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

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.' "

Read More

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

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

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 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 12.20.2013
Posted In: News, Poverty, Education at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Cincinnati Ranks No. 2 for Highest Child Poverty

Three Ohio cities make Children Defense Fund’s top five

Cincinnati ranked No. 2 for highest child poverty out of 76 major U.S. cities in 2012, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) of Ohio said Friday.

The numbers provide a grim reminder that more than half of Cincinnati’s children lived in poverty in 2012, even as the city’s urban core began a nationally recognized revitalization period.

With 53.1 percent of children in poverty, Cincinnati performed better in CDF’s ranking than Detroit (59.4 percent) but worse than Cleveland (52.6 percent), Miami (48 percent) and Toledo (46 percent), which rounded out the top five.

The data, adopted from the U.S. Census Bureau, also shows Ohio’s child poverty rate of 23.6 percent exceeded the national rate of 22.6 percent in 2012, despite slight gains over the previous year.

“When three of the top five American cities with the highest rates of child poverty are in Ohio, it is clear that children are not a priority here,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of CDF of Ohio. “Significant numbers of our children do not meet state academic standards because their basic needs are not being met.”

With the contentious streetcar debate over for now, some local leaders are already turning their attention to Cincinnatis disturbing levels of poverty.

Mayor John Cranley on Thursday told reporters that he intends to unveil an anti-poverty initiative next year. A majority of council members also told CityBeat that they will increase human services funding, which goes to agencies that address issues like poverty and homelessness, even as they work to structurally balance the city’s operating budget.

Outside City Hall, the Strive Partnership and other education-focused organizations are working to guarantee a quality preschool education to all of Cincinnati’s 3- and 4-year-olds. The issue, which will most likely involve a tax hike of some kind, could appear on the 2014 ballot.

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

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-no-smoking_sign

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.

 
 

 

 

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by Nick Swartsell 05.26.2016 13 hours ago
Posted In: News at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_dennison2_ns

Dennison Vote Delayed

Representatives for Joseph family make their argument for tearing down the historic building, but no decision reached yet

After a nearly four-hour meeting, Cincinnati's Historic Conservation Board adjourned this afternoon without voting on Columbia REI, LLC's application to tear down the historic Dennison building downtown at 716-718 Main St.

That application has caused controversy. Columbia, owned by the powerful Joseph family, says it would be too expensive to save the building and would like to build a headquarters for an as-yet unidentified Fortune 500 company on the site. But preservationists say the building, which was designed by the firm of noted architect Samuel Hannaford, is a vital part of downtown's urban fabric.

Representatives for Columbia and the Joseph family presented their case to five members of the seven-member board. The group called a number of experts they've hired while they've owned the building to give evidence they say shows the building can't be redeveloped in an economically feasible way due to its poor condition and structural attributes.

Most of the presentation restated the key points of this assertion in greater detail, but there was at least one new revelation: how the Cincinnati City Center Development Company, which purchased the building for $1.2 million and then sold it to Columbia for $740,000, recouped money on the deal. Representatives for the Joseph family say the group paid 3CDC further development costs after the initial sale, making up the missing money.

The meeting had its fair share of contention: Columbia's attorney Fran Barrett moved to have Cincinnati Urban Conservator Beth Johnson's testimony stricken from the proceedings. Barrett said that Johnson has shown "extreme prejudice and bias" and that the Josephs "have a stacked deck against us going in" to their demolition application.

Johnson last month wrote a report taking staunch issue with the Josephs' assertion that anything other than demolishing the building would present the company with an economic hardship, pointing out the building's sound structural condition and the fact that studies on the economic feasibility of redevelopment of the building didn't take into account historic state tax credits and other incentives.

Lance Brown, the executive vice president of Beck Consulting, which drew up the economic feasibility report, told the board that no normal type of use — apartments, condos, office space — was feasible for the Dennison. However, when pushed by the board, Brown admitted he wasn't specifically familiar with incentives like state Historic Preservation tax credits, LEED tax credits, or city grants and tax credits that could have made the project more feasible.

Multiple board members also took issue with Brown's use of the term "flophouse" to describe the Dennison's former life as a single room occupancy hotel. Brown cracked that he got his understanding of that term from "extensive research on Wikipedia and Google."

