Morning all. Are you as disappointed with the soggy gray awfulness outside as I am? Over the past few days I’ve been tuning up my bike, getting ready for spring. My plan was to get it out today and ride to work instead of walking. But this morning has been more kayak commuting weather, and since I don’t own a kayak, I’m working from home. Bummer. Anyway, let’s move on to news. This is the weekly City Council update edition, where I tell you about all the zany stuff our council members got up to yesterday.
First, council passed a resolution supporting marriage equality in the state of Ohio authored by Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay elected official.
“The protection and equality we want is no different than what everyone wants," Seelbach said, highlighting the ways in which his life with his partner are the same as any married couple’s. Seelbach also drew attention to the continued court battles being waged by Cincinnatians against Ohio’s gay marriage ban. Among them is Jim Obergefell, whose case against Ohio’s gay marriage ban will be tried in the U.S. Supreme Court next month. Obergefell is seeking to be listed on his late husband John Arthur’s death certificate. The two were legally married in Maryland.
“Our city could have fought us, as our state continued to do, but instead our city stood on the side of love with a message that is resoundingly clear: We welcome, accept and love everyone,” Obergefell said in a written statement read by a representative from LGBT rights group Why Marriage Matters.
Six council members voted for the resolution, with Councilman Charlie Winburn voting against it and two, P.G. Sittenfeld and Amy Murray, absent from the meeting for unrelated reasons. Winburn applauded Seelbach’s advocacy for the issue, but said he didn’t agree with its premise. Winburn has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage. Cincinnati joins several other Ohio cities, including Dayton and Columbus, in supporting marriage equality.
• More council stuff: our esteemed deliberative body yesterday rejected
another stab at a parking plan for Over-the-Rhine that would have
created 400 permitted spots around the neighborhood. The plan would have
cost residents in the area $109 a year, plus $5 each for guest permits.
Some council members, including Seelbach, said the
price is still a bit too high and probably not necessary to generate
the revenue needed. “I think we’re close,” Seelbach said. “This is close
to what we would support. But the annual permit at $109 is the highest
Vice Mayor David Mann said he expected the plan to pass.
“This continues to be a work in progress,” Mann said. “We’re very open to changes as we implement and see how it works … but I think it’s time to do something. It’s been in and out of committee for three months.”
• Council also named a whole block of Colerain Avenue in Camp Washington after John "Johnny" Johnson, who has been working at Camp Washington Chili in the neighborhood for a mind-boggling 64 years. That's pretty cool. The restaurant, which I have patronized many a late night after various shows, has received national accolades for its chili, which is awesome. Johnson's uncle started the restaurant in 1940, and he began working there in 1951after coming here from Greece.
• The road is long and difficult and every step is studded with obstacles. No, I’m not talking about an underdog team in the NCAA tournament, nor the plot of a Tolkien novel. I speak of the streetcar, which is facing yet another round of drama this week involving contracts for who will operate the transit system. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, tasked with finding employees to operate the streetcar, must choose between two types of bids: those from companies that will manage SORTA’s union employees and those that will hire their own. Democrats on council want SORTA to go the former route and consider only bids that rely on employees from the Amalgamated Transit Union, of which most of SORTA’s employees are members. A past effort by council to get more details about the bids in relation to this wish drew sharp rebuke from the Federal Transit Authority, however, which said that any attempt to change SORTA’s bid process could result in loss of federal funds for the streetcar. The feds provided more than $45 million for the nearly $150 million project.
"If confidentiality is not maintained,” wrote FTA attorney John Lynch in a Monday letter to SORTA, “that presents risks to the process and increases potential exposure to protests and legal action from the proposers. The council's proposed changes to the procurement process could be perceived as giving preferential treatment to one contractor over another."
Now a new motion proposed yesterday by most of council’s Democrats would direct SORTA to only consider bids in which SORTA employees are used to run the streetcar. That motion needs two more votes and isn’t binding — it’s asking, not telling, SORTA to hire ATU employees. That motion also leaves maintenance personnel out of the equation, which is important because that’s a sticking point in negotiations between SORTA and the ATU on what using union workers would look like. The two are tangling over a few specialized maintenance positions that require particular electrical engineering training. The ATU says whoever does those jobs should be union members; SORTA says it has the right to hire outside workers for those positions. Phew. So there you have it. Bids for operating the streetcar are due at the end of the month, and SORTA’s board will vote to award the contract in July.
• Here’s a completely unsubstantiated, unscientific observation: People named “Woody” seem much more apt to support legalization efforts for marijuana. First there was Woody Harrelson, and now we have Taft Broadcasting Co. Development Director Woody Taft. Taft and his brother Dudley are among the funders of an ongoing effort by ResponsibleOhio to get an Ohio constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana on the November ballot. The Tafts are just a couple of the big names in town who have invested in the legalization scheme, which would legalize production and sale of marijuana but limit commercial cultivation to 10 legal growers. That dimension of the provision has raised ire from other pot legalization advocates. ResponsibleOhio has modified its proposal to allow for home growth of small amounts of weed, but those growers would not be allowed to sell their products.
The Tafts would be part owners of a marijuana cultivation farm proposed in Butler County should the ballot initiative pass.
“Our current laws are archaic and cruel to the people in Ohio who need medical marijuana,” Woody Taft said in a statement sent out by the pro-marijuana group.
• Finally, eight protesters were arrested outside House Speaker John Boehner’s Washington office yesterday. No, they weren’t up in arms about his continued efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or his moves to stymie Democrats’ immigration reform agenda. Nor were they there staging an intervention for Boehner’s all-too-evident tanning bed addiction.
Instead, they were all riled up about the fact that Boehner and other congressional Republicans haven’t moved fast enough on a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. The House was set to vote on the bill way back at the beginning of the year, but some moderate GOPers balked at the ban because it required a woman to report her rape or incest to law enforcement in order to qualify for an exception to the proposed law. Members of the Christian Defense Coalition, who were the protesters praying outside of Boehner’s office, say his failure to push that bill through is a “betrayal” of the pro-life cause. Boehner’s office shot back that he’s the most pro-life speaker in history, which seems a hard claim to fact-check considering abortion was illegal for much of our country’s history.
That’s it for me. Tweet me. Email me. You know the drill.
Hey all, here’s the news today.
After some reconfiguration, 3CDC has announced it is moving ahead with its plans for development on the corner of 15th and Race Street. The development is set to include 27 affordable units of housing and 63 units total, along with more than 37,000 square feet of commercial space. It’s unclear what level of affordability the subsidized units will be, but 3CDC is applying for federal low-income housing tax credits and partnering with Model Group and Cornerstone Renter Equity on those units. The project will be 3CDC’s second-largest in OTR at 2.2 acres, just slightly smaller than Mercer Commons on Vine Street. The nonprofit developer had floated earlier plans that included a parking garage, but has nixed that idea after outcry from some neighborhood groups and historic preservation advocates. Instead, the project will include a surface lot behind buildings on Race Street.
• Suspended Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter was back in court today on a reprisal of sorts from her trial last year, when she was tried on nine felony charges and convicted of one. She’s being tried again on charges that she misused a court credit card. The jury couldn’t consider that charge last time due to a legal technicality dealing with the language of the charge, then-Hamilton County Court Judge Norbert Nadel ruled. Hunter also faces retrial on the other charges in June after the last jury couldn’t reach a verdict. Hunter pleaded not guilty to the credit card charge. She faces a year in prison if convicted.
• If you attend City Council meetings as much as I do, you hear the name Jeff McElravy pretty often. He’s been a big part of the city’s Department of Trade and Development, a post the city recently announced he’ll be leaving next month. McElravy had been interim head of the department during the city’s negotiations to bring General Electric to The Banks before he was replaced by current permanent trade and development head Oscar Bedolla. McElravy currently serves as the city’s downtown development manager. He’ll leave that job, and working for the city, on April 20.
• Though I’m sometimes pretty critical of our hometown grocery giant, I’ll give Kroger this: They do pretty well when it comes to beer selection. Just last night I scored Rivertown Brewery’s Vanilla Espresso Porter there, one of my favorites. And apparently, it’s just going to get better. The grocery chain has announced it is increasing its stock of local craft beers by 30 percent, giving more shelf space to Cincinnati names like Rhinegiest, Madtree and Christian Moerlein. I usually prefer to hit up Party Source for my beer (worker owned, what’s up) because they carry some of the best crazy dark beers, but hey, I’ll go Krogering in an emergency.
• A proposed transportation budget the Ohio General Assembly is mulling includes a provision that could make it much harder for college students from out of state to vote. The provision requires residents to register their cars in Ohio, if they have one, and get an Ohio driver’s license in order to vote here. Conservatives who are pushing the measure say it’s designed to keep non-residents from voting in state elections. If you register to vote from a campus address, you have to re-register your car in Ohio, the new provision stipulates. If you don’t, your out-of-state license becomes invalid.
