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by 02.02.2011
Posted In: News, Congress, Republicans at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

John Boehner, Tabloid Cover Boy

Less than a month after he was sworn into office as House Speaker, the long-rumored extramarital affairs of John Boehner have landed him on the cover of the National Enquirer.

Boehner is featured on the bottom-right corner of the cover of the issue that's on sale nationwide Thursday. A photo of Boehner's face is featured next to the headline, “Speaker of the House John Boehner Accused in Sex Probe! (Details inside).”

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by German Lopez 09.20.2012
Posted In: Courts, News, Business at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Procter & Gamble Sued for Religious Discrimination

P&G and contractor allegedly fired Muslim worker who was humiliated by coworker

Two Cincinnati-based companies are facing a lawsuit over the termination of a former Muslim worker. The lawsuit, filed in an North Carolina court Monday, claims a woman named Safa Elhassan was fired from Procter & Gamble facilities after facing discrimination in the workplace.

Elhassan worked for P&G through XLC Services, a Cincinnati-based company that provides manufacturing services and warehouse management to other companies, at P&G facilities in Guilford County, N.C. 

The lawsuit charges P&G and XLC with religious harassment, religious discrimination, failing to accommodate after religious discrimination in the workplace, national origin discrimination, sexual discrimination, two counts of retaliation, negligence, unfair and deceptive trade practices, assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The lawsuit tells the story that led to the charges as follows: Elhassan, who wears a hijab and wedding ring for religious reasons, was employed at P&G’s facilities through XLC between 2004 and Sept. 16, 2011. During her employment, Elhassan followed P&G rules and regulations and kept “a performance record which was satisfactory or better.”

However, Elhassan was unaware of a company policy that banned jewelry in the workplace, even jewelry of religious significance. This policy was mostly not a problem for Elhassan because, as the lawsuit claims, “Other employees of different religions and national origins routinely wear jewelry under clothing and/or protective wear and are not punished or searched.”

That is until a woman named Ernestine Wilson allegedly approached Elhassan, forcibly searched Elhassan for her wedding ring and removed Elhassan’s hijab in front of coworkers, including men, according to the suit. Under Islam’s rules, a woman uses a hijab, which is a religious head and neck wrap, to maintain sexual modesty, and being exposed without a hijab to men who are not family is a major offense and source of humiliation.

Elhassan reported the forced search to higher-ups at XLC. After a few meetings, Wilson provided an apology, according to the lawsuit, but Elhassan claimed the apology was insincere because Wilson kept telling coworkers that she hoped Elhassan was fired. After Elhassan refused to accept the apology, she was suspended then fired, allegedly under the orders of P&G.

The lawsuit suggests that Wilson's actions were potentially connected to another workplace incident. The lawsuit says Elhassan was sexually harassed in the past by George (no last name provided), a man with whom Wilson was allegedly “engaged in a friendly, physical, and/or romantic relationship." Elhassan reported the incident, which got George fired. The lawsuit claims Wilson’s actions were in retaliation to George’s termination.

Since Wilson did work for P&G through XLC, Elhassan blames both P&G and XLC for the damages. The lawsuit claims she was unfairly fired in retaliation for not accepting Wilson’s apology. It also alleges that XLC forced Elhassan to sign a document she did not understand upon her termination without her lawyer present, even though Elhassan asked to have her lawyer read the document. The document, which P&G officials were supposedly aware of, allegedly sought to release P&G and XLC of any wrongdoing related to the termination.

Mary Ralles, spokesperson for P&G, responded to the lawsuit in an email: “As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on pending litigation, but I did want to make one correction. The individual was not (or ever) a P&G employee.”

The distinction Ralles made is that Elhassan was not officially employed by P&G, but she did work for P&G through her employment at XLC.

XLC could not be immediately reached for comment. This story will be updated if a comment becomes available.

by 01.17.2009
Posted In: 2008 Election, News at 09:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

More Inauguration Coverage and Profiteering

CityBeat's inauguration page now includes a link to our alt weekly colleagues in D.C., the Washington City Paper, which features a huge inauguration guide for the millions of people already descending on their city. City Paper staffers are sending out constant updates on Twitter and a group blog, Inbloguration, including this multimedia gem from about an hour ago: "Here's a semi-live feed from my basement in Petworth, where whiskey-swilling guests collaborated on an unconscionably patriotic version of 'The Weight.' "

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by German Lopez 08.08.2012
Posted In: News, Human Rights, Sex at 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ohio AG Releases Disturbing Human Trafficking Report

Most common buyers of trafficking victims were law enforcement

The Ohio Attorney General’s office today released a report on human trafficking in Ohio which found that out of 328 self-identified human trafficking victims, more than one-third were trafficked while they were minors.

The victims were taken from all around Ohio, including Cincinnati. The report found that 63 percent of the victims had run away from home at least once, 59 percent reported having friends involved in selling, 47 percent were raped more than a year before being trafficked and 44 percent reported to be victims of child abuse.

In Cincinnati, the most common risk factors reported were dropping out of school and having an older boyfriend. Rape was third with 40 percent of Cincinnati victims reporting being raped.

In all of Ohio, the most common buyers for victims were law enforcement. Businessmen and drug dealers were second and third, respectively. In Cincinnati, the most common buyers were drug dealers, followed by factory workers, then truckers.

The report highlights the severity of human trafficking in Ohio. A 2010 report by the same commission found that 1,000 American-born youth had been trafficked in Ohio over the course of the year, and as many as 3,000 American-born youth in Ohio were at risk for trafficking.

Since the 2010 report, Gov. John Kasich has signed H.B. 262 into law, which outlaws human trafficking and enforces tougher rules.

However, the commission does not believe current law is enough, and it’s pushing for more rules against human trafficking. The new rules would identify trafficking as child abuse, place a focus on arresting and convicting buyers and invest in responding to adult sex trafficking. The commission also wants a better response to youth runaways, and it wants to establish better protocols for dealing with at-risk youth, especially in correspondence with school officials.

When contacted by CityBeat, the Ohio Attorney General’s office said they have no suggestions to specifically deal with law enforcement officials, which topped the list of buyers, who are involved in human trafficking.

The report was issued by the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission. It was authored by commission member Celia Williamson, who is also a professor at the University of Toledo. The full report can be found here.

by German Lopez 10.05.2012
Posted In: Prisons, News, Government at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
Liberty for Sale

Private Prison Violates State Rules

Audit finds Northeast Ohio prison in compliance with only two-thirds of state standards

A recent audit of the Ohio prison bought by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) found the private prison is only meeting 66.7 percent of the state’s standards. The report found a total of 47 violations in the CCA-owned prison, which the state government sold to CCA last year as part of a privatization push set out in Ohio’s 2012-13 budget.

The news comes slightly more than two weeks after CityBeat published a story looking at the many problems presented by Ohio’s policy to privatize prisons (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19).

“It was apparent throughout certain departments that DRC policy and procedure is not being followed,” the audit said. “Staff was interviewed and some stated they are not sure what to do because of the confusion between CCA policy and DRC policy. Some staff expressed safety concerns due to low staffing numbers and not having enough coverage. Other staff stated that there is increased confusion due to all the staffing transitions.”

The report says “there has been a big staff turnover,” and only one staff person was properly trained to meet Ohio Risk Assessment System standards. The audit found that a workplace violence liaison wasn’t appointed or trained. Inmates complained they felt unsafe and that staff “had their hands tied’” and “had little control over some situations.”

The local fire plan had no specific steps to release inmates from locked areas in case of emergency, and local employees said “they had no idea what they should do” in case of a fire emergency.