Board member Judith Spraul-Schmidt chided Brown for using the term, saying that such housing was designed to be "decent and safe."

The board will work with attorneys representing the Josephs and opponents of the demolition application to set the next hearing, at which those seeking to save the Dennison will make their case.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.26.2016 17 hours ago
Posted In: News at 11:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover_otr

Effort to Preserve 300 Units of OTR Affordable Housing Unveiled

Cranley budget proposal calls for $2 million in OTR to foster mixed-income developments

Over-the-Rhine will get 300 improved units of affordable housing, many as part of mixed-income developments, if a proposed $2 million in funding in Mayor John Cranley’s budget proposal is approved. Another $2 million would be dedicated to affordable housing elsewhere in the city if the plan goes forward.

The plan would rehabilitate affordable housing at eight sites, many under contracts with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Currently, those sites house 302 units of housing, many of which city officials say are in substandard and neglected condition. The city money would go toward a $135 million effort by developers like Model Group and 3CDC to turn those sites into 304 units of high-quality affordable housing along with 212 market rate units at four of the sites.

Cranley, Vice Mayor David Mann, representatives from Over-the-Rhine Community Housing and developers Model Group and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation unveiled the proposal today at a news conference outside 1525 Race St., which would see 25 units of affordable housing developed by Model along with 85 market rate units.

“We’re very excited to be here today to celebrate affordable housing and a diverse community in Over-the-Rhine,” said Over-the-Rhine Community Executive Director Mary Burke Rivers. “At its core, affordable housing is a very simple math problem. People who are working in our city, or retired, or veterans, can’t afford what the market provides for housing. It’s gotten very complicated, but at its core it’s a simple math problem. This money addresses that math problem.”

The developments are designed to help the slide in affordable housing the neighborhood has seen in the past decade, Cranley says. Since 2000, 73 percent of OTR’s lowest-cost housing units have left the neighborhood, according to a study by Xavier’s Community Building Institute. That's caused some displacement of residents.

“We’ve seen here in Over-the-Rhine an extraordinary renaissance that was unthinkable five or 10 years ago,” Cranley said at the news conference. “But I think we all believe it should not come at the expense of the people who have lived here a long time. There has always been HUD contracts that have been extended for 15 or 30 years to preserve affordable housing. But it’s not enough, and we’d like to do more. We want to adjust to changing circumstances. We want a healthy community that is mixed income. I think this is a tremendous opportunity to do that.”

Cranley says the financing is general fund money coming from the city’s sale of the Blue Ash Airport and refinancing of some streetcar expenses.

Model Group CEO Bobby Maly says affordable housing and economic development can go hand and hand.

“Investing in affordable housing can also be investing in economic development and revitalization. That means investing in high-quality affordable housing alongside, adjacent to, high-quality market rate housing. It also means investing in affordable housing next to high-investment community projects. Things like Washington Park and other public investments.”

A focus on mixed-income development is the very deliberate focus of the proposal, Mann says.

“It’s no accident that we’re here,” Mann said about the site of the news announcement, a series of empty buildings on Race Street. “Next door, new, market rate condos are being built. As I understand from (3CDC CEO) Mr. (Steve) Leeper, they’ll be $300,000 and up. Here, because of the affordable housing money that the budget will commit to Over-the-Rhine, there will be about 25 renovated units of affordable housing.”

Mann cited statistics that 50 percent of renters in Cincinnati pay more than 30 percent of their incomes for apartments, the threshold for affordability set by the federal government.

“We hope there are ways that the $2 million can be leveraged,” Mann said, to create more opportunities for affordable housing creation. The other $2 million will be dispersed to developers doing low-income housing projects in other parts of the city through an as-yet-to-be-determined process.

The plan would, in some cases, move affordable units to other buildings and create market rate or mixed-income developments in their place.

As and example: Among the sites involved in the OTR plan are the Jan and Senate Apartments, six buildings containing 101 units of subsidized housing, and the so-called Mercy portfolio, which includes 140 units in 18 buildings in OTR for people making less than 60 percent of the area median income — about $71,000 for a family of four. About 70 of those units are in bad shape, developers say, while another 70 need only minor work.

