The group heading a supportive housing project in Avondale on Friday announced it will initiate monthly "good neighbor" meetings to address local concerns, with the first meeting scheduled at the Church of the Living God, located at 434 Forest Ave., on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m.
National Church Residences (NCR) says the meetings will help "set the highest property, safety, and conduct standards" for the 90-unit Commons at Alaska facility, which will aid chronically homeless, disabled and low-income individuals.
"National Church Residences is excited to become part of the revitalization of the Avondale neighborhood," said Amy Rosenthal, senior project leader for NCR, in a statement. "Through this series of meetings, we look forward to sitting down with our neighbors and answering their questions about our organization and in particular the planned apartment community."
The meetings should help address some Avondale residents' concerns about the project. Although several opponents of the facility say their opposition is not rooted in a not-in-my-backyard attitude that follows so many supportive housing projects, critics consistently argue the housing facility will attract a dangerous crowd that would worsen public safety in the neighborhood.
Critics' claims actually contradict some of the research done on supportive housing. A study conducted for similar facilities in Columbus found areas with permanent supportive housing facilities saw the same or lower crime increases as demographically comparable areas.
Still, the controversy eventually reached City Council after Councilman Christopher Smitherman proposed pulling the city's support for state tax credits funding the project. In January, council rejected Smitherman's proposal and voted to continue supporting the project. (It's questionable whether a different council decision would have made any difference, since the group already received state tax credits last June.)
By several economic indicators, Cincinnati's worst-off certainly need more support. About 34 percent of the overall population and more than half of the city's children live in poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Correction: This story originally claimed the facility would house 99 apartments, based on a previous estimate. The amount of apartments was actually reduced to 90 through negotiations. We apologize for the error.
Gov. John Kasich's income tax proposal would disproportionately favor Ohio's wealthiest, an analysis from Policy Matters Ohio and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found.
Specifically, the proposal would on average cut taxes by $2 for the bottom 20 percent of Ohioans, $48 for the middle 20 percent and $2,515 for the top 1 percent.
The proposal "may allow low-income Ohioans to buy a slice of pizza a year, on average," Policy Matters claims. "Middle-income Ohioans could purchase a cheap pizza maker. For the state's most affluent taxpayers, on average it would cover round-trip airfare for two to Italy, with some money left over to pay the hotel bill and buy some real Italian pizza."
Under the model, Kasich's proposal would cut Ohio's income tax rates across the board by 7 percent. The goal is to bring Ohio's top tax rate, which kicks in only for income above $208,500, under 5 percent, as the governor previously proposed.
Although a plurality of Americans oppose tax cuts for the wealthy, Kasich and other Republicans consistently push the tax cuts to help what they call "job creators." In the most recent state budget, Kasich and Republican legislators approved another series of across-the-board tax cuts that disproportionately benefited the state's wealthiest.
In the aftermath, economic indicators from conservative, liberal and nonpartisan analysts show Ohio's economy is consistently among the worst performers in the country.
The story is typical for Ohio: In 2005, the state cut income taxes across the board by 21 percent. Since then, Policy Matters found Ohio to be one of just a dozen states that actually lost jobs.
Other research backs up Policy Matters' findings. In a report analyzing tax cuts for the nation's wealthiest, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found tax cuts for the wealthy aren't correlated with increased economic growth.
"There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth," CRS concluded. "However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution."
Meanwhile, Cincinnati's poorest continue to struggle in a vicious cycle of poverty that consumes about 34 percent of the city's population and more than half of the city's children. CityBeat covered poverty and its effects on Cincinnati in greater detail here.
The ten-year anniversary of Kanye West’s College Dropout album was Monday, Feb. 10. Other than just making me feel old, this album does bring back memories. Many people tweeted that it was one of the best rap albums produced and, with songs like “Through the Wire,” “All Falls Down” and “Slow Jamz,” it very well could be. Even if you don’t like rap or Kanye West, the dude rapped “Through the Wire” with a broken jaw and his mouth wired shut. There’s just something you have to respect about that.