The audit also found all housing units provided less than the required 25 square feet on unencumbered space per occupant. It found single watch cells held two prisoners with some sleeping on the floor, and some triple-bunked cells had a third inmate sleeping on a mattress on the floor. 

Searches in general seemed to be a problem for CCA. Documentation showed that contraband searches were only done 16 days in August. When the searches were done, the contraband was not properly processed to the vault and was sometimes left in desks. The private prison also could not provide documentation that proved executive staff were conducting weekly rounds to informally observe living and working conditions among inmates and staff.

These findings, although major, are only the tip of the iceberg: Inmates claimed laundry and cell cleaning services were not provided and CCA could not prove otherwise, recreation time was not always allowed five times a week in segregation as required, food quality and sanitization was not up to standards, infirmary patients were “not seen timely,” patients’ doctor appointments were often delayed with follow-ups rarely occurring, the facility had no written confined space program, the health care administrator could not explain or show an overall plan and nursing competency evaluations were not completed before the audit was conducted. Many more issues were found as well.

The one bright spot in the report is ODRC found staff to be “very professional, friendly and helpful during the audit.” Inmates were also “dressed appropriately and found to be wearing their identification badges.”

The findings shine some light into why ODRC Director Gary Mohr might have decided to stop privatizing Ohio’s prisons. On Sept. 25 — the same day the audit was mailed to Mohr’s office — Mohr announced his department would focus on sentencing reforms to bring down recidivism instead of saving costs by privatizing more prisons. The news came during the week CityBeat’s cover story on private prisons was in stands.

Mohr is one of many in Gov. John Kasich’s administration to have previous connections to CCA. He advised the private prison company “in areas of staff leadership, and development and implementing unit management,” according to the ODRC website. Donald Thibaut, Kasich’s former chief of staff and close friend, now lobbies for CCA. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine also helped CCA reopen its Youngstown facility in 2004 with a federal contract during his term as U.S. senator.

The report confirms a lot of what CityBeat found in its in-depth look at private prisons. The studies cited in CityBeat’s Sept. 17 story — including research by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio — found multiple issues in private prisons’ standards around the country. One study by George Washington University found private prisons have a 50 percent higher rate of inmate-on-staff assault and a 66 percent higher rate of inmate-on-inmate assault. The troubling numbers were attributed to lower standards at private prisons that keep costs low and profits high.

The lower standards are coupled with a private prison’s need to house as many inmates as possible, contrary to public interests of keeping re-entry to prisons low.

“It doesn’t make any difference to them whether or not a person eventually integrates back into society,” said Mike Brickner, communications and public policy director at ACLU. “Looking from a cynical approach, it actually helps them if that person (is convicted again) because they come back into their prison and they get money off them again.”

Poor living and health standards were also found in a Youngstown prison held by CCA in the 1990s. In 1997, the Youngstown prison was opened by CCA to house 1,700 of the nation’s most dangerous criminals. Within one year, 20 prisoners were stabbed, two were murdered and six escaped. The ensuing public outrage led to higher standards at the facility. The more stringent rules were credited for leading to the prison’s eventual closing as the facility was quickly made unprofitable for CCA.

Steve Owen, spokesperson for CCA, responded to the audit in a statement: “CCA is taking concrete corrective steps to ensure that this facility meets not only the ODRC's goals but our own high expectations for our facilities. We are working in partnership with the ODRC on a development plan, which will lay out a road map to meet our goals, and our team will meet bi-weekly with ODRC staff and officials until we have this matter resolved.”

by German Lopez 11.07.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Voting at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
barack obama 2

Election Results 2012

Democrats, progressives make gains all around nation

A version of this article was originally published in Morning News and Stuff, but to wrap up this year's overly long election coverage, we figured it would be a good idea to republish the results as a standalone article. You're welcome!

The election is finally over. All election results for Ohio can be viewed at the secretary of state's website. All results for Hamilton County can be viewed at the Hamilton County Board of Elections website.

President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in what can only be called an electoral college landslide. He won every single “battleground state” on CNN’s electoral map with the current exception of Florida, although the current lead and remaining demographics to be counted will likely tilt Florida to Obama. Despite the insistence of conservatives and mainstream media pundits, models like FiveThirtyEight that predicted a big Obama win were entirely accurate.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown also handily beat Republican challenger Josh Mandel. CityBeat covered the policy and campaign differences between the two candidates in coverage of the first, second and third debate and a cover story.

For the First U.S. Congressional District, Republican incumbent Steve Chabot beat Democratic challenger Jeff Sinnard.

The big takeaway from election night at a federal level: Billions of dollars spent on campaigns later, the U.S. House of Representatives remains in Republican hands, the U.S. Senate remains in Democratic hands and the White House remains in Democratic hands. In other words, billions of dollars were spent to change almost nothing.

At the state level, Issue 1, which called for a constitutional convention, lost. But Issue 2, which was an attempt at redistricting reform, lost as well. CityBeat covered the rise and details of Issue 2 in a story and commentary.

In the state’s legislature races, incumbents swept. Republican Bill Seitz beat Democrat Richard Luken for the eighth district of the Ohio Senate. Republican Peter Stautberg beat Democrat Nathan Wissman for the 27th district of the Ohio House. Democrat Connie Pillich beat Republican Mike Wilson for the 28th district of the Ohio House. Republican Louis Blessing beat Democrat Hubert Brown for the 29th district of the Ohio House. Republican Lou Terhar beat Democrat Steven Newsome for the 30th district of the Ohio House. Democrat Denise Driehaus beat Republican Michael Gabbard for the 31st district of the Ohio House. Democrat Dale Mallory beat Republican Ron Mosby for the 32nd district of the Ohio House. Democrat Alicia Reece beat Republican Tom Bryan for the 33rd district of the Ohio House. 

For the Ohio Supreme Court, Republican Terrence O’Donnell kept his seat against Mike Skindell. But Democrat William O’Neill beat Republican incumbent Robert Cupp, and Republican Sharon Kennedy beat Democratic incumbent Yvette Brown.

At the local level, Issue 4, which gives City Council four-year terms, was approved. Issue 42, which renewed a tax levy for Cincinnati Public Schools, passed. Issue 50, a tax levy for senior health services, was approved. Issue 51, a tax levy for mental health services, was approved. 

In Hamilton County offices, things got a bit more blue overall. Republican incumbent Joe Deters beat Democrat Janaya Trotter for the prosecutor attorney’s office. Democrat Pam Thomas beat Republican incumbent Tracy Winkler for the office of the clerk of the court of common pleas. Democrat Jim Neil beat Republican Sean Donovan for the sheriff's office. Democratic incumbent Wayne Coates beat Republican Wayne Lippert for the county recorder's office. Republican incumbent Robert Goering barely beat Democrat Jeff Cramerding for the county treasurer's office. Democratic incumbent Lakshmi Sammarco beat Republican Pete Kambelos for the county coroner's office.

In the lower courts, Republican incumbent Pat Fischer beat Democrat Martha Good and Republican Pat DeWine beat Democrat Bruce Whitman for the First District Court of Appeals. Democratic incumbent Nadine Allen and Republican Leslie Ghiz beat Democrat Stephen Black and Republican Heather Russel for the court of common pleas.

In other states, gay marriage and marijuana were legalized. Minnesota voted against a same-sex marriage ban. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin also became the first openly gay candidate to win election for the U.S. Senate. Overall, the night was a big win for progressives all around the country.

by German Lopez 08.22.2012
Posted In: News, Media Criticism, Education at 11:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Why Did UC’s President Step Down?

Williams out after three years, 'Enquirer' publisher/UC board member doesn't know why

University of Cincinnati President Greg Williams stepped down yesterday. According to reports, Williams walked into a UC Board of Trustees meeting, announced he was resigning effective immediately and left.

