrested.
A few of the main rules are: Don’t get arrested, meet a curfew, check in with the probation officer and don’t spend time with any youth or adults on probation or parole.
Many youths also attend specialized programs, such as drug treatment, as part of their probation.
But the role of probation officers has expanded from checking in with youths to helping them find resources and assisting other law enforcement agencies.
Chief Probation Officer Wes Skeels and probation officer Jerry Tuscano work closely with the Mahoning Valley Violent Crimes Task Force.
“If we have a kid on paper, we can search their house without a warrant,” Skeels said.
“On paper” means that a youth is on probation. Skeels said his department frequently works with the task force and Youngstown police by providing photo line-ups and executing searches that could turn up weapons or drugs related to other crimes.
This summer, The Vindicator rode along with Tuscano, Cuevas, probation officer Dawn DiBernardi and Youngstown detectives to search a youth’s home on the city’s South Side.
“When we get relevant information, we give it to YPD or vice versa. A few days ago, I was interviewing a kid in detention and he told me that he heard about the guy who had robbed the security guard and took his gun,” Tuscano said.
They had searched another youth’s residence the day before and came up empty-handed, but received new information that led to that day’s search.
Donning bulletproof vests and gloves, the probation officers went inside the home and found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the area where they were told the teenager had been sleeping.
When the teen came back to the house about 20 minutes after officers arrived, he was cuffed and taken to the detention center on the allegation of a probation violation. That teen did not have the security guard’s gun, but by the next day, probation officers and Youngstown police had recovered it — using information gathered during the searches.
Police Chief Rod Foley said the cooperation between his department and the juvenile court, especially probation, has increased over the last year.
“We need to have a search warrant or voluntary consent” to go conduct a search, he said.
But by using juvenile probation, the department circumvents that and can ask juvenile probation to search a youth’s house looking for anything — evidence or contraband — that could also be tied to a crime involving youths or adults.
If the police receive information, they can act on it quickly instead of waiting for a warrant, the chief added.
“It keeps the kids and the parents on their toes,” Foley said. “I’m still amazed that we find these things in the kids’ houses.”
The two agencies also helped organize a recent “call-in” with the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence that offered teens a way out of gangs.
Despite the increased cooperation (Tuscano usually helps out with the task force three time a week), the majority of probation work remains home visits, attending hearings with youths and trying to connect youths and their families with services. The case load for each probation officer varies. It could be as high as 50 or as low as a dozen.
Skeels said every youth has a case plan.
“Our department is hectic day to day, but I want to hold people accountable and I want everything documented. We have to have a case plan for these kids. I push for home visits because the real stuff happens in the house,” Skeels said.
He said most of the youths on probation are following the rules.
“We have about 450 kids in the county on probation and of them, about 360 have a family structure and they follow the rules. For the others, we have to reinforce the rules,” he said.
Some of the youths on probation are in Children Services’ custody or residential treatment centers, such as the Northeast Ohio Regional Center for Adolescent Treatment (NORCAT) in Niles, which is run by Meridian Community Care.
In early June, Cuevas and Carnie drove out to NORCAT. One of Cuevas’ youth cases was receiving treatment at NORCAT, and Carnie was trying to get one of his own cases off the waiting list and into the facility.
Carnie said the youth was from Boardman and addicted to marijuana.
Carnie had placed the youth in detention, partly as a way for the teen to be drug-free, but was worried that he would be in detention longer than expected. (A slot opened up later in the summer and the Boardman teen received treatment.)
As probation officers, Carnie and Cuevas have to be prepared for any situation.
“Some kids have mental health problems; some need drug treatment; others only have to do community service or pay restitution. Every kid is different,” Carnie said.
Ashley Luthern is a reporter for The Vindicator and a 2012 John Jay College Juvenile Justice Reporting Fellow.
September 4, 2012, 4:13 PM
By Joe Palazzolo
In a first-of-its-kind ruling, a federal judge in Boston has ordered Massachusetts authorities to provide a taxpayer-funded sex-change operation for a transgender prisoner.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf said he based his ruling on the recommendations of doctors at the commonwealth’s Department of Correction who prescribed sex-reassignment surgery as “the only form of adequate medical care” for Michelle Kosilek.
Kosilek, who used to go by “Robert,” is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1990 murder of his wife.
Judge Wolf, describing his 126-page order as “unprecedented,” said that denying Kosilek the surgery was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
Prison officials opposed the operation, saying they couldn’t provide security for Kosilek were he to receive a sex change — an argument Judge Wolf described as “pretextual.” Several state legislators publicly opposed using taxpayer funds to pay for the sex-reassignment surgery.
Specialists have diagnosed Kosilek with severe gender identity disorder, and since 2003 he has been receiving female hormones. Kosilek lives in the general population of an all-male prison in Norfolk, Mass.
Despite the hormone treatment and psychotherapy, Kosilek has attempted to castrate himself and twice tried to commit suicide, according to court documents.
“It is unusual to treat a prisoner suffering severely from a gender identity disorder differently than the numerous inmates suffering from more familiar forms of mental illness,” wrote Judge Wolf, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan. “It is not permissible for prison officials to do so just because the fact that a gender identity disorder is a major mental illness not understood by much of the public and the required treatment for it is unpopular.”
Judge Wolf acknowledged that Mr. Kosilek, a convicted murderer, may receive better care for his disorder than many law-abiding Americans.
“It may seem strange that in the United States citizens do not generally have a constitutional right to adequate medical care, but the Eighth Amendment promises prisoners such care,” he wrote, pointing to a 2011 Supreme Court decision that said providing anything less was “incompatible with the concept of human dignity.”
Judge Wolf said correction officials, not himself, should decide where the surgery should take place, who should perform it and where Kosilek should be incarcerated after the surgery.
A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Correction, Diane Wiffin, said, ”We are reviewing the decision and exploring our appellate options.”
Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.) called the decision “an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars” and encouraged state officials to appeal the decision.
A lawyer for Kosilek, Frances Cohen of Bingham McCutchen LLP, said she was “pleased and gratified that we got such a thoughtful and full decision from the chief judge.”
Ms. Cohen said federal courts have considered about two dozen requests by prisoners for general treatment to gender identity disorder. Only a handful of courts have considered sex-reassignment surgery, she said.