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.
It took two and a half hours of debate at the transportation committee Tuesday, followed by another half hour of bickering at yesterday's City Council meeting, but they did it. In a vote of 6-2, Council finally approved the sunset ordinance that would allow the organizers of seven events to halt streetcar service. The ordinance would be active through 2018, the first two years of the streetcar's operation, and would allow organizers of the Flying Pig Marathon, Taste of Cincinnati, the Opening Day Parade, Oktoberfest, the Thanksgiving Day 10k, the Heart Mini Marathon and the Health Expo to give the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority a 90 day heads up to stop the streetcar during their event. Mayor John Cranley said at the meeting yesterday that these longstanding events need time to adjust to the streetcar.
• Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden could be in big trouble following the recently uncovered drama surrounding the Smale Park construction. On Tuesday The Enquirer published an article claiming Carden hadn't been entirely honest about the bidding process for the park's construction contracts. Then, on Tuesday afternoon, City Manager Harry Black released a memo saying the park's contracting process was a risky move for the city. So what will happen to Carden? It's up to the Cincinnati Board of Park Commissioners to determine whether he will be punished — or even fired from his position — for the deals.
• Last year, the big election issue for Cincinnati (and the rest of Ohio) was marijuana, oligarchies and a weird mascot named Buddy. This year it looks like it will be education — preschool, to be specific. Preschool Promise, the group working on a ballot initiative to fund two years of preschool for Cincinnati children, could be battling alongside Cincinnati Public Schools' own levy for a preschool expansion on the ballot. Preschool Promise has yet to specifically say what kind of tax levy it's planning on asking Cincinnatians to approve to fund its ambitious plan. The current options are a hike in the city's property tax or earnings tax, or a countywide sales tax. CPS will ask for a property tax levy. Preschool Promise director Greg Landman says the group is still in negotiations with CPS to figure out how to make sure kids will get their preschool, politics aside. But as the election draws closer, many details have yet to come out.
• The number of Hamilton County babies who died because of unsafe sleeping conditions doubled in 2015, according to the annual report by nonprofit Cradle Cincinnati. According to its 2015 report, 14 babies died from sleep-related deaths, while just seven did in 2014. Hamilton County struggles with a higher than average infant mortality rate. The county's 2015 infant mortality rate was nine for every 1,000 babies born, while Ohio's was 6.8 and the national average was 5.8, according to the report.
City Council passed an ordinance today that could halt the streetcar's operation during seven downtown heritage events during its first two years of operation.
The sunset ordinance would give the organizers of the Flying Pig Marathon, Taste of Cincinnati, Oktoberfest, Opening Day Parade, Thanksgiving 10K, Health Expo and the Heart Mini Marathon 90 days before their event to alert Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) to stop service. The ordinance is effective through 2018 when City Council will re-evaluate it.
After a two-and-a-half-hour debate in Council's Transportation Committee on Tuesday, the ordinance passed on Wednesday after about a half hour of debate in a vote of 6-2. Council members Wendell Young and Yvette Simpson voted against it; Councilman Chris Seelbach was absent from the meeting.
Mayor John Cranley, who introduced the ordinance, said event organizers had expressed interest in adapting their events to the streetcar but that there needs to be an adjustment period so they are not forced to do something drastic like move the event.
"Some people are out there spinning this as if it's an attempt to hurt the streetcar," Cranley said. "I think it would be very bad for the streetcar if somehow these issues weren't resolved."
Cranley also said the police and fire departments have expressed safety concerns about the streetcar's operation during events, which sometimes serve alcohol and often attract tens of thousands of attendees.
Simpson said she believed Council needed more time to make the decision and to consider all possible options.
"I just requested that we have more time," she said. "This is a very important endeavor for the organizations involved and the streetcar."
Councilman Kevin Flynn responded to Simpson, saying he believed the closures would amount to just 12 hours total, often during off-peak hours like Sundays.
"I think that we had the information we needed," he said.
Councilwoman Amy Murray, who is also the chair of the transportation committee, said it would be closed the minimum amount of time as required by any particular event.
Neither Mayor Cranley nor any council members directly addressed concern over the potential loss of revenue the streetcar could face by closing during heavily attended events. It is currently facing possible budget deficits for its first two years of operation.
“Our mission is to provide artists with professional, creative, and cultural opportunities,” says Hannah Leow, volunteer coordinator at V+V. The artists were creating before they come to V+V so they just keep doing their own thing. “They keep their vision and their style, we just support them,” Leow says.
Visionaries + Voices achieves its mission in three ways, the first being the studio program where artists can come and spend time working on their art. The exhibition program gives opportunities for them to show their work with five exhibits a year in the Northside gallery. The final piece is the Teaching Artist Program, which allows artists to go into the community and teach their style of creativity.
Volunteers are needed Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and occasionally on evenings and weekends. The biggest need is for people in the creative field who are interested in making art and want to work collaboratively with artists. “The biggest need I’ve seen is creative folks, or folks who aren't creative and are interested in learning about creativity, being in the studio working with the artists,” Leow says.
