Good morning all. Hope your Halloween was really rad. I spent mine dancing like an idiot while marginally dressed up like Waldo of Where’s Waldo fame. That’s right. I chose a literary themed costume because I’m classy. Some friends and I also had a pretty great picnic in Spring Grove Cemetery, which I highly recommend.
Anyway. News. You already knew this, but Cincinnati’s first streetcar showed up on Friday, accompanied by the kind of hoopla usually reserved for astronauts who have been to the moon or people who have saved a bunch of puppies from burning buildings or puppy-saving astronauts, even. A local TV news station broke out the news copter and gave real-time updates of the car’s progress down I-71 and Reading Road into Over-the-Rhine. Every blogger in the city blogged about the blog-worthiest event in the local blogosphere. (Btw, Microsoft Word recognizes “blogosphere” as a legitimate word because we live in the worst era ever). My Instagram account was damn near unusable for hours afterward because it was just pictures of a single streetcar not on its tracks and a bunch of people looking at it. Yes, yes. It was a historic day and streetcars haven’t run in this city since the 1950s. Personally, I’ll start partying the minute I can step on a streetcar in Mount Auburn, feel it glide down the old tracks I walk past every day poking up out of Highland Ave., and step off at work. That’d be the day. Until then, woo hoo.
• Meanwhile, OTR is getting more $500,000-plus homes, all right along the streetcar route. Recently-founded Cincinnati based development company Karvoto has announced plans for nine townhomes in the neighborhood, all with three bedrooms and between 2,000 and 2,700 square feet of space. The $4 million development will renovate four buildings along Wade Street and Kemp Alley and also construct five new buildings in the same area.
• A series of e-mails between city officials and Cincinnati-based corporation Western & Southern reveal the two have been collaborating on plans for the overhaul of Lytle Park downtown near W&S headquarters and the conversion of a nearby former women’s shelter, the Anna Louise Inn, into a luxury hotel. That renovation has been controversial; the building’s former occupant, Cincinnati Union Bethel, had used the building for its women’s shelter for more than a century before a legal battle eventually forced it to sell to W&S. The e-mails also show that the city is mulling the sale or lease of two streets near those locations to Eagle Realty, the real estate arm of W&S. In addition to collaboration, the messages reveal conflict between the city’s Park Board and Eagle over the sale of the streets, dumpsters associated with the Anna Louise Inn renovation and other issues. Critics of charter amendment Issue 22, a park-oriented tax increase on tomorrow’s ballot, released the e-mails recently after gaining access to them through an open records request. Issue 22 seeks to fund a number of proposed projects, including the remake of Lytle Park, through a permanent property tax increase.
• As folks tear their hair out and obsess over a 1 mill property tax increase for the city’s parks, Hamilton County Commissioners are on the way to passing a $209 million spending package that is drawing about as much attention as Jim Webb’s presidential campaign. In what can only be described as a reverse Parks and Recreation scenario, four scheduled public hearings about the budget garnered exactly zero public attendees to give input on the plan. Part of that is because the budget doesn’t exactly depart wildly from the status quo — there are few if any dramatic cuts or spending swells. It’s not that there aren’t big issues: Hamilton County’s morgue needs a huge update, and commissioners aren’t sure how to pay for it, for example. But for now, the big money fights are elsewhere, and that’s left commissioners feeling a little lonely, calling for someone, anyone, to comment on their handiwork. Democrat Commissioner Todd Portune had an aptly spooky quote about the ghostly public.
“It’s almost like the county is the Sleepy Hollow of local government,” he said. “You typically don’t get the same kind of public involvement that you see at the city or other local municipalities.”
• Ohio will have to wait a while to vote on a replacement for former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who represented the West Chester area in Congress. It’ll be a hot day in June when his District 8 congressional seat goes up for a special election, and I for one can’t wait to see what kind of A-plus candidates run for the spot. Boehner bailed on the top spot in Congress last month after tea party Republican machinations in the House nearly brought the government to a shutdown again, this time over Planned Parenthood. Boehner, tired of trying to shepherd his unruly flock of hardcore anti-government conservatives peaced out of the fray, leaving the GOP to fumble and fidget until finally roping U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin into the leadership role. Now the House has a head again, but Ohio’s 8th District is still without representation. Thanks Boehner.