Greg Hand, spokesperson for UC, said Williams resigned for “personal reasons.” No further explanation was provided by Williams.

Santa Ono, UC provost, is taking over temporarily as interim president. In a tweet, he promised to give the university 150 percent.

Williams was at UC since 2009. A year after arriving, he introduced his UC2019 plan. The plan seeks to make the university into a top school by 2019. The plan also implied Williams had long-term plans for UC, making his abrupt resignation even stranger.

The Board of Trustees seemed happy with Williams — at least happy enough to give him a raise. On Sept. 20, 2011, the Board gave Williams a $41,000 raise, bringing his salary up to $451,000. He also got a $102,500 bonus.

The news took UC students by surprise. Lane Hart, student body president at UC, told the school's independent student newspaper, The News Record, he was “shocked” when he heard the news. 

To give credit where credit is due, when The Cincinnati Enquirer first reported the story, the newspaper mentioned that Margaret Buchanan, president and publisher at The Enquirer, is on the UC Board of Trustees. However, The Enquirer did not mention asking Buchanan about the resignation — an omission that raised questions for Jim Romenesko, a popular journalism blogger. Since then, The Enquirer emailed Romenesko saying Buchanan did not know any extra information.

Buchanan's ties to local groups the newspaper frequently covers have failed to be disclosed in the past. Previously, CityBeat found in stories related to 3CDC, which Buchanan is also involved in as a member of the executive committee, The Enquirer overwhelmingly failed to report the possible conflict of interest. The newspaper only reported the connection one out of 32 times, although the number could be inflated due to The Enquirer’s system of posting duplicate articles. In one particular story, The Enquirer praised 3CDC but failed to bring up Buchanan’s role overseeing publicity and marketing there.

by Kevin Osborne 04.26.2012
Posted In: News, Environment, Family at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Cincinnati is 8th Worst for Air Pollution

Lung Association: Region is slowly improving

Cincinnati and Hamilton County fared poorly on a national list of places with polluted air that was released Wednesday.

The Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington metropolitan region ranked as the eighth-worst for air particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County was given an “F” grade for its number of high ozone days, and a “D” grade for air particle pollution by the Lung Association.

The rankings were included in the group’s “State of the Air 2012” report. The annual air quality report grades cities and counties based, in part, on the color-coded Air Quality Index developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to alert the public to daily unhealthy air conditions.

The 13th annual report uses the most recent, quality-controlled EPA data collected from 2008-10 from official monitors for ozone and particle pollution, the two most widespread types of air pollution. Counties are graded for ozone, year-round particle pollution and short-term particle pollution levels. Also, the report uses the EPA’s calculations for year-round particle levels.

Generally, the report found that air quality in America’s most polluted cities was at its cleanest since the organization’s annual report began 13 years ago. This year’s report details the trend that standards set under the Clean Air Act to cleanup major air pollution sources — including coal-fired power plants, diesel engines, and SUVs — are working to drastically cut ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot) from the air. Despite this progress, unhealthy levels of air pollution still exist and in some parts of the nation worsened.

More than 40 percent of people in the United States live in areas where air pollution continues to threaten their health. That means more than 127 million people are living in counties with dangerous levels of either ozone or particle pollution that can cause wheezing and coughing, asthma attacks, heart attacks or premature death.

The Cincinnati region ranked 21st for high ozone days out of 277 metropolitan areas. Also, it ranked 39th for 24-hour air particle pollution.

Still, the region is improving. The region has had 19.4 fewer high ozone days annually on average since 1996, and 10 fewer high-particle pollution days since 2000.
by Hannah McCartney 05.23.2012
Posted In: State Legislature, News at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Ohio Supreme Court Rules Smoking Ban Constitutional

Judge rejects Columbus restaurant's argument that ban is "oppressive"

Since 2006, the Ohio Smoke-Free Workplace Act has banned indoor smoking at public establishments and places of employment, making Ohio the first Midwestern state to enact a state-wide ban. Despite controversy and contestment, that ban will continue to be enforced statewide.

The owner of Zeno's Victorian Village in Columbus who attempted to combat the law was shut down by a unanimous 7-0 vote in the Ohio Supreme Court today, which ruled that the state's six-year smoking ban is constitutional. 

Ohio's ban affects some 280,000 establishments across the state of Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). 

According to the Supreme Court of Ohio's case summary, Zeno's was cited 10 times for violations of the ban from July 2007 and September 2009, receiving multiple fines, none of which were paid. In protest of the violations, the director of the ODH filed a complaint against Bartec Inc., the corporate entity that owns Zeno's, requesting the bar to pay all outstanding fines.

Bartec and legal representative 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a nonprofit legal center, asserted that the smoking ban was unconstitutional, a violation of the state's policing powers and  that prohibiting smoking in an adults-only liquor-licensed establishment such as Zeno’s is "unduly oppressive," according to the case summary.

The ban and its enforcement, argued Bartec, constitutes an unlawful taking of property, meaning an improper confiscation of the owner’s control of the indoor air.

"The goal of this legislation is to protect the health of the workers and other citizens of Ohio. ...  It does so by regulating proprietors of public places and places of employment in a minimally invasive way.  We therefore hold that the Smoke Free Act does not constitute a taking,” wrote Justice Lanzinger in her opinion.

In her written opinion, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger also cited 2002 Supreme Court decision, D.A.B.E., Inc. v. Toledo-Lucas Cty. Bd. of Health:

"We have previously stated that the General Assembly has the authority to enact a public-smoking ban. ... Although the Smoke Free Act was ultimately passed pursuant to a ballot initiative, the voters of Ohio also have a legitimate purpose in protecting the general welfare and health of Ohio citizens and workforce from the dangers of secondhand smoke in enclosed public places.  By requiring that proprietors of public places and places of employment take reasonable steps to prevent smoking on their premises by posting ‘no smoking’ signs, removing ashtrays, and requesting patrons to stop smoking, the act is rationally related to its stated objective.”

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the bar owes the state approximately $33,00 in violation fines, and the state has threatened to seize and foreclose the bar if the fines aren't paid.

See how Ohio's public smoking laws compare to those in other states across the U.S. here.

by Kevin Osborne 12.09.2011
Posted In: News, Media, Financial Crisis, Business at 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

More Metromix Outlets Close

The Denver Post reported Thursday that Metromix, a series of entertainment websites owned by Enquirer parent Gannett Co., is closing its localized websites in seven cities.

Metromix is closing its website operations in Denver, Atlanta, Cleveland, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Tampa and Washington, D.C. Each of the markets is where Gannett owns a television station but not a newspaper.

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Latest Blogs
by Nick Swartsell 11.24.2015 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Thanksgiving family argument fodder galore!

Hey Cincy. Hope you’re winding down your work week. It’s T-minus two days 'til turkey time, which also happens to be my birthday this year. I’m hyped for both. Oh, and if you want to get your favorite reporter a b-day gift, I’ll take a pair of these in size 8.5 thx. Huh. Now you know my shoe size, which is kind of creepy.

But here’s something awesome: There will be tons of political fodder for you to argue awkwardly about around the dinner table with your family this Thanksgiving. Consider this news update your guide to all the best terrible conversations you’ll be having soon.

• You can start with something mild, like debating whether or not Mayor John Cranley should have gotten off the hook for his election-day outburst at a polling location in Avondale. OK, “outburst” is a little harsh. The Cran-man just got a bit over-enthusiastic about Issue 22, the parks tax proposal, and shouted out that people should vote yes on it a couple times. Who doesn’t like to see enthusiasm for the democratic process? But uh, campaigning and telling people how to vote in a polling place is pretty firmly against the rules, especially when you’re a political figure. Despite that, the Hamilton County Board of Elections yesterday announced that it will not be seeking any penalties against the mayor for his breach of the rules. Pollworker Mary Siegel argued that the BOE should start cracking down on such electioneering infractions in the future, because the rules are rarely enforced now.