Service learning days at V+V are great for high school groups. They can come in and do organizational tasks for a little while, which is very helpful to the organization. Then they have the chance to work with the artists and combine their creative ideas.
Opportunities outside of creative work include organizational projects, cleaning and providing technical support.
There are volunteers at V+V who come frequently and have been there for a long time, but there are also volunteers who don't come so often. There really isn’t a requirement for the type of commitment you need to make.
Anyone interested in volunteering can reach out online. Before starting as a volunteer, expect a short introductory session with a tour of the studio and general information about the organization and its goals, a questionnaire and background check. “It’s a pretty quick process,” Leow says.
Some of the resources available to volunteers include articles about working with adults with disabilities. This isn’t really focused on during the brief training because Leow believes it’s something you learn as you go. “The biggest thing for me is that it’s an experience based training,” Leow says.
There is no real precursor to being a good fit at V+V. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis “We feel it out with each person,” Leow says. It is about connecting and accepting the artist. They have a wide variety of volunteers from many different creative backgrounds.Donations:
Art supplies are in high demand at V+V. You can find a list online detailing what is needed. Some of the items include permanent markers, ink pads, buttons, sewing needles and glitter.
One unique program promotes giving the gift of stocks. Consider donating stocks that have already been acquired and increased in value. Financial advisors are able to transfer stocks from private parties to Visionaries + Voices. In return, the organization will issue an acknowledgement of the gift.
As the night sky blankets Cincinnati at 3 a.m., a faint glow emanates from the kitchen window of a small apartment. While most University of Cincinnati students who are awake at this hour are up to their eyeballs in tedious lab reports and last-minute reading, James Avant is caught in a frenzy of mixing bowls, whisks and measuring cups. The apartment fills with succulent scents as he blends together lemon zest and raspberry puree. His everyday stress and anxiety pours into the batter, fills the cupcake tin and rises into lemon raspberry cupcakes.
Avant’s cupcakes are more than delicious — they’re the edible gratification of mental health. The 22-year-old began baking to relieve stress after he was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) about four years ago. “I spent a lot of my days just kind of cleaning and counting and repeating, and my mind was kind of clouded with worry all the time, and so one of the ways I was able to overcome that in addition to therapy was through baking,” he says.
After one year of baking to relieve stress, watching YouTube tutorials and a getting little inspiration from an episode of Two Broke Girls, Avant decided that if we going to bake so often, he might as well profit from it, too. So he started a business, OCD Cakes, out of his home.
Obsessive Cake Disorder (OCD) Cakes helps raise mental health awareness through tasty baked goods. “OCD Cakes exists to take a bite out of the stigma surrounding mental health,” Avant says. “Cake is something that is commonplace in our culture and linked with so many different emotions, so why not take something you already use and consume and change the way you look at it in order to start positive conversations about mental health?” he explains. Five percent of the profits are donated to mental health agencies.
Going through high school and college, Avant personally experienced some of the negative stigma surrounding mental health. He recalls feeling the eyes of everyone in his classrooms burning into the back of his neck as he scrubbed desk with Lysol wipes before sitting down or got up out of his seat to clean up stray marks left by the teacher when erasing the board.
“You can’t make people understand what goes on in your head,” Avant says. “You have to do the best you can to find things they can easily identify with to make that conversation more comfortable. That’s why I use cake, because everybody likes cake!”
Avant says he also volunteers for local organizations, such as Su Casa and the psychiatry department of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “I really want people to see that I’m more than just giving away my product,” he says. “I really want people to see that I’m engaged in the wellness of others as well.”
One of the goals of OCD Cakes is to change the way people think about mental health. Avant says one of the reasons for this is that mental illnesses are more common than people think; it is important not to push mental health issues under the table or discourage people from getting help, because our minds should receive the same attention as our bodies. Like he bakes to de-stress, everyone needs to find constructive ways to get their feelings out. That’s why Avant says he wants to be as loud and proactive as possible about mental health issues. “We’re only going to make progress is everyone’s involved,” he says.
Good morning, Cincinnati. With sad news coming out of Belgium and historic news coming out of Cuba, it's a big day for international news. But first, here are your local headlines.
• Cincinnati's Historic Preservation Board has approved a real estate developer's request to tear down two buildings located downtown at the corner of Eighth and Main streets. The request passed Monday in a vote of 5-1 pushing forward Hyde Park-based Greiwe Development Group's $50 million plan to build two new 14-story buildings to house 60 luxury condos. One of the buildings set for demolition is a six-story Italianate building, built as a warehouse in 1875. The other is a not-so-historical two-story building from the last century. The developers told the board that they had determined renovating the structures would result in a loss in their investment.
• Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to be in Cincinnati this morning. Given how President Barack Obama is currently soaking up the Cuban sunshine in Havana, I would say Biden drew the executive short straw for travel this week. Biden will speak to a private fundraising event for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland and has no public appearances scheduled. So if you want to catch a glimpse of the VP, you'll probably have to cough up the $500 entry fee for Strickland's event.