• Finally, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill today that would create more oversight for the state’s private charter schools, which have become something of a boondoggle for his administration and the Ohio Department of Education. Numerous investigations have taken place around the schools, which use public money to create private alternative to public school districts. Earlier this year, one of those investigations revealed that ODE officials neglected to include scores from particularly low-performing online charter schools in performance evaluations for charters. Other scandals have befallen charters in the recent past, including revelations of financial mismanagement, staff misbehavior and attendance irregularities at charters throughout the state, including in Cincinnati.
Annnnnd I’m out. Go vote tomorrow.
Happy (almost) Halloween Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
Council members yesterday said they will find a way to fund the Wasson Way bike trail, even if Issue 22 fails next Tuesday. The proposed hike and bike trail would stretch from Avondale to Columbia Township and is one of the Mayor Cranley's projects included in his proposed permanent tax levy. Supporters of the Wasson Way trail have also been highly in favor of Issue 22. Council members Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young and Charlie Winburn urged voters yesterday at a news conference outside City Hall to vote against the permanent tax levy and said they would find a way to fund the 7.5-mile trail that could cost anywhere between $7.5 million and $36 million. Councilman Seelbach suggested the money could come from elsewhere, like a temporary property tax increase, private endowments or scholarships or the recent sale of the Blue Ash airport. The project recently lost out on a $17 million competitive federal grant.
• So, the streetcar didn't quite make its debut this morning, but it's definitely coming this afternoon. The latest update from the city says that it has arrived safely in Ohio and will now be unloaded at 4 p.m. this afternoon. So if you have no last-minute Halloween costume details attend to, you can come hang out at the Maintenance and Operation Facilities on the corner of Race and Henry streets in Over-the-Rhine and watch it be unloaded.
• ResponsibleOhio, the super PAC that put Issue 3 to legalize marijuana on the ballot, says the ilegal drug trade might be after them. A thief hacked a Fifth Third bank account belonging to Strategy Network, the political consulting firm that oversees ResponsibleOhio, and stole $200,000, its organizers say. A second attempt to steal $300,000 was stopped by Parma Police. Executive Director of ResponsibleOhio and CEO of Strategy Network Ian James said law enforcement told him it was "a pretty heavy duty drug dealer." James also told FOX19 that one of ResponsibleOhio's organizers was receiving threatening phone calls from an unknown source. The pro-pot group has claimed Issue 3 would put major drug dealers out of business.
• Mayor Cranley is clearly pushing hard for Issue 22, but how does he feel about legalizing marijuana, the other major issue on the upcoming ballot? According to WCPO, he's not saying, and neither are many other local leaders. According to University of Cincinnati Political Science Professor Dave Niven, the issue blurs party lines and is split 50-50, so most play it safe by keeping their mouths shut.
• Former House Speaker John Boehner passed the gavel to Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin yesterday. Ryan was elected to succeed Boehner Wednesday and is the youngest Speaker since 1869. Cincinnati-native Boehner announced his resignation last month, ending his four year run as Speaker. According to the New York Times, in his brief farewell speech, he held a tissue box, as he's often prone to tears, and told the House, “If anything, I leave the way I started: just a regular guy, humbled by the chance to do a big job.”
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines to help cure that Republican debate hangover.
• Mayor John Cranley rolled out a plan to help attract more immigrants to Cincinnati. Yesterday, Cranley announced the 14 short-term goals and nine longer term goals developed by the task force on immigration he convened last year. One of the major goals is establishing a center where immigrants can obtain information and support services in the city, like ones in Pittsburgh and Chicago. The city will collaborate with the University of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commence and Children's Hospital as well as other organizations to first build a website then an actual center. Other goals include ensuring that immigrants get fair treatment and their full legal rights, increased cultural sensitivity training for police and an ordinance from the city that would go after wage theft. Cranley is hoping to bring the task force recommended ordinances to Council in the next two weeks.
