Good morning all. With the Iowa caucuses today, it seems like a good time to talk politics, and we’ve got a bunch of local political stories to touch on. Let’s get to it.
Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is running neck and neck in with an opponent in the upcoming March Democratic primary, according to a new poll, but it’s not Ted Strickland. In a recent survey paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party, about 10 percent of 1,138 Ohio Democrats said they would vote for Price Hill resident Kelli Prather, an relatively unknown candidate who has never held elected office before. That’s the same proportion of support that Sittenfeld received in the poll. Strickland received 61 percent of the vote in the poll.
Sittenfeld’s campaign has shrugged off that poll, saying it’s biased and designed by the Democratic Party to support Strickland — who the party has endorsed — in the primary. Sittenfeld has raised a good deal of money from some notable donors, but has yet to catalyze much needed statewide recognition. Prather, meanwhile, has received little news coverage or other attention. She’s an occupational therapist whose harrowing experience as a victim of gun violence in 2004, when her husband shot her, inspired her to run for office, she says. Sittenfeld and Prather will debate in Cleveland Feb. 22. Strickland has declined to attend that event.
• More drama within the Democratic Party: A candidate to replace outgoing State Rep. Denise Driehaus in Ohio House District 31 says the local party is sidelining him over a research paper he wrote in 2009 while he was a student at Yale University. Candidate Ben Lindy says Hamilton County Democrats might take away his party rights — access to voter files and mailing information, lower postage rates and other benefits of being part of the Democratic Party — because the paper is now being used in anti-union arguments in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. That paper was published by Yale Law Journal in 2011 and is currently being used by anti-union groups in a case that could seriously undermine organized labor. Lindy says that’s not fair.
Hamilton County Democrat head Tim Burke has said he doesn’t want to totally marginalize Lindy but that the content of that paper is “bothersome.” In the research, Lindy found that public schools in New Mexico with mandatory union membership had higher SAT scores, but also lower graduation rates, than schools where collective bargaining arrangements weren’t mandatory. Lindy says in the paper that the results suggest collective bargaining arrangements for teachers actually hurt low-income students. He’s stuck by that particular research, but says that overall he supports unions and opposes efforts to restrict union dues collection in the current Supreme Court case. But he also points to other Democrats who have beliefs outside the party, such as those who are pro-life, and says he doesn’t deserve to be drummed out of the party for his position.
• Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman will step down from his job as county government’s top appointed official in September, he told county commissioners Friday. Sigman has served in the role — in which he helps set county budgets and oversees economic development plans — since 2011. He’s recently had a rocky time in the position, however, having been removed from oversight of riverfront development The Banks by county commissioners after he made statements suggesting that the county should consider working with another developer. Initially, commissioners considered firing him over those statements.
• Here’s a break from politics for a business story: Will local giant corporation Procter & Gamble split up? There’s a buzz going around financial analysts and others in the business world that it could, or should, happen as the company sees slow sales growth. It might be too large to grow any more, some experts say, and should consider splitting the company up. While the company has made some progress under new CEO David Taylor, lack of major progress could cause stockholders to push for the split-up, something that has happened at more than 300 other large companies in the last five years. Proponents of that course of action at P&G say it would allow the resulting companies to better focus on particular sectors of P&G’s business. However, others say the company’s sales problem exists across all its various enterprises and wouldn’t be solved by breaking them up. Already, P&G has sold off 100 smaller brands that were not as successful as its core products.
• And now, back to politics. Two political action committees supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he vies for the GOP presidential nomination saw a significant slowdown in fundraising in the second half of last year, recently released financial disclosures show. Super PACs New Day for America and New Day Independent Media Committee, both of which were formed to tout Kasich’s bid, saw about $6 million in contributions from July to December last year. That’s little more than half the $11.7 million those PACs took in in the first half of the year. Much of that money came from big donors with ties to large corporations.
