Hello all. Hope you’re ready for some news, because I’ve got a bunch for ya.
First, happy Veterans Day! Here’s a timely bit of news: Cincinnati City Council members Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young announced an initiative yesterday to track the number of veterans employed by the city in an effort make Cincinnati the most welcoming city in the country for veterans. The initiative will require contractors working on city projects to report how many veterans are employed on those projects, as well as keeping track of how many the city itself employs.
“This data will show how your tax dollars help grow opportunities for our veterans and keep their families employed and growing in our region,” Seelbach said in a statement. After the data is collected, the city will work with contractors and veterans service agencies in the city to improve veteran employment opportunities. In the years after 9/11, unemployment for vets has remained stubbornly high, even as unemployment for the general population starts to fall.
• The Human Rights Campaign, one of the biggest LGBT rights advocacy groups in the country, has chosen Cincinnati as the place it will unveil its 2014 Municipal Equality Index, which measures how welcoming cities are to members of the LGBT community. They’ll release the results tomorrow at Memorial Hall. Check out our brief piece here for more details.
• Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune want to explore the possibility of the city and county sharing certain services in an effort to boost efficiency for both. You can read more in our blog post from yesterday, but here’s the short take: It’s not a new idea, and there are a lot of political hoops to jump through that have kept shared services from happening in the past. But there’s also a lot of interest in the idea, and Cranley and Portune say their proposal will work. They’ll be asking City Council and county commissioners tomorrow to approve the creation of a task force that will meet regularly to oversee city-county cooperation.
• Downtown’s Horseshoe Casino last month had its lowest-grossing month since opening in March 2013, taking in just under $14 million. A crowded field of gambling options in the region, including neighboring Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, Indiana has contributed to the low earnings.
• While we’re talking about Indiana: Will the default of a major tollway in that state make financing the Brent Spence Bridge replacement more difficult? It’s a possibility, some investment experts say. A company contracted to manage the $3.85 billion Indiana Toll Road went bankrupt this fall, which could have ripple effects for a similar Brent Spence project, spooking investors who might otherwise be interested in it. Another interesting wrinkle in this story is that the Indiana project fell behind financially because of declining traffic on the Indiana toll road, a result of fewer folks using cars to get from point A to point B.
• Ohio’s charter schools are some of the lowest-performing in the country, a recent study found. The Stanford University research shows that after a year in an average Ohio charter school, students lag behind public school pupils in reading and math. Ohio’s schools were the fourth-lowest out of 26 states studied in terms of performance. An analysis by the Akron Beacon Journal suggests that for-profit charter schools are the reason for much of the performance disparity, with 14 of the state’s 16 lowest-performing charters run by for-profit companies. Eight of the top 12 charter schools, meanwhile, are run by non-profits. The analysis notes there are some exceptions to the rule, however, including three suburban Columbus charters run by New York-based company Mosaica Education. You can read the whole report here.
• Days after the U.S. 6th District Court of Appeals here in Cincinnati upheld the region’s same-sex marriage bans, the Supreme Court has put a temporary delay on removal of a similar ban in Kansas. After a district court there struck down the state’s ban, Kansas requested the Supreme Court put that decision on hold. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked for response from same-sex marriage advocates to the state’s request, and in the meantime has temporarily delayed the removal of the state’s ban on gay marriage. The district court’s ruling was set to go into effect at 6 p.m. today, allowing same-sex couples in the state to wed. The ruling is just a temporary delay, however, and doesn’t signal whether the Supreme Court will ultimately rule in favor of the state.
• President Obama has made some of the most definitive statements of his presidency lately in regard to his support for net neutrality, saying yesterday that measures to ensure that Internet service providers treat online content equally is "a big priority of mine." The statement seemed like a bit of surprise to FCC Chair Tom Wheeler, a former telecom executive appointed by Obama. He's responded that the FCC is an independent agency and will do what it sees fit. The question, of course, is why Obama nominated a telecom exec to be FCC chair in the first place, but yeah. The battle over net neutrality was already raging well before Obama took office but has intensified in recent years as telecom companies seek to create what opponents describe as "fast lanes" that give faster service to some kinds of content over others. Obama is pushing to reclassify ISPs as utilities instead of communications companies, which would give the federal government more power to regulate them and enforce rules about equal treatment of data flowing through ISPs' networks.
