Carden and the Park Board have been under scrutiny for the project since a memo from City Manager Harry Black and Chief Procurement Officer Patrick Duhaney's on Mar. 22 alleged that some of the Parks Department's contracting practices were risky for the city. According to the memo, the master service agreements used by the department for Smale's construction were supposed to be used only for covering routine maintenance. The contracts didn't have enough performance bonds, meaning they weren't able to hold the companies accountable enough for their work on a project as large as the Smale Riverfront Park during or after construction. A recent Enquirer report also alleged the contracts weren't publicly bid as required by state law.
Carden and other department officials defended the Parks Department's decision on Monday, saying the use of master service agreements has been a longstanding city policy and the contracts were approved by the city's finance department. They also said they were under pressure to finish the park in time for the All-Star Game, which took place last July.
Several council members strongly defended Carden, blaming poor city policy and Mayor John Cranley's failed parks levy from last year's election for unfairly putting Carden under the microscope. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson called the whole scandal "a witchhunt," praised Carden for his work on the city's parks and said she was "ashamed of the way the (city) responded."
Councilman Charlie Winburn, the chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, also blamed the city for the scrutiny the Park's Department is now facing from Black and the Enquirer.
"It has put these fine people in a bad position," Winburn said.
• Mayor John Cranley and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown will announce a new city labor and workplace initiative this morning. Cranley and Brown will also be joined by council members Yvette Simpson, P. G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young to announce new workplace safety and city labor reforms for the middle class, according to a release from the mayor's office.
• Cincinnati Metro and Uber announced a new partnership this morning so people can Uber to the bus — well, once, at least. Uber Cincinnati will be giving away one free ride with the idea that it will show people just how easy it is to Uber to the bus or from a bus stop to a nearby destination. Casey Verkamp, the general manager of Uber Cincinnati, claims many people use Uber to get to the bus. Previous studies have shown that Cincinnati's bus service is coming up short when it comes to getting people to work. Metro riders can redeem this offer by texting "cincymetro" to 827222.
• No more free parking at Covington's MainStrasse Village. Pay stations along Main and West Sixth streets were installed last Saturday and will go live tomorrow. The city's decision is intended to make it easier for visitors and residents to find parking amid an increase in business activity in the area.
• The Ohio Supreme Court announced a new rule Monday that will severely limit the shackling of juveniles in courts. The decision came after concerned parties like the American Civil Liberties Union approached Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor's court personnel about the way juveniles were being treated in courts. They claimed shackling is a much bigger problem in Ohio than other places. The Supreme Court issued a "presumption against shackling" effective July 1, meaning courts can only shackle kids if their behavior is deemed a big enough threat or they're considered a flight risk.
Ohio Governor John Kasich was crushed in the last round of primary contests, even losing to the ghost of Sen. Marco Rubio in Utah from early ballots casted before the Florida senator terminated his campaign. Between the recent contests in Utah and Arizona, Kasich failed to pick up any delegates.
This battle for the Republican nomination has not been kind to governors. Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee have all been casualties in a rambunctious political climate that seeks mischief and is giving the finger to the establishment by hopping on the Trump train or embracing the rebellious Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Right now, Kasich sits with a mere 143 delegates. Trump is far in the lead with 739, followed by Cruz’s 465. It is a long shot for the Texas senator to halt Trump’s warpath to the nomination — it is mathematically impossible for Kasich. It takes 1,237 delegates to secure the GOP nomination. Even if the Ohio governor won every contest moving forward, there are not enough delegates for him to be the nominee.
Kasich’s only victory was Ohio — a contest he won by 11 points. However, Trump defeated the governor in virtually all of Ohio’s southern counties and every county that borders Pennsylvania and West Virginia. While Kasich’s victory in his home state was a moral victory, it highlighted that even with a home field advantage, he still could not get a sweeping victory like we saw with Cruz and Sen. Bernie Sanders in their states.
Other than that, he probably holds the record for most fourth-place victories. Outside of the Buckeye State, Kasich has struggled with name recognition or gathering any meaningful traction — a weakness that is entirely understandable when you have to make noise while in the same room as a man that flies around on a private jet with his name on it.