No, not the drink... She was a 1930s child star that worked her way up from acting and singing to a place in politics. Temple was a young star that never went on to be plagued with the many misfortunes of child performers today. Is it the media, the relentless spotlight, the ruthless critics or the constant negativity on social media that drive so many to overindulge in drugs and drinking today? Even in the tweets about Temple, some were saying she died of AIDS, that she was a racist and a communist. Really? She died at age 85 and so many of the stars we all grew up with probably won’t even live to be half that old.
Tons of people were thankful for their hot cocoa and caramel macchiato this week due to the below-freezing temps again. Throw in the whole “Dumb Starbucks” stunt and you have thisa trending topic in Cincy. I predict Graeter’s will be trending at some point this summer and there will be pictures of banana splits and chocolate milkshakes everywhere. Someone should make a “Dumb Graeters” and see how much money their old cup sells for.
Ahh, ‘tis the season for another funny trend thanks to Valentine’s Day. What is it about Tuesday afternoons that makes it so difficult for people to work? Now, imagine these sayings on a little candy heart from your sweetie:
It’s not me, it’s you.
If only someone loved you.
You were almost my first choice.
Front: ILY, Back: I’m Leaving You.
This hashtag was supposedly started about Shaun White, the snowboarder. Of course, if you’re not following the Olympics this trend could be seriously misconstrued. Whoever started this had to have seen the blatant double meaning. If you want to start a trend on Twitter, by all means go for it, but use your damn brain. Regardless of what this hashtag means, it should say #IfIWereWhite. You’re welcome, grammar Nazis.
Apparently MTV has a show that is not about the young and pregnant or the young and drunk. Congratulations, Teen Wolf, apparently you are worthy of watching.
So, Big Lots will be the official discount seller of Hostess products. Each week an assortment of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho-Hos will be shipped to Big Lots everywhere and sold for cheap. Big Lots is based in Columbus, so it makes sense that this would be trending in Cincinnati. In light of this trend, many people were offering some of their best thrifty advice. Here were a few tips I found interesting:
Don’t use the heated dry cycle on your dishwasher; it saves money on
your energy bill.
Make a grocery list and only buy what is on it. This helps to curb impulse buying at the store. This one is definitely harder than it sounds.
Go to the thrift store first. Many places have a rack with all brand new clothes sent from the store because they weren’t selling, were returned, have a crooked seam or something minor.
Bring your coffee from home. Figure out how much you spend a week on coffee compared to investing in a coffee pot and making your own. The savings are more than you’d expect.
Follow @Thriftinnati or go to www.cincinnatithrift.com for more info on thrifting and thrift stores in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
Also trending: Marcus Smart, Michael Sam, #Curling, #SoChi, #HoneyBooBoo, Valentine’s Day, #SingleLife and #ForeverAlone.
Creative Cincinnati MC Buggs Tha Rocka has just released a video for his “State of Hip-Hop Freestyle” track, featuring sounds from the late, great J. Dilla and taken from 2012’s The Wrath of Zeus mixtape, which was hosted by DJ Clockwork and is available for free download here.
The “State of Hip Hop” clip was shot in Amsterdam by Snow Rowe, who also performs/records with the great local Hip Hop crew Valley High. Rowe’s video for Valley High’s “8 Ball” won the inaugural “Best Music Video” prize at the recent Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.
Buggs Tha Rocka took home the 2014 “Hip Hop” Cincinnati Entertainment Award (his second win in a row) and he has video evidence to prove it:
This weekend, Alcott and Phodographer hosts My Furry Valentine, one of the largest pet adoption events in Ohio. The event features more than 500 adoptable pets that include (but are not limited to) dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, mice, ferrets and amphibians from more than 40 different rescue and shelter groups from the Greater Cincinnati area. It’s sort of like speed dating except with animals, but way better. Every pet adopted from the main event will go home with a free goody bag, a collar and leash and the chance to win a pet-themed raffle basket.