Some Democratic lawmakers have cried foul, saying it amounts to voter suppression and intimidation of college students, who tend to vote more progressively. Some Democrats have shot back with a counter-proposal. If students must register their cars to register to vote, it only makes sense they get in-state tuition as well, right? State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Democrat from Portage County, is pushing that exact logic in response to the Republican voter registration idea. She says the fees associated with car registration and license changes would be a deterrent for students and amount to suppressing their votes. Clyde and other Democrats have signaled they may not vote for the transportation budget if the provision isn’t removed.
• In other State House news, another abortion restriction bill will be up for a floor vote today in the Ohio House of Representatives. The bill would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. Republicans there say they have enough votes to get the bill on to the state Senate, but GOP leaders there are worried the law could cause federal court challenges that might undermine other abortion restrictions passed in Ohio.
That’s it for me. Hit me up on Twitter or email me with your news tips.
Hey all. News has happened. Here it is.
First, let’s get this out of the way. I don’t watch football. Ever. But that doesn’t mean YOU don’t watch football. Or maybe someone you know? And heck, maybe you want to watch games that take place in the stadium you are paying for as a Hamilton County resident from the comfort of your own couch or favorite bar without having to pay the high ticket prices to see the game in person. That’s a perfectly understandable ambition, given that so many millions of our tax dollars are paying for the Bengals’ home. The good news is that almost every NFL team owner voted recently to end, at least for the coming season, the league’s policy of not televising games that don’t sell out. In fact, the only owner who didn’t vote to end the blackout policy is Bengals owner Mike Brown. Now, Brown says he supports televising every Bengals home game. But he’s concerned about the way revenue is split between home and away teams under the new agreement, which basically stipulates the home team will have to pay the away team if the game doesn’t reach 85 percent capacity. That does sound like a raw deal for small markets like Cincy, but so does voting to keep fans from watching games in the stadium they paid for. Glad I don’t care about football.
• Cincinnati developer Model Group will renovate 13 historic buildings containing affordable housing in Covington’s Mainstrasse district. The group will work in partnership with Welcome House, a social service agency based in the city, and use $700,000 in federal low-income housing tax credits for the project’s first phase. The project could also be eligible for historic preservation tax credits. The renovations will reduce the number of units available in the buildings from 51 to 43 but will result in larger living spaces aimed at single parents who need affordable housing. The project is expected to be complete in 2016. One building, 801 Main St., is a commercial space and will remain so after renovations wrap up.
• Yes, yes, we all complain about how crazy Cincinnati’s weather patterns are. I thought this was a tic common to many areas of the country, with nearly everyone thinking they have the craziest weather around. Turns out, however, that we have some scientific, or at least quasi-scientific, backing for our whining. Nate Silver’s data journalism project Five Thirty Eight ran some climate data on cities across the country and came up with the top places in the country with unpredictable weather. Guess what? Cincinnati is number four on the list. The analysis takes into account temperature, precipitation and a number of other meteorological phenomena. So yeah, next time you want to complain about the fact that it was 70 degrees yesterday and will be snowing tomorrow, go for it. Math is on your side.
• I’m a little late on this one, but in case you missed it, the push to get daily rail between Cincinnati and Chicago has some new supporters. The city of Norwood has signaled it is supporting those efforts, which are led by pro-transit group All Aboard Ohio. Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from Indiana, has also pitched in on the cause in a way, telling state and federal agencies they should keep current rail lines open between cities in Indiana and Chicago so service can someday be expanded.
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich is in New Hampshire today in what is his most straightforward presidential campaign trip yet. Kasich hasn’t officially announced he’s running for the GOP nomination for president (only U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has made that commitment) but there is simply no other reason for Kasich’s trip. He’s testing the waters in important primary states now, trying to boost his stature among Republicans who will have to decide who to nominate next summer at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Recent polls show Kasich doing well in Ohio but drawing mostly a blank in other parts of the country. If the gov is able to make news in New Hampshire, or New York and Maine, where he travels next, it could boost his profile and put him in league with figures like Cruz and U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who have been in the national spotlight by virtue of their offices and high-profile stances (some would say antics) against Democrats and President Barack Obama. Kasich at times tacks more moderate (at least when it comes to things like Ohio’s Medicaid expansion and Common Core education standards) and has been active mainly in Ohio, so he has some catching up to do. But, heck, saying one crazy thing about how climate change isn’t real or about how we should abolish a couple federal agencies could get him some big attention.
• Hey, did you know that testing giant Pearson, which designs and administers the Common Core tests Ohio students are currently taking, collects student data — name, gender, race, scores — even though the state of Ohio, to which the company reports, doesn’t? And also, did you know that the company has been monitoring students’ social media profiles for leaked test questions? Well, now you know.
• Finally, oof. Reaction to “Race Together,” a new initiative in which two of the nation’s big corporations team up to “tackle the issue of race in America” has been predictably brutal, with many taking to Twitter to mock the idea. Starbucks and Gannett announced March 19 that they were partnering on the project, the first phase of which involved baristas writing #racetogether on customers’ cups and engaging them in conversations about our society’s race issues. Because that’s what baristas want to do first thing in the morning when they’re facing a line of grumpy, caffeine-starved customers.
Starbucks has also been distributing a special edition of USA Today featuring stories about race, which Gannett guarantees is mostly typo-free because race is a very important issue. A few critiques come to mind, one of which is that hashtags don’t work outside the Internet. Also, maybe when your leadership teams look like this and this, it’s better to listen, do some corporate self-reflection and seek feedback instead of trying to “tackle” an issue.
Hey all. Hope you had a good weekend and are recovering from whatever NCAA tournament festivities you may have attended. Yeah, yeah, Xavier won. UC lost. The Dayton Flyers pulled out an upset over Providence Friday only to lose to the Sooners last night. Depending on who you were rooting for, you’re probably either nursing some slight heartache, the waning throes of a post-celebratory hangover, or both.
Anyway. Here’s what’s up in the news today.
Cincinnati's Red Bike is heading south. The city of Covington announced it has found funding for up to six Red Bike stations and will be working with the nonprofit to bring bike sharing to Northern Kentucky. The city has said it’s looking at locations near the Roebling suspension bridge, in Mainstrasse Village and other key places. The stations cost about $50,000 each. Cincinnati has 30 throughout downtown and uptown, spurred by a $1 million grant approved by Cincinnati City Council last year.
• A one-time 3CDC mover and shaker will now work for another big developer in Cincinnati. Former 3CDC Executive Vice President Chad Munitz, who left the developer in December, will soon start work with Mount Adams-based Towne Properties. Munitz played a big role in a number of 3CDC’s signature projects over his nine-year tenure there, including the redevelopment of OTR’s Washington Park. He’ll work to help Towne Properties identify new development opportunities in Cincinnati and beyond.
• Did Mason’s City Council violate the city’s charter and Ohio law when it held a last-minute special session to approve a tax deal with P&G last week? Some residents there think so. Mason’s council called the last-minute session Tuesday to pass a $34 million dollar deal that put the finishing touches on a $300 million plan by the company to expand a business center there. The trouble is, council gave only a day’s notice and scheduled the meeting mid-day during working hours, which could violate Ohio’s open meetings laws. Those laws require that the public business is done in a public manner with ample notice beforehand. The notice sent out by council about the meeting also didn’t stipulate a reason or agenda. Council immediately went into private executive session when it convened, then came out and approved the P&G deal. Critics, including some Mason residents, say it all seems secretive and not very public. Seems like they have a good point.
• ResponsibleOhio’s effort to make marijuana legal in Ohio took another step forward as the Ohio Ballot Board approved the group’s language for a proposed law it hopes to put on the ballot in November. ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would allow anyone over 21 to purchase and smoke weed, but would limit commercial cultivation of marijuana to 10 state-sanctioned growers. That detail has caused controversy from other marijuana legalization advocates. The group still needs to collect more than 300,000 valid signatures from Ohio voters in 44 of the state’s 88 counties by July to get the amendment on the ballot.
• Ohio is the 47th worst state in terms of its tax structure’s fairness to low-income people, a study by personal finance website Wallethub.com says. The report found that low-income Ohioans making $25,000 a year or less pay nearly 11.5 percent of their income in taxes, compared to 9.5 percent for high-income earners. By the way, Ohio didn’t do so great when it came to those top-tier workers, either. The state ranks the 41st best place for people making $150,000 a year or more.