• A Deer Park man claiming he was Jesus has been taken into custody for mental evaluation, police there say. The man apparently made threats to a locally based, national-level politician and authorities are assessing what kind of risk he poses to others. Mental health is a serious issue, of course, but I really have to point out the epic one-liner this guy got off during a 911 call about his condition.
"I'm messed up," the man said to a 911 operator. "Can you tell my father I'm OK?"
"OK, where is your father at?" the operator asked.
"Uh, everywhere," the man claiming to be Jesus responded. Zing.
Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune are proposing a task force that could help the city and county governments share services. The idea has been proposed in the past with little progress, however, due to politics and an unwillingness to cut departments. But Portune and Cranley point to city-county cooperation on The Banks riverfront development project as proof the two governments can coordinate.
Portune acknowledged that the idea has been floated many times in the past. The Democrat commissioner sent a proposal to former Mayor Mark Mallory about the idea in 2011. Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann also discussed shared services many times with city officials, but again nothing ever came of the talks.
Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel has also expressed interest in shared services, pointing out situations where the city relies on the state, such as hospital inspections, as possible places where the city and county could work together. He says the county could do those inspections.
Hartmann has said coordinating services between the two bodies is a matter of political will, not necessarily further study. He’s on the fence about supporting the effort.
Past failures don’t mean cooperation isn’t possible or necessary, Portune said. He said The Banks project, which is finally seeing fruition after more than a decade of work, is a great example of what the city and county can do together.
“Just go about 12 blocks south of here and you look at the magnificent things that are happening on the city and the county’s central riverfront,” Portune said. “All of the new development at The Banks, all of that was planned and envisioned and decided through a joint city and county effort.”
He said a similar arrangement could work on a more permanent basis, helping both the city and county save valuable resources.
“In this day and age of lower revenues and resources, of squeezed budgets, of the state and federal government giving greater unfunded mandates on local governments,” Portune said, “we have to do more and more with less and less annually.”
Cranley and Portune will introduce matching proposals at Cincinnati City Council and board of commissioners meetings Wednesdays asking both bodies to create a group that would study ways the city and county could share some services for greater efficiency. The group would meet at least quarterly with commissioners and council members.
“We have to try all things,” Cranley said. He said dwindling resources and looming changes in state business taxes could take a bite out of local government funds. Cranley has been a vocal opponent of such changes by the state but said he sees shared services as a good idea either way. “Just because we think it’s fair and right that the state government stop attacking local government doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue shared services.”
Under the shared services arrangement, some departments in both governments, such as the county’s permitting departments or the city’s Environmental Services Office, could eventually see reductions as two offices are folded into one.
Cranley said a few areas spring to mind as possible places for sharing services, including the city prosecutor’s office. But he said that doesn’t mean the office will close up shop.
“I think the city is going to maintain a prosecutorial function,” Cranley said, noting that he thinks the city is better suited to pursue some cases, such as negligent property owners. “I think our efforts will be ramped up in some cases, not reduced.”
But Cranley also said that some prosecutions are duplicated by the two courts and that some criminal cases could be better handled by the county.
Portune said the effort could lead to wider cooperation among local governments. There is great interest in pooling resources and sharing services among the area’s 48 municipalities and other jurisdictions, he said.
“This effort should not be limited to just the city and the county,” he said. “It’s going to start out this way. But ... there’s a tremendous appetite with the other 48 local jurisdictions. Some of that has happened, but there’s an awful lot more that could and should.”
Morning all. There is a busy weekend’s worth of news to recap, but before we get to that, I just gotta say this: I went to something called Mustard Club Saturday, and it changed my life. While I haven’t been quite as up on the German heritage tip as a lot of folks in the city are, this monthly event in Corryville may change that. Here’s a little hint: all you can eat pretzels, mashed potatoes, German desserts and, of course, various meat products. Oh, and lots of German beer if you’re into that.
Anyway, down to business.