Kasich’s strategy is digging in northeastern states like Pennsylvania, where Cruz is not expected to perform well. His campaign is not about defeating his opponents with delegates — it is about denying Trump every vote possible.
This points to both Kasich as a weak candidate and the power of Trump’s message. Kasich has never had a real message in his bid for the presidency — other than not being a jerk on stage. Instead of building his vision for the Oval Office, he hides in the corner biding his time for Trump’s self-destruction. However, that destruction never happened and is unlikely to ever occur.
Everyone is either tapping out, accepting Trump will be the nominee — and possibly our next president — or they’re holding their noses and siding with Cruz, a candidate that in any other presidential run would be seen as the fringe candidate that needs to be stopped at all costs.
It is hard to tell if Kasich actually thinks he can show up to the GOP convention with a few hundred delegates and deny Trump the nomination, or if this is a last-ditch effort to put the Ohio governor out there to take humiliating defeats while trying to soak up handfuls of delegates in hopes of putting some dents in Trump’s almost inevitable nomination.
To deny Trump’s nomination would be the GOP spitting in the faces of their voters. The democratic process picked Donald Trump, and it is hard to not take Trump seriously when he suggests there will be riots if the party robbed him of his fair victory.
Imagine if Bernie Sanders won the delegate game only to be toppled by Hillary Clinton’s superdelegates. There would certainly be some liberal-on-liberal violence in the aisles of Whole Foods.
If this is Kasich’s strategy, it should raise concerns of how much respect for the democratic process he has. If he is just crossing his fingers that Trump’s plane crashes, he should admit it instead of suggesting he is going to upset Republican voters of their candidate to lead the free world.
• Cincinnati placed seventh on Realtor.com's list of the 10 trendiest U.S. cities. OK, the list is actually the 10 trendiest cities that you can afford. But is it really worth living in Brooklyn or San Francisco if you don't the money to go out? The list looked into the 500 largest cities in the country and came up with the list based on the number of foodie hotspots, bike shops, yoga studios, cultural outlets and the population increase of 25- to 34-year-olds in each town and then compared that to the average home prices. Nearby cities Ann Arbor, Mich. and Pittsburgh, Penn., also made the list.
• Ohio might be one step closer to legalizing medical marijuana. The Ohio House medical marijuana task force will hold its last meeting this Thursday and could introduce a bill into the House as early as this summer. The task force has been forming a plan to introduce the issue to the legislature over the course of seven hearings where it heard testimony from business leaders and medical experts. Twenty-three states along with Washington D.C. have already enacted laws to allow the use of medical marijuana. Last November, Ohio voters shot down a ballot initiative by the group ResponsibleOhio to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes.
• Is it finally time for Ohio to say goodbye to its "tampon tax"? The Ohio Court of Claims filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of four women this month claiming the state's 5.4-percent sales tax on feminine hygiene products is discriminatory against women. It's seeking a refund of $66 million to Ohio female customers. Meanwhile, two bills introduced by State Rep. Greta Johnson, D-Akron, also call for the end of the taxation and are pending in the House.
• Ohio Democrats are putting pressure Republican Sen. Rob Portman to allow a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, Obama's nomination for the vacant Supreme Court seat. Portman, who is up for re-election this November, has followed the position of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying the Senate should not grant a hearing or confirmation vote of Garland. Democrats say their reasoning — Obama's lame-duck status — is just an attempt to block the president's nomination. Ohio Democrats have recently been circulating an old video clip in which Portman calls the confirmation process a responsibility of the Senate, along with an independent poll that found most Americans want the Senate to give Garland a hearing. On Friday, the White House also organized a press call with a University of Cincinnati law professor and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown where they criticized the GOP's decision legally to block Obama's nomination.
• Here's something scary given the current tense climate of the Republican party. More than 25,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to allow guns inside the Republican National Convention this summer. The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, where the convention will be held in July, does not allow firearms. The petition calls on Gov. John Kasich, who is also running for the Republican presidential nomination, to use his executive authority to override the center's gun-free policy.
• Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders won big in the primaries this weekend. Sanders swept the western states of Hawaii, Idaho and Washington, pulling in at least 71 percent of the vote in each state. The victory still only slightly narrowed the margin between Sanders and frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Republicans, on the other hand, got to enjoy Easter egg hunts and binging on chocolate. They did not hold any primaries this weekend.