Developers say the Jan and Senate properties are in danger of losing their rental subsidies due to their poor condition and have begun managing the sites and moving tenants to other, nearby affordable units with the help of the Cincinnati Legal Aid Society ahead of rehab work. The HUD contracts held by the Jan and Senate buildings would then be transferred to a number of other affordable housing sites, 3CDC and Model Group say in an outline of their plan provided by city officials. About 45 units of housing at 60 percent of the area median income will stay at the Jan and Senate as part of a mixed-income development.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 05.26.2016 19 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Off-duty CPD officer fatally shoots robbery suspect; Cranley wants to restore human services funding; medical marijuana bill heads to Kasich's desk

Good morning, Cincy! A lot is happening around the city so let's get straight to the headlines. 

• An off-duty Cincinnati police officer fatally shot a man suspected of robbing a Madisonville bank yesterday afternoon. CPD Chief Eliot Isaac confirmed that the still-unnamed CPD officer fired two shots at 20-year-old Terry Frost in the Fifth Third bank off Madison Avenue shortly after 4 p.m. Frost reportedly claimed to have a gun during the robbery, then, after being shot, stumbled off into the woods behind the bank where he was found dead by CPD officers. Police still haven't said whether Frost had a gun or any other weapon. CPD is planning on holding a press conference this morning to reveal the name of the officer. This is the third fatal shooting by a CPD officer this year. 

• Mayor John Cranley says he is not OK with the cuts to human services funding in City Manager Harry Black's proposed budget released last week. Cranley told The Enquirer he wants to bring back 82 percent of the $413,500 Black has proposed cutting, amounting to an 8.5 percent decrease. Under Cranley's proposal, human services funding would account for 1.9 percent of the budget. Black's budget dedicates $4 million to five different agencies with the majority of funds going to nonprofit United Way. 

• Mayor Cranley appears to be a busy man at the moment. The mayor will also hold a press conference with Vice Mayor David Mann this morning at 10:30 a.m. in Over-The-Rhine to unveil the details of a $135 million initiative to upgrade and add low-income housing to the neighborhood. The effort reportedly will be led by 3CDC and Walnut Hills nonprofit The Model Group. 

• The city is taking Mahogany's owner Liz Rogers to court. Rogers received a $300,000 loan from the city in 2012 to open the soul food restaurant, which went under in September 2014. Taxpayers have forgiven Rogers for two-thirds of the loan, but she is refusing to repay the $96,928 she still owes the city. Rogers missed her $800 loan payments in March and April, and the city filed suit on May 11. Vice Mayor Mann said the city was left with "no choice." She is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 1.  

• A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Ohio in a highly restrictive form is on its way to Gov. John Kasich's desk. The legislation passed the Senate last evening with a margin of just three votes. The bill would still prohibit growing and smoking the plant, but would allow it in a vapor form and would be available for doctors to prescribe to patients with a list of approved medical conditions. The Ohio Department of Commerce would oversee the growth, distribution and testing of the plant. Some Democrats expressed disapproval at the provision that allows employers to fire employees who tested positive for the drug — even if they have a prescription. If Gov. Kasich signs the bill into law, Ohio will become the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana. 

• Gov. Kasich, like Mayor Cranley, also appears to have a lot on his plate now. Also on its way to the Gov.'s desk: a bill that would require taxpayers to fork over thousands of dollars to keep polls open longer. The proposal from Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township, came from the controversy sparked after a federal judge in Hamilton County ordered the polls during the March 15 primary to stay open 90 minutes longer. The bill would require state judges who order polls to stay open later to collect bonds. Several Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union have objected to the proposed change, saying it could discourage people from voting.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.25.2016 44 hours ago
Posted In: News at 08:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tom massie

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar start date set; will Avondale get a real grocery store?; Kasich still won't support Trump

Good morning all. Here’s what’s going on in the world today.

The city of Cincinnati has officially announced an opening date for the city’s streetcar. The transit project running through Over-the-Rhine and downtown will take its first passengers Sept. 9, beginning with an opening ceremony at some point mid-day. The project, which has been fraught with political battles and funding concerns, is being financed with increased parking revenues, advertising proceeds and other sources that aren’t part of the city’s general fund budget.