• Tonight at Xavier, a woman whose father saved 669 Jewish children during the Holocaust will meet one of those survivors. Barbara Winton is the daughter of British stockbroker Nicholas Winton, who in 1938 took steps to find foster parents for Czechoslovakian Jewish children caught up in the horrors of Nazi genocidal programs. She’s written a book about his life, called If It’s Not Impossible, and tonight at the Cintas Center she’ll meet with Renata Laxova, who at 8 years old left Prague for the safety of Britain thanks to Winton’s efforts. Laxova, who became a geneticist, is 83 today and lives in Madison. Wis. She was among the last children Winton was able to rescue. Amazingly, Nicholas Winton is still alive today, but at 105, he’s not able to make the ceremony, which is part of Xavier’s “Touching History” series.
• Over-the-Rhine is already a brewing hub, but soon the neighborhood will be host to a distillery for gin, whiskey and bourbon for the first time in a long time. Owners of local pet store PetWants recently purchased a 17,000-square-foot warehouse on Central Parkway and hope to be distilling there by next year. They’re also looking to turn the spot into an event space, as well as running some operations for the pet store from the warehouse.
• Mayor John Cranley today announced that he and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune are requesting the city and county create a shared services task force that will find ways the two governments can work together for the region. Cranley and Portune will discuss their ideas further at a news conference later this morning.
• The city is considering turning two major one-way arteries in East Walnut Hills into two way streets. East McMillan Street and William Howard Taft Road will probably be converted to boost traffic and business in the neighborhood. Other parts of the streets were converted into two-way corridors in 2012. A neighborhood hearing on the proposals is scheduled for Nov. 18.
• A riverbank park in Lower Price Hill and Riverside is a lot closer to reality. River West, the group planning the park, will receive a $16,000 grant from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and a $30,000 grant from nonprofit Interact for Health for the project. The group has been pushing for the park for the last seven years, when it successfully fought plans to turn the area into a landing spot for barges. The group worked with the city, which rezoned the land. The 16-acre park, which will be called Price Landing, is still in the early stages, with community input and design phases expected to begin next year. One feature on the table is an extension of the Ohio River Trail.
• If you’re curious about what Hamilton County’s GOP and Democratic party chairmen thought of local and state elections this year, you’re in luck. They shared some candid thoughts Friday at a post-election luncheon for the city’s political bigwigs.
Dem chairman Tim Burke bemoaned the county’s 45 percent voter turnout rate, which he said was the lowest since 1978. He also said he saw Democrat gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald as a good candidate but a long shot to topple Kasich, at least until it was revealed that FitzGerald hadn’t had a driver’s license for 10 years. Burke says FitzGerald told him “I’m a procrastinator” as an explanation for the gaffe that tainted his campaign.
GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou had his own insights and revelations about the election. He acknowledged that the trend for the GOP in the county, like in many urban places, is anything but promising long term, but promised that the party would continue to field good candidates. Triantafilou also had some nuanced thoughts about Gov. Kasich’s reelection, saying the incumbent took a more centrist tack this time around after big backlash over the effort to repeal collective bargaining rights for state employees he undertook after voters elected him the first time. That hasn’t endeared him to the state’s tea party faction, Triantafilou said, but won him enough support to take the election by a large margin.
• In state news, Ohio earned a C grade on a new report for its legislative efforts to stop human trafficking. Fourteen other states also received the middling grade from nonprofit Shared Hope, which gave Ohio a score of 78 out of 100, a five point bump from last year. The report said Ohio has made some positive steps in terms of creating specific crimes for those who engage in the sex trafficking of children but has more work to do in terms of trying to limit demand for such services.
• Conservative groups are already pushing for likely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass legislation defunding or repealing Obamacare. The rifts in the GOP that were very evident in the last budget fight have reappeared, with tea party-aligned groups like Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action signaling that they’ll push senators and representatives to pursue strategies for repealing the health care law. But it will be tough for McConnell to lead a repeal of the law. Republicans still don’t have 60 votes in the Senate to override a filibuster from Democrats and wouldn’t be able to get past a presidential veto even if they could get legislation out of the Senate.
Hey all. Here’s what’s going on around the city and beyond this morning.
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled yesterday to uphold same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee. You can read more right here about that ruling, and whether it means a Supreme Court case on same-sex marriage.