• If the ensuing argument about that doesn’t heat things up while you’re waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, try talking with your conservative Uncle Jeff about the University of Cincinnati white student union that was set up on Facebook a few days ago. The group’s posts feature prognosticating on how “European Americans” face special challenges on campus and in society in general and other nonsensical claptrap designed to draw people into useless race-related Internet debates. Anyway, the page is almost certainly fake, set up in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a plan hatched on a national white supremacist message board. The UC-themed page uses language almost identical to similar sites across the country, many of the likes on the page’s posts come from out of town Facebook accounts and the whole thing comes across as a reminder not to feed the trolls. So, uh, don’t feed the trolls. Meanwhile, there are more serious and terrifying anti-Black Lives Matter incidents happening of late.

• Just a couple days after Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, dropped a bombshell by revealing he’s decided not to run for reelection, three Cincinnati City Council members are saying they’re considering running for his seat. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn have both expressed some interest, with Winburn saying he could switch from a planned run for county recorder to the commission race if the party wants him to. Murray has said she’ll take the Thanksgiving holiday to think it over before deciding, but is intrigued. Meanwhile, independent Christopher Smitherman has said he might run as a Republican for the seat. Whoever the Hamilton County GOP taps will face Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton, who is leaving the state House due to term limits.

• The second Cincinnati streetcar arrives today and will soon be making test trips around the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown. This argument pretty much scripts itself, so just say "streetcar" to your public transit-hating dad and watch the holiday magic unfold.

• Black leaders from across the state met yesterday at The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati headquarters in Avondale to discuss the state of black Ohio. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which includes local politicians State Sen. Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Alicia Reece, held the public meeting in part to discuss the wide disparities facing the black community here and across the state. Ohio ranks second-to-last in the nation in infant mortality rates, according to the caucus. Closer to home, the group singled out continued issues at the University of Cincinnati, which has been the site of serious racial dialogue around disparities in higher education. The group also discussed efforts toward police reform, which have been slow in coming even after several high-profile police shootings of unarmed black citizens here and a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich. You can read more about how activists are continuing to fight for those reforms in this week’s news feature.

• GOP presidential primary contender Donald Trump came to Ohio yesterday. He didn’t talk as much shit about Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he has in the past. Per usual, his speech was light on policy proposals and heavy on bombast. What else really needs to be said? His remarks to a crowd of 10,000 mostly focused on how the U.S. has become “soft and weak” (despite spending more on its military than all other countries combined) and about how he’s leading in all major polls (sadly, this claim is actually true). He also gave a shout out to waterboarding, the controversial torture technique once used by the U.S. to extract intelligence from terrorism suspects. Trump’s all for bringing it back. Another thing Trump likes, according to his hour-long remarks: lists. As in, lists of people who are Muslim, which Trump thinks should be compiled by the federal government. Thanksgiving family debate difficulty level: black diamond.

• Finally, Indiana Governor Mike Pence faces a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union over his refusal to take in Syrian refugees. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, the Indianapolis nonprofit that handles refugee resettlement for the state. Pence pressured that organization to turn away Syrian refugees earlier this month. The ACLU says in doing so, he violated both the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. This would be a great topic to discuss with your cousin Tami, who has that Gadsen flag bumper sticker on her Hummer.

That’s it for me. Later!

by Nick Swartsell 11.20.2015 9 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

National Transgender Remembrance Day; why Owens left Cincy State; Kasich and Trump trolling hard on Twitter

Good morning all. Hope you’re hyped for the weekend. I’m going to see Jens Lekman at the Woodward tonight, so I totally am. Music isn’t my beat and you should probably just read our article on the show after we talk about news. But for now, let’s get to it.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT rights organization, has established today as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day designed to draw attention to the often-forgotten violence faced by transgender people in America. At least 98 hate crimes against people based on their gender identity were reported in 2014, according to FBI hate crimes statistics. This year, trans people have been victims of nearly two dozen murders. Trans people in Cincinnati are no exception and face harsh violence, even murder.

• Why did former Cincinnati State President O’dell Owens leave so suddenly back in September? Turns out the answer is partly about money and partly about interpersonal politics, as so many answers are. Owens, who was once Hamilton County coroner and now serves as the director of the Cincinnati Health Department, was being asked to undertake 10 in-person fundraising meetings a week on behalf of the college. That fundraising schedule is unusual, education experts say. Other duties generally given to a college president were in the process of being assigned to a newly hired chief operating officer.

Despite exceeding his fundraising goals — Owens says he raised $1.73 million last  year, hundreds of thousands of dollars more than he was expected to raise — and gaining praise from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Owens says he continued to receive pushback from some of the college’s board members. The tension culminated in an angry phone call from board chair Cathy Crain. Owens says Crain raised her voice to him in a call about a statement he made to the Cincinnati Enquirer on a possible tax levy for the school. After that incident, he began to consider leaving Cincinnati State. More money, more problems, or something.

• So, Cincinnati is definitely living in the age of re-urbanization, with more folks flocking back to the city. But while the general stereotype is that young professionals drive the demand for urban living spaces, it looks like baby boomers hitting retirement age are pushing a condo boom in Cincinnati as well. Older folks are interested in living in the city after their kids (finally) move out and they don’t need quite so much space, some developers say. Increased demand from empty nesters has informed new condo projects in places like Hyde Park. Side note: When I first saw the headline of that WCPO article, I read it as “condor demand picks up” and thought owning a bird of prey was some new hipster, Royal Tenenbaums-throwback thing I missed.

• As a journalist I’m supposed to be cold and dead inside without preference or favoritism for anything. I generally do OK with that, but if I have two weak spots, they are bicycles and beer. So I might not be qualified to report on this next thing objectively, but here goes: Cincinnati’s Fifty West Brewing Co. is expanding and, in the process, folding in the Oakley Cycles shop, a high-end bicycle retailer that will move from Observatory Avenue to Fifty West’s campus in Columbia Township. Fifty West and Oakley Cycles representatives both say they’re looking to provide a new, community-oriented experience for visitors while taking advantage of the Fifty West facility’s proximity to local bike trails. Fifty West will also be expanding capacity to brew four times as much beer as it does now. This is all pretty great.

• What else is happening? GOP presidential primary contender and perennially red-faced and slightly sweaty verbal combatant Donald Trump has set his sights on equally red-faced and sweaty fellow Republican candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The two have been having a war of words via Twitter, which… well, that’s where we’re at as a country these days and I’m really just too depressed to continue typing about this. Check it out if you want.

Kasich has also drawn some attention for his suggestion that the United States create a federal government agency charged with spreading Judeo-Christian values across the globe. That sounds like a great plan that has absolutely zero constitutional or moral problems, right? Once again, I’m just going to let you read the story.

• Finally, a small group of Syrian refugees resettled in Kentucky this week despite political furor over such resettlements after the attacks on Paris last week by ISIS. Most of the eight attackers were French or Belgian, but at least one Syrian passport was found at the scene of one of the attacks, fueling apprehensions that some of the four million refugees fleeing Syria are allied with ISIS, the militant Islamic group that has claimed control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would add extra levels of scrutiny to Iraqi and Syrian refugees before they can resettle in the United States on top of the U.S. State Department’s already months- or years-long vetting process. Those new requirements would effectively halt refugee resettlement of those groups in the U.S. The bill faces stiff opposition in the Senate, and President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it should it pass there. The House’s version of the bill passed with a veto-proof two-thirds majority. The Senate would need to pass it with a similar margin to override Obama’s veto ability.