My Furry Valentine is housed in a 50,000-square-foot West Chester warehouse — so wear comfortable shoes for lots of walking. More than 5,000 people are expected to show, so be prepared to park far and walk or take a shuttle to the event. (Shuttles will be continuously driving from the parking lots to the main event.)
The event features family-friendly games, face painting, balloon and caricature artists and live entertainment. Food and beverages will also be available for purchase. Parking and admission are free.
Who knows, maybe you could become Internet-famous by teaching your new pet how to use a toilet. The next Lil Bub could be out there, just waiting to be adopted by a loving family.
The event will take place this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Flexi USA, 8494 Firebird Drive, West Chester.
Last night I caught the opening of 4000 Miles at the Cincinnati Playhouse. What with today being Valentine's Day, this tale of a feisty grandmother and her hippie grandson — separated by a 70-year gap in age — might not seem like a very typical love story. But it's about understanding and finding common ground, and what else is that but true love? Actor Robbie Tann plays 21-year-old Leo and Rosemary Prinz is Vera, his 91-year-old grandmother. You'd think that seven decades might be an uncrossable chasm, but each is a lonely soul — she as the result of old age, he by virtue of the tragic accidental death of his best friend — and they find consolation and support from one another as the become better acquainted. Both actors are delightful in their roles, he kind of spacey but caring, she feisty and loving. If you're looking for a good date night for Valentine's weekend, you should give Amy Herzog's play a chance. It happens to be a very credible script, by the way, having been a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize. Through March 9. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Tonight is the opening for Cincinnati Shakespeare's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard's now-classic through-the-looking-glass take on Hamlet. Since Cincy Shakes just finished a production of the latter, it's the same cast, but with the royals in the background and two lowly minor characters moved to center stage. Their plight? They don't quite understand the intrigues swirling around them, and they wonder about the meaning of their own existence. There's a lot of dark humor, and actors Billy Chace and Justin McComb are just the guys to carry it off. Through: March 9. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
If it's darkness you crave, you might also consider Pluto at Know Theatre. No, it's not about the Disney dog, but rather about unexpected changes in life — like the demotion of the solar system's one-time farthest planet into something less — as well as the Roman god of the underworld. How does all that fit together in a modest contemporary kitchen? Steve Yockey's play is an absurdist study in contemporary angst, an instant of tragedy dissected and set in amber. It's not easy to watch (there's some extreme gun violence), but the show's strong cast, especially Annie Fitzpatrick and Tori Wiggins plus NKU student actor Wesley Carman, make it extremely watchable. You just have one more week to catch this one. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
If you thought you'd missed out on Tribes at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, you actually have a grace period, since the show about deafness and family strife has been extended to Feb. 22. It was originally set to close on Feb. 16; the additional dates should make it possible for anyone who's interested to get tickets. Watching the fine acting performances of guest actor Dale Dymkoski as a young man who has been isolated by deafness and Cincy Shakes regular Kelly Mengelkoch as a young woman, adept with sign language, who is losing her hearing, will make you glad you made the effort to see this one. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
State Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, now faces 69 felony counts
and increasing pressure to resign. Beck is accused of helping mislead
investors into putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into an
insolvent West Chester startup company and putting some of the funds
from the company into his own campaign. Beck says he's innocent, but
that hasn't stopped top Ohio Republicans from calling for him to resign
to avoid a potential scandal and losing a seat in the Ohio legislature.
Ohio ranked No. 8 in the nation for solar jobs in 2013, with solar employment growing by roughly 31 percent over the year, according to the latest census from the Solar Foundation. The report found that U.S. solar jobs grew 10 times faster than overall employment across the country. Environment Ohio applauded the numbers, praising Cincinnati in particular for its own solar-friendly efforts. But the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate is looking into ways to weaken or undo the law that makes many solar projects possible across the state. A report from the Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy indicates that repealing the law could end up costing Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014 and 2025.