• Freshly reelected Sen. Mitch McConnell has weighed in again on the Brent Spence Bridge dilemma. The bridge, which is 50 years old and functionally obsolete, though still structurally sound, will need replacing. That comes with a hefty $2 billion price tag, however, which neither Kentucky nor the federal government seems eager to pay for. One solution proposed has been a toll road over the bridge, but that idea has met with stiff opposition from a cadre of Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati-area politicians, business leaders and others. McConnell said yesterday that opposition isn’t likely to fade anytime soon, but that there may be a possible solution… corporate tax breaks. He sees the potential for more highway funds that could be used for projects like the bridge through a corporate tax fix that he says could lure more companies back to the U.S.
• McConnell’s fellow Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul dreamed up that highway funds proposal, and McConnell says he’s “intrigued.” There’s another news item here entirely, and one perhaps more interesting on the national stage. McConnell and Paul, who have had some cold relations in the past, have been pretty warm to each other lately, and McConnell has signaled he’d be supportive of a Paul presidential bid in 2016.
• A bill to simplify Ohio’s tax system may also cost the state’s municipalities a ton of cash. The potential law would change the way businesses like construction companies are taxed, possibly cutting into municipal tax receipts. Mayor John Cranley, along with other regional political leaders, are fighting the bill, and may try to introduce a statewide ballot initiative should the bill pass in the Ohio Statehouse.
• Kentucky’s Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson is on his way out of the state, heading for the White House. He’ll be a deputy assistant to President Obama, helping the prez and the federal executive branch coordinate with other governmental bodies, including state, county, city and tribal governments. Given the huge ideological divide between supporters of local and federal power, that sounds like a really, really fun job.
• A small group of protesters have gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse today to draw attention to what they say is a serious problem: drug overdoses in area jails and prisons. Many attendees are members of anti-heroin groups who have had family members of friends die of overdoses. They’re questioning how the drug is able to make its way to people behind bars. The region is suffering from a severe heroin crisis, with overdose deaths increasing significantly in the past few years.
• So, now that Republicans control the Senate, will the new top Senator on science be Texas' Ted Cruz, a noted climate-change denier? Could happen. Cruz looks to be next in line for chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space. Republican Sen. James Inhofe, another doubter when it comes to climate change science, looks likely to chair the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, which is also going to be a big change-up.
• Finally in our truncated Friday edition of morning news, I have a confession: There are many things in this world I’m a huge dork about, but history, maps and public transit are all near the top. That said, I just want you to take a look at this amazing, 100-year-old 3-dimensional transit ridership map from Germany. Dang man.
The Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday upheld laws banning same-sex marriage in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.
The 2-1 decision covers six cases in those four states brought by a total of 16 couples. Among them are Cincinnati residents Brittani Henry-Rogers and Brittni Rogers, who are fighting so both can be listed as parents on their son’s birth certificate. James Obergefell of Cincinnati is also involved, asking courts for the right to be listed on his husband Jim Arthur’s death certificate. Earlier, a lower district court found in their favor.
“We just want to be treated as a family, because we are a family,” Henry-Rogers said in an August interview after the 6th Circuit hearings.
Justices Deborah Cook and Jeffery Sutton ruled that the debate over same-sex marriage is best decided by voters, not by the court. Justice Martha Daughtrey dissented.
“When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton wrote in the majority opinion. “Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way."
The case is a somewhat surprising setback for same-sex marriage advocates, who had been on a winning streak in federal courts. The 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuit Courts have previously struck down laws in a number of states banning same-sex marriage. Gay marriage is now legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia.
"This decision is an outlier that’s incompatible with the 50 other rulings that uphold fairness for all families, as well as with the Supreme Court’s decision to let marriage equality rulings stand in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Chase Strangio in a statement yesterday. “It is shameful and wrong that John Arthur’s death certificate may have to be revised to list him as single and erase his husband’s name as his surviving spouse.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine represented the state in the case. His office said in a statement it was "pleased the court agreed with our arguments that important issues such
as these should be determined through the democratic process."
The decision leaves intact Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, at least for now. That’s created a split in federal court rulings among various circuit courts, something the Supreme Court will most likely have to sort out. Some legal experts think the Supreme Court will ultimately find same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. The court has refused to hear appeals to lower court decisions striking down bans, leading many to think a majority of the court supports legalization.
Strangio said the ACLU will be filing for Supreme Court consideration. Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who represents the Ohio couples, has said he will be working to bring the case to the nation's highest court as well. Other advocacy organizations have also vowed to continue the fight.