Under campaign finance rules, Super PACs have no contribution limits but cannot coordinate directly with candidates’ campaigns. Kasich’s fundraising has trailed other candidates in the heated primary race. Similar super PACs for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio raised $30 million last year, for instance. The PACs supporting Kasich have seen an uptick in fundraising, however, in the last couple weeks, as primary season starts in earnest. Kasich hopes some of that support pays off in Iowa tonight, where he’s trailing far-right candidates like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in polls of Iowa’s staunchly conservative caucus-goers.
That’s it for me. Enjoy this warm weather while it lasts, eh?
Hey hey all! Here’s what’s going on around town today.
The University of Cincinnati is hosting a two-day national conference on race and policing starting today. The conference comes in the wake of the July 19 police shooting of Samuel DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing. DuBose was unarmed when Tensing stopped him for a missing front license plate. Tensing ended up shooting DuBose and has been indicted on murder charges for his death. The conference will feature panels and talks by national experts on policing and race issues as well as talks by Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, former Cincinnati City Manager Valerie Lemme and others. Sessions on police profiling, challenges to trusting law enforcement, gun policy and other issues will also be offered. A UC student group called UC Students Against Injustice, meanwhile, has planned a protest of the event, calling it a “PR stunt” in light of what they say are failures by the university to make substantive changes following DuBose’s death.
• One of the region’s most iconic and beloved museums had a banner year in 2015. The Cincinnati Museum Center, housed in historic Union Terminal, had its second-busiest year since it opened in 1990, attracting nearly 1.5 million visitors last year. And it saved the best for last: It also had its single busiest month in December, when 224,000 people streamed through its doors. Museum officials credit popular temporary exhibits like the Lego-themed “The Art of the Brick” and “Mummies of the World” — along with the center’s permanent exhibits — for the success. The good news for the museum comes as Union Terminal prepares to undergo an extensive two-year restoration.
• Yesterday we told you Cincinnati City Councilman and aspirant to the U.S. Senate P.G. Sittenfeld was holding a news conference in Columbus to announce a big idea on gun control, a key issue for his Senate campaign. Well, here are the deets — Sittenfeld wants to pass an amendment to the Ohio constitution that would allow cities to make their own gun laws, meaning that places like Cincinnati could pass tighter restrictions on guns as long as they were within the scope of state and federal laws. The amendment would also allow cities like Cleveland to reinstate bans on assault weapons that were overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2006. The drivers behind Sittenfeld’s call for the amendment are two-fold. One, he used yesterday’s announcement to criticize Republican lawmakers who recently expanded the places concealed carry license holders can have their guns to include places like college campuses and daycare facilities. He’s also made the move to further illustrate differences between himself and his primary opponent, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Sittenfeld has drawn attention to past pro-gun votes by Strickland.
• Online voting registration may soon be an option for some Ohioans, but only for those with a valid Ohio driver’s license. Legislation setting up online registration not requiring signed paperwork is making its way through the Ohio state house and has bipartisan support. Lawmakers are hoping to get the bill passed in time for it to go into effect before the Oct. 11 deadline for the November election, but some conservative groups say it should be held until 2017 so online security issues can be vetted to prevent hacking. The Ohio House of Representatives is next to vote on the bill, which would go into effect 90 days after it is passed.
• One in four children under the age of six is food insecure in Ohio and the state is 38th in the country when it comes to childhood poverty, a new study says. The Ohio Children’s Defense Fund conducted the study, which found that 653,000, or 24 percent, of Ohio kids don’t get enough to eat. That sets poor children up for learning and development challenges that can linger for years, the organization says. OCDF says efforts like school lunch programs and other initiatives that help low-income people are vital to fixing that problem, and has pushed lawmakers to do more to expand those programs.
• Finally, did Ohio Gov. John Kasich shine in his first
Trump-less debate last night? Well, not so much, but he also didn’t crash and
burn either. Kasich mostly ignored addressing traditionally hard-right primary
voters in the debate’s host state Iowa, which has a Feb. 1 primary looming.