The federal government reported slightly better enrollment numbers in January for Obamacare's once-troubled website, but Ohio and the nation still fell short of key demographic roles previously perpetuated by the federal government. Specifically, monthly enrollment actually beat projections for the first time since HealthCare.gov launched. But the cumulative amount of young adults signing up through January only reached 25 percent in the country and 21 percent in Ohio — far below the 39 percent goal the White House previously deemed necessary to avoid filling the insurance pool with older, less healthy enrollees who tend to use more resources and drive up costs.
With Obamacare's online marketplaces mostly fixed, some groups are now doubling efforts to get the uninsured, particularly young adults, enrolled. CityBeat interviewed Trey Daly, Ohio state director of one of those groups, here.
Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a Democrat-backed petition that would create a statewide ballot initiative for a Voter Bill of Rights, but proponents of the initiative say they'll come back with tweaked language. In a statement, DeWine said the proposal ran afoul of federal law in two places. Even if DeWine approved the language from a legal standpoint, supporters would still need to gather roughly 385,000 valid signatures before a July deadline to get the issue on the ballot in November. CityBeat covered the Voter Bill of Rights in greater detail here.
Following the large amount of charter school closures last year, State Auditor Dave Yost is launching an investigation into three Ohio charter school sponsors and the Ohio Department of Education.
The Cincinnati area could get 2 inches of snow.
A Ky. auditor says the former finance director of Covington stole nearly $800,000.
Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes posted pictures of downtown Cincinnati circa 1968 here.
Sam Adams is pouring millions into a Cincinnati brewery.
Grizzly bears could offer a better solution for weight loss.
Watch Dale Hansen, a Texas sports anchor, take on the NFL and Michael Sam’s anti-gay haters:
Following county commissioner’s Feb. 12 meeting, the dispute between Cincinnati and Hamilton County over contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects appears to be heading to court.
The court battle comes after the county dismissed multiple concessions from the city and put MSD’s revamp of the local sewer system on hold in protest of the city’s rules. With a federal mandate looming, both sides agree a resolution is needed soon to avoid costly fines from the federal government.
For many across the city and county, the conflict is understandably confusing. The debate has often been mired down by biased media reports and political talking points that obfuscate the issue. Jargon referencing “responsible bidder,” “local hire,” “local preference,” unions, apprenticeship programs, a pre-apprenticeship fund and contractors make it even more difficult to grasp what is going on.
Cutting through the politics, here is what the responsible bidder rules actually do and why the city and county seem incapable of compromise.
What is responsible bidder?
It’s a city ordinance that essentially forces MSD contractors to adopt job training measures known as apprenticeship programs and pay for a pre-apprenticeship fund. By requiring the training options, the city hopes workers will be able to improve their skills and successfully transition to other jobs once their MSD work is finished.
Apprenticeship programs take workers through extensive on-the-job and classroom-based training in which they can hone their skills in a specific craft, such as electrical or plumbing work. Because workers get paid for their work while participating in an apprenticeship, the programs are typically characterized as an “earn-while-you-learn” model.
The pre-apprenticeship fund will put money toward programs that will teach newcomers basic skills, such as math and reading, so they can eventually move up to an apprenticeship program.
The rules don’t apply to every MSD contractor. Contracts worth less than $400,000, which make up roughly half of MSD’s sewer revamp, are exempted.
What about local hire and local preference?
Those are ordinances separate from responsible bidder that give preference to Cincinnati-based businesses. They try to keep MSD contracts within local companies.
What’s the conflict about?
The conflict is between Cincinnati and Hamilton County, which jointly run MSD. The Democrat-controlled city supports the rules, while the Republican-controlled county opposes them.
The city and county also dispute which governing body can set policy for MSD. Under a 1968 agreement, the county owns and funds MSD, and the city operates and maintains it. City Council argues the agreement allows the city to set policy for MSD, but the county disagrees. Both sides acknowledge the set-up is far from ideal.