“Now, more than ever before, the Supreme Court of the United States must take up the issue and decide once and for all whether the Constitution allows for such blatant discrimination,” said Human Rights Coalition President Chad Griffin. “We believe that justice and equality will prevail.”
It's a new day in America. There's a Republican tide sweeping into office, led by our own House Speaker John Boehner and neighbor to the south Senate Minority Leader (soon to be majority leader) Mitch McConnell. These new, brave soldiers, elected by the slim sliver of the American population that actually turned out to vote, will lead us away from government tyranny to a shining future of... something something.
If you don't know exactly what the plan is, I don't blame ya (spoiler: it involves repealing Obamacare). Boehner and McConnell first announced their ideas for leading majorities in both houses and "honoring voters' trust" behind the paywall of The Wall Street Journal. So if you don't subscribe to the conservative-leaning daily newspaper (tweet at me if you're too young to be a reader of such antiquated technology and I'll explain what it is), well, I guess you'll just have to hear about it on the streets when word of mouth picks up among the unwashed masses.
Nah. To be fair, Boehner has also posted the op-ed on his website. For free! That's so generous. And there are sure to be numerous news conferences on Republican plans, so stay glued to your seat.
Republicans, and McConnell in particular, have been criticized by Dems and others for having big friends with big money on Wall Street, which makes this move a little tone-deaf. CityBeat offered them 500 words in our Voices section, but they never got back to us. (Not really, we're pretty booked up lately).
Funny enough, conservative publication The Daily Caller first called out the move earlier today.
All right all right! Before we get to what’s going on today, I want to talk for a minute about yesterday’s print issue, which we’re pretty proud of. Our copy editor/news person Samantha got her first news feature in, and it’s super-interesting look at new developments with the Wasson Way bike trail. Check it out. Also, yesterdays’ cover story is a long piece I worked on for weeks on the plight of coerced sex workers in Cincinnati. I was blown away by the stories sources shared and the immense strength of people who go through that world. Take a look.
• It looks like the streetcar funding puzzle may finally be coming together. Yesterday afternoon Councilman Kevin Flynn presented a new plan to fund the transit project’s operations, and this one could go all the way.
Flynn proposes a three-pronged attack to cover the annual $4 million or so shortfall for streetcar operating funds. One funding source would be an adjustment on commercial property tax abatement in downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The arrangement would ask commercial property owners to agree to a 67.5 percent abatement instead of the now-standard 75 percent deal. That would net about $200,000 the first year and up to $2 million a year a decade from now. The second source would be a boost in parking meter charges to a maximum in some areas of $2.25 an hour downtown and $1.25 an hour in OTR. About $1.5 million gained from that boost would go to the streetcar. Finally, the city’s counting on about $1.4 million a year from riders paying to ride the streetcar.
The plan has a good shot. A majority of Council has signed on, including Transportation Committee Chair Amy Murray. Even Mayor John Cranley has indicated he won’t oppose the funding framework, despite the fact it cuts out the residential parking permit scheme he’s been pushing. The scheme elicited only minor grumbles from the streetcar opponent.
“I appreciate a plan that won’t dip into the General Fund of the City and the hard work that went into crafting it,” he said in a statement yesterday evening. “I still think the streetcar is not the best use of these resources, but I look forward to moving past this debate.”
• While we’re talking about City Hall stuff, City Manager Harry Black today announced the launch of the city’s Performance and Data Analytics Office. The office will set performance management goals with each city department, start an innovation lab to research operational problems the city is experiencing and design and run something called Citistat, which will utilize data analysis to find and address areas where the city’s services are underperforming. The office will be lead by Chad Kenney, Jr., who last led the city of Baltimore’s data analysis office.
“I had the opportunity to work closely with Chad in Baltimore,” Black said in a statement. “I am confident that he is the right man for the challenge here in Cincinnati.”
• Here are a couple news bits related to the ole’ al-key-hol. Nick and Drew Lachey, Cincinnati’s most famous singing brothers, have set the opening date for their bar, which will also be a reality show because that’s how things work now, for mid-December. It will be at 12th and Walnut and will be called… Lachey’s Bar. I really hope they didn’t pay a branding firm for that name.