• Mayor John Cranley yesterday rolled out more of his proposals for the city’s budget, which involve some $30 million for neighborhood projects. He spoke at a news conference in Avondale about projects he’d like to see funded in that neighborhood under his proposed fiscal plan, including a renewed Avondale Towne Center with a Save-A-Lot grocery store. Avondale has been trying to get a full-service grocery store since Aldi left the neighborhood about eight years ago. The city would chip in about $2 million to get development started under Cranley’s plan. The mayor did acknowledge that neighborhood activists had hoped for a higher-scale store such as a Kroger but that the Save-A-Lot will be expected to stock fresh produce and other necessities. Cranley yesterday also announced he would provide $3.2 million for a new community development corporation in Bond Hill and Roselawn.

• Cranley is set to pitch another round of investments today in the city’s East Side neighborhoods. He’s also expected to announce that the city will purchase the land necessary to build the Wasson Way bike trail. That $11.8 million, 4.1-mile stretch of former railway is vital to the completion of the trail, which would pass through a number of East Side neighborhoods on its way to Uptown. If the city doesn’t purchase the land by the end of July, the price will jump by nearly $600,000. It’s unclear where the construction money for the project will come from. The city applied for a federal TIGER grant last year to help fund building costs for the bike trail but was turned down.

• Wait. Hold on. Do I agree on something with U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, the tea party crusader from Northern Kentucky? It would… kind of appear so. Massie owes the GOP $24,000 in “party dues,” i.e. money from his fundraising coffers the party expects in order to stay in its good graces. Massie has criticized the practice, which is also used to determine who gets which committee assignment in the House. Particular assignments have particular dollar amounts assigned to them, and the more influential the committee, the more money a House member is expected to kick in. Massie is slamming this system, saying it means the best fundraisers, not the best lawmakers, get oversized influence in the legislative process. In what may be the only example of partisan agreement between a tea party member and the rest of Congress, some Democrats agree with him. I also think it sounds pretty messed up.

• What policies will law enforcement officers and departments have to follow regarding body cameras across Ohio?

Read More

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.24.2016 68 hours ago
Posted In: News at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
trump

Morning News and Stuff

Judge divvies up DuBose settlement; council members request MSD audit; Clinton beating Trump in Ohio polls

Good morning all. Lots to talk about today so let’s get to it!

The 13 children of Samuel DuBose will each receive more than $200,000 as part of a settlement between the family and the University of Cincinnati, a Hamilton County judge ruled yesterday. DuBose was shot and killed by UC police officer Ray Tensing July 19 last year. In addition to the money for his children, DuBose’s mother Audrey DuBose will receive $90,000, his six siblings will receive $32,000 each and his father Sam Johnson will receive $25,000, Judge Ralph Winlker announced yesterday. The settlement, which also includes other elements such as college tuition for DuBose’s children, resolves a civil suit against the university. Criminal proceedings are ongoing against former officer Tensing, who is charged with murder and manslaughter. He’s scheduled to stand trial on those charges in October.

• Cincinnati City Council members are requesting the recently completed audit of the region’s Metropolitan Sewer District ahead of the city's budget process, but City Manager Harry Black says they shouldn't rush. The audit, which resulted from revelations that MSD spent millions on contracts it didn’t properly put through a bidding process, is still with the city’s lawyers in a working draft form, Black says. But with work on the city’s budget looming, council members like Kevin Flynn and Chris Seelbach say the time is now to reveal the results of the audit. Things got testy when Council pushed for more information from the audit at yesterday’s budget and finance committee meeting, with Black resisting requests for that information and Seelbach accusing the city manager of giving him an eye roll. Oh snap.

• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is at the White House today meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and state and local government officials as part of a discussion on gun violence. Sittenfeld made gun control a big part of his campaign when he was running for Senate against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. Sittenfeld lost that race but has pledged to continue efforts to curtail shootings. He told WVXU he is there to learn more about strategies for curbing gun violence and that he doesn’t think the invite has anything to do with his former Senate campaign. President Barack Obama and VP Biden endorsed Strickland in that race.