• Here's a pretty interesting study that says urban sprawl costs America more than $1 trillion a year. Wait, so are they saying building highways on top of highways and more McMansions a 45-minute drive from major urban employment centers was an inefficient use of resources? Say it ain't so. Anyway, ignore my editorializing and check out the study. This seems like such a difficult and huge thing to calculate, and I wonder if any readers see things they've missed or other ways to frame the question of how sprawl impacts our economy.
• Finally, I think we all knew this was coming. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced this morning he’s running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. On Twitter. The simple tweet read, “I’m running for President and I hope to earn your support!” It also included a video of Cruz’s first campaign ad, a dramatic 30-second piece that shows people America-ing all over the place, riding motorcycles through the desert, welding things, playing baseball of course and generally holding small American flags in verdant parks the way we Americans are wont to do.
Notably missing: bald eagles dropping apple pies on our confused and cowering enemies. Otherwise, though, very American. Cruz is perhaps the most conservative of the many names that have been bandied about as a Republican nominee. The freshman Senator has been one of the most vocal opponents of President Barack Obama, especially the Affordable Care Act. Cruz played a big role in last October’s government shutdown when he engineered a bizarre faux-filibuster and other obstructive measures designed to block passage of a budget that allowed the ACA to remain funded. So he has that on his resume. He’s also a loud climate change denier, or at least skeptic, and generally opposes things that liberals and moderates are into.
Hey all, it’s news time on this glorious, if rainy, Friday. Let’s go.
It truly is Ohio against the world right now, at least when it comes to March Madness (which, if you’re anything like some of my friends, truly is your entire existence at this moment in time). The University of Cincinnati beat Purdue in a heart-stopper last night, Xavier bested Ole Miss and OSU beat Virginia Commonwealth University. Additionally, the Dayton Flyers pulled one out Wednesday against Boise State to make it into the tournament. They’ll be facing Providence College tonight. That’s great, but big challenges loom ahead: specifically, 8th-seed UC will have to face 1st-seed UK tomorrow. That’s going to be a tough game for the Bearcats. But let’s see what happens, right?
While we’re talking basketball, here’s an interesting look at which local programs are making money for their universities, and which are break-even propositions. UC, for instance, spends as much on its basketball program as its team brings in, while Xavier turns a handy profit — the Musketeers’ hoops squad brings in more than $6 million a year.
• Veterans Affairs Secretary and former P&G CEO Bob McDonald wants Cincinnati, along with other cities, to speed up the process of identifying and helping homeless veterans. McDonald visited local service agencies helping veterans yesterday and said he was impressed with the work those groups are doing, as well as the progress the city has made on veteran homelessness. But he also called for quicker turnaround when it comes to getting homeless veterans into housing, saying that the longer it takes to find them and get them on the right track, the less likely they will be to receive and utilize that aid at all. Mayor John Cranley, who joined McDonald on his tours of service agencies yesterday, is engaged in a national program to help vets, called the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. That initiative looks to end veteran homelessness across the country by the end of this year.
• The Cincinnati Zoo recently made a national list of top places to travel if you want to see cool animals. Family Fun magazine publishes its annual rankings on the best places to travel in a number of specific categories, and Cincinnati’s Zoo ranked number eight in the animal attractions category. It ranked just below Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which is pretty impressive. It’s one more accolade for the zoo, which is widely recognized as one of the best in the nation.
• U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, who represents Northern Kentucky, has a GREAT idea for fixing the nation’s highway funding dilemma: strip funding for all other transit projects from the National Highway Trust Fund. Massie says the federal government’s grants for streetcars and other alternate forms of transit cost billions that could go toward building and repairing highways and bridges. Hm. Right. Except each of those projects keeps cars off the road, lessens America’s dependence on oil, may create economic development in the communities they’re built in and provide ways to work and recreation for the millions of Americans who don’t own cars. Which, as of yesterday, includes me. It’s also worth noting that only a small percentage of the Highway Trust Fund goes to transit projects, so cutting that funding would be a drop in the bucket. An alternative measure would be to increase the nation’s gas tax, which hasn’t been raised since grunge rock was cool the first time (that’s 1993).
• Former (and perhaps future) Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum was once again in the Greater Cincinnati area Thursday, fueling more speculation about his ambitions for the GOP presidential nomination. The former Pennsylvania senator stopped by a fundraiser in Montgomery hosted by the Northeast Hamilton County Republican Club. He avoided saying crazy stuff about religion (at least on the record) but did have some eyebrow-raising thoughts on the economy. Santorum is known to be a hardcore conservative when it comes to social issues, but there are signs he’s tacking moderate on the economy, a combination last tried by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee when he sought the GOP nomination in 2008. Santorum talked about how Republicans could capture the hearts and minds of America’s workers, backing policies that step away from the hardcore trickle down theories (tax cuts for the wealthy, decreased regulations) most recently advanced by the GOP. He revealed his presidential platform, should he run, would include supporting a small minimum wage increase — something few other Republicans seem willing to touch. He also committed something close to sacrilege for conservatives, saying the party needed to move on from Ronald Regan’s economic legacy and message. Santorum’s continued courting of the buckeye state (he was here visiting folks in Butler County a couple weeks ago for a religious freedom conference) comes ahead of his party’s national convention in Cleveland next year and is further evidence that the presidential race may be tightly focused on Ohio.
• While we’re talking presidential hopefuls, let’s cross the spectrum for a minute and talk about Democrats, specifically their frontrunner for the presidential nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She’s been dominating the field on the Dem side, even though she hasn’t officially announced her candidacy. But that could be changing, according to a new poll from news organization Reuters. That poll shows Clinton’s support among Democrats has dipped by 15 points since mid-February, and that now about 45 percent of those identifying with the party say they’re sure they’ll vote for her. That’s still a bigger margin than any other potential candidate, of which there are very few, but the drop is alarming. Some of the dip may be explained by the recent high-profile flap over Clinton’s e-mail usage while secretary of state. After the New York Times reported earlier this month that Clinton used a personal account to conduct State Department business, she has been on the defensive explaining that move. Clinton has turned over tens of thousands of work related e-mails sent from her personal account, but also had other e-mails she claims were personal deleted. That’s led some to suggest she may be hiding information. Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail account appears to have fallen within State Department rules, which were changed after her tenure to require the Secretary of State to use a government account for accountability purposes.
And I’m out. Tweet me (@nswartsell), e-mail me (email@example.com) or comment below. What do you think? Do you hold out any hope for UC against UK? Do you think we should raise the gas tax? Should I buy a car or wait for regional transit in Cincinnati to become so stellar I won’t need one? (I'm not holding my breath on any of these).
Hey all! Working from home is usually great, unless you're working from home because you're waiting for the tow truck to come for your dear old car, which has finally given up the ghost. A moment of silence, please. Anyone selling a cheap, reliable BMW for someone on a journalist's salary? Thought not. Anyway, on to news.
Some City Council members are asking questions about a huge proposed highway project that could change the way people get to Cincinnati State. The I-74 exit onto Central Parkway near the community college is on the Ohio Department of Transportation’s chopping block. By 2018, the exit will be closed as the highway onramp comes down, part of a much larger revamping of the I-75 corridor through Hamilton County. ODOT has proposed a $42 million bridge over both highways from South Cumminsville to Central Parkway, but critics of that bridge, including some members of City Council, say that route would be just as troublesome to navigate as existing alternatives. Council member Kevin Flynn was skeptical, pointing out that the school is an entryway into college education for many seeking social mobility and that officials should be looking for ways to make it easier to get to, not more difficult. What’s more, it’s unclear how the city would pay for its half of the bridge. City Manager Harry Black, however, says the city supports the deal and will pay to study the project as it works to find funding sources for construction. The city will need to commit the funds by 2017. The bigger plan to revamp I-75 as it passes through Cincinnati has been in the works for years, according to ODOT and city officials.
• As a lover of Cincinnati and a lover of bikes, I’m sometimes befuddled by the controversies we get stuck on when it comes to cycling. The latest hubbub around the Central Parkway bike lane has to do with some plastic markers that separate the lane from the road, as well as the fact that some drivers are apparently not paying enough attention while they’re driving to notice when they’re in a lane where cars park.
The big deal, according to this "investigation" earlier this month? the fact that 300 of the 500 plastic bollards the city put in place when the bike lane was built last year are now broken. That apparently costs taxpayers money. Well, sort of. First, they’re $25 a piece, so it would cost about $7,500 to replace them all if the city hadn’t saved some for reuse. Keep in mind, for perspective, that the city spent $100,000 to reroute the lane after a single business owner complained about a couple street parking spots. What’s more, there’s already money in the grant that built the lane to fix them, so very little if any money will be coming out of taxpayers’ pockets.