• Also in beer-related news, a new brewery on Harrison Avenue in Westwood is in the works. The 2,200-square-foot Bridgetown Brew Works will start by offering five brews, with more coming as business grows. The owners are currently working on construction of the space now. They say they’re hoping to avoid relying on financing and have turned to online crowd-funding site Kickstarter to raise money for the venture. Even if that campaign fails, however, they’re determined to open next year.
• The fight over Common Core rages on. A bill to repeal the federal education standards in the state has made it out of committee and will now be considered by the Ohio House of Representatives. Opponents of the standards say they amount to a federal takeover of education, while supporters say they simply ensure students are being taught essential skills for the modern workplace.
• Local college freshman Lauren Hill, who has an inoperable and likely terminal brain tumor, has become a deservedly celebrated figure around Cincinnati. She’s faced her disease with courage and grace, and last week she got to live out a dream when she scored two baskets in a college basketball game for Mount Saint Joseph at Xavier’s Cintas Center. She’s also gotten her picture on a Wheaties box and received national accolades. Yesterday, she was also the subject of this really incredible piece about sportsmanship published by Grantland. You should check it out.
• Finally, if you need any more proof that punk is long-dead and that gentrification is alive and well, here it is. If you've got $2 million lying around, you can buy the house where seminal hardcore band Minor Threat played its first show. The house now features lux amenities like granite counters, a two-car garage and all sorts of other swank stuff. This time last year I was living in Washington D.C., paying an unspeakable amount to rent a room in a house with five other people. This house, which is actually kinda cheap for that neighborhood, I think, was a 15-minute walk toward the swanky side of town from where I lived.
Well, folks, election season is over for another year, and we got precious few surprises last night. The GOP ran up the score in every statewide election, took control of the U.S. Senate by picking up between seven to nine seats and scooped up even more seats in the House than they had before. Rep. John Boehner picked up an easy victory and looks to spend another term as house speaker and Sen. Mitch McConnell, who at one point looked to have a tougher fight, easily won against Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Now he could become Senate majority leader.
The statewide results are demoralizing for Democrats. Gov. Kasich won over Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald by a huge 32 point margin in the governor’s race. Attorney General Mike DeWine won an easy victory over Democrat David Pepper, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted handily beat Democratic State Senator Nina Turner, and even Republican Treasurer Josh Mandel beat opponent State Rep. Connie Pillich by nearly 15 points, despite being the most vulnerable of Republican incumbents in the election. That means four more years of a governor who has actively worked to curtail women's access to abortion services, an attorney general who has fought to preserve Ohio's more-than-likely unconstitutional gay marriage ban and a secretary of state who has worked to curtail early voting in the state.
In what is an almost too-neat metaphor for the state of Ohio's Democratic Party, now-former Ohio Democratic Party Chair Chris Redfern resigned as the party’s statewide leader last night after the embarrassing showing. He even lost his own seat in the Ohio House of Representatives to a Republican challenger, Steve Kraus, who is, get this, a suspect in a burglary, though no charges have been filed yet. One thing is for sure — Redfern got his seat burgled. Yeah, I just went there with that terrible joke.
The biggest news on the local level is that Issue 8, the icon tax, passed with 63 percent of the vote. That means a quarter-cent county sales tax increase will fund renovations to the city’s historic Union Terminal building. But interest in the icon tax fight didn’t extend to kicking County Commissioner Chris Monzel out of office. Many expressed anger at Monzel for slicing Music Hall out of the tax deal over the summer, but 58 percent of voters weren’t angry enough to choose Democrat Chris Feeney or write-in candidate Jim Tarbell over the Republican incumbent.
Also noteworthy is Democrat Cecil Thomas’ easy win over Republican Cincinnati City Councilman Charlie Winburn for Ohio’s 9th District state Senate seat. That means Winburn will be hanging around Council for a while longer and continuing to chair the powerful budget committee, where he’s been a key ally to Mayor John Cranley.
On a national level, the election is a part backlash against President Obama mixed with a bit of an affirmation of the GOP political strategy led by McConnell, which basically boils down to saying “no” a lot. They’ve been able to fight President Obama and Democrats as a whole to a standstill on a number of thorny, hard-to-tackle issues including health care, a minimum wage increase, unemployment benefits and immigration over the past few years while pinning the blame on the other team. But now that they have both sides of Congress, as even some in the party concede, they’ll have to try something new — actually governing by enacting policy instead of just rejecting it.