• The first streetcar is finally set to arrive tomorrow morning. Don't believe me and have absolutely nothing to do tomorrow morning? Then come and see city officials unload the first vehicle for yourself. Tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. on the corner of Race and Henry streets in Over-The-Rhine, city and SORTA officials will spend 90 minutes unloading the first car onto the tracks a month and a half after it was first supposed to arrive. But don't expect a sneak peek into the cars. No tours will be available until it undergoes testing and starts to get a little more comfortable in its new home.
• Gov. John Kasich made another mad dash to hang on to his presidential aspirations last night during the third Republican primary debate on CNBC. Because of his low poll numbers, CNBC stuck him in the far left corner, but that didn't stop him from getting his word in. According to NPR, he came in third for the total time spent talking, less than a minute behind Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio and, surprisingly, ahead of aggressively chatty Donald Trump. Kasich went around a few questions, preferring not to answer what his greatest weaknesses are and brushing over the legalization of marijuana, which could happen in Ohio in less than a week, but he did say it gave kids "mixed signals." Kasich seemed to prefer to talk about balancing budgets, cutting taxes, reforming education and welfare and the $2 billion surplus and, of course, dodging Trump's jabs at his low poll numbers.
• Cincinnati for once jumped ahead of other Ohio cities when it enacted anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, but Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) would like to see these protections expanded across the state. Antonio, the state's first openly gay lawmaker, has pushed the non-discrimination law before, but her first attempt failed, and now she's trying again. The majority of U.S. states don't have non-discrimination laws in place for sexual orientation, and Gov. Kasich has reportedly hinted that he would support it — in exchange for protections on religious freedom.
Racist messages, including at least one appearing to threaten lynching for black student activists at University of Cincinnati, have recently begun appearing on social media site Yik Yak in response to calls to increased diversity on UC’s flagship campus.
Yik-Yak is an anonymous, location-based online message board. One of the recent messages posted on the site reads, “I don’t know if I have enough rope for all of the irate8…”
The message appears to refer to lynching,
a murderous tactic used throughout the United States, but especially in
the Jim Crow-era South, to terrorize blacks during the decades after
Mayor John Cranley and the Task Force on Immigration he convened last year announced a series of recommendations this morning the mayor says are aimed at making Cincinnati the most welcoming city to immigrants in the country.
The task force announced 14 short-term, two-year goals and another nine longer-term, five-year goals designed to persuade and help immigrants settle in Cincinnati while protecting their legal rights and encouraging entrepreneurship.
“We want to be a city of growth and opportunity,” Cranley said during a news conference about the task force’s recommendations, “and we think this is the right thing to do for the economic vitality of our city.”
Among the short-term objectives the task force would like to tackle are the establishment of a center where immigrants coming to Cincinnati can find information, support and services in the community. That center, a collaboration between the city, the University of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, Children’s Hospital and other organizations, will start out as a website while a permanent, physical center similar to ones in Pittsburgh and Chicago is established.
“We’ll have infrastructure and support services for immigrants from around the world,” Cranley said. The mayor said UC has committed $50,000 a year to the effort, and Cranley said he’ll be asking Cincinnati City Council to approve a similar commitment. “This is a true collaboration, and it’s very inspiring to see the community come together to support something we don’t have.”
That center will help connect and coordinate the many efforts to help immigrants currently happening while looking to provide services that may not yet exist.
“We know that there are a lot of really great organizations throughout the city already doing wonderful things to serve our immigrant populations,” said Jill Meyer, President and CEO of the Cincinnati, USA Regional Chamber, which will provide staffing and other support for the center. “What you’ll see in the months ahead is us looking for new ways for this center to connect some dots and fill in the gaps that are there so that a one-stop shop is the reality for our new Cincinnatians.”
