Ohio Republicans rebuke LEED chemical disclosure requirements

We’ve see Art Deco, Modernism, Post-Modernism, Queen Anne Style, Italianate and many other periods of architectural expression, style and function. We are now currently in a period of Sustainable/Ecological architecture, but some Ohio politicians would prefer the state not participate in the most widely used and accepted rating system for such design and construction practices. More from Columbus Business First:

Ohio Concurrent Senate Resolution 25 was introduced last year by Joe Uecker, R-Loveland, and Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, to stop state government from using the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building practices. Instead, the resolution advocates using American National Standards Institute practices because, it says, they’re more grounded in science.

The resolution got its first hearing earlier this week and chemical and manufacturing boosters laid out their case against some of the Green Building Council’s credits. Specifically, chemical trade groups say, LEED rules are not transparent and don’t conform with environmental industry consensus.

A building project still can achieve LEED Platinum, the highest rating available, without obtaining these credits. But that didn’t stop the chemical industry from voicing its concerns. The council has exhibited “discriminatory and disparaging treatment of vinyl in LEED credits,” testified Allen Blakey, vice president of industry and government affairs of the Washington, D.C. Vinyl Institute.

Balls Around The Block Event to Raise Money for Fido Field Dog Park

As the number of people living in the center city continues to increase, so does the number of dogs. One of the problems, however, is that center city residents do not have yards where their dogs can run around or take care of other, let’s say, daily needs.

This is where dog parks come in.

The problem is that, in 2008, Cincinnati had just 1.2 off-leash dog parks per 100,000 thousand residents – ranking it 15th nationally according to the Trust for Public Land (TPL). The ratio has remained unchanged at 1.2 off-leash dog park per 100,000 residents, but other cities have made significant improvements since 2008 while Cincinnati has not. According the the TPL, Cincinnati has just four such dog parks and its ranking has plummeted 17 spots to 32nd in the nation.

This will be the ninth year for the annual Balls Around The Block (BATB) event downtown, and since 2010 the event has donated its proceeds to support Fido Field – an off-leash dog park on the eastern edge of downtown. While not a new dog park, the effort is helping improve Cincinnati’s standing.

Event organizers say that BATB raised more than $10,000 for Fido Field last year, which paid to top the large dog section with recycled rubber. The goal for this year is to raise more than $12,000 this year.

This year’s event is expected to attract more the one-hundred participants, as it has the past several years, and will include stops at 11 official venues in the Backstage Entertainment District block bounded by Sixth Street, Walnut Street, Seventh Street and Vine Street.

The event works with so many people due to the team setup. Organizers require that each person participating in the event sign-up a team consisting of 25 members. Each of the teams will start at different bars. From there participants will be instructed by group leaders once 30 minutes has lapsed and it is time to move on to the next destination.

Venues this year include Mr. Sushi, Knockbat Nats, Play, Local’s, Madonna’s, Nicholson’s, Righteous Room, Igby’s, Mynt, Rock Bottom and Scene, and each will have its own drink and food specials for those participating in BATB. Organizers also say that they will be giving out a variety of raffle prizes including gift cards to local businesses, adult beverages, doggie daycare and food, a Hustler gift basket and more.

This year’s event will cost $35 per person and will take place on Friday, February 7. Registration will close at 3pm the day of the event, but those who wish to register at the door can do so for $40 cash, if there are spots remaining.

Those that would like to contribute to the cause, but don’t have the balls (sorry, I had to) to participate, can make a tax-deductible donation by contacting the event organizers at ballsaroundtheblock@yahoo.com.

VIDEO: New Playground to Open at Smale Riverfront Park in May

Despite all the recent bad weather, work has been progressing on the 45-acre Smale Riverfront Park. The latest phase of construction activity has moved to the west side toward Paul Brown Stadium, and is now becoming visually identifiable.

The next part of the park that will open to the public is the Heekin/PNC Grow Up Great Adventure Playground, which is scheduled to be completed this May.