That very minor problem aside, a couple business owners have also criticized the lane, complaining that motorists have been rear-ending or almost rear-ending cars that now park in a lane of Central Parkway to the left of the bike lane. How is that any different, from a drivers’ standpoint, than lanes all over the city that have parking during designated hours? Watch where you’re driving, pay attention to road signs and stop worrying about the bike lane. Problem solved, end of story.
• Does one of Cincinnati’s top public schools need to be restructured? That’s what an independent audit suggests. The School for Creative and Performing Arts is one of the city’s most prestigious K-12 schools — it requires auditions as part of a very selective enrollment process and once hosted an MTV reality series about its students striving toward careers in the arts. But the school has also seen some pretty rough turns, including the loss of half-a-million dollars by its private fundraising arm, Friends of SCPA, in a local pyramid scheme.
A report by consultants from the University of Maryland found that the school’s problems go beyond some lost fundraising money and include a need for greater accountability within the school’s administration. The report calls for the school to hire an executive director and a senior financial director to oversee the school’s money and an external affairs director to handle marketing and the school’s relationships with other organizations and the public. The report calls for those administrative changes to take place urgently — within the next six months — to put the school back on a sustainable path.
• News from the State House: another day, another attempt to fight Common Core in Ohio. The tests are part of new federal standards that look to increase educational readiness among students. Critics say the tests amount to a federal takeover of state education and increase testing loads on students. The bill, authored by Republican State Rep. Andrew Brenner from Powell, is in committee now. Gov. John Kasich supports the standards and would be unlikely to sign legislation repealing them.
• President Barack Obama was in Cleveland yesterday bashing Republicans in the city that will host their national convention next year. Obama said the House GOP’s recently released budget proposal is a gimme for those who are already rich that ignores the middle class and low-income people in America. The GOP’s plan would cut taxes for big businesses and wealthy Americans, which they say will stimulate job growth. The plan will also cut money from Medicare and other social programs in an attempt to erase the federal government’s deficit over the next decade.
Obama called the plan “trickle down economics” that won’t work for the middle class. Obama’s plan is generally the opposite: decrease tax loopholes for large corporations, raise taxes on the wealthy, spend billions on infrastructure and a free community college program he proposed last month. His budget would also reverse cuts to defense and other spending under sequestration. Obama touted the economy’s recovery that has occurred since he took office, including slowly falling unemployment numbers. Republicans, including the office of House Speaker John Boehner, shot back against his criticisms, calling his speech to the Cleveland City Club a “political stunt.”
• Finally, let’s go back to alternative forms of transportation for a minute. Forget bikes or streetcars — they do it a bit differently in the South, apparently. This guy got pulled over on I-75 near downtown Atlanta for riding his horse down the highway. He also had another horse with him, which maybe means he should have been using the rideshare lane? I don’t know. Anyway, the Long Rider, has he calls himself, is heading our way. He says he’s trying to get to Indiana by June for his sister’s birthday. He also says he rides to “feed the children,” though it’s unclear what that means.
And I’m out. Comment, tweet (@nswartsell) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) news tips or the best place to buy a used horse with less than 75,000 miles on it.
Hey Cincy! It’s news time.
The city of Cincinnati will forgive all but $100,000 of the nearly $300,000 Mahogany’s owner Liz Rogers owes the city for her defunct restaurant, which closed its location at The Banks last September. City Manager Harry Black proposed the plan, which would require Rogers to make $800 monthly payments, in a memo to Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati City Council yesterday. Meanwhile, Rogers announced today that she is planning two new ventures to help her make those payments: a gourmet ice cream business and a food truck. Rogers was given the loan in 2012 to bring her soul food restaurant to The Banks. She quickly fell behind on her loan payments, however, a fact she attributes to a lack of promised amenities, including a new hotel, at the riverfront development.
• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld could face a state investigation into his campaign finances after it was revealed he filed a report for his council campaign fund six months late. The report was due last July, but Sittenfeld didn’t file it until January. The Hamilton County Board of Elections is looking into the violation and could send it on to the Ohio Elections Commission. If the state commission finds Sittenfeld did violate campaign finance rules by turning in his report late, it could assess a fine of $100 for every day the report was late — which would mean Sittenfeld could owe as much as $18,000. Depending on the reasons for the delay, the commission could also decline to assess the fine or fine Sittenfeld a lower amount. The potential investigation could complicate the 30-year-old councilman’s bid for the Senate. Sittenfeld is currently in a primary race against 74-year-old former Ohio governor Ted Strickland for the Democratic nomination. The winner will go on to challenge sitting Republican Senator Rob Portman.
• Christopher Cornell, the Hamilton County man suspected of making plans to carry out terrorist acts in Washington D.C., will keep his access to a phone in the Boone County Jail where he is being held. Prosecutors have tried to keep him from having access to the phone, but a federal judge yesterday ruled that restricting Cornell’s access could keep him from planning his legal defense and also compromise his psychological health. Cornell is currently being held in isolation. So far, Cornell has only used the phone to call his lawyers, his family and, in one instance, the media. Cornell called FOX 19 and spoke to Tricia Macke for an hour, during which he claimed that if he hadn’t been arrested in January, he would have gone to Washington to carry out terrorist attacks. Recorded phone records show Cornell hasn’t used his phone access to attempt to reach out to others who might engage in terrorist acts.
• The Ohio Board of Education could vote soon on eliminating the so-called five of eight rule, which currently requires schools to have at least five of eight specialty staff members including art teachers and librarians. A legislative review board yesterday cleared the possible rule change, setting the board of education for a vote on eliminating the staffing requirements at its next meeting April 13 and 14. The proposed rule change has been very controversial; education advocates and other foes say it will disproportionately affect low-income students, whose districts are often strapped for cash, by allowing schools to eliminate art, music and other classes. Advocates for the rule changes say they want to give schools more discretion on how they spend their money.
• Taxpayers paid $3,400 for Ohio Gov. John Kasich to fly to Washington earlier this month for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, the Associated Press reports. The funds went toward hotel rooms, airfare and parking for the Republican governor and two staff members. That’s perfectly legal, but it also means taxpayers picked up the bill for Kasich to attend a highly partisan event. The speech, in which Netanyahu harshly criticized President Barack Obama for his policy toward Iran, was controversial, playing on a growing divide in Congress and in American politics in general. The GOP invited Netanyahu to speak but didn't give the White House a heads up beforehand. More than 50 top Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, did not attend the address, which was given to both House and Senate members.
• So it’s very little surprise that the University of Kentucky is the team to beat this year in the NCAA basketball tournament. This pretty insightful breakdown from the New York Times’ Upshot blog, however, gives you some nice pointers as to whether you should go with the favorites or pick an underdog. While you’re thinking about March Madness, pick up our issue this week, which has a great preview of all the hoops craziness. Because I’m not a statistician, sports fan or gambler, I always vote for our local teams until they inevitably lose, but hey, one of these years…
• Finally, this is unsettling to me, but maybe I just need to get more comfortable with the glories of late-stage capitalism already. A new company that lets you put your own face on action figures and dolls is coming to Cincinnati. AvaStars, which already has stores in Chicago and St. Louis, will soon open at Kenwood Towne Center. The store will allow children or really anyone for whom selfies are no longer gratifying enough to put their own faces on figurines, as well as appear in a customized video. Like I said, in the age of incessant social media self-branding, there’s something weird about this to me, but hey, I’m trying to be more positive this week, so let’s look at the upsides. This could be huge for a kid’s self-esteem and ability to envision their future — picture a lot more female scientist dolls, maybe, or other possibilities that undermine the constant drumbeat of oppressive normative messages most toys send to kids.
Morning y’all! I’ve been out of the morning news loop working on long-term projects but I’m back and ready to nerd out on some news. So let’s do it.
Twitter is all abuzz this morning with the news that the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority has approved plans to build a bike path on the Oasis Line near the Ohio River on the city’s East Side. That’s big news — as our feature on the potential Oasis path last month explored, completion of a bike trail there brings Cincinnati closer to a network of statewide trails and also makes biking from the East Side to downtown a possibility. SORTA controls the right of way on a set of tracks that will need to be paved for the bike path to be built. The Indiana-Ohio Railway company, however, voiced opposition to the plan, citing safety concerns and plans to expand its business in the area. The company owns tracks running just seven feet from the unused line the bike path would occupy.
• Will Pete Rose get reinstated into Major League Baseball, clearing the way for his induction into the Hall of Fame? It could happen, but the road facing Charlie Hustle is still a long one. Rose recently applied for reinstatement with new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who expressed openness to a conversation about letting Rose back in after taking baseball’s top position in January. Manfred has acknowledged he received Rose’s request but hasn’t tipped his hand about whether or when the hit king might be reinstated. Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader, received a lifetime ban from baseball in 1989 after he was investigated for betting on the game while he was a player and coach. Rose denied the allegations until 2003, when he publicly admitted he did bet on games.