Another set of short-and-long-term goals will seek to ensure that immigrants are treated fairly and get their full legal rights. The task force calls for increased cultural sensitivity training for police, a deeper commitment by the city to punish violations of immigrants’ civil rights and calls for an ordinance from the city pledging to go after wage theft, a big issue for immigrant workers. Among the members of the task force is Manuel Perez, who works with the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, which has helped lead the conversation around wage theft in Cincinnati.
Cranley declined to comment explicitly on what effect the effort could have on the undocumented immigrant population in the region, but did point out that some of the partners in the task force are working independently on measures like ID cards for undocumented immigrants. Those IDs would then be recognized by municipal offices, including the police department.
According to data released recently by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a pro-immigration think-tank, the foreign-born population of metro Cincinnati has contributed more than $189 million in state and municipal taxes. Within the city, foreign-born residents have more than $1.5 billion in spending power, according to the data.
“Right from the start, there was a strong consensus from the members about the importance of immigrants for our city,” said task force co-chair Raj Chundur, who explained that more than 70 volunteers comprised the task-force. Those volunteers were broken up into five subcommittees covering education and talent retention, rights and safety, economic development, international attractiveness and resources and development.
Cranley says he hopes to bring ordinances associated with the task force’s recommendation to Council in the next two weeks and predicted the measures would pass easily.
Good morning, Cincy! I hope your struggle to get out of bed and commute wasn't too bad this morning. Here are your morning headlines.
With less than a week left until election day, ResponsibleOhio is working hard to drum up all the support it can get for Issue 3. The most recent pro-Issue 3 TV ads feature Hamilton Prosecutor Joe Deters and Cincinnati basketball star Oscar Robertson urging voters to support legalizing marijuana. Deters, who is not identified as the county prosecutor in the ad, says he supports Issue 3 because he's tired of seeing drug dealers make money while local governments cut back on safety spending. Issue 3 would legalize marijuana but limit its growth to just 10 commercial farms run by ResponsibleOhio investors. Deters is not one of the 10 investors, but did lead a task force for the super PAC that produced a report that pointed to favorable results for the Ohio economy if the initiative passed. Robertson, on the other hand, is an investor in one of the commercial farms in Anderson Township. In his spot, he says he supports legalizing marijuana for its medical benefits. The ads will air in all 11 of Ohio's major media markets.
• A poll released by Issue 22 supporters points to favorable results for Mayor John Cranley's initiative to create a permanent hike in property tax to support the city's parks. The poll of conducted by a firm in Washington D.C. found that 56 percent of voters said they will vote for Issue 22 as opposed to 35 percent, who said they are against it. Opponents say the poll was released to discourage the opponents of the measure, and Issue 22's campaign manager admits that those polled tended to be older and more conservative than the average Cincinnatian.
• As the one-year anniversary of the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice approaches, the grand jury in Cuyahoga County is underway. Cleveland police officers and Cuyahoga County sheriff's deputies have spent the last few weeks testifying and, most recently, prosecutors have started presenting evidence in the shooting. Rice's family said it learned the jury started from the media and has called for a special prosecutor to replace Timothy McGinty after he released two reports from separate sources that concluded that the Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann acted reasonably in shooting the boy, who was holding a pellet gun outside a recreation center. Attorneys from Rice's family called into question the reports stating that they come from sources with a pro-police bias and are disappointed that Loehmann hasn't stepped aside yet.
• Ready to watch the Republican presidential hopefuls try to debate tonight? Governor John Kasich is and, according to the Columbus Dispatch, he might be showing his true colors. Kasich, who is known for being blunt, has reeled it in on the campaign trail, but last Tuesday in his hometown of Westerville, he said he's "done with being polite and listening to this nonsense." The situation's starting to turn a little desperate for Kasich, who's polling at the bottom of the national candidates and is far from frontrunners like former surgeon Ben Carson and business tycoon Donald Trump. The debate airs at 8 p.m. on CNBC and should hopefully make for some good T.V. at the very least.