This is a weird article. Breaking news: The city has a lot of stairs. Some of them are crumbling. More breaking news: The city isn’t exactly rushing to pay to fix them. Thus concludes your breaking news update about something you probably already knew about. The steps are a big part of the city’s walking infrastructure (I take them every day). But they’ve been neglected since, well, probably since people started moving out of the city. The money it would take to fix them is also an infinitesimally small portion of the city’s budget at a time when Mayor John Cranley is discussing throwing $30 million to a few city neighborhoods.

• A federal judge has temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip $1.4 million in public money from Planned Parenthood in the state. That money goes to providing health screenings for low-income women, not to providing abortions. The temporary restraining order keeping Ohio from enforcing the law, which passed in February, comes as a larger court fight around the measure continues. You can read more about all of that in our story here.

• Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost yesterday announced the results of surprise headcounts at Ohio charter schools, saying at least some of the schools had very few or no students attending on the days of the unannounced visits. Yost said the extremely low attendance numbers at three charters in the state suggests they might be operating illegally as distance learning schools instead of the brick and mortar schools they’re certified to operate as. It’s the latest revelation in a bad stretch for the state’s charters, which have faced allegations of mismanagement and an Ohio Department of Education data rigging scandal that artificially inflated charter school performance by omitting some low-performing online schools. Yost visited 14 drop-out recovery schools around the state and found an average attendance of just 34 percent.

• The revelations, as well as other frustrations with the state’s public schools, had the auditor spitting hot fire at the ODE yesterday, calling it “among the worst, if not the worst-run agency in state government.” Yost cited poor charter school accountability and performance as well as a slow roll out for ODE’s new data management system as among the sources for his frustration with the agency.

• Finally, more presidential politics, because I know you need more of that in your life. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in Ohio, according to the latest polls asking voters about the upcoming general election. But it’s not the blowout you might expect. Clinton’s up 44 percent to Trump’s 39 percent in the Buckeye State — less than her primary opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who bests Trump 48 percent to 39 percent in the CBS/YouGov poll. Voters have a pretty negative opinion of both candidates, however — 55 percent view Clinton negatively and 59 percent feel the same about Trump.

That’s it for me. See you tomorrow. Tweet or email in the meantime.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.23.2016 3 days ago
Posted In: News, Women's Health at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_protester_7-9 copy

Federal Court Blocks Ohio Law Defunding Planned Parenthood

Temporary restraining order against the state will allow Planned Parenthood to continue providing health services for now

A federal circuit court today temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip Planned Parenthood of about $1.4 million in state and federal funds.

That law was slated to go into effect today, but will now be placed on hold until June 6 as the court considers a longer-lasting injunction against the defunding move by conservative state lawmakers. 

The money the state seeks to withhold is used by Planned Parenthood to provide non-abortion healthcare services, including HIV and cancer screenings. 

Judge Michael R. Barrett of the U.S. Southwest District Court ruled that the organization’s challenge to the law has a significant chance of success in federal courts, and thus placed a temporary restraining order on the state, preventing it from enforcing the law for the time being.

Barrett agreed with Planned Parenthood’s arguments that the law blocking the money could severely damage medical-screening activities the organization undertakes, and that those operations could be hard to reestablish.

“Plaintiffs explain that without the funds at issue here, Plaintiffs will be forced to stop providing services such as pap smears and other cancer screenings, tests for HIV/AIDS and tests and treatment for other STDs, infant mortality prevention programs, and sexual health education programs,” Barrett wrote in his ruling today. “Therefore, the Court concludes that for purposes of deciding Plaintiffs’ Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Plaintiffs have established irreparable injury.”

In seeking the injunction, Planned Parenthood argues that the law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment by targeting the organization due to the fact it provides abortions.

State lawmakers have been open in acknowledging that they seek to strip funds from Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions, even though the public money given to the organization goes to other health services.

Conservatives in the state house have said they’re opposed to abortion for moral and safety reasons, and have described their crackdown on abortion providers like Planned Parenthood as a way to protect women.