Instead, he spent much of his time sending a more pragmatic and even friendly
message, a move pundits think is calibrated to woo New Hampshire’s less ideologically-hidebound
conservatives set to cast their own primary vote Feb. 9. Kasich again tried on
the compassionate conservative routine last night, pulling out his best lines
about the ways biblical scripture have informed his stance on the need to help the needy. Kasich also said that speedy action would have been the best response to the ongoing crisis with Flint, Mich.'s lead-polluted water scandal.
If you just read the blurb above about childhood poverty, know about the lead crisis in Sebring, Ohio, are familiar with the state's economic performance or the way Kasich’s
administration deals out food stamp work waivers, that probably sounds a little
disingenuous. But then, welcome to the world of politics. By comparison, the
rest of the GOP field had a pretty rowdy night, even absent Trump. U.S. Sens
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, along with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, tangled over
immigration, which is shaping up to be a huge issue among xenophobes, err, I
mean GOP primary voters. Most of the other candidates faded into the
background, with Cruz and Rubio getting the most airtime — 13 minutes of
speaking time a piece. Kasich came in at a respectable 9 minutes, though mostly
avoided tangling with or being addressed by the other candidates. Trump,
meanwhile, still leads in the polls despite skipping the debate in protest.
Hey all. Here’s the news today.
In the wake of a big municipal water scandal, Cincinnati officials are pushing for tests on some of the city’s water. You’ve probably seen the huge headlines about Flint, Michigan, where a change in water sourcing triggered the corrosion of pipes and caused some of the city’s residents to be exposed to unhealthy, even toxic, levels of lead. There is evidence that state officials knew about that corrosion and did nothing, which has led to a major controversy. Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman yesterday asked for testing following revelations that some 16,000 properties served by Greater Cincinnati Water Works get their water through lead pipes.
Smitherman says the city has a “moral duty” to make sure lead contamination isn’t happening through the city’s water supply. Replacing lead the lead pipes could cost $82 million, but many are on private property, so the city would be expected to split the cost with private owners. Smitherman’s suggestion, which will be discussed Monday in the Law and Public Safety Committee he chairs, drew response from City Manager Harry Black and other officials reassuring the public that Cincinnati isn’t in Flint’s position and that the water here is safe. Regular tests are conducted on sample households in the city, and 95 percent of households tested have very low or no lead in their water, according to Black.
• The last hospital in Cincinnati that performed abortions when fatal birth defects are detected in fetuses has ceased that practice. Mothers carrying fetuses that cannot survive outside the womb were able to obtain abortions at Christ Hospital, but now will now need to go a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic or leave the city for the procedure due to a change in hospital policy. The hospital performed 14 such procedures in 2015 and 18 in 2014. The new policy now allows abortions only when a pregnancy is a threat to the life of the mother, a policy followed by the city’s other major hospitals. The change comes following revelations that Christ and other hospital weren’t properly reporting the procedures to state officials, which led to a push from the Ohio Department of Health for the data.
• Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is pushing his proposals for new gun control laws today in Columbus. Sittenfeld, who is challenging former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in the Democratic primary for the chance to try and unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, has made gun issues a keystone of his campaign. Sittenfeld is proposing an amendment to the state’s constitution to make firearms harder to obtain for those who might use them for violence. Several gun control advocates are joining him at a news conference at the statehouse, where he’ll announce the details of his proposal.
• Back to women’s health: The Ohio Senate yesterday passed a bill that would strip state and some federal funds from Planned Parenthood because the women’s health provider performs abortions. That bill now has to go back to the state House, which will approve minor changes the Senate made. The bill came after filmmakers Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released a video purporting to show Texas Planned Parenthood officials offering to sell fetal tissue. However, that video was heavily edited, the organization says, a contention that a grand jury in Texas agreed with. That jury declined to bring charges against Planned Parenthood, instead indicting the filmmakers on felony records-tampering charges. Pro-choice advocates have blasted Ohio’s legislation, pointing out that it stems from the now-discredited activist video and that the government funding in question never went for abortions, instead funding vital women’s healthcare services. The House is expected to pass the legislation, which will then go to Gov. John Kasich for approval.