• Two members of Cincinnati City Council would like to spend $9 million to revamp a 20-acre park in Mount Auburn while also improving the area around the park on Auburn Avenue for pedestrians. Inwood Park sits along Vine Street on the western edge of the neighborhood between uptown and downtown. Councilmen Charlie Winburn and Chris Seelbach would like the city to invest $5 million in the park over the next two budgets in a plan they unveiled before council’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting Monday. The hope is that investment would help increase momentum on new development in the neighborhood, which has just begun to pick up. Developers Uptown Rentals and North American Properties plan to invest nearly $100 million in Mount Auburn in the near future, including the construction of 400 units of market-rate housing and tens of thousands of square feet of office space.
“As we’ve seen with Washington Park, these dollars do more than beautify our neighborhoods,” Seelbach said in a news release yesterday. “Inwood Park will become a destination in Uptown, drawing families, students and neighbors to spend time together, enjoying our city.”
I walk through this park all the time and think it’s pretty epic. The motion met with mixed reactions from the rest of the budget and finance committee, who are hesitant about the expenditures without reviewing the plan with the Parks Department and considering other uses for the money.
• Gov. John Kasich met Monday with the Ohio Taskforce on Community-Police Relations to discuss the group’s ongoing work. Kasich convened the task force in December in the wake of controversy over the shooting deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers, including Tamir Rice in Cleveland and John Crawford III in Beavercreek. The 18-member group made up of lawmakers, experts, law enforcement professionals and community leaders held four listening sessions across the state, including a marathon five-and-a-half hour session in Cincinnati March 9. Now, the task force must compile the hours of expert testimony and community input into a report with recommendations for policy changes, which is expected to be released April 30. In the meantime, Kasich dropped by the meeting Monday to hear initial thoughts from the task force members.
One member, Oregon, Ohio Police Chief Michael Navarre, said that all of his training has informed him to shoot in dangerous situations, and that "there is a huge gap between what community and police want," according to Gongwer news service. Kasich has said changing training and procedures for officers could be one outcome of the task force’s work.
• Finally, are you following this crazy story about New York millionaire and property magnate Robert Durst? You should be. Durst is suspected in three murders over the span of nearly two decades, including that of his wife, one of his best friends and a neighbor. The thing is, he’s been a suspect for years and was even acquitted on grounds of self-defense for one of the murder charge even after he admitted to dismembering the man he killed. The HBO series Jinx has chronicled Durst and the suspicions against him, and, incredibly, Durst was arrested in New Orleans just before the show’s finale to face charges in L.A. for one of the murders. There are so many things to unpack about this situation — how money changes your relationship to the justice system, the weird looking glass of true-crime TV and real law enforcement colliding, Durst’s own strange background and on and on. Anyway, the whole story is worth reading up on and I’m sure we’ll be searching for answers to the questions Jinx raises for years to come.
That’s it for me. Tweet me (@nswartsell). Email me (email@example.com). Say hey when you see me at Findlay Market. Whatever you gotta do to give me those news tips or your thoughts on the weird world of true-crime docu-dramas.
Some interesting national/international coverage for Cincinnati.
The Onion's Weekender edition for March 15 — the special travel issue — spotlights "Cincinnati in Just 300 Days" on its cover. However, it somehow overlooked publishing the itinerary. Check out the comical cover here.
Meanwhile, the latest issue of The Economist — in its Prospero arts section — has a legitimate feature on the just-concluded MusicNow festival, featuring an interview with its founder, Bryce Dessner.
After this anniversary festival is over, Mr Dessner plans to take full stock of what it has achieved before deciding which direction to take with future programmes. "I always saw it as a ten-year thing so I'm not sure what happens next," he says. "What I do know is that we'll continue to champion cutting-edge, progressive programming and hope that people will continue to be inspired by that."
Read more here.
A controversial effort to legalize the growth and sale of marijuana is one step closer to the November ballot. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today approved ResponsibleOhio's ballot summary language, or the description of its proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize pot but restrict growth to 10 sites owned by the group’s investors across Ohio.
“We are very happy with today’s news,” said ResponsibleOhio Spokesperson Lydia Bolander in a news release. “Voters deserve a thoughtful conversation on this important issue, and we are eager to continue this conversation in the coming months.”
DeWine initially rejected the group's ballot proposal over quibbles with its summary language. ResponsibleOhio tweaked its proposal, and now the initiative is ready for the ballot.
The group built its ballot initiative in the mold of Ohio’s successful 2009 casino legalization effort. Opponents, including other pro-marijuana groups, say that like the casino amendment ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would create a state-ordained monopoly on marijuana farms that mainly benefits the group’s investors. Other critics, including many conservative statewide officials, say the plan will increase drug use and crime.
In response to criticism from other pro-marijuana activists, ResponsibleOhio last month announced it was changing its proposition to allow private growth of small amounts of marijuana.
The group says its proposal will decrease the black market for weed, alleviate some legal injustices, save law enforcement money and increase tax revenues.
“Marijuana prohibition has failed,” Bolander said. “Black Ohioans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white Ohioans. Patients are denied access to treatments that could ease their suffering. And the state is wasting $120 million each year to enforce these bad laws.
Local ResponsibleOhio investors include basketball hall of famer Oscar Robertson, philanthropist Barbara Gould and venture capitalist Frank Wood. Cincinnati attorney Chris Stock is also involved with the group, helping draw up the language for the ballot initiative. Three of the proposed 10 marijuana farms would be in the Greater Cincinnati area.
Next, ResponsibleOhio will need to finish collecting the more than 300,000 signatures required to put the amendment on this year’s statewide ballot. The group has until this summer to do so.
Hey everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend! I know I tried to spend as much time outside as possible, but now it's back to work, and here are your morning headlines.
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell spoke to City Council today about his plan to bring body cameras to the University of Cincinnati police department. The
program is estimated to cost $1.5 million dollars and the department
would like to obtain 60 cameras. The push for body cameras for the
Cincinnati police comes in the wake of the release of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing's body camera footage, which shows the fatal shooting of Samuel DuBose during a July 19 traffic stop in Mount Auburn.
Chief Blackwell stated in a press conference following the release of
the footage and announcement of the indictment of the officer that body
cameras were on the way for Cincinnati police, but he did not give a
time frame for when the program could begin.
• Details of a settlement between the estate of David "Bones" Hebert and the City of Cincinnati were released over the weekend. We first told you about the settlement Friday after the Cincinnati Enquirer reported a portion of that settlement. Hebert's estate will get $187,000 from the city, but more important, say his advocates, is a city acknowledgement that police acted improperly in his shooting death. Hebert was killed by Cincinnati police in Northside in 2011
after officers responded to a 911 call alleging an intoxicated man was robbed by Hebert and assaulted with a pirate sword. Hebert was located sitting on a sidewalk on Chase Avenue in Northside about 10 minutes later. During subsequent questioning, officers said Hebert drew a knife and moved toward an investigating officer, causing Mitchell to believe the officer’s life was in danger. Mitchell shot Hebert twice, killing him. Initial investigations cleared Mitchell of wrongdoing, but other reviews found he acted outside of police protocol, getting too close to Hebert and not formulating a plan for engaging him. Friends of Hebert have since made efforts to clear his name, saying he was a non-violent person caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. His advocates have set up a website, friendsofbones.com, to present evidence in the case.
"On July 30, the City of Cincinnati, four of its police officers and the Estate of David “Bones” Hebert agreed to settle the civil rights action pending in federal court," the city said in a statement. "Initial reports issued regarding the incident in 2011 declared that Mr. Hebert attacked a police officer with an opened knife or sword. There was no sword. Furthermore, while an opened knife was recovered at the scene, the evidence that Mr. Hebert intended to attack or swipe at a police officer was not conclusive. Instead, Mr. Hebert’s actions, as well as actions taken by the officers on scene, contributed to the use of deadly force. The City regrets this unfortunate loss of life and again expresses its condolences to the family and those who cared for Mr. Hebert. This lawsuit, and now its resolution, should provide confidence that the matter was fully investigated and that a fair resolution was reached to this tragic event."
• Six people were arrested during a march remembering Samuel Dubose, who was shot July 18 by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing. You can read our coverage of the vigil and march here.
• Mayor John Cranley opposes a measure that would weaken his power as mayor. Four amendments to the city's charter proposed by the City Council-appointed Charter Review Task Force would include one that would stop Cranley's ability to kill ordinances without a city council hearing or vote. Another would give the city council majority power to initiate the firing of the city manager, which only the mayor can do now, and kill the use of a pocket veto, which Cranley used to veto certain items in the 2016 budget. Cranley has to approve and send the ordinances to City Council, which could vote to put them on the ballot as early as next week, but the mayor has such strong opposition to the amendments that the committee many reconsider them altogether after a year of putting them together. Cranley has stated that he'd like a little more in return for losing some of his power and declined to forward the ordinances to the Rules and Audit Committee this week.