One other interesting national wrinkle in this midterm: progressive policies won the day in a number of states, while a couple deeply conservative statewide anti-abortion ballot initiatives in Colorado and North Dakota failed. Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota all passed minimum wage increases and Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. passed initiatives decriminalizing possession of various amounts of marijuana.
Today is the day we Americans go to the polls, check some boxes and get a cool sticker. Some say we also get to choose who governs us, but the jury is still out on that one. Nah, just kidding. These are big decisions! Make sure you’re fully awake and well-nourished by drinking several cups of coffee and bringing three or four donuts, breakfast burritos or slices of last night’s pizza with you into the voting booth.
And if you want some friendly advice and fresh perspective on the candidates before you go in and make those fateful decisions, check out our endorsements and election coverage. You’ll find everything you need on the major races and issues on the ballot in the Greater Cincinnati area. Polls are open until 7:30 p.m. in Ohio and until 6 p.m. in Kentucky. Go forth, and please don’t screw this up for everyone.
• Before I bombard you with election news, let’s hit the local stuff. The Davis Furniture building will be spared for now. Last night the Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board met for seven hours debating the merits of saving the building versus granting an application for demolition from owners the Stough Group. Stough owns the Hanke Exchange right across the street, and bought the Davis building last year at county auction for $150,000. But the cost of rehabbing it seemed monumental, so they decided to apply to tear it down. But other groups, including 3CDC and nonprofit Tender Mercies would like to pay more than that to acquire and rehab the iconic, if foreboding, former furniture store on Main Street in OTR. Things got plenty heated last night, but in the end, preservation advocates prevailed. Stough will have thirty days to appeal the decision, however, so that 20-foot-tall bowling ball mattress guy adorning the building’s south side isn’t out of the woods yet.
• So this is pretty cool. Cincinnati is competing to bring an international museum convention to the city in 2019. Representatives from the International Council of Museums visited the city last week to check out the city’s cultural amenities and hotels to determine if Cincinnati has what it takes to host a large, discerning group of museum directors from around the globe. The ICM represents 32,000 members from 137 countries, and if it chooses Cincinnati, they will meet in the United States for just the second time ever. The first time was in New York City in 1965. The convention happens every three years; 2013’s convention was in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2016 meeting will be in Milan. The group toured all the sweet spots in Cincinnati, including Music Hall, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Contemporary Art Center and just about anywhere else in town that has a museum.
The convention could bring more than $4 million to the city, which I don’t know, says something about the value of our cultural assets. Maybe go weigh in on Issue 8 or something? Yeah.
• As I mentioned yesterday, early voting turnout has been very low this midterm election — even lower than most midterms, which are not usually very busy to begin with. A lot of that has to do with the lack of competitiveness in the races, which started with the complete drubbing of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald by Gov. John Kasich after the wheels came off Fitz’s campaign months ago. FitzGerald is down 28 points to Kasich. If this was a one on one basketball game, that would be a hard deficit to overcome with the time remaining on the clock, requiring multiple three-pointers, a number of personal fouls from Kasich, and Fitz subbing in LeBron James at some point. Unfortunately, this is an election, and that deficit is nearly impossible to surmount. I would still like to see LeBron dunk on Kasich at some point, but it’s a lost cause otherwise.
That race kept things frosty for Dems down-ticket as well, with many worthy challengers such as AG candidate David Pepper and secretary of state hopeful Nina Turner running double-digit deficits against their Republican opponents. All that is to say it’s looking like a rout, folks, unless a huge ton of people come down out of the stands and vote. Wow, this extended metaphor got really painful. Yeesh. Just go vote already.
• At least one statewide race is pretty exciting, though —State Rep. Connie Pillich is neck and neck with Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel in the race for his seat. Pillich, a moderate Democrat, has focused on her experience as a U.S. Air Force captain and her time at the state house. Mandel, on the other hand, has been playing defense a bit, beating back criticism about some campaign finance questions around a businessman named Ben Suarez and the suggestion that he’s just using the treasurer’s office as a stepping stone to bigger, better things. This one could go either way.
• Things aren’t going well for Democrats across the river, as Sen. Mitch McConnell pulls away from challenger Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell is predicting victory not just for himself, but for Republicans looking to take control of the Senate from Democrats. Meanwhile, Grimes is forecasting an upset, but polling over the past few days has shown a growing lead for the incumbent.