Good morning all. Here’s what’s up today.
Well, it was enlightening while it lasted. Cincinnati city administration yesterday released, then quickly pulled, a study on safety issues surrounding the Central Parkway Bikeway requested by City Councilman Christopher Smitherman. Smitherman recently introduced a motion to remove the lanes, citing safety concerns.
The study, completed by the city’s department of transportation and signed by City Manager Harry Black, found that that the stretch of Central Parkway with the bike lane does not have any more accidents than comparable streets without lanes. It concluded with a recommendation that the lanes remain. The city quickly pulled the study from its website, however, saying it had not been completely reviewed and approved. You can read our story on the erstwhile study here.
• Speaking of contentious projects that move people from one place to another… yeah, that’s right, it’s more about the streetcar. Here’s a story about the way other cities with streetcars handle big downtown events, in the wake of Council’s move passing an ordinance that will shut ours down for seven events a year until at least 2018. Here’s a hint: Other cities don’t do that usually, at least not to the extent that Cincinnati will.
• Things continue to get real-er around the Cincinnati Parks Board. The city has halted construction on a $1 million project on Cincinnati’s riverfront Serpentine Wall following revelations that the board carried over preexisting maintenance contracts instead of putting tens of millions of dollars of construction work out to public bid on Smale Riverfront Park. Those preexisting “master contracts” aren’t bonded or insured for the work being done, putting the city at financial risk, city officials say. Meanwhile, park board chair Otto M. Budig, a prominent philanthropist and civic leader, has said that things could and should have been done differently with those contracts, but also pointed out the time-sensitive nature of getting the park ready for prime-time by last summer’s MLB All-Star Game.
• Have you seen this depressing Twitter war between the two corporate behemoths that comprise Cincinnati’s major media outlets? TV news station WCPO recently began adding the hashtag #dropthepaper to its marketing campaigns for its so-called “Insiders” program, where you pay them to get like, more stories about the streetcar or something? Unclear. Anyway, we don’t think they were talking about us (we’re like those kids in your high school who were too uncool to even get picked on. It’s a good place to be really). Instead, it seems this was a less-than-passive aggressive swipe at The Cincinnati Enquirer. Enquirer reporters and other print news types have taken umbrage at the campaign, which some have called unprofessional (and worse). Anyway, national journalism commentators like Jim Romanesko and Nieman Lab have picked up the story. Cincinnati: the city where everyone argues about everything, all the time, and where trying too hard on social media is part of building your media brand.
• More signs our state’s economy is lagging behind the rest of the U.S.: Ohio ranks 38th in the country for personal income growth and is last in the Great Lakes region. Even Michigan, home of Detroit and Flint, has beaten us — in fact, they were the best in the region. What’s more, Ohio’s income growth rate, 3.1 percent, has fallen from a year ago, when it was 3.85 percent. Overall, California had the highest rate of personal income growth while North Dakota fared the worst.
• So, as you know, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is experiencing a strange kind of political afterlife as a somehow-still-campaigning candidate for the GOP presidential primary. He has no mathematical chance of winning the nomination in the traditional way, but he’s hanging in there in hopes of a brokered convention. One of the side effects of that doggedness is that a certain degree of harsh light is now being shined on the Big Queso. This story in The New York Times today explores Kasich’s reputation as a brash, kind of rude politician — a rep that plays directly counter to the reasonable, even friendly, image he’s worked hard to cultivate in his campaign. Meanwhile, those within his party have continued to rebuke Kasich for continuing his campaign. The latest hater? Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is considering making an endorsement in the primary race. Walker threw a little shade at his fellow GOP governor when he said he hasn’t decided who he’ll endorse, but he has decided he’s NOT endorsing Kasich. Oof.
Ninety-nine babies Hamilton County babies died before their first birthday last year, according to the annual report by the Cradle Cincinnati, a nonprofit formed three years ago to address the high infant mortality rate in the region.