• The Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Response team wants to make sure Easter eggs are the only things kids are finding in their yards this upcoming holiday weekend. The group issued a warning Monday for parents to check for syringes before sending their kids out on Easter egg hunts. Health experts say the heroin epidemic sweeping region has led to an increase in discarded, used syringes popping up in public places. If you do happen to find one this weekend (or ever), you can learn about proper disposal here.
• TourismOhio is launching a new campaign to boost tourism in the state. The campaign called "Ohio. Find It Here." will debut today and is targeted at the state's residents between the ages of 25 to 54. Mary Cusick, the director of TourismOhio said Governor John Kasich and the Development Services Agency asked her to "make Ohio look cool," which it is not, according to the tourism group's survey of residents of Ohio and its neighboring states. The new campaign is being released in time for Ohio's longer, sunnier months and will highlight the many fun and diverse activities the state has to offer. The state received more than $40 billion from tourism in 2014, the majority coming from in-state travelers.
• Today voters in both parties in Arizona and Utah go to the polls, while Idaho Democrats hold their caucuses. Some Republicans are sweating the results as many in the party remain uncomfortable with frontrunner Donald Trump's lead. On the other side, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders aims for Utah and Idaho, where he is leading in polls, as tries to catch up to opponent Hillary Clinton's solid lead.
• President Obama made his keynote speech in Havana today. In a major speech that was televised to 11 million Cubans on national television, Obama stood by Cuban leader Raul Castro and called on Congress to lift the trade embargo that has been in place since 1961 and normalize relations with the island nation. The president arrived in Cuba on Sunday with his family and is the first president to visit the country since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. You can read a recap here.
Hey all. Hope your weekend was rad. MusicNOW was incredible and I kinda wish I’d learned how to play like, concert piano or violin as a kid instead of boring guitar. Anyway, here’s what’s going on today in news.
You might need a little soundtrack for this first bit, and this weird song by hometown heroes Why? fits perfectly. Does the Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District need outside supervision? That’s what environmental advocacy group the Sierra Club says. The group, which filed a lawsuit that sparked a 2004 federal consent decree requiring a $3.4 billion update of the sewer system, is pushing for an outside overseer to make sure that work is being done efficiently and in a timely manner. Sierra Club asked for the outside oversight in the initial decree 12 years ago, but a federal judge ruled at the time that the city and county should be given time to work on the problems themselves. Now, with both governmental bodies feuding and the entire situation turning somewhat chaotic, Sierra Club is again asking for independent oversight.
• Another big mural is coming to Over-the-Rhine, and this time the public will get to help choose whom it will honor. Arts nonprofit Artworks will open voting March 28 to decide which famous Cincinnati woman will be depicted in its next project on the 1600 block of Pleasant Street near Findlay Market. So far, the possibilities include groundbreaking blues singer Mamie Smith, actress and civil rights activist Louise Beavers, Grammy-award winning singer and actress Rosemary Clooney, female professional baseball player Dorothy Kamenshek and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe.
• Here’s just a short blurb about how college basketball is dead to me. University of Cincinnati lost due to a last-second dunk that refs said was TOO last second. Xavier lost in an unbelievable game. March madness is already over for me, and apparently for Bill Murray as well. At least I’m in good company.
• Today, Cincinnati’s Historic Conservation Board will meet to begin deciding the fate of two Civil War-era downtown buildings that might face demolition. One of those buildings is the Dennison Hotel building on Main Street, and the other, which will likely be considered today, is another significantly sized building across the street. Owners of both buildings are asking for demolition permits to make way for new mixed-use construction project along the upcoming streetcar route. Historic preservation activists, who say the buildings can be redeveloped without demolition, are planning on attending the meetings about the buildings in order to advocate for their preservation. The conservation board’s meetings take place on the fifth floor at the Centennial Plaza II building at 805 Central Ave.
• Well, we’ve told you about the forthcoming Northern Kentucky theme park called the Ark Encounter, which will feature a full-sized Noah’s Ark replica. Well, some folks in the area are apparently pretty skeptical of the $90 million project. The Tri-State Freethinkers, a local group of advocates for the separation of church and state, are raising money to put up billboards criticizing the theme park, which is set after a court battle to receive $18 million in tax incentives from the state of Kentucky. The group was originally turned down for those credits because of its religious nature and the religious questions it asks on some job applications, but a judge ruled the group couldn’t be denied the credits for those reasons. The Freethinkers’ billboards, which could go up as soon as this week, will feature the phrase “Genocide and Incest Park,” a jab at the story of the great flood found in the bible’s Old Testament.
• Finally, it’s all or nothing for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is still a long-shot contender for the GOP presidential nomination. Kasich is banking on a brokered convention at this point and crossing his fingers that frontrunner Donald Trump doesn’t scoop up the 1,237 delegates needed to take the party’s primary outright. Not only is he sticking in the race, he’s saying he’s not in it for a consolation prize. Over the last week, he has ruled out running as vice president behind either Trump or second-place contestant U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Go hard or go home, I guess, but it’s probably going to be “go home” for Kasich. Actually, the convention is in Cleveland this summer, so I guess it’ll be going home for Kasich no matter what. But I digress.