Hey all! We’re just two days away from an end to the ceaseless campaign ads, yard signs, life-size cardboard cutouts, mailers and other political spam candidates have hurled our way for months now. That’s exciting. To celebrate, maybe go out and vote if you haven’t already.
Speaking of voting, early voter turnout in Ohio has been especially low in this election so far — 40 percent lower than 2010, the last mid-term election. No one really agrees why, by the fact that Ohio has seven fewer early voting days this year can’t have helped the dynamic. Democrats say the reductions have limited the ability of low-income and minority voters to get to the polls. Republicans point out that Ohio still has more early voting days than many states. Some, like Kentucky, don’t have any.
• For months, a fight has been brewing around the iconic and dilapidated Davis Furniture building, which is on Main Street near the intersection with Central Parkway. Today may be a decisive one in that fight as the city’s Historic Conservation Board votes on the building’s fate. The building is something of a landmark, with that weird guy dropping a bowling ball on some mattresses welcoming visitors into OTR’s arts corridor. The Stough Group, a local developer that owns the Hanke Building and others across the street, bought the building earlier this year and promptly applied for permits to tear it down. That caused protest among historic preservation advocates and a six-month delay by the preservation board as alternatives were researched. Stough says the building is too far gone to preserve in a cost-effective manner. Preservation advocates point out that other groups aiming to save the building, including 3CDC, have tried to purchase it so they can fix it up. The conservation board meets at 3 p.m. to vote on Stough’s demolition application.
• Four of the five clocks that once adorned the long-lost globe mural over Union Terminal’s now demolished concourse have recently resurfaced. The clocks marked time across the U.S. for passengers on cross-country train journeys boarding trains from the concourse at the rear section of the terminal. By 1974, those trains had stopped coming, and the concourse was seen as an antiquated liability. It, along with the enormous 16-foot high, 70-foot-long mosaic, were torn down that year.
And as far as anyone knew until recently, that was the end of the story. Other murals depicting the history of industry in Cincinnati were saved and moved to CVG International Airport, but the largest and most ornate of them ended up in the landfill. The terminal itself eventually became the Cincinnati Museum Center. But now, the clocks have surfaced again from the warehouse they’ve been resting in for 40 years. And the owner, whose father owned the rigging company that helped tear down the building, is looking to find a good place for them. Let’s hope these timepieces find their way back to their original home.
• A local mega-corporation is caught up in an international tax fight. P&G is temporarily barred from doing business in Argentina, which has accused the Cincinnati-based company of tax fraud over $138 million in imports from Brazil that went through a Swiss-based P&G subsidiary. The country has experienced a rocky financial road over the past decade plus, including two defaults on international debts.
• A gun group started by two Indiana women for women looking to pick up weapons in self-defense has skyrocketed in popularity, drawing hundreds of calls and steadily increasing membership. Women Armed and Ready started five months ago in Aurora, Indiana. Since that time, the group has opened up a second chapter in Batesville and looks to branch out nationally. The group, which offers gun safety and self-defense training, has received attention from national gun groups and will be featured in the National Rifle Association’s All Access TV program, which runs on the Outdoors Channel. They’re also set to appear in gun-themed magazines and other publications.
• Home ownership rates across the United States are at the lowest levels they’ve been in nearly two decades, driven by the lingering 2008 housing crisis, generational shifts in living patterns and other factors. It’s easy to find the trend in Ohio cities, and now Columbus is considering ways to address the shift. The city is mulling programs that could provide grants or low-interest loans for landlords who want to upgrade properties or renovate vacant ones for housing. The city is also looking at ways to continue to incentivize home ownership.
• Finally, to put into the “freedom of the press isn’t free” file, it’s come out that airspace restrictions requested by law enforcement in Ferguson, Mo. were put in place mostly to restrict media coverage of the massive protests happening over the Aug. 5 death of 18-year-old Mike Brown. Recorded conversations between law enforcement officials make it clear that the number one concern for those officials was restricting press helicopters and other aircraft, and that safety was at best a secondary concern. If you think that sounds like some conspiracy theory stuff, I agree. But this is the Associated Press reporting this, so yeah. Disturbing.