• School districts in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties are uniting against state-mandated testing. Forty-one districts part of the Greater Cincinnati School Advocacy Network want more local control and less "burdensome" mandates. Mason City Schools spokeswoman Tracey Carson said not all school districts are equal and needs vary between rural, suburban and rural school districts. The most recent state budget will cut $78 million from Ohio's education budget.
• Two weeks after Gov. John Kasich's announcement that he's running for president, Newsweek
has published an article on the GOP presidential hopeful's smugness.
The article points out several issues so far with Kasich's big run for
Washington D.C., including his reported
short fuse, questionable claims of a 2014 "landslide" victory for
governor and the fact that, well, most Americans don't even know who
Kasich is and many Ohioans don't even like him. According to a recent poll, Kasich is number eight in line for the GOP nomination with Donald Trump leading the poll.
Hundreds gathered at the Hamilton County Courthouse on Friday night for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Samuel Dubose, who was shot July 18 by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing. The vigil and subsequent march were peaceful, though Cincinnati police arrested six after the march moved through a concert on Fountain Square.
Tensing has been indicted on murder charges for Dubose’s killing and was fired by the UC police department. He has pleaded not guilty and was released on $1 million bond last week. He’s also suing UC for his job back.
Members of the Dubose family, including Samuel’s mother Audrey Dubose, and members of organizing group Cincinnati Black Lives Matter led the Friday event. Attendees held candles as peaceful music played and chants of “We are Sam Dubose” echoed around the plaza in front of the courthouse. Some wept or prayed and embraced each other.
“Tonight, we are here to honor the family, the legacy, the memory, the beautiful spirit of Sam Dubose,” said organizer Christina Brown. “We are here because we love each other. We are here because we want justice. We are here because we are powerful together.”
“We’re here to reclaim our humanity,” said attendee Emmanuel Gray. “Not just black people, but white people, in recognizing that black people are human and part of this great family.”
Dubose and other family members spoke about their faith and called for peace from the crowd and justice for her son.
“Y’all got to stand up and continue to believe,” one family member said. “Keep the peace. Thank you for coming out and standing up with us. If we can all stand for something, they will see us. They will never forget Sam and all the others. They will never forget these days that we’ve been out here.”
Following the vigil, about 200 people marched through Over-the-Rhine and downtown. That march was mostly uneventful, though a CityBeat reporter witnessed a man exit a red Ford Explorer on Walnut Street during the march and briefly brandish a knife, threatening marchers, before re-entering the vehicle. The march ended just off of Fountain Square when police confronted people who had marched through a concert there.
Another marcher, Mary Condo, was arrested for being part of a “disorderly crowd,” according to charges filed in Hamilton County Courts. Others arrested include Kevin Farmer, who is charged with menacing two local businesses for reportedly threatening to damage them, and Kimberly Thomas and Darius Clay, both charged with resisting arrest. The six were arraigned on Saturday, and some have been released on bond.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today.
The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation has announced its plans for the site of the former City Gospel Mission in Over-the-Rhine. The non-profit social service agency, which had occupied the spot on Elm and Magnolia Streets since 1927, recently moved to a new facility in Queensgate. That move was part of the city’s Homelessness to Homes plan, which created five new shelters in places like Queensgate and Mount Auburn. Those facilities are larger and more up-to-date than the older buildings occupied by organizations like City Gospel and the Drop Inn Center, but aren’t in Over-the-Rhine and aren’t as close to downtown. City Gospel’s historic church won’t be torn down, but another, more recent building next to it will be demolished to make room for three townhomes 3CDC wants to build. The developer purchased the property from City Gospel earlier this month for $750,000.
• The city has settled a civil wrongful death lawsuit with the estate of David "Bones" Hebert. Hebert was shot and
killed by Cincinnati Police Sgt. Andrew Mitchell in 2011 after officers responded to a
911 call alleging an intoxicated man was robbed by Hebert and assaulted with a pirate sword. Hebert
was located sitting on a sidewalk on Chase Avenue in Northside about
10 minutes later. During subsequent questioning, officers said Hebert
drew a knife and moved toward an investigating officer, causing
Mitchell to believe the officer’s life was in danger. Mitchell shot
Hebert twice, killing him. Initial investigations cleared Mitchell of wrongdoing, but other reviews found he acted outside of police protocol, getting too close to Hebert and not formulating a plan for engaging him. Friends of Hebert have since made efforts to clear his name, saying he was a non-violent person caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. His advocates have set up a website, friendsofbones.com, to present evidence in the case and try and clear Hebert's name.
The settlement states that it's unclear whether an open knife found at the scene was Hebert's, and that there was no sword involved in the incident. Paul Carmack, who is administrator of Hebert's estate in Cincinnati, made a statement about the settlement on social media yesterday.
"Today the Family has reached an agreement w/ the City of Cincinnati to settle the pending lawsuit in the death of Bones. In the days to come a statement will be released on behalf of the city & the estate to clarify Bones name and show that he did not attack anyone on the night in question. This statement is why this lawsuit was undertaken. Without this statement there would be no settlement. Bones wasn't the attempted cop killer he was painted as nor did he attempt suicide by cop. Bones was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in front of the wrong people. Today's events allow Mr. & Mrs. Hebert to bury their son as the fun loving, care free spirit we all knew and love to this day."
• Tensing has pleaded not guilty a murder charge and is out on a $1 million bond. He’s also suing to get his job back. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Enquirer has published some, uh, interesting pieces around the Dubose shooting, including a first-person article in which a reporter who never met Dubose visits his grave and another where a baseball coach from Tensing’s teenage years vouches for the officer, saying he’s “not a monster.”
• The tragic shooting of a four-year-old in Avondale seems to have sparked renewed tensions between Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black. The unidentified girl was sitting outside when she was struck by a stray bullet from a drive by near Reading Road. She’s currently hospitalized in critical condition, and doctors say it’s unknown if she will survive. Black told media on the scene that he takes such incidents into account when judging the chief’s performance. As city manager, Black has hiring and firing power for the position. A spike in shootings earlier this summer and documents drafted by the city detailing the chief’s potential exit created speculation that Blackwell might be forced out of his position. Black said last night that while overall crime is down, he considers the level of shootings in the city unacceptable, and that he holds Blackwell accountable.
"It's ridiculous and it's not acceptable and it will not be allowed to continue," he said. "I told the chief tonight we are going after them. That is my expectation and that is how I'm going to be how I evaluate his effectiveness as chief."
• In a final push, marijuana legalization effort ResponsibleOhio made its extended deadline to turn in extra signatures for a petition drive to get a state constitutional amendment making weed legal on the November ballot. The group, which missed the required 300,000 signatures last time around by about 30,000, turned in another 95,000 to the state yesterday at the buzzer. The state will now review those signatures, and if enough are valid, the measure will go before voters. ResponsibleOhio proposes legalizing marijuana and creating 10 commercial grow sites owned by the group’s investors. Small amounts of private cultivation would also be allowed under the amendment.
• Finally, prepare thyself for the swarm: As this New York Times piece details, the Republican Party is focusing in on Ohio in a big way. Next week is the first GOP 2016 presidential primary debate in Cleveland, and the party is hoping to use the event to stoke its base in a big way. And that’s just the start. Expect activists, political operatives, and many, many people in red bowties and blue blazers (sorry to my Republican friends. But you really do look dashing in the Tucker Carlson getup) descending upon the heart of it all. Can’t wait for that. One brilliant thing someone has done: a number of billboards around the debate venue in Cleveland will carry messages about unarmed black citizens killed by police, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot by police while playing with a toy pistol in a park.
That's it for me. Get out and check out that big full moon tonight, and for the love of god, have a good weekend my friends. Find something thrilling. Hang out with folks you love. It's been an intense week.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters yesterday announced that University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing has been
indicted by a grand jury on murder charges for the shooting death of 43-year-old
Cincinnati resident Samuel Dubose. Deters also released body camera footage of the shooting at a news conference yesterday.
Hundreds took to the steps of the Hamilton County Courthouse, and later to the streets of downtown, following the announcement. Tensing was arraigned on those charges this morning. He plead not guilty and is being held on a $1 million bond.
Deters had harsh words for Tensing, calling his shooting of Dubose “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make” and stating that Tensing should never have been a cop in the first place.
Deters repeatedly told members of the media that he could not speak candidly about his feelings, at one point calling the traffic stop itself “chicken crap.” Deters said he was shocked by the video and sad for the community.