“We have an obligation to say to Planned Parenthood, until you get out of the business of termination of pregnancy, the destruction of human life, we are not going to choose to fund you,” Ohio Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican who helped push the law, said during debate over the defunding provision in January.

But Planned Parenthood claims these clinics aren't immediately in a position to fill the healthcare gaps it would leave, which would include 70,000 free STD screenings it provides through a Centers for Disease Control program and 5,000 free HIV tests for populations at high risk for the virus.

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio serves 20 counties in the region. It says about 75 percent of its clients are low-income.
 
The defunding effort is the latest in a recent string of laws passed by Ohio Republicans seeking to limit abortions. The state has passed ever-stricter standards, including stipulations about admitting privileges at local hospitals and rules against publicly funded hospitals entering into such agreements with abortion clinics. That’s whittled down the number of clinics in the state from 14 a few years ago to just nine today. Among them is the last clinic in the Cincinnati area, the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, which has been threatened with closure over the new laws.

Planned Parenthood officials cheered the federal court’s decision today.

“This ruling is a victory for the tens of thousands of Ohioans that rely on Planned Parenthood for care each year,” said Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio CEO Jerry Lawson. “Our state legislators want to ban abortion across the board, and they were willing to decimate access to preventive care in the process. But this isn’t about politics for our patients, it’s about their health and their lives. If you have a lump in your breast or need an HIV test, lawmakers should be making it easier, not harder, to get the care you need.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.23.2016 3 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
michelle dillingham 2

Morning News and Stuff

City's top brass all got raises last year; local Dems tussle over 2017; historic Bavarian Brewery safe for now

Hey hey Cincinnati. Hope you got outside and soaked up the perfect weather this weekend. Now it’s back to the real world, where news happens.

The directors of every city of Cincinnati department received raises this past year, according to city records reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer. In total, those raises are costing city taxpayers $234,000 more a year. Some of the city’s 25 department heads got those pay bumps despite making few of their stated goals and receiving rather mixed performance reviews. Top salary getters include Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, whose $162,000 paycheck is 20 percent more than his predecessor Chief Jeffrey Blackwell made. Fire Chief Richard Braun, who is now also making $162,000, saw his pay raised 16 percent. Those raises came during a time when the city projected as much as a $14 million budget deficit. That deficit was cut in half by more recent economic projections, but could still trigger cuts to the city’s human services and economic development efforts, among other services. The city manager’s recently released budget calls for a 1 percent raise for all city employees, and police and fire personnel are negotiating to get a 3 percent bump.

• Speaking of the budget, Mayor John Cranley is set to unveil his ideas for the city’s financial plan today at 11 a.m. at Westwood Town Hall, according to a news release from the mayor's office. On the agenda: $30 million for neighborhood projects in that neighborhood and in places like West Price Hill, North Avondale, Bond Hill and others. City Manager Black released his budget proposal Thursday, and Cranley has two weeks to submit his version to City Council. He’ll be presenting his version of the budget at town halls throughout the week.

• We haven’t even survived 2016 yet, but we’re already talking about the election after it. Last week, we told you about the increasing focus around Cincinnati’s 2017 mayoral and City Council races. Now, after revelations that Councilwoman Yvette Simpson sent out a memo to potential firms that could help her in a bid opposing fellow Dem Cranley, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke is asking party members to focus on this year’s election. Burke has said it’s too early to focus on next year just yet when there are big races at the county level — most notably a pitched fight for control of the Hamilton County Commission. State Rep. Denise Driehaus is running to grab a seat on that body, and if she pulls out a victory against Republican interim commissioner Dennis Deters, the three-member group that oversees the county could have a Democrat majority for the first time in years. But the call for unity from Burke comes as the party is experiencing tension between two factions in the city: younger, more progressive Dems who tended to support the streetcar and who push for items like increases in human services funding, and more established, moderate Democrats like Mayor Cranley.

• That battle continues to shape up: progressive 2013 City Council candidate Michelle Dillingham is launching her bid for a Council seat in the 2017 election tonight at Bromwell’s Harth-Lounge at 6 p.m. Dillingham came in 12th in that race and hopes to turn support for her from progressives into a Council seat this time around.