News tips via Twitter or email. Later.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is really getting its act together. Not that they haven’t always been on top of things, but it’s often been deep into springtime before the coming season has been announced. Having recently shared the news about the expansion of its physical plant beginning in 2017, ETC has now shared what will be onstage for its 2016-2017 season — and much earlier than usual. Perhaps that’s because there were some evident artistic choices, as the information below will reveal.
ETC Producing Artistic Director D. Lynn Meyers has her finger on her subscribers’ pulses. Even before this announcement was released, approximately 80 percent of ETC’s 2,300 regulars had already renewed their seats for the coming season. That’s a demonstration of the confidence ETC subscribers have in Meyers’ judgment. Many of the season’s productions aren’t well known titles, but they have been chosen with specific and sharp insight into the preferences of ETC’s audience.
Here’s what’s in store:
The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez (Sept. 6-25, 2016): The season kicks off with show by Matthew Lopez, but it bears little resemblance to his powerful Civil War drama, The Whipping Man, which ETC staged back in 2012. This time it’s a heartwarming, music-filled comedy about Casey, a young optimist who’s broke, close to being evicted and discovering that he and his wife are pregnant. Oh, and he’s been fired from his gig as an Elvis impersonator in a run-down Florida Panhandle bar. His act is replaced by a B-level drag show, and he decides to go with the flow. It’s a new arena for him as a performer and a man. One review of the New York production called it “an irresistible and deceptively deep crowd pleaser.”
brownsville song (b-side for tray) by Kimber Lee (Oct. 11-30, 2016): I write annually about plays that get started at the Humana Festival in Louisville. (I’ll be headed there for the 38th annual event in April.) Two years ago this play received its world premiere there. Set in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, it moves between past and present to tell a tale about resilience in the face of tragedy. Tray, 18, is committed to making something of himself. He’s working on his college essay, boxing at the gym and holding down a part-time job. But he ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in the blink of an eye his life is tragically over. His family is left to ponder what might have been. This poetic and powerful story jumps between a hopeful future and an uncertain present to show a unique perspective on urban violence. Myers picked this show knowing its run would overlap with August Wilson’s Jitney at the Playhouse, offering theatergoers two moving perspectives on the African-American experience.
Cinderella: After Ever After by Joe McDonough, David Kisor and Fitz Patton (Nov. 30-Dec 30): ETC’s production of Cinderella for the 2015 holiday season was one of the theater’s most attend shows ever. So for the 2016 holidays we get a world-premiere sequel, again created by playwright McDonough, lyricist Kisor and composer Patton. With the same actors who charmed audiences last December, this will be the story about what happens next. What happens when Cinderella and Prince Freddy move into the palace with her diva stepmother and her self-absorbed stepsisters in tow? What becomes of her beloved animal friends? And what’s Gwendolyn, “The Well Wisher,” up to now? All will be revealed in another family-friendly show.
First Date by Austin Winsberg, Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (Jan. 17-Feb 5, 2017): This musical comedy had a Broadway run in 2013; ETC is presenting its regional premiere. It explores one of those treacherous human endeavors: the blind date. When Aaron, a first-time blind-date guy, is set up with serial-dater Casey, their casual drink turns into a high-stakes dinner as other restaurant patrons transform into supportive best friends, manipulative exes and protective parents — who sing and dance them through the dangerous waters of getting acquainted.
When We Were Young and Unafraid by Sarah Treem (Feb. 21-March 12, 2017): It’s 1972, before Roe v. Wade, before the Violence Against Women Act. Agnes has turned her quiet bed and breakfast into a refuge for young victims of domestic violence. But her latest runaway, Mary Anne, is beginning to influence Agnes’s college-bound daughter Penny. Playwright Treem (who’s been a writer for House of Cards and In Treatment) digs into the early days of feminism from various perspectives. The show debuted in New York in 2014; this is its regional premiere.
Bloomsday by Steven Dietz (April 4-23, 2017): Playwright Dietz’s newest play, a 2016 finalist for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award. His work has pleased ETC audiences four times in the past — Private Eyes (2000), Fiction (2007), More Fun than Bowling (2008) and Becky’s New Car (2010). This one is set against the backdrop of James Joyce’s iconic novel Ulysses. It’s about an American searches for the Irish woman who captured his heart 30 years earlier while he led “Bloomsday” walking tour in Dublin. The play bends time and space to explore a love affair that might have been. Meyers recently fell in love with this script; the show just premiered at ACT in Seattle last September; she moved quickly to obtain the rights to present its regional premiere here.
ART: PANG JEN AND BRUCE RILEY AT MILLER GALLERYKnown for his soft, bright oil paintings which have the look of pastels, Chinese-born American immigrant and artist Pang Jen’s romantic compositions will be on view at Miller Gallery in Hyde Park beginning Wednesday. Pang’s work often consists of still-lifes and landscapes, which include women and children as well as traditional Chinese boats, and Miller Gallery curators have juxtaposed Pang’s solo show with an exhibition of the equally colorful yet far more conceptual work of Chicago-based abstract artist Bruce Riley. Through June 25. Free. 2715 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, millergallery.com.