“I couldn't believe it,” Deters said of the body cam footage. “I just could not believe it.”
WARNING: GRAPHIC FOOTAGE
Officials played a portion of Tensing’s body cam video at the press conference. The entire video will be made available, Deters said.
Deters’ description of the encounter sharply contradicts Tensing’s story.
"This does not happen in the United States," Deters said. "People don't get shot for a traffic stop. ... He was simply rolling away."
During the press conference, Deters referenced a latter portion of the video showing officers after Tensing shot Dubose discussing what had happened. Deters expressed skepticism toward some of Tensing’s comments after the incident, including his arm being caught in the car. Police will investigate collusion with other officers, Deters said.
“He said he got his arm stuck in the steering wheel,” Deters said. “You just have to watch it.”
“I think he was making an excuse for a purposeful killing of another person,” Deters added. “That’s what I think.”
Tensing’s initial explanation was that Dubose started to drive off during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn over a missing license plate, nearly running him over. Tensing says he was then forced to shoot Dubose in the head because he was being dragged by the car and his life was in danger. Tensing said he suffered minor injuries when he fell to the ground as Dubose’s car rolled away.
Dubose's family said they were thankful for the grand jury's decision.
"I thank God that everything is being uncovered," said Audrey Dubose, Samuel's mother. "This one did not go unsolved and hidden."
Audrey Dubose pledged to continue fighting against police injustice, calling for body cameras for all police departments. She said many others have died at the hands of police unnecessarily.
"My son was killed by cop unjustly," she said. "I gotta know many more are killed unjustly. I'm going to be on the battlefield for them."
City leaders delayed a scheduled a news conference at 2 p.m. in order to let the Dubose family speak after Deters. Officials praised the grand jury's decision, saying that the city simply wanted truth about the incident to come out. Mayor John Cranley called for demonstrators to remain peaceful if they took to the streets. City Manager Harry Black said the Cincinnati Police Department will soon get body cameras similar to the one that played a pivotal role in the Dubose shooting investigation. University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono, meanwhile, revealed that Tensing had been fired from the University of Cincinnati Police Department. He also responded to an earlier suggestion from Deters, who said the school should disband its police force and let CPD patrol campus. Ono said the school has not yet considered that option.
More than 500 people including Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Harry Black and State Sen. Cecil Thomas attended Dubose’s funeral services at Church of the Living God in Avondale yesterday, where the father, musician and entrepreneur was laid to rest. His mother and other family members remembered him as a kind and loving man who nevertheless had a deep, sometimes complicated independent streak. Dubose was buried at Landmark Memorial Gardens in Evendale.
Until today, Deters had declined to release video footage, a decision that caused protests. Deters said the protests did not affect his decision to finally release the footage. He lauded the protesters for being peaceful and praised the Dubose family.
City Manager Black had been briefed on the video and called it “a bad situation,” saying, “someone has died who did not necessarily have to die.” Mayor Cranley met with the Dubose family this morning.
Tensing, 25, hasn’t had major disciplinary actions on his record and his superiors have spoken highly of him. He started at UC last year after serving with the Green Hills Police Department, where he started as a part-time officer in 2011. Tensing has retained Stew Matthews, a Cincinnati attorney, for his defense.
During the press conference, Deters called for the disbanding of the University of Cincinnati police department. He said he has spoken with UC’s president and Cincinnati police about disbanding the unit, replacing it with CPD.
“I just don’t think a university should be in a policing business,” Deters said. “I just don’t. I think CPD should be doing the entire campus.”
Black Lives Matter has scheduled a rally for 6:30 p.m. at the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today. The biggest story is the possible release of a grand jury decision and/or body camera footage in the case of Samuel Dubose.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference about the death of Dubose at the hands of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing July 19. Deters has confirmed he will release the body camera footage of the shooting today, and may announce the results of a grand jury probe into that shooting. The University of Cincinnati will shut down at 11 a.m. in preparation for Deter’s announcement, suggesting something major will be divulged at the event. City leaders have scheduled a response news conference at 2 p.m.
""The University of Cincinnati will cancel all classes on the Uptown and Medical campuses at 11:00 a.m. today including all classes in session at that time," a UC e-mail to employees and students said. "Offices on these campuses also will close at 11:00 a.m. This decision is made with an abundance of caution in anticipation of today’s announcement of the Hamilton County grand jury’s decision regarding the July 19 officer-involved shooting of Samuel Dubose and the release of the officer’s body camera video. We realize this is a challenging time for our university community."
Questions continue over Dubose’s death. Tensing’s story is that Dubose started to drive off during a traffic stop in Mount Auburn over a missing license plate, nearly running him over. Tensing says he was then forced to shoot Dubose in the head because he was being dragged by the car and his life was in danger. Tensing suffered minor injuries when he fell to the ground as Dubose’s car rolled away. But Dubose’s family and some activists have expressed skepticism about that chain of events.
Yesterday was the funeral for Dubose. More than 500 people including Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Harry Black and State Sen Cecil Thomas attended the services at Church of the Living God in Avondale where the father, musician and entrepreneur was laid to rest. His mother Audrey Dubose and other family members remembered him as a kind and loving man who nevertheless had a deep, sometimes complicated independent streak. Some friends knew him as the man who started the Ruthless Riders, a black motorcycle club, and as a talented rapper and producer. The service and its immediate aftermath were at times somber, but devoid of anger. Family, friends and faith leaders called for answers to Dubose’s death, but also stressed they did not want to see violence or unrest in the wake of his killing. Dubose was buried at Landmark Memorial Gardens in Evendale.
Thus far, the prosecutor has declined to release video footage for the time being as his office presents evidence to a grand jury, causing protests. The grand jury could decide to indict Tensing on charges ranging from aggravated murder, which carries a potential death sentence, to negligent homicide, a misdemeanor. City Manager Harry Black has been briefed on that video and has called it “a bad situation,” saying that, “someone has been died who did not necessarily have to die.” Tensing, 25, hasn’t had major disciplinary actions on his record and his superiors have spoken highly of him. He started at UC last year after serving with the Green Hills Police Department, where he started as a part-time officer in 2011. Tensing has retained Stew Matthews, a Cincinnati attorney, for his defense in the event he is indicted.
Hey Cincinnati! I'm Natalie, a new staff writer here at CityBeat covering news. You may have already seen a byline or two of mine. Expect to see more! I'm giving Nick a little break today and taking on my first morning round-up of headlines. Here's what's happening.
The family of Samuel Dubose, the man who was shot a week ago by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, has hired the former attorney of controversial neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who shot unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in 2012. Attorney Mark O'Mara has already begun to question officials on the release ofTensing's body camera footage. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has declined to release the footage at this time, saying it could jeopardize a fair trial for the officer. O'Mara says he plans to join the lawsuit filed by the Associated Press, the Enquirer and four local television stations, but could file his own suit as well. Dubose was shot by Tensing on July 19 in Mount Auburn when he was stopped for missing the front license place on his car.
• Cincinnati has a new Assistant Police Chief. Police Captain Eliot Isaac was sworn in to his position Monday afternoon. Isaac has 26 years experience with the Cincinnati Police Department and was chosen unanimously. He was promoted to captain in 2004 and his other previous positions include District 4 commander, criminal investigation commander, internal investigations commander and night chief. He's replacing Paul Humpheries, who left the department in June to head security at Coca Cola Beverages in Florida after nearly 30 years on the force.
• You’ll have to get your home fries and bacon elsewhere for a bit. Over-the-Rhine greasy spoon and 70-year-old community institution Tucker’s was damaged July 27 by a fire and is currently closed. The fire did extensive damage to the Vine Street fixture’s kitchen, and owner Joe Tucker says it’s unclear when it will reopen. Tucker’s parents opened the restaurant in 1946.
• After missing out on a huge political convention, Cincy's U.S. Bank Arena will be getting a huge renovation that could make the city more competitive in vying for major events. Arena owners Nederlander Entertainment and AEG Facilities announced today that the renovation will increase the stadium's capacity by 500 to 18,500. It will also have up to 1,750 club seats — a vast improvement over current numbers — and add a new suite level closer to the stage. The lack of available suites was one of the major reasons that Cincinnati its bid lost the Republican National Convention to Cleveland. In addition to its increased capacity, the arena will also sport a new glass facade and other improvements. Cost for the renovations were not released by the owners.
• Covington is once again struggling to find ways to pay for its police and fire departments. Over the last 10 years, the city has reduced staffing for police and fire, and now some residents are worried there aren't enough to properly look after the city, which has a relatively small population for some of the challenges it struggles with including poverty and higher crime rates. The city's woes are long-running in this regard: Covington has been struggling to fully pay for basic services like law enforcement since the 1970s for a variety of social and economic reasons. Some there say it's time to raise taxes to make sure there are enough cops on the beat, while others have pushed back against proposed tax increases.