“The newest feature to be completed is a serpentine wall that’s along the east edge of the playground,” Smale Riverfront Park project manager Dave Prather explained the eight-minute video update. “The way its sculpted entices challenges and encourages folks to do a balance beam walking and being challenged by the narrowness and the way it serpentines its way south toward a toddler-sized slide that is en route and will be installed in the coming months.”

Meanwhile, a series of columns, approximately 75% complete, are now jutting up from the ground at Carol Ann’s Carousel and the Anderson Pavilion.

The glass-enclosed carousel will sit on the upper level of the site that will be flanked by the historic Roebling Suspension Bridge and the Vine Street Fountain & Steps. Cincinnati Park Board officials say that the Vine Street design will mirror that of the currently completed Walnut Street Fountain & Steps.

The Anderson Pavilion will include an event and conference center fronting onto the rebuilt Mehring Way and will sit directly beneath the carousel. Both the carousel and pavilion space are scheduled to open in spring 2015.

Prather goes on in great detail about the various construction activities, taking place now, and lays out what construction work will be taking place in the months ahead.

“There’s going to be a lot happening in the next six weeks or so.”

EDITORIAL: Cincinnati Leaders Should Implement a PAYT Waste Management System

As the new mayor and city council continue to get settled in to their new offices, we would like to suggest a policy reform that should be enacted immediately to help improve the city’s environment, balance its budget and give residents and businesses greater flexibility in terms of their trash collection.

Since the city debuted its new system of trash collection, it has been riddled with complaints from upset citizens and business owners unhappy about not being able to throw away the amount of trash that they generate. This is a problem since reports of illegal dumping have picked up in various neighborhoods.

At the same time, the new system represents an improvement over the old in terms of its efficiency. The city is now able to reduce staff levels on each garage truck, avoid safety risks associated with employees lifting and maneuvering heavy trash cans, and boost recycling rates. All of these reforms save the city money and help the city protect its workers from injury on the job.

In order to resolve the ongoing issues, while also preserving the advances that have been made, UrbanCincy urges the new mayor and city council to immediately implement a Pay As You Throw (PAYT) system.

Such a system is supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for its environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and its equity. What the USEPA has noticed is that communities using such a system have realized increased recycling rates, balanced and consistent revenue streams for municipalities looking to offset the costs of their waste collection, and improved equity in terms of how payments are made by the diverse range of users in the system.

As of 2006, USEPA data showed that 243 communities throughout Ohio were utilizing a PAYT system. Cincinnati should be the next.

When implementing a PAYT system, communities are able to choose from charging users a specific fee per bag or can of waste they generate. In communities where the capabilities are available, like Cincinnati, officials can be more precise and charge residents based on the weight of trash they generate.

Due to the potential complexities and higher administrative costs of managing such a variable-rate system, we recommend that city officials set a base rate for each 64-gallon can, with fixed prices for each additional can after that.

This is both a fair and effective means of managing waste collection. It allows users to generate as much or as little trash as they desire without any fear of exceeding the size constraints of their trash can. Those who recycle more, and discard less, are rewarded with lower fees.

If the new mayor and city council would like to pursue a version of this approach that could benefit low-income communities, then we would recommend developing a partnership with a local company or organization, or pursue grant money, that could cover the costs of any user within the city’s established empowerment zones. This would allow the city to continue to improve its financial standing and service delivery, while also working to aid residents and businesses within the neighborhoods that need it most.

In the last full year of budget data, the City of Cincinnati spent $11,320,530 on its Waste Collections Program. This was a $758,740 reduction from the previous year’s expenditures due largely to the elimination of 12 full-time equivalent staff positions. Meanwhile, there is no direct revenue source to pay for this program.

Of course, COAST and its allies successfully pushed through a broadly written Charter amendment in 2011 (Issue 47), which was opposed by the Cincinnati Regional Chamber of Commerce, that prohibits the City from assessing, levying, or collecting taxes or general assessment on real properties, or against the owners or occupants thereof, for the collection of trash, garbage, waste, rubbish or refuse.

What this means is that the City is permanently stuck with an $11-12 million hole in its budget every year. Most communities around the nation and throughout the region already charge their residents and businesses directly for waste collection. Cincinnati has been unique in being able to not directly charge for this service, but times have changed, and so must its policies. Waste collection should collect as much in revenue as is reasonable to help offset the costs to administer the program.

