Hey all! Here’s the news today.
First, let’s drill down a little bit more on something we talked about Wednesday, following primary voting — the ultra-local battle for precinct executive seats going on within the local Democratic Party. As we mentioned before, the winners of those seats help decide who the Cincinnati Democratic Committee will endorse in, say, the next mayoral race coming up in 2017. So, naturally, Mayor John Cranley, as well has his more liberal detractors within the party, both pulled out all the stops to get people friendly to their sides elected. As we told you Wednesday, a few high-profile Cranley backers lost their bids — but so did high-profile urban progressives like Ryan Messer, a vocal critic of Cranley. So who really won? According to this Business Courier story, because both sides are staying mum about who exactly is backing who among the 139 precinct executives elected Tuesday, it’s actually kind of hard to know how this very local, but very important, race shaped up. Interesting.
• A childhood poverty task force put together by Mayor Cranley and announced at his October state of the city address will delay its initial recommendations on how to fight one of the city’s biggest challenges. The Childhood Poverty Collaborative was initially slated to release its plans in June. But yesterday, CPC’s executive director Lynn Marmer announced that the group will delay that release until early November. In the meantime, it has hired research firm the Rand Corporation and has plans to hold more than 100 meetings in various communities throughout the city. Some critics say the problem has been studied enough and that it’s time for action. But CPC says the wealth of perspectives and data available make it essential to consider them all thoroughly before launching a plan.
• Former Veterans Affairs Chief of Staff Barbara Temeck won’t face charges related to prescriptions she wrote for a superior’s family member but will surrender her registration with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in relation to that misconduct. A wider investigation into misconduct at the VA continues after allegations arose from VA employees regarding under staffing, declining quality of care and other issues. Temeck’s attorneys say she performed the duties expected of her during her time at the agency and also reported financial irregularities and concerns about health care quality while there and is now seeing retaliation due to those complaints.
• Last month, University of Cincinnati reached a $4.85 million settlement with the family of Samuel DuBose, who UC police officer Ray Tensing shot and killed after a routine traffic stop in Mount Auburn. But the way that settlement will be paid out is interesting. UC itself is only on the hook for about $100,000 of that money upfront. An insurance consortium that insures most of Ohio’s large universities will pay much of the rest of the settlement. UC will see a portion of those costs over time in increased premiums, and the school will still pay for tuition for DuBose’s children.
• It isn't often that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters supports letting someone out of prison, but he's doing exactly that in the case of Tyra Patterson, who is serving a 16-years-to-life sentence for her part in a 1994 group robbery that lead to the shooting death of a 15-year-old. Patterson says she's innocent. She's been in prison for 21 years. Deters, who believes she was involved in the robbery, says she's done her time and has rehabilitated herself. The prosecutor joins a number of high-profile officials calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to give Patterson clemency.
• Capping off a highly local edition of morning news today — Cincinnati city officials are working to revamp the city’s downtown business strategy. New efforts will include working to keep Race Street mainstay giants like Macy’s, officials say, but should also take a wider look at retail downtown and strive to expand small businesses and mixed use developments. Some of the new, more holistic approach will include data that hasn’t been available before now, officials say, which could help existing retailers while enticing new businesses into the central business district.
• Finally, are you Trumped out yet? If not, here’s an interesting piece on what a Donald Trump nomination by the GOP means for the Democratic Party. In short, the editorial argues that competing against Trump in the upcoming general election would force Democrats to once and for all decide between populist, working-class values and more economically conservative, business-friendly policies popular with some party elites. It’s worth a read.
I’m out! Have a good weekend. I’ll be at MusicNOW tomorrow getting in one last visit to Music Hall before it closes for renovations. Very excited for the show — I went last year and it was amazing. But I have a problem. Do I dress up? Wear my normal thrift store hipster junk? Mix and match? Help me.
E-mail or tweet at me with news tips or fashion suggestions.
Happy St. Patrick's Day, Cincy! Here are your morning headlines.
University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono says he'd like to see the streetcar extend to go Uptown and to UC's campus. Ono first publicly announced his position in a recent speech that was posted on YouTube. Ono, who has previously supported the project privately, said solid public transit is important to attract millennials who are increasingly looking to go carless. Ono also reportedly emailed Daniel Traicoff, a former campaign aide to city council member Chris Seelbach, earlier this month asking how the university could aid the extension. However, the city might not be thinking as far ahead as Ono yet. It's still working on rolling out the first phase of the streetcar that will run through downtown and Over-the-Rhine beginning this fall and securing enough money to pay for its first two years.