MUSIC: PURPLE REIGNS: A CELEBRATION OF THE MUSIC OF PRINCE
The shock of Prince’s sudden death last
month hasn’t waned, and tributes to the iconic musician continue to flow
(most recently, Madonna and Stevie Wonder paid tribute to him at the Billboard
Music Awards). This weekend, a local tribute featuring a diverse array
of artists will honor Prince’s huge contribution to the music world. The
event is hosted by Cincinnati-born Funk legend Bootsy Collins and his
wife Pepperminte Patti, with proceeds going to the Bootsy Collins
Foundation, an umbrella group for Collins’ many charitable undertakings
(from supporting music education to promoting oral health care). The
lineup includes artists who’ve worked with Prince (drummer John
Blackwell and bassist MonoNeon), local singer/songwriters like Jess Lamb
and Kelly Richey and Bootsy’s group, The Rubber Band, among others. 7 p.m. Saturday. $20. Bogart’s, 2621 Vine St., Corryville, bogarts.com.
SPORTS: FC CINCINNATI
After a handful of packed games, it appears that Cincinnati is ready to bleed orange and blue for our hometown futbol team, FC Cincinnati — 23,000-plus fans broke the United Soccer League attendance record at the club’s May 14 home game. Come cheer the boys on at the University of Cincinnati’s revamped Nippert Stadium as they take on the Harrisburg City Islanders. 7 p.m. Saturday. $20-$25; discounts for kids and students. Nippert Stadium, 2700 Bearcat Way, Clifton Heights, fccincinnati.com.
After a nearly four-hour meeting, Cincinnati's Historic Conservation Board adjourned this afternoon without voting on Columbia REI, LLC's application to tear down the historic Dennison building downtown at 716-718 Main St.
That application has caused controversy. Columbia, owned by the powerful Joseph family, says it would be too expensive to save the building and would like to build a headquarters for an as-yet unidentified Fortune 500 company on the site. But preservationists say the building, which was designed by the firm of noted architect Samuel Hannaford, is a vital part of downtown's urban fabric.
Representatives for Columbia and the Joseph family presented their case to five members of the seven-member board. The group called a number of experts they've hired while they've owned the building to give evidence they say shows the building can't be redeveloped in an economically feasible way due to its poor condition and structural attributes.
Most of the presentation restated the key points of this assertion in greater detail, but there was at least one new revelation: how the Cincinnati City Center Development Company, which purchased the building for $1.2 million and then sold it to Columbia for $740,000, recouped money on the deal. Representatives for the Joseph family say the group paid 3CDC further development costs after the initial sale, making up the missing money.
The meeting had its fair share of contention: Columbia's attorney Fran Barrett moved to have Cincinnati Urban Conservator Beth Johnson's testimony stricken from the proceedings. Barrett said that Johnson has shown "extreme prejudice and bias" and that the Josephs "have a stacked deck against us going in" to their demolition application.
Johnson last month wrote a report taking staunch issue with the Josephs' assertion that anything other than demolishing the building would present the company with an economic hardship, pointing out the building's sound structural condition and the fact that studies on the economic feasibility of redevelopment of the building didn't take into account historic state tax credits and other incentives.
Lance Brown, the executive vice president of Beck Consulting, which drew up the economic feasibility report, told the board that no normal type of use — apartments, condos, office space — was feasible for the Dennison. However, when pushed by the board, Brown admitted he wasn't specifically familiar with incentives like state Historic Preservation tax credits, LEED tax credits, or city grants and tax credits that could have made the project more feasible.
Multiple board members also took issue with Brown's use of the term "flophouse" to describe the Dennison's former life as a single room occupancy hotel. Brown cracked that he got his understanding of that term from "extensive research on Wikipedia and Google."
Board member Judith Spraul-Schmidt chided Brown for using the term, saying that such housing was designed to be "decent and safe."
The board will work with attorneys representing the Josephs and opponents of the demolition application to set the next hearing, at which those seeking to save the Dennison will make their case.
The plan would rehabilitate affordable housing at eight sites, many under contracts with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Currently, those sites house 302 units of housing, many of which city officials say are in substandard and neglected condition. The city money would go toward a $135 million effort by developers like Model Group and 3CDC to turn those sites into 304 units of high-quality affordable housing along with 212 market rate units at four of the sites.
Cranley, Vice Mayor David Mann, representatives from Over-the-Rhine Community Housing and developers Model Group and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation unveiled the proposal today at a news conference outside 1525 Race St., which would see 25 units of affordable housing developed by Model along with 85 market rate units.
“We’re very excited to be here today to celebrate affordable housing and a diverse community in Over-the-Rhine,” said Over-the-Rhine Community Executive Director Mary Burke Rivers. “People who are working in our city, or retired, or veterans, can’t afford what the market provides for housing. It’s gotten very complicated, but at its core it’s a simple math problem. This money addresses that math problem.”
The developments are designed to help the slide in affordable housing the neighborhood has seen in the past decade, Cranley says. Since 2000, 73 percent of OTR’s lowest-cost housing units have left the neighborhood, according to a study by Xavier’s Community Building Institute. That's caused some displacement of residents.