Hey all! Hope your weekend was grand. Here’s the news today.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are a number of events going on downtown to commemorate the historic federal law, which works to guarantee equal rights for those with disabilities. A rally and presentations about the history and impact of the law kicked off at City Hall at 9 a.m. this morning, followed by a march to Fountain Square, where ADA-related events will take place through this afternoon. We’ll have more on the events and the ADA’s legacy later.
• On the one-week anniversary of the University of Cincinnati Police shooting death of Samuel Dubose in Mount Auburn, protesters gathered yesterday outside UC’s Public Safety office to demand answers about the incident. More than 100 people showed up for the protest, many of whom later marched down Vine Street to the site of Dubose’s death half a mile away. Driving rain didn’t keep family members, friends and activists from gathering and remembering Dubose, calling for the release of tapes showing the incident, and the removal of UC Police Officer Ray Tensing, who shot Dubose. Officials say Dubose was stopped due to a missing front license plate on his car. His license was suspended at the time, and Tensing ordered Dubose to leave his vehicle. Dubose refused, according to police, and a struggle ensued. Police say Dubose started his car and began driving away, dragging Tensing with him. Tensing then shot Dubose in the head and fell away from the car. Family, friends and police-accountability activists, however, question this version of events. They say footage from Tensing’s body camera and possible security footage from a nearby building could tell a different story. At least some of that footage is now in the hands of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who has said he will not release it at this time. City Manager Harry Black made comments today about the shooting, saying he's been briefed about the video and that "someone has died who did not necessarily have to die." Black refused to elaborate further on the situation.
• The head of Ohio’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, one of the nation’s oldest and highest-profile marijuana legalization groups, was ousted in June, and he says his removal is due to his support of another legalization effort. Rob Ryan, who lives in Blue Ash, was removed as president of Ohio NORML after he came out in support of ResponsibleOhio, a ballot initiative that is seeking to legalize marijuana use for anyone above 21 and establish 10 legal marijuana grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors. Now Ryan says he was dismissed due to his support for that group. But NORML officials say his removal had more to do with his personality, charging that he has been rude and even abusive to NORML members who don’t support ResponsibleOhio. The ballot initiative to create a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana has deep Cincinnati ties and has been very controversial due to its limitations on who can grow the drug commercially. The group is now also in a frantic, last-minute scramble to get more than 30,000 valid signatures from voters across the state after a past petition drive fell short of the 300,000 signatures required to land a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The group has until next month to collect those signatures.
• Northside is getting a new spot for cold, sweet treats. Dojo Gelato, a Findlay Market fixture for years, will move to its first stand-alone store at the old J.F. Dairy Corner on Blue Rock Avenue right around the time it starts getting warm again next year. Owner Michael Cristner lives in the neighborhood, and has been looking to set up permanent shop there for some time. I do really love Dojo’s affogato with the Mexican vanilla and Dutch chocolate, but I’m also a big adherent of Putz’s Creamy Whip down the street. Blue ice cream with a cherry dip, y’all. I guess I’ll just have to double my ice cream/gelato intake.
• Gov. John Kasich, it seems, can be downright postmodern in his view on today’s big policy questions as he tries to convince Republicans he’s their man to run for president. At recent campaign stops, Kasich has shrugged off the tyranny of the solid, sure answer for an acknowledgement that the world is absolutely insane, knowledge is illusory and none of us can really know anything. OK, so that’s a pretty big exaggeration on my part. But the guv has been uttering the phrase “I don’t know” a lot on the trail in response to policy questions. Does it show he’s honest? Still formulating his positions carefully and with intellectual rigor? Or is he just kind of a wimp who won’t commit to an answer? Time will tell. In the meantime, John, can I suggest some real page-turners by this guy Baudrillard? There is more and more information in the world, Mr. Kasich, and less and less meaning, and we both know it.
• Speaking of the complete shattering of the fallacy that the world is a rational place, new polls continue to show real-estate magnate and hairpiece-addiction spokesman Donald Trump leading the field of GOP hopefuls. He’s sitting at 18 percent in the crowded contest, three points above next-best contender, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and eight points ahead of the third-place contestant in this wacky gameshow, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Do I need to give another rundown of recent Trump events? He said former POW and Republican Arizona Senator John McCain isn’t a hero because he got caught by the enemy. He equated Mexican immigrants with criminals and rapists and received a death threat from notorious cartel leader El Chapo. Via Twitter. Give him this: the guy knows how to get attention and has never met a question he wants to answer with “I don’t know.”
Hey all. Here’s what’s happening in Cincy today.
University of Cincinnati officials yesterday released the police incident report and dispatch recordings related to the July 19 shooting of Samuel Dubose by officer Ray Tensing. Tensing shot Dubose after a traffic stop over the fact Dubose didn’t have a front license plate on his Honda Accord. The incident report claims that Tensing was dragged by Dubose’s car and says another UC officer witnessed the incident. You can read the report here and listen to the audio of the dispatch here. Dubose’s family has demanded that police body camera video and security footage from a nearby building be released to substantiate that claim. That footage is currently in the hands of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who has said he will not release it yet because that could bias a potential grand jury. Family and friends of Dubose gathered yesterday outside Deters’ office to protest that decision.
• Meanwhile, UC police will no longer patrol areas off-campus, according to university officials. Starting Monday, the university police force’s patrol policies will be amended in light of the shooting. Questions were raised about why Dubose’s traffic stop took place at the corner of Rice and Thill streets in Mount Auburn, which is half a mile away from the university. According to university police, Tensing initiated the stop much closer to campus and followed Dubose to the location where the stop, and eventual shooting, took place.
• Remember those hilariously fraught public meetings in Parks and Recreation? I attended one last night. A meeting held by the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation and architects Glaserworks to discuss proposed changes to Ziegler Park, a popular space on Sycamore Street across from the former SCPA building, got a little heated as neighborhood residents and advocates questioned the need for an underground parking garage and the efficacy of 3CDC’s outreach efforts to the park’s current users, who are predominantly low-income. The meeting took place a block from the park at the Woodward Theater, a move that raised eyebrows for some activists at the meeting, including Josh Spring from the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Spring questioned why the meeting wasn’t taking place in the park itself so that it could more easily engage the park’s current users. At the meeting, 3CDC presented tentative plans for the park’s facelift, which will be funded in part by $20 million in Ohio new market tax credits. Those plans come from two past public input sessions, 3CDC says, as well as outreach to park users. Among the proposals: moving the existing pool to another location in the park, adding a splash pad, updating green space within the park, and tying the existing park facilities to green space across the street next to the SCPA. 3CDC’s concept includes putting a parking garage underneath this greenspace in order to free up land currently occupied by other lots. Also on the drawing board: maintaining a popular set of basketball hoops across the street from the park. Removal of hoops and the pool at renovated Washington Park on the otherside of OTR proved very controversial when that park underwent renovation in 2011. Some in attendance expressed concerns that two past meetings were not well-publicized. Other concerns were also raised about the green space neighboring the former SCPA building, which will soon be the site of luxury condos. That space once held structures used by Harriet Beecher Stowe as part of the underground railroad, and some at the meeting voiced wishes that the history there be commemorated and expressed anxiety about disrupting possible historic materials there. 3CDC anticipates holding another meeting to unveil more finished plans later this summer.
• The Ohio Democratic Party is still struggling with infighting, some say, despite new chairman David Pepper’s efforts to unify it following big losses in statewide campaigns in the last election. Democrats in Ohio lost major statewide races, including the race for the governor’s seat, by big margins last year. After that rout, former party chairman Chris Redfern resigned and was replaced by Pepper. Some of the internal tension that has hobbled the party has reemerged, critics say, in the party’s treatment of Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld, who is running against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland for the Democratic nomination to oppose current Senator Republican Rob Portman. Former Ohio Democratic Party Chair Jim Ruvolo, who served in that role from 1982 to 1991, has blasted Pepper for “sidelining” Sittenfeld in favor of the more well-known Strickland. Ruvolo, who is a consultant for Sittenfeld’s campaign, says it does the party no good to push down young talent like the 30-year-old councilman. Pepper has made statements some have read as demeaning to Sittenfeld, including a suggestion that local officials focus on the jobs in front of them and “put in the time.” Pepper says those statements weren’t meant to malign Sittenfeld or discourage him from running. Pepper says he’s working hard to unify the party in time for 2016, when a major battle between Dems and the GOP will take place over Ohio, which looks to be a decisive state in the presidential election and the scramble for control of the U.S. Senate.
That’s it for your truncated, Friday morning news today. As always, e-mail or tweet with news tips.