• Finally, as you probably already know, Donald Trump has decided to boycott tonight’s GOP presidential primary debate unless moderator Megyn Kelly is removed. Trump really, really doesn’t like Kelly, but anyway. Should Trump pull out of the debate for certain, he might draw a bunch of viewers away from the circus… I mean, uh, debate. But he might also give an opportunity for other candidates, including Ohio. Gov. John Kasich, to have more speaking time. Trump has dominated the debates so far, mostly with the kinds of rhetorical gushes that have hard-right GOP voters enthralled and leave others scratching their heads. There’s a chance that in his absence, a more substantive debate might occur, one that allows Kasich to showcase his long experience as a career politician. That could be a vital opportunity, as it’s definitely make or break time for candidates like Kasich facing down the Iowa primary just days away and with New Hampshire voting just about a week later. Trump leads in both of those states.
Accelerate Great Schools, a nonprofit made up of business leaders, educators and philanthropists, will be giving a grant of $128,000 to help aid a partnership between CPS and the nonprofit TNTP (formally The New Teacher Project) in developing a better hiring system for its principals. It will also give a grant of up to $1.3 million to help St. Francis de Sales in Walnut Hills and St. Cecilia School in Oakley to implement a blended learning model next school year with the help of the nonprofit Seton Education Partners, which works with disadvantaged students in Catholic schools.
The make-up of the seven-month-old nonprofit's leadership leans heavier on the side of business leaders and philanthropists than on educators. Some have questioned the motives behind the group, wondering if they're actually most interested in promoting the charter schools in the city. The group's initial plan for the money when it launched last May had $15 million going toward creating charter schools that would partner with CPS or the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Good morning all. Here’s what’s up in the news today.
Could downtown get a grocery store? It’s looking more like a possibility after the Greater Metropolitan Housing Authority’s board voted yesterday to negotiate a potential partnership to redevelop a former CMHA office building on Central Parkway between Race and Vine streets. The developers, Kingsley + Co. and Anchor Properties, envision a $28 million project featuring a 40,000-square-foot grocery store and other retail space, a four-level parking garage above that and three floors of office space. The Kingsley/Anchor project will be at least 51 percent minority-owned, according to its proposal to the housing agency. CMHA says it has moved operations to Western Avenue in the West End, no longer uses the building on Central Parkway and is looking to find ways to have it generate revenue it can use to redevelop affordable housing around the city. Leadership with the housing authority says putting affordable housing on the site would require zoning changes and is not requiring such housing in proposals from developers. The neighborhood around the site has lost 73 percent of its affordable housing since 2002, according to a recent report.
• This is cool news: A large foundation and a group of 50 donors have stepped up to fund admissions to Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Center downtown for the next three years. The Johnson Foundation pitched in $75,000, and the donor group, called The 50, each put in $3,000 to raise another $150,000. Those who paid for memberships to the museum will now get exclusive discounts and free admission to some of the museum’s special programs and events, but the museum itself will be free for all to attend.
• If you read this spot regularly, you remember I told you about Peter Santilli, the conservative online radio personality from Cincinnati who went to Oregon to join the militia occupation of the federal Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Well, Santilli has gone and gotten himself arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on felony charges there. Anti-government protesters, including Nevada rancher and militia leader Ammon Bundy, have led that protest, which began shortly after the new year. Bundy and four other militia members were also arrested yesterday in an earlier incident with the FBI that resulted in the death of a sixth protester after a shoot-out with authorities. Few details have been released about that incident, including who fired first and what led to the confrontation.
• Ohioans like booze, if you didn’t already know. And 2015 was a record year for the sale of the stuff, apparently, with residents in the Buckeye State spending more than $1 billion on liquor last year. We apparently have a particular soft spot for whiskey. Among the most popular spirits: Jack Daniels, which sold more than 379,000 gallons here, and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey, which both sold nearly 300,000 gallons.