According to its report released Thursday, the issue is still a pressing concern for the county. In 2015, Hamilton County's infant mortality rate was nine deaths per 1,000 babies born. The good news is that it's fallen slightly from 2011-2014 when it was 9.3, and more significantly from 2001-2010 when it was at 10.7.
But it's still higher than Ohio's rate of 6.8 and the national rate of 5.8.
African-American babies are disproportionally affected, with a rate of 16.3 per 1,000 from 2011-2015. In contrast, the rate for white babies was 5.9 and Hispanic was 4.8.
Out of 231 counties with a population over 250,000, Hamilton County ranks number 219 for infant mortality.
Of the nearly 99 infant deaths last year, 53.6 percent didn't even making it past one day. The main causes were premature births, unsafe sleeping and birth defects.
"The majority of these babies are dying before they leave the hospital because they are born too soon," the report says.
Though the rate of premature babies born in Hamilton County dropped down to 10.6 per 1,000 from 11.1 from 2010-2014, it's still above the national average of 9.6 percent.
The county's sleep-related infant deaths doubled in 2015. Fourteen infants died from this last year after a record all time low of seven in 2014.
Cradle Cincinnati's report offers recommendations to address some of the main factors contributing to infant mortality. It says babies should sleep on their back and completely alone in cribs. Expectant mothers should seek health care, control diabetes and take folic acid during pregnancy.
But the report also acknowledges that the issue is deeply rooted in systemic problems surrounding race, poverty, economic status and low education levels that aren't easy to quickly address, and calls on other organizations to start addressing the issue as well.
"There is no quick fix, and this complex problem needs a strategic solution implemented by many aligned organizations," it says.
A memo written today by Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black detailed results of a study by the city's transportation department revealing that the stretch of Central Parkway that includes the city's controversial bike lane has had no more accidents than comparable streets without lanes.
"Changing any street from full-time parking to rush-hour restricted parking does require an adjustment in drivers’ behavior and expectations," the memo reads. "However, the number of crashes between the 1600 block and the 2000 block of Central Parkway (Liberty Street to Ravine Street) is comparable to similar streets citywide."
The study compared the stretch of Central Parkway with the lanes to Glenway Avenue between Rapid Run Road and Gilsey Avenue and Hamilton Avenue between Spring Grove Avenue and Bruce Avenue. Central Parkway had seven parked-car crashes and 62 total accidents in 2015, according to the study. Glenway had 13 parked car crashes and 91 total crashes. Hamilton Avenue had seven parked car crashes and 51 total crashes.
Controversy has raged over the lanes since they were first proposed in 2012. A pitched battle over parking along Central Parkway led to a $100,000 compromise that re-routed the lane around parking in front of the Mohawk Building along the sidewalk. Since that time, there have been complaints about a large number of car accidents along the route.
Last month, Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman introduced a motion calling for removal of the lanes, citing citizen complaints about safety. Meanwhile, community councils in Over-the-Rhine and Clifton have come out in support of the lanes and have asked that they be extended.
The memo recommends that the lanes stay in place.
“Given the reduced risk of injury to bicyclists, the administration does not recommend removal of the bike lanes,” the memo reads. “However, DOTE will continue to monitor conditions, and improvements may be made in the future as best practices evolve.”
UPDATE: City administration has since pulled the report, saying it was released prematurely.
"The report in response to Council Motion No. 2016000342 was issued prematurely and has been recalled," according to a statement issued by City of Cincinnati Director of Communications Rocky Merz. "Before being presented to the City Manager for review, the item was not fully vetted and has not undergone a complete administrative review. We are working swiftly to respond to the City Council motion and the report will be re-issued once all necessary review and consideration has occurred."
You can still find the original report here.
Vice Mayor David Mann isn't too happy about the report being pulled, according to Cincinnati Business Courier reporter Chris Wetterich.
"I believe that report on the bike lane is one of the best reports I’ve seen because it’s evidence based," Wetterich reported Mann saying.
Upon first encountering Matthew Kolodziej’s wonderful artwork at Carl Solway Gallery’s Patch Work: New Paintings show (through Saturday), you might think he’s reviving the colorfully splattering, helter-skelter Abstract-Expressionist style of Jackson Pollock. But first appearances can be deceiving.