• A historic building in Covington will get at least a little more time safe from the wrecking ball. Kenton County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Summe told Bavarian Brewery owners Columbia Sussex that they can’t demolish the 100-year-old building. The structure, which sits in a historic district, once held Jillian’s nightclub. Columbia-Sussex originally wanted to put a casino on the property, but Kentucky legislators have yet to pass a law that would allow that to happen. Now, the company says the only way it can see a return on investment is by demolishing the building. Covington’s Urban Design Review Board previously denied a permit application for that demolition, and Judge Summe’s ruling affirms that position. Columbia-Sussex can appeal her decision, however.

• Finally, University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono made big news over the weekend with his admission that he suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts as a younger man. Ono made the revelation at a fundraiser Saturday for mental health-awareness group 1N5, whose name is a reference to research that shows one in five individuals in the United States suffers from mental illness. Ono said that by talking about his past struggles, he hoped to show that mental illness is treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 05.20.2016 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
yvette simpson

Morning News and Stuff

Councilwoman Simpson drops hints at possible mayoral run; UC down to final candidates for police chief; Oklahoma passes most restrictive abortion bill yet

Good morning y’all! Here are your morning headlines.

• Councilwoman Yvette Simpson might have released the first shred of evidence that she’s running for mayor next year. Simpson sent a letter to consulting firms this month searching for someone who could help with a “campaign against an incumbent executive office holder,” aka Mayor John Cranley. Simpson won’t officially say yet whether she’s going to take a shot at Cranley’s spot or just run for a third term on Council in 2017 but says she’ll make a decision by the end of this year.

• It’s that super exciting time of year when the city lays out its budget for next year. Yesterday, City Manager Harry Black presented his plan for a $1.2 billion city budget that includes raises for city employees, cuts to the human service department and the city’s economic development programs and building a new marina. Yep, the city wants the Parks Department to build a marina along the Ohio River. Mayor Cranley has two weeks to present the budget to Council, which will then approve or amend it some time before the next fiscal year begins on July 1.

• The University of Cincinnati Department of Public Safety says it is down to three candidates to lead the department. The candidates were chosen by an outside consulting firm and include the director of public safety at Oregon State University, a previous CPD officer with more than 20 years experience and police deputy chief at Ohio State. The department is also down to two candidates for assistant chief, including a CPD Department Captain. UC will present the candidates to the public during open forums will be held May 23-25. Former Police Chief Jason Goodrich and Assistant Chief Tim Thornton resigned in February in the wake of the shooting of Mount Auburn resident Samuel DuBose by former UC police officer Ray Tensing.

• Judge Tracie Hunter will not be going to jail today. The suspended juvenile court judge was supposed to start her 60-day jail sentence today, but a judge suspended her sentence after Hunter filed a petition claiming misconduct by the special prosecutor and judge during her trial. Federal Judge Timothy Black ruled Hunter can remain free during the proceedings. A jury convicted Hunter of unlawful interest in a public contract for helping her brother in a discipline hearing 19 months ago.

• Could U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown become Vice President Brown? Yesterday, Sen. Brown was seen parading around with current VP Joe Biden in Columbus, leading to rumors that the progressive senator could be Hillary Clinton’s pick for running mate. Nothing is certain yet, as Biden told White House reporters that Brown would be a “great pick” but then went on to highlight other strong Democratic contenders without hinting at a favorite.

• Oklahoma’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill yesterday that would subject doctors to felony charges and revoke their medical licenses for performing abortions. The bill — which is most restrictive abortion bill passed yet — is still waiting on a signature from Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. If signed in to law, it will almost certainly be challenged in state or federal court where legal experts say it will likely be declared unconstitutional.

News tips go here.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.19.2016 7 days ago
Posted In: News at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

It's City Budget Season Again!

On deck: a marina at Smale, employee raises and cuts to human services

Are you ready for city budget season? It started today.

City Manager Harry Black this morning presented his vision for Cincinnati’s fiscal year 2017 spending blueprint; a $1.2 billion budget he touts as structurally balanced. On deck: a literal deck, as in, a marina along the Ohio River built by the Cincinnati Parks Department, raises for city employees — three percent for police and fire, plus a boost for low-paid workers through a municipal living wage initiative — and cuts to some agencies to make up for a projected $6.7 million revenue shortfall, priming another potential battle over the city’s human services funding.