• Finally, let’s go to our neighbors to the west for some uh… pretty interesting comments from an Indiana lawmaker. Woody Burton, a Republican state rep. from Whiteland, invoked convicted child pornographer and former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle, psychopathic killers and individuals with weight issues when fielding questions about proposed legislation that would expand civil rights for LGBT Hoosiers during a town hall meeting. Burton argued that a person’s LGBT status is “behavioral” in the same way and shouldn’t be protected by the law for that reason.
“If I pass a law that says transgenders [sic] and homosexuals are covered under the civil rights laws, then does it say anywhere that fat white people are covered?” he said, reflecting that he has been picked on in the past for his weight. Yikes. Hundreds of academic studies over the years have led the American Psychological Association and other experts to deem LGBT status part of the normal spectrum of human experience, and there is evidence that gender expression and sexual preference is genetic.
Anyway, I’m out. Hit me on that Tweeter thing or via good old fashioned email.
Options for housing in one of Cincinnati’s most popular neighborhoods are becoming more diverse but also less affordable for the city’s lowest-income renters, a new study shows.
Xavier University’s Community Building Institute on Jan. 25 released a housing inventory commissioned by the Over-the-Rhine Community Council of the housing stock in the quickly developing neighborhood.
The study, which uses Census data from 2000, found that the most affordable housing (units costing about $400 for a one bedroom) had decreased by 73 percent, going from 3,235 units in 2000 to just 869 in 2015. After that decrease, such affordable housing now accounts for about 22 percent of the neighborhood’s housing stock.
The study also found that since 2000, the number of occupied housing units in the neighborhood had increased and that many of those units — some 70 percent — were affordable to people making less than the area median income of about $71,000 for a family of four.
Community council members say the study’s finding of plentiful middle class housing and remaining subsidized units demonstrates that OTR is inclusive.
“This shows that we are still very diverse,” OTR Community Council President Rylan Messer told WCPO. “But the big question is, what are the next 10 to 20 years going to look like now that we have this data? If we wake up 20 years from now, and this is a predominately Caucasian, upper-middle class neighborhood, we will have failed miserably. ”
Other community council members, as well as Liz Blume, director of study authors CBI, echoed the sentiment that the neighborhood has housing stock for a diverse group of residents.
But questions around the large drop in the neighborhood's most affordable housing remain, and some residents say the change has been difficult. Angela Merritt, who works with Over-the-Rhine Community Housing and lives in affordable housing on East Clifton Avenue, says the shifts she’s seen in the neighborhood over the last decade have taken some adjustment and that OTR’s transformation could be more equitable.
“It’s just about making the change for everyone,” she says. “I don’t think it’s for everyone, and it should be.”
Over the summer, CityBeat shared the story of residents who have had to leave the neighborhood due to rising prices and new development.
Some of the lowest-cost units gone from OTR belonged to Hart Realty, run by former affordable housing magnate Thomas Denhart. In 2001, following the civil unrest in OTR and changes to the way the Department of Housing and Urban Development assessed fair market rents for Section 8 buildings, Denhart declared bankruptcy and got rid of properties containing about 1,000 of the 1,600 affordable units he controlled. But Hart's bankruptcy in and of itself didn't eliminate all those units from the neighborhood's supply of lowest-income housing. Reports from the time show that some of Denhart's properties sold quickly and that between 60 and 70 percent of those units stayed occupied for some time after the bankruptcy, often with HUD tenants. It's hard to know how many low-income tenants eventually trickled out of OTR due to the bankruptcy, but it's far less than the 2,356 low-income units CBI found the neighborhood lost in the last decade and a half.
OTR has seen rapid change in the past decade, mostly through the efforts of the Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation, founded in 2003 by then-mayor Charlie Luken and city business leaders. At the time, there were more vacant buildings in the neighborhood and much of the housing there was affordable, much of it subsidized for low-income residents.
3CDC has poured more than $800 million of public and private money into OTR and downtown, including an expansive remodeling of Washington Park and intensive residential and commercial development efforts along the southern stretch of Vine Street in what has become known as the Gateway Corridor.