• Cincinnati Public Schools is threatening to take back the building now housing the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. The two groups have been unable to reach an agreement on the amount the school district should pay to rent out several of the CCAC's classrooms. While CPS actually owns the CCAC's building, it has leased the property to the arts center for 30 years, starting in 2008. But, according to the lease, CPS can break the contract if it determines it needs the space for educational purposes, which it's now saying it does. No final decisions have been made yet, and if CPS goes forward with its threats, it will be required to give the center a 365-day notice to vacate.
• As I passed City Hall on my bike yesterday, I started thinking that the building has to be one of the most stunning city halls architecturally. Well, it seems Architectural Digest agrees with me, because it recently named the century-old building as one of its "9 City Halls with Amazing Architecture." The 1893 Richardsonian Romanesque-style building designed by Samuel Hannaford shares the list with new and old city hall buildings located in places like Las Vegas, Buffalo, New York and Austin, Texas.
• The Creation Museum is Burlington, Kentucky, is planning an expansion. The tourist destination, which is famous for disputing scientific evidence with biblical teachings, has presented its plan to rezone 54.9 acres around the museum to the Boone County Fiscal Court for review. The expansion would include a new gift shop building, mini golf course and petting zoo, among other things.
• Ohio law enforcement officials have less than a week to send in old rape kits to be tested. A law enacted March 23, 2015 requires that agencies submit untested kits for testing within a year and to process any news kits within 30 days. Under the new law, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation has tested 10,133 kits, resulting in 3,600 DNA hits and hundreds of new indictments.
The Cincinnati Squash Academy is an urban squash program operating out of the Emmanuel Community Center in Over-the-Rhine where there are three brand new courts and a learning center. “We are aiming to blend squash and academics into one cohesive unit,” says Austin Schiff, executive director of CSA. The goal is to use squash as a motivation tool to keep kids accelerating their education.
Since the second grade, Schiff has played squash, a racket sport that has been around for more than 100 years. The game is played on a four-walled court with two or four players and a hollow rubber ball. CSA is the only urban squash program in Cincinnati and recruits from four low-income schools: Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School, Hays-Porter Elementary, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy’s Otto Armleder School and St. Joseph School.
“We go into the school and do a presentation,” Schiff explains. “They sign up if they're interested and then they can come and try-out.” Try-outs can take four to seven months. Students begin at the bronze level to see if they fit well with the program; at silver they begin to track attendance and do a home visit to ensure the family is supportive and sees a future for their child in the program. Once a student reaches the gold level, they are fully enrolled in CSA and have complete access to all the resources, trips and the summer program. Try-outs are so extensive because it is very important that each accepted student succeeds in the program. “We want to be selective of the kids and families that we choose, knowing that this isn’t just a six-month fad,” Schiff says. He wants to find kids that are committed to staying in the program through high school.
CSA puts a major focus on school success along with learning squash. Kids come three times a week and their time is divided. Half the day is spent on the court and the other half is in the learning center working on homework and special projects. Rachel Parker, the academic director, works hard to help the students find their personal interests through different classroom projects and field trips. They have taken trips to the Cincinnati Art Museum and practiced gardening on Earth Day. “At heart we are an education program,” Schiff says “To the public we are squash, but it’s really much more than that.”
The main goal is not to train world-renowned squash players, but simply to provide education and motivation and to make sure the kids make it to college. They start preparing kids freshman year or earlier for college by exploring resume building, the application process and understanding financial aid. CSA took a group to Boston last year for an urban squash competition at Harvard University. When they weren’t playing, the students toured Harvard's campus. “A year ago, to them, squash was a vegetable or what you do to a roach on the family rug,” Schiff says. “Now they are on the all-glass show court at Harvard University playing a very traditionally high-class, high-brow sport.
Currently CSA has 20-30 volunteers. Volunteers help on the court every day at practice. Experienced squash volunteers — the more skilled, the better — are invited to come and teach kids the meticulous technique that is so important to the game. You can do this during the school year or come for the 4-week summer program.
They need tutors in the classrooms and to chaperone trips. Schiff is looking for people who care and can connect with the kids. Volunteers as young as 12 can help in the learning center. “We want people who just love being with kids and want to push them to succeed,” Schiff says.
All volunteers must pass a background check.
There is a big CSA fundraiser happening in April. Corporate sponsors are needed to provide squash supplies. Because all the athletic equipment is donated, rackets, goggles, shoes and squash balls are always in demand.
Basic school supplies like paper, pencils, dry-erase markers and a lot of disinfecting wipes are helpful in the learning center. CSA provides snacks for the students but haven’t had any luck getting a grant for fresh fruit and vegetables. Healthy snacks would be a great donation, but be mindful of students with allergies to peanuts and red dye.