If the new mayor and city council want to get real about passing a structurally balanced budget while not severely degrading the services it provides its residents and businesses, then there should be no question about whether or not to implement a PAYT system as quickly as possible. We cannot afford to let allow an $11.3 million hole sit in our budget.

Implementing a Pay As You Throw system will help structurally balance the city’s budget. It will help improve our environment and the health of our communities. And it will improve the lives for Cincinnati residents and businesses who demand high quality public services with the flexibility they desire in their day-to-day lives. And most importantly, it has the ability to do all of this in an equitable manner for all Cincinnatians.

Should Cincinnati revisit the idea of an aerial tram between Downtown and Mt. Adams?

One of Cincinnati’s most unique and beautiful geographic features is its hills. They provide wooded hillsides, scenic overlooks and breathtaking cityscapes, but they also provide a headache for transportation engineers looking to connect the city’s neighborhoods with one another. While not a new idea, would it be worthwhile for Cincinnati to explore running an aerial tram from Downtown/OTR (near the casino) to the difficult to reach Mt. Adams? More from EarthTechling:

The aerial tram concept may just offer a workable solution for cities the size of Austin, which tend to face some real hurdles in developing any sort of mass transit system beyond that trusty urban stand by, the bus. That’s because any type of light rail or street car proposal often comes up against the major costs (and legalities) of acquiring land rights, which can be a maddenly slow process, and an expensive one. If a city tries to circumvent some of that red tape by building a subway system underground, construction workers may rejoice at the years of guaranteed work, but taxpayers often balk at the costs

An aerial tram, in contrast, has far less of a physical footprint, requiring only space for riders to hop on and hop off. Take a ride on Portland’s aerial tram on a weekend, and it will become clear that they also tend to become tourist attractions — not only because of their relative novelty in American cities, but because of the great views they offer.

Tree Planting to Kick Off Great Outdoor Weekend

578645_200276843483475_449462613_nTrees are a vital part of the health of urban environments. They soak up air pollution, mitigate storm water runoff and provide additional health and aesthetic benefits. But lately anyone traveling on Cincinnati’s roads and highways can see an increased number of dead trees poking through the thick canopy of brush on the side or the road or along the trails of Cincinnati forests such as Mt. Airy Forest.  It is true, the amount of dead trees have been increasing over the past few years. This is all due to a small shiny green insect called the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

EAB, an invasive insect that arrived in the country by way of boat through Michigan has slowly been making its way south to Ohio and Kentucky. In some wooded areas, over 40% of the forest canopy has been killed off due to this tiny pest.

This morning, the Green Partnership for Greater Cincinnati (GPGC), Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), Green Umbrella, and the Cincinnati Zoo launch an initiative called Taking Root, which is aiming to plant trees in an effort to combat the decline of forests from EAB. Although only 12 trees will be planted at this morning’s event, the goal is to plant 2 million trees by 2020.

“The environmental, economic, and social benefits of trees is massive to our region. We live in an area that has always been and wants to be a forest,” Scott Beuerlein, Taking Root campaign leader told UrbanCincy, “There’s not much we can do about ash.”

According to research Cincinnati has lost 10% of its forest canopy due to EAB. The costs are equal to about $3.2 million in storm water management, air pollution mitigation, and energy costs.

The event, which will start this morning at Eden Park, will kick off the larger scale Great Outdoor Weekend, which is now in its tenth year. Great Outdoor Weekend will take place this Saturday and Sunday.  There are eight venues within the city including the Civic Garden Center, Park + Vine, and the Cincinnati Museum Center. The events are geared towards educating attendees on sustainability, rooftop gardening and of course tree planting. More events will be hosted throughout the Cincinnati region.

As  Beuerlein explained to UrbanCincy, “The main goal of the Great Outdoor Weekend is to connect Cincinnatians with outdoor recreation and nature education opportunities in their neighborhood, and create relationships there. These relationships have a mutual benefit: citizens have a way to learn, relax, exercise, make friends, entertain their kids, and connect to nature.”