CBI's area median income includes incomes from all over Hamilton County. But the neighborhood's median household income is different. Overall, it's about $15,000 a year, according to Census data, though that number has risen quickly in the southern portions where development has occurred most heavily. In the tract containing southern Vine Street, median income is nearly $40,000 a year. In the northern Census tracts, it remains around $10,000 a year.
The southern section of OTR has seen the biggest shift in housing. According to the CBI study, more than half of the housing stock in the area around Vine and Main streets south of Liberty Street is affordable only to those making more than 60 percent of the area median income, or about $43,000 a year.
Those changes are now moving north of Liberty Street as well, the study suggests, though those areas still have a majority of housing affordable to people who make under 60 percent of the area median income. More change is headed for the area north of Liberty Street as development springs up around Findlay Market, Rothenberg Elementary and other locations.
New shifts in housing aren’t just about numbers, some who live in the neighborhood say, but also about the way the neighborhood feels and how newcomers and long-time residents interact.
“It’s all about how humble you are,” says Merritt, who lives north of Liberty Street, of newer residents. “It’s been somewhat of an adjustment because the lower-income people feel like new people are trying to take over. But we all need to learn how to deal with each other, no matter what class you are.”
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here's your daily round-up of headlines:
At a Monday evening meeting of the Hamilton County Improvement District, city and county officials agreed that fixing the troubled Western Hills Viaduct is beyond their budgets. The bridge connecting the city to the West Side is in bad need of replacement and will cost a hefty $280 million, according to plans developed by the Ohio Department of Transportation. What's also unclear is whether the city of Cincinnati or Hamilton County actually owns the structure, and so far the two are tacking the issue together. At the meeting, Mayor John Cranley suggested using federal freight money that the commuter bridge could qualify for if it has a freight component to it and said he believes urban cities and counties are not getting their share of state and federal transportation funds. Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune agreed with the mayor and said he hopes to have a potential funding source for the project next week.
• A report released late Monday night found more than 2,300 units of low-income housing have been lost in Over-The-Rhine since 2002. The report was commissioned by the OTR Community Council to figure out how much the neighborhood has changed since the most recent push for revitalization. It was conducted by Xavier University’s Community Building Institute. The report also found that more than 70 percent of the housing was still for households earning less than $71,200, the region's median income and that about 39 percent of the occupied units were subsidized by the government or had income-restricted rents.
• Is Flint's water problem heading to Ohio? In the town of Sebring, Ohio, located 60 miles south of Cleveland, tests have shown levels of lead and copper in the water so high that officials closed schools on Monday for further testing. Officials also issued a warning to some of the town's 4,000 residents last Thursday night advising children and pregnant women to avoid drinking the water. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency told a local news station that smaller, older distribution lines with lead pipes were the culprit and that they are working with the city to clear up the issue.
• In a turn of events for Planned Parenthood, a grand jury in Houston cleared the health clinic and abortion provider accused of mishandling and profiting off of fetal tissue in its clinics of any wrongdoing. Instead, it indicted the two pro-life activist who made the video footage that landed Planned Parenthood in trouble with Republican lawmakers across the U.S. in the first place. The grand jury indicted Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleidan on charges of tampering with a governmental record and attempting to purchase human organs and also charged activist Sandra Merritt with tampering with a governmental record after the two posed as employees of a medical research company trying to buy fetal tissue and secretly filmed a meeting with Planned Parenthood representatives.
The city of Cincinnati could soon seize seven buildings in Over-the-Rhine and one in Avondale if the owner doesn't make costly repairs by March 15. Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Jerome Metz declared the eight buildings "public nuisances" after previously requesting that the buildings' owner, Washington, D.C.-based 2414 Morgan Development, LLC, repair 11 of its buildings by Dec. 17 of last year. The developer has since repaired three of the buildings to meet the approval of city inspectors, but city officials argue the rest of the structures still contribute to neighborhood blight and pose safety hazards for the public and firefighters. The seven buildings located in OTR north of Liberty Street.