The organization has its offices, referred to as the bunker, in the basement of the Emmanuel Community Center. The bunker is safe from nuclear fallout, but unfortunately is not very home-like. Schiff is looking for plants and art to spruce the place up. The office could also use a working copy machine because theirs recently broke.
Forget about Kermit the Frog's emerald-tinted angst, it's not easy being Joey Cook. The erstwhile multi-instrumentalist and songwriter known for his work with Cincinnati Indie Pop crew Pomegranates has long been stockpiling songs and ideas for solo projects, but with the completion of his very first full-length album, There Comes the Lord, he found himself in the midst of a slight identity crisis.
Cook couldn't release the album under his given name since that had already been claimed on Bandcamp by last year's seventh place finisher on American Idol. He considered using his proper first name but there was the risk of confusion with local R&B/Hip Hop sensation and 2016 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards New Artist of the Year nominee Joseph Nevels, aka JSPH. In the end, Cook chose to adopt the creatively misspelled moniker Joesph as his solo banner.
Although There Comes the Lord is largely Cook's true solo construction — his Pomegranates bandmate Isaac Karns appears on the quivery reverb '60s AM Pop of "Jesus" and the epic and sprawling closer "Spirit of the Lord," and his sister Alisa provides vocals on three tracks, but otherwise it's all Cook — he has fashioned a band, including Pomegranates bassist Pierce Geary and ex-Kickaways guitarist Devyn Glista on drums, which he's dubbed Joesph in order to play the new album as well as other material he's written.
According to Cook, last Saturday's intimate release show at White Whale Tattoo in Walnut Hills was a rousing success, and the album is already generating online sales.
As for the album itself, There Comes the Lord is a marvel of influence, invention and translation. Cook blends a brilliant evocation of ’60s and ’70s Pop and Rock with a thoroughly modern Indie Rock ethic in a raw and immediate home recorded atmosphere that serves as the soundtrack for an intriguing concept.
Cook, who self-identifies as Christian, has created a song cycle that imagines what it might have been like to stand in the presence of the physical manifestation of Jesus in the Godspell/Jesus Christ Superstar era that spawned a generation of long-haired believers who came to be known as Jesus freaks.
The difference is that Cook doesn't attempt to contemporize his message in an effort to appeal to millennials, nor does he use There Comes the Lord as a pulpit to proselytize and ultimately convert. He merely tells this interesting story in a wonderfully musical, lyrical and compellingly listenable manner.
The album begins with the title track, which comes into
focus through a gauzy haze of moody Synth Pop melodicism as Cook intones
quietly, "Oh, the Lord, He's right here, He's right here," until the
song's midway point when it explodes into a propulsive mash-up of the
Polyphonic Spree and The Flaming Lips. At the song's conclusion, "There
Comes the Lord" returns to the relative calm of its introduction, but
Cook maintains his blissful church choir perspective from beginning to
On "Jesus," Cook offers up a twisted Curt Boetcher/Association/’60s sunshine Pop flashback with a reverbed Byrds undertone - they are the band that originally noted Jesus was just alright, after all - as well as a uniquely modern revelatory lyric ("He showed me some shit I never knew before He came..."). And "Jesus" morphs buzzingly into the compelling Psych Folk Pop of "Wind Hovering Over Water," which quivers with the lysergic introspection and melancholic portent of the last iteration of The Monkees, when the quartet wanted to be Rock mystics and Mickey Dolenz had dibs on the shamanic frontman role.
Cook's ’70s evocation comes to a crescendo on the album's final four tracks; the gentle Harry Nilsson-meets-Velvet Underground warble-and-strum of "At a Well," the Kinks go-go cage dance of "My Master's House," and the Bowie demo snippet of "The Rolling Stone." It's all reminiscent of that magic time four decades ago when bands' theologies could easily co-exist with their musicologies, and the results could be spectacular.
Cook saves spectacular for the big 12-minute finish of There Comes the Lord. "Spirit of the Lord" opens with a Floydian synth drone/march and the imploring lyric, "Master, why did you let them take you?" which quickly erupts into the kind of organized chaos that Alice Cooper orchestrated to perfection, which leads to a Beatlesque "Blackbird" homage which in turn devolves into a Brian Eno soundscape, trembling on the surreal edge of perception.
And with that, There Comes the Lord is over all too soon. Cook has said that he's got at least a couple of albums' worth of albums stockpiled in his archive; if that material is anywhere near as engaging and mesmerizing as There Comes the Lord, Joesph could be gearing up for one of the most thrilling and provocative solo careers to emerge from a Cincinnati band in quite some time. Good news indeed.
Stream/purchase There Comes the Lord here.
Good morning all. As you’d probably expect, we’re gonna talk about a lot of politics today.