Hey all! Here’s the news today. It’s a nasty, rainy pre-Halloween mess out there, so gather ‘round the warm, cozy glow of your computer screen and I’ll tell you some scary stories. Mostly about politics.
• Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee yesterday discussed a possible ban on panhandling near schools. You can read more about the proposed law in tomorrow’s issue, but here’s the long and short of it: Law and Public Safety Chairman Christopher Smitherman would like to make it illegal to panhandle within 50 feet of a school building, and his reasons for that are pretty interesting. Smitherman cited recent school shootings, many of which have actually happened on university campuses, as reasons to be extra-vigilant and to allow extra policing powers around schools.
”When I’m picking my children up 50 feet from the school, I don’t want anyone asking me anything about anything other than what I’m focused on,” Smitherman said. “Having someone on grounds that you don’t know around children makes everyone a little nervous. I wanted it much farther. I wanted it thousands of feet away, or miles away, but I had to compromise.”
He also reflected that such a law is necessary because he’s not allowed to exercise his right to concealed carry in or around a school.
“I want to know that the staff can sort it out,” he said. “For my children. Because I have already taken the position, because of the law, that I can’t have a firearm to protect myself or my children.”
The proposal drew some pushback from homelessness advocates, who point out that there is little statistical evidence linking panhandling and violence, and that school shooters are usually a different group entirely. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson also expressed concern about the proposed ordinance, suggesting it won’t add any more protection than current laws already provide. Representatives from Cincinnati Public Schools expressed conditional support for the ordinance, which makes exceptions for some kinds of passive panhandling including musical performances commonly known as busking.
The committee did not vote on the proposed ordinance yesterday, but will hear further testimony about it and potentially vote to move the ordinance to full Council at the committee’s next meeting.
• So here’s a big news flash: red meat and processed meats are bad for you. The World Health Organization recently released a study suggesting links between processed pork and beef products and cancer, and it’s been a huge boon for media outlets looking for something to fill up a slow news week. The media hand-wringing has been especially intense here in Cincinnati, because we used to be the world’s meat-packing hub for a couple brief years in the 1840s or something and continue to have the nickname Porkopolis as a hangover from that one time our city was literally living high on the hog. Now we find out that the same substance that gives us Cincinnatians life and identity also brings death. Clearly, we’re a city in crisis, but luckily, there’s some great journalism going on about Cincinnati’s meaty existential dilemma.
• U.S. Senate hopeful and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is getting a bit more national press for his run in the Democratic primary. In a recent interview in the National Journal, Sittenfeld lays out his case for his Senate aspirations, explaining why he sees himself as a better choice than former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Those reasons include an orientation toward innovation and collaboration the 31-year-old Sittenfeld touts as second nature and says that his opponent doesn’t have. In the interview, he also explained why he thinks it’s important for Democrats to continue to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement and revealed that he’s never smoked marijuana, which he says may be a liability for future politicians instead of an asset. The continued national ink can only be good news for Sittenfeld, but the upstart candidate still has a long slog ahead if he’s going to convince Democratic primary voters that he’s a better choice than his rival, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. For one, Strickland leads incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman in polling, and some Democrats have asked why the party should switch horses mid-stream when the one its on is winning the race. Err, that may be a mixed metaphor but you know what I mean.
• Here’s a funny story. Two Republican candidates for president are arguing about which one gets credit for keeping auto worker jobs in Ohio. Real estate guy and combover icon Donald Trump says his incessant badgering and shit-talking convinced Ford to move production of certain mid-sized trucks to Ohio from Mexico to avoid shutting down a plant near Cleveland. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. and fellow GOP prez contender John Kasich says it was his tax incentives. The hilarious part? The agreements that kept those jobs in Ohio were brokered by the United Autoworkers Union, which is, uhhh, a union. One thing both Trump and Kasich agree on: they don’t like unions. Though Kasich gets some credit from Ford for tax incentives he threw their way, the company continually cites the negotiations with the UAW as a big reason Ohio’s jobs stayed in the state. So, yeah, that’s awkward.