• Also in need of repairs: Cincinnati's parks. What do they need exactly? Well, they have years of deferred maintenance, but the Cincinnati Parks Board has been very slow to produce a detailed account of the state of the city's parks and the price of all the repairs required. City Council appears ready to approve an additional $4 million for repairs, but it's unclear what repairs the money would be going toward. Park leaders say it's too small of an amount to repair some of the parks in the worst shape, but they're also not just going to hang onto the money to do fund a series of projects. Meanwhile, Mayor John Cranley and advocates for the failed parks levy in November are still sore from their election loss. Cranley has claimed the $55 million that would have come from the levy could have covered all the deferred maintenance in the city's parks.
• Errors the city has made in calculating estate tax payments will cost it more than a half-million dollars. The office of Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes has discovered the city owes $614,514 in tax payments to the county. David Nurre, the auditor's assistant financial director, said in a letter to the city that the money will be subtracted from property tax money the county owes the city. The loss will add to the estimated $13 million deficit the city is facing for fiscal year 2017.
• A analysis of the report card data released by the Ohio Education Policy Institute last week by consultant Howard Fleeter found big differences between college- and career-readiness for low-income and high-income districts. It discovered more than a 23-point percentage gap for four-year graduation rates between districts whose economically disadvantaged students made up less than 10 percent of the population and those whose disadvantaged populations were 90 percent or higher. The analysis was requested by the Ohio School Boards Association, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.
• I haven't seen the Oscar-nominated Carol yet, but I know Cincy's super excited about it because it was filmed here. Apparently, the city could see more celebrities like Cate Blanchett show up as the city works hard to attract filmmakers. A University of Cincinnati Economics Center study estimates that the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission has generated more than $54 million for the metro area's economy and created 8,800 jobs. The study also found that productions in 2014 and 2015 received $11.8 million in tax credits, footed by taxpayers.
Good morning all. Here’s a quick rundown of the news today before we’re all buried in snow, or at least tweets about snow.
The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday ruled that suspended Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge Tracie Hunter can avoid jail for now as she continues to appeal her 2014 felony conviction. Meanwhile, a state lawmaker has called for an investigation into evidence that has disappeared related to other charges Hunter faced. Hunter was charged with nine felonies in her original case, including counts relating to accusations of forgery, misuse of a county credit card and improperly intervening on behalf of her brother, a county juvenile court employee charged with hitting an inmate. A jury convicted her on that last charged and she was sentenced to six months in jail in December 2014. A special prosecutor with the county recently dropped the other eight charges, but revelations that some computer evidence integral to those charges has been destroyed has prompted State Sen. Cecil Thomas, an outspoken Hunter supporter, to call for an investigation into the fate of that evidence. Hunter was due in jail at the beginning of this year, but will now stay free as she continues to fight to overturn her conviction.
• After a study commissioned by Cincinnati officials last year found huge disparities in the number of city contracts awarded to minority and women-owned businesses, the city is ramping up efforts to bring more equity to its procurement process. The study found about 2 percent of construction contracts from the city were awarded to women-owned businesses and only 1 percent to black-owned businesses, for example, even though women own 13 percent of construction companies and blacks own 21 percent. Now, the city is taking a number of steps to make it easier for those businesses to compete for and win city contracts. Officials held an information day Jan. 20 where business owners could find out more about how to get certified with the city and state so they can bid for so-called Minority Business Enterprise and Women Business Enterprise contracts. The city will hold another set of sessions Jan. 26 where businesses who sign up by calling 513-352-144 can fill out their certification paperwork in about an hour. The city’s new Department of Economic Inclusion says it has already certified about 100 MBEs and WBEs.
• A Hamilton County Court judge will soon decide whether the confession of a man charged with killing a transgender woman in Walnut Hills is admissible in court. Defense attorneys for Quamar Edwards say he has a long history of learning issues and substance abuse problems and that he was under the influence of marijuana when he confessed to killing Tiffany Edwards (to whom he is not related) a year and a half ago. Edwards’ attorneys have had him examined by two psychologists who have found him fit to stand trial, but they would like his confession, in which he details shooting the transgender woman on a remote street in Walnut Hills because “he felt threatened” thrown out as evidence.