“We’ve seen here in Over-the-Rhine an extraordinary renaissance that was unthinkable five or 10 years ago,” Cranley said at the news conference. “But I think we all believe it should not come at the expense of the people who have lived here a long time. There have always been HUD contracts that have been extended for 15 or 30 years to preserve affordable housing. But it’s not enough, and we’d like to do more. We want to adjust to changing circumstances. We want a healthy community that is mixed income. I think this is a tremendous opportunity to do that.”
Cranley says the financing is general fund money coming from the city’s sale of the Blue Ash Airport and refinancing of some streetcar expenses.
Model Group CEO Bobby Maly says affordable housing and economic development can go hand and hand.
“Investing in affordable housing can also be investing in economic development and revitalization. That means investing in high-quality affordable housing alongside, adjacent to, high-quality market rate housing. It also means investing in affordable housing next to high-investment community projects. Things like Washington Park and other public investments.”
A focus on mixed-income development is the very deliberate focus of the proposal, Mann says.
“It’s no accident that we’re here,” Mann said about the site of the news announcement, a series of empty buildings on Race Street. “Next door, new, market rate condos are being built. As I understand from (3CDC CEO) Mr. (Steve) Leeper, they’ll be $300,000 and up. Here, because of the affordable housing money that the budget will commit to Over-the-Rhine, there will be about 25 renovated units of affordable housing.”
Mann cited statistics that 50 percent of renters in Cincinnati pay more than 30 percent of their incomes for apartments, the threshold for affordability set by the federal government.
“We hope there are ways that the $2 million can be leveraged,” Mann said, to create more opportunities for affordable housing creation. The other $2 million will be dispersed to developers doing low-income housing projects in other parts of the city through an as-yet-to-be-determined process.
The plan would, in some cases, move affordable units to other buildings and create market rate or mixed-income developments in their place.
As and example: Among the sites involved in the OTR plan are the Jan and Senate Apartments, six buildings containing 101 units of subsidized housing, and the so-called Mercy portfolio, which includes 140 units in 18 buildings in OTR for people making less than 60 percent of the area median income — about $71,000 for a family of four. About 70 of those units are in bad shape, developers say, while another 70 need only minor work.
Developers say the Jan and Senate properties are in danger of losing their rental subsidies due to their poor condition and have begun managing the sites and moving tenants to other, nearby affordable units with the help of the Cincinnati Legal Aid Society ahead of rehab work. The HUD contracts held by the Jan and Senate buildings would then be transferred to a number of other affordable housing sites, 3CDC and Model Group say in an outline of their plan provided by city officials. About 45 units of housing at 60 percent of the area median income will stay at the Jan and Senate as part of a mixed-income development.
NEWSkyline: It’s Skyline’s first year at Taste, which seems weird, right? They’ll be serving Greek salads, along with 3-ways, coneys and chilitos, for people who really enjoy the challenge of trying to walk and eat at the same time.
BEST OF TASTE WINNERS (people sampled, voted and these won)
Good morning, Cincy! A lot is happening around the city so let's get straight to the headlines.
• An off-duty Cincinnati police officer fatally shot a man suspected of robbing a Madisonville bank yesterday afternoon. CPD Chief Eliot Isaac confirmed that the still-unnamed CPD officer fired two shots at 20-year-old Terry Frost in the Fifth Third bank off Madison Avenue shortly after 4 p.m. Frost reportedly claimed to have a gun during the robbery, then, after being shot, stumbled off into the woods behind the bank where he was found dead by CPD officers. Police still haven't said whether Frost had a gun or any other weapon. CPD is planning on holding a press conference this morning to reveal the name of the officer. This is the third fatal shooting by a CPD officer this year.
• Mayor John Cranley says he is not OK with the cuts to human services funding in City Manager Harry Black's proposed budget released last week. Cranley told The Enquirer he wants to bring back 82 percent of the $413,500 Black has proposed cutting, amounting to an 8.5 percent decrease. Under Cranley's proposal, human services funding would account for 1.9 percent of the budget. Black's budget dedicates $4 million to five different agencies with the majority of funds going to nonprofit United Way.
• Mayor Cranley appears to be a busy man at the moment. The mayor will also hold a press conference with Vice Mayor David Mann this morning at 10:30 a.m. in Over-The-Rhine to unveil the details of a $135 million initiative to upgrade and add low-income housing to the neighborhood. The effort reportedly will be led by 3CDC and Walnut Hills nonprofit The Model Group.
• The city is taking Mahogany's owner Liz Rogers to court. Rogers received a $300,000 loan from the city in 2012 to open the soul food restaurant, which went under in September 2014. Taxpayers have forgiven Rogers for two-thirds of the loan, but she is refusing to repay the $96,928 she still owes the city. Rogers missed her $800 loan payments in March and April, and the city filed suit on May 11. Vice Mayor Mann said the city was left with "no choice." She is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 1.
• A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Ohio in a highly restrictive form is on its way to Gov. John Kasich's desk. The legislation passed the Senate last evening with a margin of just three votes. The bill would still prohibit growing and smoking the plant, but would allow it in a vapor form and would be available for doctors to prescribe to patients with a list of approved medical conditions. The Ohio Department of Commerce would oversee the growth, distribution and testing of the plant. Some Democrats expressed disapproval at the provision that allows employers to fire employees who tested positive for the drug — even if they have a prescription. If Gov. Kasich signs the bill into law, Ohio will become the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana.