So, did the city’s rules halt MSD projects?
No. Nothing in the city’s ordinances forces MSD projects to stop. County commissioners singlehandedly halted MSD projects in protest of the city’s rules. If it were up to the city, work would continue today.
Why are these projects so important?
By federal decree, the city needs to revamp the sewer system to bring it up to environmentally safe standards. The project will cost $3.2 billion over 15-20 years, making it one of the most expensive in the city’s history.
If the city and county don’t carry on with the revamp soon, the federal government will begin issuing fines. By some guesses, the fines could begin rolling in by the end of the year.
Why does a majority of City Council support responsible bidder?
Councilman Chris Seelbach, the Democrat who championed the rules, says they will boost local employment and create more job training options for the city’s struggling workforce.
Other Democrats on council agree, although some, like Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, believe the ordinance is “imperfect.”
Does responsible bidder benefit workers?
Some research suggests it would.
The left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) in a December report argued apprenticeship programs provide an opportunity to revitalize the U.S. workforce.
“By 2020, America is projected to experience a shortage of 3 million workers with associate’s degrees or higher and 5 million workers with technical certificates and credentials,” the report claimed. “Compounding our inadequate workforce development system, research shows that employers are now spending less on training than they have in the past. At the same time, industry surveys show that a lack of qualified workers is a top concern for many employers.”
Citing a 2012 study from Mathematica Policy Research, CAP estimated apprenticeship programs alone can boost a worker’s lifetime earnings and benefits by more than $300,000. Over 36 years of employment, that’s an average gain of nearly $8,400 a year.
Why do county commissioners oppose the rules?
In terms of policy, county commissioners say the responsible bidder rules favor unions and burden businesses.
On a legal basis, the county argues the city’s responsible bidder rules conflict with state law and the local hire and preference rules enforce unconstitutional geographic preferences.
Does responsible bidder actually favor unions?
Since unions tend to offer better and more apprenticeship programs, yes.
But the rules don’t exclude non-union businesses from participating. For example, Ohio Valley Associated Builders and Contractors maintains some non-union apprenticeship programs that would qualify under the law.
Still, most of the union favoritism debate centered around a regulation the city actually offered to give up. Specifically, under current rules employers are only eligible to contract with MSD if they have apprenticeship programs that have graduated at least one person a year for the past five years. In October, Seelbach offered to strip the mandate and replace it with an incentive program. The county seemed unmoved by the proposal.
What about businesses? Does responsible bidder burden them?
By requiring businesses to adopt apprenticeship programs and put 10 cents for each hour of labor into a pre-apprenticeship fund, the law certainly places more regulations on businesses. Whether the requirements are a burden is subjective.
John Morris, president of the Ohio Valley Associated Builders and Contractors and an opponent of the law, told CityBeat the pre-apprenticeship fund’s requirement will increase business costs by $2-3 million over 15-20 years.
Citing MSD estimates for the cost of labor, Rob Richardson, regional manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said the fund will cost businesses $1.5 million.
Even if someone accepts Morris’ estimate, the requirement adds up to at most 0.1 percent of the $3.2 billion project.
More broadly, some supporters of the city’s rules question whether placing a burden on businesses is innately a bad thing. The basic point of government regulations is to make the economy and businesses work better for the public. In that sense, regulations are always going to burden businesses to some extent.
For example, financial regulations burden big banks and financial institutions. But many Americans agree the regulations are necessary to avoid another financial crisis like the one that plunged the country into the Great Recession.
Still, critics argue the extra regulations would increase the cost of business, and the impact could ultimately be felt by MSD ratepayers.
Why don’t the city and county just compromise?
They kind of tried, but it seems the philosophical split between Hamilton County Republicans and Cincinnati Democrats is too strong to reach a substantial agreement.