He explains, in answer to an inquiry, that he starts the paintings by putting together photo collages of places he’s seen that are in a state of transition. He then puts those through an illustrator program that turns them into line drawings, often with altered images.
These are projected onto a canvas and traced out with brushes. He uses a combination of modeling pastes and acrylics applied with putty knives to build up the paintings. He sometimes traces over lines with heavy gels to create a raised surface where paint can be filled in.
So there are concrete origins, actual images, to his work — it isn’t non-objective. You can see they’re rooted in some kind of place, and you can establish a perspective that gives definition and even a sense of kaleidoscopic movement to the canvases.
This is most clearly and thrillingly evident in the fantastic “Shanty,” an acrylic painting. As you study its mosaic-like structure, you begin to sense you’re getting an overview of a crowded town on a mountainside, like in Rio, with a beltway of trees and strip of water beyond (at the top of the canvas).
It’s a breathtakingly beautiful painting, and the show has other excellent ones, too, like “Blaze” and “Diode.”
Kolodziej is an art professor at University of Akron. One hopes there will be more shows of his demanding, rewarding work at Solway.
Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who worked on the initiative for several months with city administrators, reiterated her optimism for the program after Council approved it unanimously.
"I think if we can build a pilot program that creates a model for homeless individuals to go to work," she said, "I think it would be groundbreaking for our city and really start to peel back the layers of the issues we have in our community around poverty."
The program is based off of similar programs in Albuquerque, N.M. and Reno, Nev. and will operate in partnership with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, Building Value LLC. the Cincinnati Parks Department, which will offer seasonal jobs, and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which will offer free transit.
After an individual has shown competency with his or her seasonal employment, the program will offer a permanent position and will work with a casework for an additional year. Building Value and the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, along with St. Francis-St. Joseph Catholic Worker House, will monitor the program, which will begin immediately.
"Our goal is to establish a sustainable program with a paycheck from the start and permanent employment outcomes," said Josh Spring, executive director of the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, in a statement after the program passed.
One of the biggest concerns with the project was the funding source, which had initially been proposed to come from the city budget's reserves. City Manager Harry Black released a memo Wednesday saying the funding instead would be redirected from the Cincinnati Police Department's Mounted Patrol unit, which has been suspended since last year.
If there’s one benefit to being a part of Cincinnati’s small but mighty music scene, it’s the ability to meet and mingle with artists far outside of your own particular genre. This accessibility to other musicians and creators is what led to the Cincinnati Soundclash show, featuring Jess Lamb and the Factory, The Cliftones and Buggs Tha Rocka, at Over-the-Rhine’s Woodward Theater this Friday. The three 2016 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards winners will be joined by Dayton’s Moira and Cincinnati altrockers See You in the Funnies.
Lamb and The Cliftones met at the 2016 CEA awards show and immediately saw opportunities that couldn’t be passed up. Neither act had any major, local shows planned in the upcoming months, had the same date available and wanted to bring fans together for a night of vastly differing musical styles. (Read CityBeat’s recent interview with The Cliftones about their newly-released debut album here.)
While Lamb and The Cliftones have been planning this shindig for months, Buggs Tha Rocka entered the picture on a more casual basis, by simply hanging out with Lamb and her group at their base of operations. Talking about music led to rough vocal melodies, which led to rough pre-recordings, which led to tons of polishing and mixing to produce “Take Two” and “Just Breathe” (listen below). The two tracks will be available to show-goers as a free download from Soundcloud, with physical copies becoming available in the future.
While each act will be bringing their own unique styles to the Woodward stage, they will also be intermixing their performances to give show attendees a truly unique experience. Lamb will perform with the The Cliftones and Buggs Tha Rocka will be showcasing the two tracks that he has recorded with Lamb and the Factory at their home studio. And that’s just the beginning.
In addition to Lamb’s “Industrial Gospel,” The Cliftones’ Reggae and Buggs Tha Rocka’s Hip Hop on display, Moira’s ethereal Pop sensibilities and See You in the Funnies AltRock drive will round out what is assuredly one of the more eclectic lineups seen in town outside of a major festival.
The show is 18 and up, tickets are $7 in advance here, or $10 at the door. Show starts at 8 p.m.