Good morning all. Here’s what’s going on in the world today.
The city of Cincinnati has officially announced an opening date for the city’s streetcar. The transit project running through Over-the-Rhine and downtown will take its first passengers Sept. 9, beginning with an opening ceremony at some point mid-day. The project, which has been fraught with political battles and funding concerns, is being financed with increased parking revenues, advertising proceeds and other sources that aren’t part of the city’s general fund budget.
• Mayor John Cranley yesterday rolled out more of his proposals for the city’s budget, which involve some $30 million for neighborhood projects. He spoke at a news conference in Avondale about projects he’d like to see funded in that neighborhood under his proposed fiscal plan, including a renewed Avondale Towne Center with a Save-A-Lot grocery store. Avondale has been trying to get a full-service grocery store since Aldi left the neighborhood about eight years ago. The city would chip in about $2 million to get development started under Cranley’s plan. The mayor did acknowledge that neighborhood activists had hoped for a higher-scale store such as a Kroger but that the Save-A-Lot will be expected to stock fresh produce and other necessities. Cranley yesterday also announced he would provide $3.2 million for a new community development corporation in Bond Hill and Roselawn.
• Cranley is set to pitch another round of investments today in the city’s East Side neighborhoods. He’s also expected to announce that the city will purchase the land necessary to build the Wasson Way bike trail. That $11.8 million, 4.1-mile stretch of former railway is vital to the completion of the trail, which would pass through a number of East Side neighborhoods on its way to Uptown. If the city doesn’t purchase the land by the end of July, the price will jump by nearly $600,000. It’s unclear where the construction money for the project will come from. The city applied for a federal TIGER grant last year to help fund building costs for the bike trail but was turned down.
• Wait. Hold on. Do I agree on something with U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, the tea party crusader from Northern Kentucky? It would… kind of appear so. Massie owes the GOP $24,000 in “party dues,” i.e. money from his fundraising coffers the party expects in order to stay in its good graces. Massie has criticized the practice, which is also used to determine who gets which committee assignment in the House. Particular assignments have particular dollar amounts assigned to them, and the more influential the committee, the more money a House member is expected to kick in. Massie is slamming this system, saying it means the best fundraisers, not the best lawmakers, get oversized influence in the legislative process. In what may be the only example of partisan agreement between a tea party member and the rest of Congress, some Democrats agree with him. I also think it sounds pretty messed up.
• What policies will law enforcement officers and departments have to follow regarding body cameras across Ohio?
Good morning all. Lots to talk about today so let’s get to it!
The 13 children of Samuel DuBose will each receive more than $200,000 as part of a settlement between the family and the University of Cincinnati, a Hamilton County judge ruled yesterday. DuBose was shot and killed by UC police officer Ray Tensing July 19 last year. In addition to the money for his children, DuBose’s mother Audrey DuBose will receive $90,000, his six siblings will receive $32,000 each and his father Sam Johnson will receive $25,000, Judge Ralph Winlker announced yesterday. The settlement, which also includes other elements such as college tuition for DuBose’s children, resolves a civil suit against the university. Criminal proceedings are ongoing against former officer Tensing, who is charged with murder and manslaughter. He’s scheduled to stand trial on those charges in October.
• Cincinnati City Council members are requesting the recently completed audit of the region’s Metropolitan Sewer District ahead of the city's budget process, but City Manager Harry Black says they shouldn't rush. The audit, which resulted from revelations that MSD spent millions on contracts it didn’t properly put through a bidding process, is still with the city’s lawyers in a working draft form, Black says. But with work on the city’s budget looming, council members like Kevin Flynn and Chris Seelbach say the time is now to reveal the results of the audit. Things got testy when Council pushed for more information from the audit at yesterday’s budget and finance committee meeting, with Black resisting requests for that information and Seelbach accusing the city manager of giving him an eye roll. Oh snap.
• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is at the White House today meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and state and local government officials as part of a discussion on gun violence. Sittenfeld made gun control a big part of his campaign when he was running for Senate against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. Sittenfeld lost that race but has pledged to continue efforts to curtail shootings. He told WVXU he is there to learn more about strategies for curbing gun violence and that he doesn’t think the invite has anything to do with his former Senate campaign. President Barack Obama and VP Biden endorsed Strickland in that race.
• This is a weird article. Breaking news: The city has a lot of stairs. Some of them are crumbling. More breaking news: The city isn’t exactly rushing to pay to fix them. Thus concludes your breaking news update about something you probably already knew about. The steps are a big part of the city’s walking infrastructure (I take them every day). But they’ve been neglected since, well, probably since people started moving out of the city. The money it would take to fix them is also an infinitesimally small portion of the city’s budget at a time when Mayor John Cranley is discussing throwing $30 million to a few city neighborhoods.