If you’re interested in learning more about the refugee resettlement process from the perspective of an Iraqi family that settled in Cincinnati, check out our cover story earlier this year on refugees here.

I’m out. Enjoy your weekend!

by Nick Swartsell 11.19.2015 10 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Ben Carson visits Cincy, says gov't makes people poor; FBI investigates sewer district; Issue 3 organizer: weird weed-headed mascot was a mistake

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

You might’ve missed it entirely, but GOP presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was in Cincinnati last night. He was speaking at a private event at Music Hall and didn’t really hit the town much or give public stump speeches. But he did chat with press outside the Cincinnatian Hotel downtown for a moment after his speech, where he told reporters that the answer to struggles with poverty in cities like ours is less government regulation. Carson said regulations on businesses and the finance industry keep prices high and interest rates low, meaning the poor pay more for everyday goods and don’t get returns on interest collected from things like savings accounts.

“It doesn’t hurt rich people when they go into a store and a bar of soap costs 10 cents more. It hurts poor people,” he said. Carson also talked about why he opposes Syrian refugees coming into the United States and concerns about his lack of foreign policy knowledge, which have been floated by his own advisers recently. Carson scoffed at the suggestion that his lack of world knowledge makes him unprepared to be president, saying he’s visited 57 countries and that he has “common sense and a brain.”

Hey Ben. I’ve been to Canada a few times and also possess a human brain of sorts. Make me an ambassador to our neighbors up north after you get elected, eh? Carson is polling second in Ohio in the GOP presidential primary race behind Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is polling third in his own dang state. Ohio's primary is in March.

• Speaking of the sad plight of Syrian refugees, a group of about 15 protesters gathered outside Cincinnati City Hall to protest statements made by Mayor John Cranley earlier this week asking the federal government to pause resettlement efforts for those refugees in the U.S. Cranley has since apologized for upsetting people with that statement, but has also defended his point — that federal officials should place a moratorium on Syrian refugee resettlement in Cincinnati and elsewhere in the country until they can guarantee safety for citizens. Cranley, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a number of other mostly Republican governors, is concerned that terrorists from ISIS could slip into refugee populations making their way into the United States.

• A group of about 30 students representing University of Cincinnati’s activist group the Irate8 held a silent protest yesterday on UC’s campus to advocate for racial equity there. The demonstration came in the wake of UC’s response to the group’s list of 10 demands. The Irate8 came together after the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing is currently awaiting trial on murder charges. The Irate8 has issued a list of 10 demands and timelines for UC administrators. That list includes substantive reforms to UC’s policing practices, including removal of officers at the scene of the DuBose shooting from active patrols, and efforts to double UC’s enrollment of black students. Currently, black students make up 8 percent of UC’s student body, even though Cincinnati as a city is 45 percent black. The university responded earlier this week to that list of demands, but activists say the response is too general and doesn’t set forth concrete action steps or deadlines.

• The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Metropolitan Sewer District made improper payments of taxpayer money to outside contractors. Those contracts, handled by the city, are worth up to $35 million a year. That’s caused Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel and other county officials to question whether the city is running the MSD properly. Cincinnati operates the MSD, but it’s owned by the county. Memos from City Manager Harry Black to Cincinnati City Council detail what Black believed to be inefficiencies in the contracting process, including jobs that might have been awarded without proper competitive bidding. However, those memos don’t say anything about legal improprieties. It’s unclear which specific contracts the FBI is investigating. The city and county’s sewer district has faced a lot of scrutiny in recent years, mostly thanks to a $3.2 billion, federal court-ordered restructuring project MSD is currently undertaking.

• Two Cincinnati-based state representatives are working on an effort to increase accountability for the state’s law enforcement officers in the wake of controversy around police-involved shootings in this city and around the country. State Reps. Alicia Reece, a Democrat, and Jonathan Dever, a Republican, are pushing a new bill that would create a written, publicly available statewide standard for investigating police-involved shootings across Ohio. That standard would require a report from investigators no more than 30 days after a police shooting happens, and if no indictment is handed down for the officer, that report would be immediately made public. The bill is one of many expected to come from a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich earlier this year in response to controversial police shootings throughout the state. Lawmakers say they hope to have preliminary hearings on the bill before the end of the year.

• Finally, we all make mistakes. Some of us lock ourselves out of the house without our keys and wallet because we’re so excited to get a bagel and some coffee. (Yes, I did that this morning.) But some among us take bigger risks, so the mistake possibilities are much higher and more interesting. The group pushing ballot initiative Issue 3, for instance, created a creepy, weed-headed pitchman for their multi-million-dollar effort. Ian James, one of the heads of marijuana legalization effort ResponsibleOhio, admitted that Buddie, the caped crusader of weed legalization and ResponsibleOhio’s mascot, was probably not a great idea. Seriously. Dude’s head was a giant, dank bud. I had nightmares. James also said the idea of limiting growth of marijuana to 10 grow sites owned by ResponsibleOhio investors in the group’s ballot proposal was also a mistake. In the letter, James promised that pro-pot organizers with the group would be back with an improved ballot initiative next year to again try and get weed legalized in Ohio.

That’s it for me. I have to go get coffee and a bagel now or I’m probably going to pass out.

by Nick Swartsell 11.18.2015 11 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley stands behind refugee resettlement comments; SORTA strike looking more likely; Kasich sinking in New Hampshire, poll shows

Morning all. Here’s the news today.

Mayor John Cranley has said he “feels horrible” about any unintended harm he may have caused in calling for a moratorium on Syrian refugees coming to Cincinnati, but is standing by the substance of his comments. Cranley also told The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday that he merely meant to suggest a “pause” on refugee resettlement here until safety concerns brought up by attacks in Lebanon, Egypt and France could be addressed. Cranley has joined Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other, mostly conservative, politicians across the country in calling for an at-least-temporary halt to Syrian refugee resettlement in the wake of those attacks. The U.S. has an extensive vetting process for refugees that can take anywhere from 18 months to multiple years, as CityBeat explored in this cover story about an Iraqi refugee family earlier this year. Meanwhile, a local Muslim group today decried statements by Cranley and Kasich, calling them “disturbing,” knee-jerk reactions that punish terror victims instead of preventing terrorism.

• Bus drivers for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority have taken another step closer to striking over a new bus proposal. A group of drivers yesterday attended a SORTA board meeting to protest higher health insurance payments as well as a plan that calls for smaller Metro buses operated by lower-paid drivers. Drivers with the Amalgamated Transit Union say decisions about that plan are being made without current SORTA drivers’ input. Those drivers say they should operate the smaller buses, instead of lower-paid drivers who can operate the smaller buses without a commercial driver’s license. Current Metro drivers top out at about $25 an hour; drivers of the smaller buses would start at $15 and top out just under $20 an hour. ATU members will vote on whether to strike over the new proposal at their Dec. 3 meeting. There are no bargaining meetings between the ATU and SORTA scheduled before that date.

• While that public transportation fight rages, some transit advocates will be partying tonight to celebrate the city’s first streetcar in 65 years. Streetcar advocates with All Aboard Ohio are throwing a free public party at Over-the-Rhine’s The Transept, a newly renovated church along the streetcar route, tonight starting at 6 p.m. The group has been one of the biggest voices in boosting the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown as well as other rail projects in Cincinnati. The event will feature free appetizers and a cash bar.