Quamar Edwards said he picked up Tiffany Edwards, who he says he knew to be a sex worker, because she needed a ride. He decided to pay her for sex, but then changed his mind. At that point, he said, she became agitated and a fight ensued, during which he shot her. He later turned himself in for the shooting after he was identified on video footage. Sex workers, especially those who are transgender, are often vulnerable to violence and even murder at the hands of johns, and activists have cited Tiffany Edwards’ murder, along with other murdered transgender people in Cincinnati, as evidence of that vulnerability.
• There has been a lot of controversy around the idea of expanding Cincinnati’s coming streetcar north into Uptown. But the transit project’s first big expansion could actually go south if a group in Northern Kentucky gets its way. The Northern Kentucky Streetcar Committee is hoping to raise money to get a feasibility study on expanding the streetcar, which is currently set to run a 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown, across the Taylor Southgate Bridge into Newport and Covington. The group has been looking at the idea for the past year and a half, according to member and NKY businessman Ian Budd. The committee, which also includes Newport City Commissioner Beth Fennell, will soon ask the federal government for $300,000 for the feasibility study. If no grants are available from federal sources, Budd says the group will turn to private funding sources to get the ball rolling.
• Here's a short and disturbing story from our neighbors just to the north. We’ve talked a lot about the racial dimensions of childhood poverty and infant mortality in Cincinnati and Hamilton County, but we’re not alone in the struggle against those issues. A new report shows that black infants are twice as likely to die as white infants in Butler County, which contains the cities of Hamilton and Middletown as well as suburbs like West Chester. This article explores reasons why that is.
• Finally, let’s zoom way out. What are the greatest threats to the world in the coming decade, according to experts from around the globe? Pew Research Center polled a group of 700 academics, policy wonks and others, who said involuntary mass migration such as the Syrian refugee crisis and climate change were the biggest issues facing the planet in the coming years. Check out this piece for the fascinating, if totally depressing, trends driving those predictions.
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Good morning, Cincy! Here are your morning headlines.
Eight of the nine City Council members have signed a motion to go forward with the purchase of four miles of railway needed for the Wasson Way trail project. The city has a $12 million purchase agreement with Norfolk Southern Railroad that is set to expire in July and will face additional fees if the deal is not closed by then. The only setback now for the trail project? Well, the city has to come up with the money for the purchase as well an additional $19 to $23 million to build all for sections of the trail from Montgomery Road to Wooster Pike. The project faced financial setbacks before, when the city was turned town for federal TIGER grant money. But it recently received $500,000 from a state grant and has applied for an additional $4.5 million in state capital funding for the project.
• There's more bickering at City Hall between Mayor John Cranley and some of the Democratic council members. According to emails obtained by The Enquirer through a public information request, tensions between council members Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young and the mayor have gotten so bad, the three declined Cranley's invitation for weekly meetings. Seelbach wrote in an email that, "It has to do with you treating people like shit," which was used in the the Enquirer's original headline for its article on the squabble. Apparently, they changed it shortly after to something more PG-rated, but not before the Business Courier manage to screen cap it.
• Cincinnati's grocery giant Kroger ranks third largest in the world, according to the National Retail Federation. It fell just behind Walmart and Costco and has moved up from its spot at on the list at No. 6 last year. Another Cincinnati giant, Macy's, was ranked at No. 35. National Retail Federation used 2014 fiscal year sales to compile its list of the top 50 retailers.
• Tenants at a South Cumminsville apartment complex say they are living in an unsafe environment that their landlord refuses to do anything about. Residents of Garfield Commons on Elmore Street say there's constant fighting and shootings around the building as well as issues with mold, fallen bricks and heroin users in the parking lot. One resident says she doesn't feel like she's living in a secure building that's guaranteed as part of her Section 8 housing benefits and that the building manager never answers his phone.