• Speaking of Kasich, his administration is getting national attention for a new plan to fight opiate addiction. Kasich introduced plans recently to spend $15 million linking doctors and pharmacies and their records with a computer database that keeps track of prescription opiates around the state. Ohio is the first state to attempt a fully-integrated computer tracking system for the drugs, which could help find and eliminate fraudulent uses of prescriptions.
• Finally, maybe you’ve heard people talk about the school-to-prison pipeline, which some activists say contributes to higher levels of incarceration for young people of color. And maybe you’ve shrugged that off and said, you know, “I’m sure police presence in schools is a good and necessary thing” or something similar. I’m not going to argue with you about it, but you should probably watch this video of an officer forcibly arresting a student sitting at her desk. It involves him tipping over her desk and chucking her across the room. The officer in South Carolina is currently suspended as an investigation continues into the incident. Just food for thought about that whole police presence in schools thing.
That’s it for me. Hit me up via e-mail or Twitter with Halloween costume or party ideas. I’ve already got some rad stuff on my radar for my favorite holiday, but I’m always up for more options.
Happy Friday, Cincinnati! Here are your headlines.
• Mayor has hit a few more speed bumps on his proposed city park tax levy. Charter Committee of Greater Cincinnati has come out against his proposed levy after initially taking a neutral position. The group changed its mind after a letter by nine board members suggested that had access to how the board members were voting a month ago, and then made calls to some member to vote neutral on the measure. responded that he did indeed call come board members, but, hey, it's a free country. "Do I talk to people? Yes, I believe in free speech," he told the Enquirer. He also denied having any knowledge of the board's original vote.
• One of parks projects is in jeopardy. Rev. Damon Lynch III of the New Prospect Baptist Church, the site of one several proposed projects, decided not to sell the church's land to the city after a town hall meeting last night. The proposed $8 million Neighborhood Center — including a swimming pool, tennis courts and an urban campground — was to use most of the church's land and will now have to be privately funded. Lynch and members of the church said yesterday they refused make a move as drastic as selling the land to support a vision that they claim was initially their own. They'd rather hold on to the land and do it themselves.
• A Republican lawmaker from Mount Lookout has introduced a plan to make Ohio a "right-to-work" state. Under Rep. Tom Brinkman's plan, Ohioans would have the option of opting out of unions and their dues. The measure would make Ohio the 26th state to pass "right-to-work," putting it in the same family as Wisconsin, Michigan and Texas. Brinkman's measure has opposition from Democrats, of course, who say these kind of plans lead to lower wages, reduced benefits and an overall less safe work environment. But the measure also might have a hard time getting past his fellow Republicans, including Gov. John Kasich, who has stopped going after unions after a state referendum overturned his attempt to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
• The Ohio Senate just voted to defund Planned Parenthood, but that’s not enough for Gov. Kasich, who'd also like to see the clinic stripped of its Medicaid funding. Ohio Right to Life has been pushing Kasich to cancel contracts with Medicaid, but that might not sail through like the Senate's bill did two days ago. Federal law prohibits Medicaid programs from excluding qualified healthcare providers, which Planned Parenthood is.
• State lawmakers finally released a report on the state's fracking tax that confirms what many environmental groups, and even Kasich himself, have asserted: The severance tax in Ohio is really, really low, but they also recommended not increasing it right now. Republican Sen. Bob Peterson of Salina said that with the oil and gas industry dealing with deflated prices, now would not be the time to increase the tax, which Kasich has called "a total and complete rip off to the state." The report was released by a task forced created to study the tax in the last state budget. Kasich, who has been pushing for the increase in order to fund income tax cuts, called the findings "disappointing."
• No one needs the upcoming weekend more than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spent more than eight hours yesterday testifying before a Republican House committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead. Lawmakers grilled Clinton on why requests for additional security were denied. The hearing brought little new information on the attack, which has been a sore subject for Clinton, and Democrats say the committee was called as a way to knock back support for the leading Democratic presidential candidate during an pivotal time on the campaign trail.