• Have you ever felt like this state needs more guns in daycare centers? If so, you're in luck, because that could become a reality with a new bill the Ohio House of Representatives just passed. The bill would allow concealed carry permit holders to have their guns in the aforementioned child care facilities, on college campuses and on private aircraft. Because nothing is more American than shooting a bald eagle out of the sky from the cockpit of your Leer Jet. The bill passed the house 63-25. Now it’s off to the Senate.

• As we’ve talked about before, GOP presidential primary hopeful and Ohio Gov. John Kasich has pinned his campaign’s continued viability on his performance in early primary state New Hampshire. Annnnnd… it’s not looking so great there right now, according to a poll conducted by a National Public Radio affiliate. In September, Kasich was polling at 45 percent favorability among GOP voters in the state. These days, however, just 33 percent of GOPers view him favorably. Meanwhile, his unfavorable percentage has gone up to 39 percent in the most recent Nov. 15 poll, a huge swell from the 21 percent who found him unfavorable in the September round of polling. He has stayed steady with voters who identify him as their first preference, however. In September, 7 percent of New Hampshire GOP voters said he was their first choice. The most recent poll found that number unchanged. Kasich lost a couple points with undecided voters in that same time period, however.

* Finally, GOP presidential frontrunner and manly mane mentor Donald Trump will stump in Columbus Monday. Grab your tickets now and maybe find a good book to read.

I’m out. Twitter. Email. You know how to reach me.

by Nick Swartsell 11.17.2015 12 days ago
Posted In: News, Immigration at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cranley Calls for U.S. Moratorium on Syrian Refugees

Cincinnati mayor joins Ohio Gov. John Kasich, other politicians in calls to halt resettlement in wake of ISIS attacks

Following attacks in Egypt, Beirut and Paris that killed hundreds, the United States should place a moratorium on Syrian refugees, Mayor John Cranley said in a Nov. 16 statement.

“I understand the dire circumstances Syrian refugees face because I personally visited a refugee camp in Jordan last summer,” Cranley said in that statement. “However, the federal government should halt its actions until the American people can be assured that exhaustive vetting has occurred.”

Cranley’s statement comes just two weeks after the roll-out of a program he says is designed to make Cincinnati the most welcoming city in the country for immigrants. At least one Syrian refugee family of nine has already settled in Cincinnati. But recent terrorist attacks have radically shifted the conversation around refugees in the U.S.

Bombings and shootings carried out by followers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Beirut and Egypt last week claimed hundreds of lives, and a subsequent attack in Paris killing 129 on Nov. 13 garnered new levels of attention for the terrorist group. Those attacks have led some politicians, including Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to oppose accepting Syrians into the country.

“I wouldn’t let them in unless we have a positive affirmation that they don’t have evil intent or that they’re associated with any group that would endanger the country,” Kasich said at a GOP presidential candidate summit in Florida the day after the Paris attacks. “We’re not bringing ISIS into this country.”

Kasich’s office has said the governor is looking into ways to refuse refugees coming to Ohio. Other Republican governors, including presidential primary contender Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, have also protested refugees arriving in their states. These protests are largely symbolic, however. Acceptance of refugees is a federal matter; governors and mayors have no formal say in resettlement policies.
At least eight people carried out the Paris attacks. Most were French, according to investigators, but at least two were from Syria.

After stepping into the chaos of an ongoing civil war in Syria initially sparked by dictator Bashar-al Assad, ISIS gained control of a swath of Syria and Iraq populated by about 8 million people. Last year, the group claimed it has caliphate status — that is, an Islamic state charged with upholding Islamic law. The group has murdered thousands as it seeks to consolidate power over portions of Syria and Iraq, driving an estimated 4 million Syrians out of the country as refugees.

Most of those refugees have taken shelter in nearby European states such as France and Germany. However, the United States has agreed to take on 10,000 of the fleeing Syrians.

Not all politicians have called for rejection of the refugees. Cincinnati City Council Democrats Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson decried Cranley’s move, calling for the city to welcome Syrians. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley asked that the Department of Homeland Security ensure the safety of U.S. citizens, but said the city would welcome immigrants.

“Should the decision be made to place refugees from any country in the city of Dayton, we will continue to be a leader in the welcoming movement and will champion inclusive communities that enable all residents to thrive," Whaley said in a Nov. 16 statement.

by Natalie Krebs 11.17.2015 12 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
metro plus bus

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley calls on Feds to stop accepting Syrian refugees; Ohio legislature to vote on defunding Planned Parenthood; Metro looks at smaller buses to improve service

Good morning! Here are your morning headlines. 

Mayor John Cranley yesterday joined a growing number of politicians across the U.S., including Ohio Governor John Kasich, in calling for the federal government to stop admitting Syrian refugees into the U.S. The push comes in the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks in Egypt, Lebanon and Paris, where one dead attacker was found with a Syrian passport. The U.S. pledged to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees in September amid the growing crisis overseas, which is just a tiny percentage of the more than 3 million Syrians have fled the country under the strain of the country's ongoing civil war. Cranley's announcement spurred immediate backlash from council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson, who released a joint statement saying refugees should be welcomed into the community and not vilified. Refugees are processed at the federal level and go through extensive criminal background and health checks before they are admitted into the U.S. The average waiting period is between 18 and 24 months. Just last month, Cranley announced a plan to make Cincinnati more immigrant-friendly, stating that immigrants can help boost the local economy and create jobs.  

• Things aren't looking good for Planned Parenthood at the Ohio State House. The GOP-majority legislature looks ready to vote to strip the health organization of $1.3 million dollars in state funding. The push against Planned Parenthood across the U.S. comes from unproven claims from anti-abortion groups that the Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue for profit. But the money that the state will likely vote to strip from Planned Parenthood doesn't go to abortion services, but to programs that do things like fund tests for sexually transmitted infections and find prenatal care for mothers. The decision will come just days after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to look at Texas laws, which have required that the state's abortion clinics adhere to new strict requirements like having admitting privileges to local hospitals. Ohio legislature has also passed tighter restrictions  on abortion clinics in the state modeled after laws in Texas' law forcing nearly half of the state's clinics to close.  

• The park levy may have lost on the ballot, but controversy around it lives on. The City of Cincinnati denied a taxpayer's lawsuit against the city's Parks Board because of private endowment money it spent on a pro-levy website. The lawsuit was filed by State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. (R-Mt. Lookout), who stated that the Parks Board violated the city charter when Director Willie Carden authorized $2,575 from the Parks Foundation last June to be spent on a website for the levy. The city charter states that no funds from the city can be used towards advocating for or against a candidate or proposal. The city denied the lawsuit on the grounds that all the money has been returned to the Cincinnati Parks Foundation.  

• Metro has a plan to bring bus service to some Cincinnati neighborhoods by using smaller buses, but that plan involves paying drivers of those buses less. That's ignited talks of a strike among SORTA's union. Metro's proposal comes shortly after the release of a University of Cincinnati Economics Center study that found that Metro's services were insufficient to connect commuters to 75,000 Cincinnati jobs. The proposed buses will go down routes where it services are needed, but the ridership is low. The mini-bus proposal is opposed by the union as it would permit the hiring of drivers without commercial licenses for lower wages. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority has proposed up to 31 percent of its route be served by mini-buses with a $15.47 an hour starting wage. 

• Miami University outside Cincinnati is second in the U.S. for the rate of students who study abroad. According to the Institute of International Education, Miami University sends 42 percent of its students packing at some point with its Luxembourg campus as the most popular place to go with the UK, Australia, Italy, Spain, Mexico and China ranking up there as well. The federal government also reports that the number students studying abroad is up by 2.1 percent across the nation. However, that number, at just 5.2 percent, still falls far behind Miami's impressive rate. The feds also reported a 10 percent increase in foreign students studying abroad in the U.S.    