The city, for example, has offered multiple concessions to the county. In May, City Council modified the law to ease some requirements and add an exemption for contracts worth less than $400,000, which covers half of the contracts involved in MSD’s sewer revamp. In October, Seelbach offered to replace a strict mandate with a looser incentive program. Seelbach also told CityBeat on Feb. 6 that he would consider raising the contract exemption from $400,000 to $750,000.
In return, the county rejected the concessions and instead offered to establish aspirational inclusion goals and some funding for local job training programs — as long as the city repealed its rules altogether.
Which side would win the court battle?
It’s hard to say. Both sides — and their lawyers — seem pretty confident about their legal standing.
So what’s next?
At the current rate, it looks like the city and county are heading to court. Whether the process involves a full-on legal battle or mediation between the city and county’s lawyers remains uncertain, but it’s clear something will eventually have to give.
This blog post will be regularly updated as the situation develops.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day shopping, Amazon.com released a list of the 20 “most romantic” cities, based on sales data of romance novels, sex and relationship books, romantic comedy DVDs, Barry White CDs (seriously) and sexual wellness products (per capita) since Jan. 1, 2010. As your aunt, boss and childhood neighbor probably already shared on Facebook, Cincinnati made the list — we’re the 15th most romantic city, guys.
Lists like these are generally an attempt to quickly grab a mass audience with some kind of marketing motive. Positive or negative, when a city is mentioned on a national list, there’s a built-in readership that will talk about and share the story on social media. Do they spark “debate?” Sure. Are these useful, proactive conversations? Rarely. But hey, we’re No. 1 (or, in this case, 15)!
The Queen City landing on some arbitrary sales-based list is nothing new. For some reason, a 2010 Daily Beast list that dubs Cincy the "craziest" city is making its rounds again as of late. The criteria used to create this list include “psychiatrists per capita, stress, eccentricity and drinking levels,” all quantitative data, no doubt.
Here are a
few other examples of how Cincinnati stacks up on recent national countdowns:
2011: Most Social via Mashable
2011: Most Bed Bugs via Orkin
2013: (10th) Most Polluted via Time
2013: Trendiest (on Twitter) via Washington Post
2013: (72nd) Most Livable City (but
the only Ohio city on the list) via Livability.com
we miss any? Which pointless Cincinnati list is your favorite — or least fave?
Beginning Feb. 27, Northside’s The Listing Loon will host a new onstage series called Folk & Fiction where music and writing will be interwoven to bring together the audiences of various genres.
The monthly event, each final Thursday, was created in collaboration with Brooks
Rexroat, Matt Mooney and Margaret Darling. The trio was at an acoustic show
when they began talking about the limited places available for Folk musicians
and fiction writers to share their work.
“The two groups have the same audience, so that was kind of an ‘ah-ha’ moment for us,” Rexroat says.
They decided to create a place where these musicians and writers could connect, as well as their audiences. Thus, Folk And Fiction was born.
Folk & Fiction is open to any genre of writing and music, but has a heavy focus on, well, Folk music and fiction writing. This gives prose writers a chance to share what they are working on as well as Folk musicians who take just as much pride in their lyrics.
"There is a limited audience for any artists endeavor,” Rexroat continues. “Even those excited only have a percentage of time for support... It's much more efficient to share an audience, rather than battle for it.”
The first event, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, will double as the Cincinnati launch party for the book, Best of Ohio Short Stories Vol. 1. From hundreds of submissions, 18 were chosen to be featured in the book. Four of those writers will be on stage sharing their work in conjunction with musicians.
For the first event, each musician will have two 15-minute sets with the writers reading their works in between. The second event will feature Jacinda Townsend, the author of Saint Monkey, which will be released Feb. 24.
Feb. 27 Lineup:
Brad Pauquette (Columbus, Ohio)
Brooks Rexroat (Cincinnati)
Lin Rice (Columbus, Ohio)
Heather Sinclair Shaw (Newark, Ohio)