Last year, Council battled for, and received, $3 million for human services to be spent through a United Way-run funding process, which vets social service organizations based on effectiveness. This year, that amount will drop to $2,781,000.

That nine percent drop once again falls short of a City Council commitment set last decade pledging to commit at least 1.5 percent of the city’s operating budget to human services.

Other organizations now, but not previously, categorized in the human services section of the budget will also take hits. Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative, which runs through Cincinnati Works, will receive $225,000 — $25,000 less than last year. Some programs previously funded by the city, like Cradle Cincinnati, which seeks to address the city’s high infant mortality rate, will receive no money at all. Last year, Cradle got $250,000 from the city’s human services fund.

Not everyone will lose when it comes to human services funding, however. The Center for Closing the Health Gap, run by close Cranley ally and former mayor Dwight Tillery, will see its city funding boosted to $1 million, a $250,000 increase over last year. The organization has received increases in past budgets under Cranley as well.

The city’s economic development programs will also see big cuts. Nearly every program funded by that portion of the budget will take hits, totaling about $285,000. Only MORTAR, a program seeking to boost minority entrepreneurship, will see a slight budget boost.

The funding cuts could have been worse: originally, the city was projected to have as much as a $14 million deficit. But revised projections by University of Cincinnati economists showed the revenue gap will be about half that size. Income tax revenues to the city are expected to grow by 4.6 percent, according to a report on the budget issued by City Manager Black.

But the need for cuts elsewhere won’t stop the city from investing in a marina along Smale Riverfront Park. The park board today voted to go forward with the project, which has been in the works for nearly two decades, and Black’s budget calls for $750,000 of city money to go toward the estimated $3.6 million cost of the project. That money is part of $4 million in Black's budget for parks capital projects. Other money could come from past federal funds for Smale, as well as an application for a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The board says the project, which as proposed would have room for 29 boats, will generate revenue for the parks department.

More on the budget as the process unfolds; this party is just getting started. Mayor Cranley has two weeks to present the budget to Council, which will then vote to approve or amend it. The process should wrap up sometime before July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.19.2016 7 days ago
Posted In: News at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
sherrod brown

Will Sen. Sherrod Brown be Clinton's VP Pick?

Appearance yesterday in Columbus with VP Joe Biden stokes speculation

You might have missed it, but U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from the Cleveland area, was traveling around with Vice President Joe Biden yesterday in Columbus.

It’s easy to see the two palling around as a hint that Brown, whose name has been tossed around as a running mate for Democratic presidential primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton, might be next in line for Biden’s job.

But is Brown actually a contender in the veepstakes?

So far, the gruff-voiced progressive senator has demurred on that suggestion, trying to shift the spotlight to other potential VP picks.

“I think Secretary Perez and Tim Kaine would be good vice presidents,” Brown told media yesterday. Tom Perez is Obama’s labor secretary, and Kaine is a U.S. senator from Virginia.

Biden and Brown were visiting the Buckeye State to tout President Barack Obama’s move to extend overtime pay to more U.S. workers, and to do some politicking around the 2016 election. Ohio is a vital swing state for 2016 presidential contenders, a fact that Biden acknowledged was a factor in the trip. More specifically, the two did a bit of campaigning for former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who is campaigning to take Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s seat in November.

Ohio’s Senate situation could provide a good reason Brown wouldn’t get the VP nod from Clinton. As Brown himself has pointed out, he would have to leave his Senate seat before 2018, when he’s up for reelection. Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich would then get to pick his replacement. That’s a seat Democrats can’t afford to lose as they wrestle to regain control of Congress.

But don’t count Brown out just yet.

Biden yesterday told White House reporters that Brown “would be a great pick” as Clinton’s running mate. But he also highlighted the strong pool of candidates Democrats have available and didn’t offer an endorsements.

Among other possible picks are Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and progressive firebrand Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who some say Clinton could choose to try and build a bridge with supporters of her primary rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
 
 
 
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