• A federal judge has temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip $1.4 million in public money from Planned Parenthood in the state. That money goes to providing health screenings for low-income women, not to providing abortions. The temporary restraining order keeping Ohio from enforcing the law, which passed in February, comes as a larger court fight around the measure continues. You can read more about all of that in our story here.
• Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost yesterday announced the results of surprise headcounts at Ohio charter schools, saying at least some of the schools had very few or no students attending on the days of the unannounced visits. Yost said the extremely low attendance numbers at three charters in the state suggests they might be operating illegally as distance learning schools instead of the brick and mortar schools they’re certified to operate as. It’s the latest revelation in a bad stretch for the state’s charters, which have faced allegations of mismanagement and an Ohio Department of Education data rigging scandal that artificially inflated charter school performance by omitting some low-performing online schools. Yost visited 14 drop-out recovery schools around the state and found an average attendance of just 34 percent.
• The revelations, as well as other frustrations with the state’s public schools, had the auditor spitting hot fire at the ODE yesterday, calling it “among the worst, if not the worst-run agency in state government.” Yost cited poor charter school accountability and performance as well as a slow roll out for ODE’s new data management system as among the sources for his frustration with the agency.
• Finally, more presidential politics, because I know you need more of that in your life. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in Ohio, according to the latest polls asking voters about the upcoming general election. But it’s not the blowout you might expect. Clinton’s up 44 percent to Trump’s 39 percent in the Buckeye State — less than her primary opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who bests Trump 48 percent to 39 percent in the CBS/YouGov poll. Voters have a pretty negative opinion of both candidates, however — 55 percent view Clinton negatively and 59 percent feel the same about Trump.
That’s it for me. See you tomorrow. Tweet or email in the meantime.
Hey hey Cincinnati. Hope you got outside and soaked up the perfect weather this weekend. Now it’s back to the real world, where news happens.
The directors of every city of Cincinnati department received raises this past year, according to city records reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer. In total, those raises are costing city taxpayers $234,000 more a year. Some of the city’s 25 department heads got those pay bumps despite making few of their stated goals and receiving rather mixed performance reviews. Top salary getters include Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, whose $162,000 paycheck is 20 percent more than his predecessor Chief Jeffrey Blackwell made. Fire Chief Richard Braun, who is now also making $162,000, saw his pay raised 16 percent. Those raises came during a time when the city projected as much as a $14 million budget deficit. That deficit was cut in half by more recent economic projections, but could still trigger cuts to the city’s human services and economic development efforts, among other services. The city manager’s recently released budget calls for a 1 percent raise for all city employees, and police and fire personnel are negotiating to get a 3 percent bump.
• Speaking of the budget, Mayor John Cranley is set to unveil his ideas for the city’s financial plan today at 11 a.m. at Westwood Town Hall, according to a news release from the mayor's office. On the agenda: $30 million for neighborhood projects in that neighborhood and in places like West Price Hill, North Avondale, Bond Hill and others. City Manager Black released his budget proposal Thursday, and Cranley has two weeks to submit his version to City Council. He’ll be presenting his version of the budget at town halls throughout the week.
• We haven’t even survived 2016 yet, but we’re already talking about the election after it. Last week, we told you about the increasing focus around Cincinnati’s 2017 mayoral and City Council races. Now, after revelations that Councilwoman Yvette Simpson sent out a memo to potential firms that could help her in a bid opposing fellow Dem Cranley, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke is asking party members to focus on this year’s election. Burke has said it’s too early to focus on next year just yet when there are big races at the county level — most notably a pitched fight for control of the Hamilton County Commission. State Rep. Denise Driehaus is running to grab a seat on that body, and if she pulls out a victory against Republican interim commissioner Dennis Deters, the three-member group that oversees the county could have a Democrat majority for the first time in years. But the call for unity from Burke comes as the party is experiencing tension between two factions in the city: younger, more progressive Dems who tended to support the streetcar and who push for items like increases in human services funding, and more established, moderate Democrats like Mayor Cranley.
• That battle continues to shape up: progressive 2013 City Council candidate Michelle Dillingham is launching her bid for a Council seat in the 2017 election tonight at Bromwell’s Harth-Lounge at 6 p.m. Dillingham came in 12th in that race and hopes to turn support for her from progressives into a Council seat this time around.
• A historic building in Covington will get at least a little more time safe from the wrecking ball. Kenton County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Summe told Bavarian Brewery owners Columbia Sussex that they can’t demolish the 100-year-old building. The structure, which sits in a historic district, once held Jillian’s nightclub. Columbia-Sussex originally wanted to put a casino on the property, but Kentucky legislators have yet to pass a law that would allow that to happen. Now, the company says the only way it can see a return on investment is by demolishing the building. Covington’s Urban Design Review Board previously denied a permit application for that demolition, and Judge Summe’s ruling affirms that position. Columbia-Sussex can appeal her decision, however.
• Finally, University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono made big news over the weekend with his admission that he suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts as a younger man. Ono made the revelation at a fundraiser Saturday for mental health-awareness group 1N5, whose name is a reference to research that shows one in five individuals in the United States suffers from mental illness. Ono said that by talking about his past struggles, he hoped to show that mental illness is treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.