Send story tips to nkrebs@citybeat.com!

by Nick Swartsell 11.16.2015 13 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Real estate deals heating up around I-71 interchange; still no trial date in DuBose shooting; Paris attacks already coloring 2016 presidential race

Hey Cincy. Good morning. Hope your weekend was chill. I got to eat some rad kimchi and embarrass myself via karaoke at a Korean restaurant. Fun times. Anyway. Here’s what’s going on around town and beyond today.

Things are getting hot around the new I-71 interchange being constructed in Walnut Hills and Avondale, with property and cash changing hands rapidly as the urban core’s first highway on- and off-ramp since the 1970s nears its spring 2016 completion date. Developer and controversial Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board member Shree Kulkarmi has cashed in on property around the forthcoming highway interchange, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. Two companies controlled by Kulkarmi, Uptown Partners LLC and Beecher Investments LLC, sold 16 properties around the new interchange to another limited liability corporation listed at the same address as Neyer Properties, Inc., one of the city’s largest property developers. In doing so, Kulkarmi doubled his money. Property records show the developer paid about $636,000 for the properties; they sold for more than $1.3 million. Since 2013, Kulkarmi has spent $865,000 purchasing 22 properties around the interchange. Other developers have also been rushing for properties in the area. Nonprofit development corporation Uptown Consortium Inc. has spent nearly $12 million on 100 properties in the area, the first step in constructing what it envisions as an “innovation corridor” along Reading Road.

• Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing still doesn’t have a trial date related to murder charges he faces for the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose. Tensing had a pretrial hearing this morning, but a county judge said the discovery, or evidence-gathering, phase of prosecution is still ongoing, delaying the actual trial. His next pretrial hearing will be Dec. 15.

• Oops. The medical records of more than 1,000 UC Health patients were accidentally emailed to an unauthorized email address nine times since August 2014, the health provider says. The compromised information includes patient names, medical record numbers and diagnosis records. UC Health has said it has fixed the problem, which it has attributed to an email glitch.

• Before he peaced out on his ultra-powerful perch as speaker of the House of Representatives last month, John Boehner had been in office longer than I’ve been alive. So what’s a former powerbroker once only a couple heartbeats away from the presidency to do in his retirement? Golf? A few extra rounds in the tanning bed? A few glasses of red wine followed by a good cry? Probably all of the above for Boehner, but also, some soul-searching about what state he should buy a car in, the fact he hasn’t driven in nine years and figuring out how he’s going to get by with “hardly any” staff members to help him out. Oh, and also stacking tons of cash making speeches about all that stuff and about how nothing was ever good enough for those radical Republicans he had to deal with in the House. Where do I sign up for that retirement package?

• Finally, we’ve all heard about the attacks that rocked Paris Friday night, killing more than 100 and wounding hundreds more. For better or worse (definitely worse), expect that tragedy to be a huge factor in the coming 2016 elections, especially in the immediate aftermath as candidates on the Republican and Democratic side alike wrangle with each other over their party’s nomination. The events in Paris cast a long shadow over Saturday’s Democratic primary debate, for instance, tilting the conversation heavily toward foreign policy and U.S. military intervention. That, some pundits argue, gave Dem frontrunner and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton a big debate boost over her upstart challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist running mostly on a domestic policy platform promising to tackle income inequality.

Meanwhile, renewed threats from the Islamic State, which has taken credit for the Paris attacks, promise similar terror in the U.S., specifically in Washington, D.C. That’s set of a further fervor on the right in regard to U.S. military strength and the need to close the country’s borders to immigrants and refugees. The fear induced by the attacks gives Republican candidate Donald Trump an especially strong hand, as draconian measures sealing off the nation’s borders have been one of the few concrete policy stands the real estate magnate has taken thus far in his campaign.

by Nick Swartsell 11.13.2015 16 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Complaint: Cranley violated election rules; announcement about CPD chief search coming today; Kasich meets a rowdy crowd of seniors in New Hampshire

It’s Friday. It’s early. I haven’t had coffee yet. For all those reasons, I’m going to hit you with a briefer version of the morning news today. Think of it as fewer words between you and your weekend. You’re welcome.

So, did Mayor John Cranley violate election rules by literally giving a shout out to his park tax plan in a polling place on election day? That’s what a complaint filed yesterday by poll worker Mary Siegel alleges. Siegel says Cranley shouted “vote yes on Issue 22” inside the Urban League building in Avondale as voters cast ballots. That violates Ohio law, which stipulates campaigning must be done outside a 100 foot perimeter of polling places. Cranley has acknowledged that he made a mistake by discussing Issue 22 while he was in the polling place “for a few minutes.” Now it’s up to the four-member, bipartisan Hamilton County Board of Elections to decide whether to hold hearings to further investigate the incident. Board member and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke says these infractions happen all the time, and that the mayor’s apology should be sufficient. Hamilton County GOP chair and BOE member Alex Triantafilou has called the allegations “disturbing,” however, and said he’d like to hear more from the mayor.

• Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black is set to announce news about the city’s search for a new police chief today at 10:30 a.m. at City Hall. It’s unclear exactly what the news will be, but a notice from the manager’s office mentions the “next phase” of the hiring process, perhaps meaning candidates have been identified for the job. The top cop spot is open after Black dismissed former CPD chief Jeffrey Blackwell in September after months of friction between Blackwell and city administration. Blackwell’s supporters say his firing was political — the former chief was brought on by Cranley predecessor Mark Mallory — but the administration says many in the department had trouble working with the former chief because he was disconnected from officers and could be intimidating to other staff members. Interim Chief Elliot Isaac replaced Blackwell. We'll update this post after the news conference later this morning.

UPDATE: City Manager Harry Black has announced Interim Chief Eliot Isaac as the only candidate for Cincinnati Police Chief. Black said the next step in the process will require Issac to go through a series of private panels starting Monday that will include members of the community, Cincinnati Police Department, clergy, business community and sentinels. Isaac has worked for the CPD for 26 years and has served as Interim Chief since September.

• Let's be real: Black Friday is brutal and depressing. But some retailers are stepping up to offer an alternative, including a local spot. Environmentally minded general store Park + Vine, on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, has announced that it will be closed on Black Friday and will instead partner with local environmental group Imago to offer a six-mile urban hike from its store into Clifton. Part of the proceeds from that hike — which includes lunch from Park + Vine and other goodies — will go to OTR’s Holidays in the Bag, which supports local nonprofits. This year’s beneficiary is Future Leaders OTR, an entrepreneurship program run by OTR startup resource hub Mortar for low-income folks looking to start their own businesses. Park + Vine founder Danny Korman says he’s modeling his opt-out of the year’s biggest shopping day on outdoor equipment retailer REI’s recent pledge to close all of its stores on Black Friday this year. REI will give all employees a paid day off as a way to encourage folks to go out and enjoy nature.

Here are some short state news thangs:

• One of the Ohio Democratic Party’s top officials has officially switched her endorsement in the party’s presidential primary from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders. Former secretary of state candidate Nina Turner announced yesterday she’s backing Sanders in his bid for the big office next year. That’s something of a blow for Clinton’s juggernaut campaign: Ohio is a must-win state in next year’s presidential contest, and Turner has been one of Clinton’s biggest boosters here. Turner says she’s interested in Sanders’ strong commitment to voting rights and income and wage equity, and will play an active role in his campaign.

• Another day, another report commissioned by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office claiming the Cleveland police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was reasonable. This time, the report comes from a retired police officer in Florida named W. Ken Katsaris, who said that Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann had “no choice” but to shoot Rice on the playground where he had been reported playing with a gun that a caller said “was probably fake.” A dispatcher didn’t relay that last part, though, and video footage shows the cruiser Loehmann was riding in speed up within feet of Rice. Loehmann then jumps out and shoots Rice almost immediately. 

Advocates for Rice’s family criticized the release of Katsaris’ report by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, who has released two other sympathetic reports written by former law enforcement officials calling the shooting justified. A grand jury is currently hearing evidence from McGinty’s office about the case to decide whether Loehmann should be charged in the shooting. Report author Katsaris also testified for the prosecutor’s office during a trial over the controversial shooting death of two unarmed black motorists in 2013. One-hundred-thirty-seven rounds were fired during that confrontation, which came after the two led police on a high-speed chase. The officer on trial during that case, Michael Brelo, was acquitted.

• Finally, Gov. John Kasich, one of the about 10,000 GOP candidates for the party’s presidential nomination, has had a rough stretch of late. He was booed at the last Republican debate. His low poll numbers aren't budging. And yesterday, he got heckled in a room full of senior citizens in New Hampshire for talking about defunding Planned Parenthood. To be fair, though, it was a mixed bag in terms of partisan issues. He also got pushback from some audience members when he discussed a modest minimum wage increase in Ohio. Yeesh. Tough crowd.

by Natalie Krebs 11.12.2015 17 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Residents of Avondale apartment complex with collapsed roof demand action; More OTR businesses have opened this year than before; Representative introduces bill to cut Ohio unemployment benefits

Hey everyone! Here are your morning headlines. 

Residents of an Avondale apartment complex are demanding their landlords pay up after the collapse of the apartment's roof last Friday. Approximately 70 residents of the Burton Apartments have been living in a Days Inn since last week, and with the help of Legal Aid Society and the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition are asking their landlords PF Holdings and the Puretz family to fix the apartment complex and, in the meantime, continue to provide temporary assistance. So far the owners, who are based out of New Jersey, have said they'll pay for just a week at the Days Inn, leaving the residents, which include 17 children, worried that they'll being kicked out of the hotel come this Friday. PF Holding and the Puretz family own other subsidized housing complexes in Walnut Hills and Avondale and are currently under litigation by the city for the poorly maintenance of those properties. One resident of the Burton Apartments told the Enquirer the complex was in such bad shape the week before the roof collapsed, they were using umbrellas in the hallways when it was raining. For now, residents are hoping to retrieve some of their possessions when the building is inspected tomorrow at noon by the city. 

Former restaurateur Liz Rogers is scheduled to be in court tomorrow. Rogers faces charges for impersonating a Cleveland police officer last March when workers arrived to repossess her car. She faces a maximum of 30 days in jail and $250 fine. Rogers was the owner of Mahogany's, a failed restaurant at the Banks. Last March, she was ordered to pay back $100,000, one-third of the loan that the city gave her in an effort to bring more minority-owned businesses to the area, and made the first payment at the beginning of this month. 

This time last year I couldn't stroll through Over-the-Rhine while satisfying a craving for macarons. Oh, how times have changed! The last 12 months OTR has seen 41 new, independent businesses open, more than double from the year before, bringing to the area new, typically pricier, beer halls, night clubs and fancy taco bars. On Tuesday the Chamber of Commence kicked off the seventh annual Shop Local celebration to bring Christmas shoppers to the area so they will no longer worry about where to find the best mini-cupcakes. 

A bill proposed by Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Monclova Township) would cut the amount of time Ohio's unemployed receive benefits in half. Sears' bill would knock the current number of weeks of unemployment from 26 down to somewhere between 12 and 20. Her plan comes as an attempt to pay off some of the debt Ohio has to the federal government. When the recession struck, Ohio had to borrow $2 billion from the feds and is still in the red for $774.8 million, which Sears says could come from cutting the unemployment benefits as unemployment is low in the state now, but opponents to the bill say that it unfairly goes after just one group of people and adds more hurdles for already hard-to-obtain benefits.  

A Utah judge has removed a foster child from a lesbian couple's home, citing he's found evidence that claims the 1-year-old girl would be better off with heterosexual parents. Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland were married last summer and are already the parents of two children and said they were planning on adopting the girl when a judge halted the process. The couple said they asked the Judge Scott Johansen for his evidence, but he has not produced it. Peirce believe the move was based on his religious beliefs, which are not known, but the Washington Post reports he is a graduate of Brigham Young University, which is operated by the Mormon Church. The church has recently voted to exclude kids of same-sex couples until they are adults.                                       

That's all for today! Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com with any happenings in the city.

by Natalie Krebs 11.11.2015 18 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cincy tries to figure out just what happened on Election Day; SORTA looks at extending streetcars hours; Kasich interrupts his way through fourth GOP debate

Good morning! Here is your daily roundup of streetcar issues and past and future elections. 

Democrats and Republicans gathered in front of the board of elections yesterday scratching their heads and trying to figure out just what went wrong on Election Day when a series of glitches forced Hamilton County polling places to stay open two additional hours. Most of the blame was placed on the new electronic sign in system, which was programmed with the wrong cut-off date for voter registration, excluding as many as 11,000 people. The system's manufacturer Tenex Software Solutions, which created the system for $1.2 million and set the cutoff date as July 6 and not October 5, issued a public apology yesterday. But lucky for them, as voter turnout is generally low across the United States, official estimates put the number of excluded people around 4,000. Other culprits for the Election Day disaster include poor Internet connections, older poll workers unfamiliar with the new technology and problems with the machines reading old, worn down driver's licenses' barcodes  

Is your dream to ride the streetcar in a drunken haze Friday night post-OTR bar hopping and binge drinking? Well, Mayor John Cranley and SORTA are working to make that dream a reality! SORTA is thinking of extending the streetcars' hours before it's even made its debut to the public. Currently, the streetcar is scheduled to operate 6 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every other day of the week. Two plans have been launched that would generally start service a little later in the morning, around 7 a.m., and keep it running until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, which conveniently coordinates with closing time for the bars. Mayor Cranley says he supports the streetcar operating later to support the growing nightlife in Over-the-Rhine and downtown. SORTA will submit the revised schedule to its board and City Council at the beginning of next year. 

The Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative by the Federal Housing Finance Agency has selected Cincinnati as one of 18 cities that will let local community organizations get first dibs before the general public on foreclosed properties owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. The project, which hopes to help cities that were hit the hardest by the housing crisis, selected cities that have at least 100 properties valued at less than $75,000. Cincinnati easily hit this mark with between 301 and 700 properties falling into this category. The program will launch Dec. 1 and also be extended to other troubled Ohio cities like Akron, Dayton, Columbus and Toledo. 

Gov. John Kasich might still be lagging behind in polls, but at least he's determined to be heard. In the fourth GOP presidential debate last night, Kasich got the second most air time, but obtained most of it by interrupting fellow nominees and moderators. In the process, he managed to get Donald Trump booed then himself booed when he said he would bail out the big banks and launched into an exchange with real estate tycoon Trump over immigration and fracking. The Columbus Dispatch reported that while Kasich's new aggressive tactics and moderate positions may be good in the general election, it might not fare so well for him in the primaries, where he is already the underdog and is easily overshadowed by the more extreme Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. 

Football, America's favorite sport, causes head injuries and concussions. So we should all be signing up little Billy and Jane for soccer, right? Well, turns out soccer also causes head injuries when players heading the ball, which looks impressive, but may actually cause a lot of damage later on. So the United States Soccer Federation, which oversees U.S. soccer youth national teams, has unveiled a new set of regulation, one of which is prohibiting children 10 and under with their precious developing brains from heading the ball. The move comes to resolve a lawsuit was filed by players and parents in August 2014 against FIFA, U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization for failing to monitor all the head injuries.  

Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com. I'd love to hear your story tips!