The topline: Ohio Gov. John Kasich won the GOP presidential primary in Ohio last night, squeezing out Donald Trump here. Trump, however, picked up Florida and other states, pulling further ahead of his closest competitor U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and burying U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has now suspended his campaign after losing in his home state. On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton easily bested U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, as she did in most of the other states voting yesterday. Clinton got 57 percent of the vote, including 60 percent in Hamilton County. Clinton now seems very likely to get her party's nomination. Kasich... well, he's hoping that Trump doesn't get to 1,237 delegates and that he may somehow come out on top in a brokered convention in Cleveland. Trump and Cruz, however, have other plans, and even former House Speaker John Boehner, who endorsed Kasich, has a dark horse favorite in this whole mess.
• Before we go deeper into the politics sinkhole, let’s talk about other stuff, shall we? Did you know that Cincinnati has the 10th-best skyline in the nation, according to a new ranking by travel site Thrillist.com? I mean, considering we invented Skyline and most other cities don’t have it at all, that seems like a pretty low score. Wait, sorry, they’re talking about buildings, not chili. (Did you know I was going to make that terrible joke? Of course you did.) Cincy beat out Atlanta, St. Louis, Nashville, Miami, Boston and a number of other cities that don’t have the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge at their front door. Losers. In fact, our fair city placed only one spot lower than that one place that has the actual Brooklyn Bridge. We had a Roebling before it was cool, tho. Regional rivals Pittsburgh beat us handily, however, because they have three rivers instead of one. Seattle has the number one skyline on the list because it has mountains, a futuristic Jetsons tower and Puget Sound. Seems unfair really.
• Speaking of downtown buildings, Cincinnati could lose one of its more historic ones. The owners of 126-year-old Dennison Hotel on the 700 block of Main Street have applied for permits to tear it down. The Dennison was once upon a time single-room occupancy affordable housing but today stands vacant. Columbia REI LLC, which bought the building back in January, said in documents filed with the city that they’re putting together a group of properties in the area for a major development and that it’s most cost-effective to tear down the eight-story building. Columbia commissioned a report to study costs for converting the building into apartments, condos or office space, but that report didn’t take into account possible Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits in its cost analysis. The state has awarded those credits to a number of developments in Cincinnati.
• Sorry to do this to you, but it’s back to politics. After a bit of controversy among Democrats around mailers designed to promote candidates friendly to Mayor John Cranley for the party’s precinct executive positions, election results for those vying for the positions were mixed to say the least. Several candidates with ties to Cranley, including Cranley spokesman Kevin Osborne and his political consultant Jared Kamrass, lost their bids for those seats. Meanwhile, some more left-leaning candidates won their bids. That doesn’t necessarily mean the local Democratic Party is up for a seismic shift, but there are interesting power struggles happening on the county level. You can peruse the results here.
• Let’s look to the north to a surprising congressional race. Voters in former House Speaker John Boehner’s district opted for a tea party-aligned outsider in a Republican primary race that one point had 15 contestants. Troy-based businessman Warren Davidson won the contest and will go on to near-certain victory in the deep-red district’s general election. Pundits and political science academics say voters there sent a clear message about frustration with the political establishment not unlike the one offered by supporters of Donald Trump.
• The primary race for the Senate seat currently held by Republican Rob Portman offered few surprises last night, with the incumbent handily winning the GOP primary and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland winning the chance to oppose him in the Democratic primary. Strickland beat Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld on the strength of his name recognition and deeper campaign pockets. Strickland, who has been pretty aloof about Sittenfeld all along, is now focusing more fire on Portman, continuing to hit the Senator on statements saying he’d support GOP primary frontrunner Donald Trump if he’s nominated and also for backing the Republican party’s blockage of a U.S. Supreme Court nominee by President Barack Obama. Polling has the general election race neck and neck. It’ll be an interesting one as Democrats look to take back control of the Senate.
• Further north we go. In a surprising development, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty is out after losing his Democratic primary competition with former assistant prosecutor Michael O’Malley. McGinty got hit hard on the campaign trail for his failure to bring charges against officers involved in the November 2014 shooting death of Tamir Rice in Cleveland. McGinty’s ouster mirrors a similar development in Chicago, where voters dumped Chicago Prosecutor Anita Alvarez, who took deep criticism after city officials waited 400 days to release the police footage of officers shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald to death.
• Finally, let’s go back to the U.S. Supreme Court for a second. President Barack Obama today announced his nomination to fill a vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. In what may be the greatest troll move in history, Obama has nominated well-respected moderate and U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland to the nation’s highest court. Garland has garnered praise from many Republicans in the past. But GOP senators have still vowed to block his confirmation and seem unwilling to even grant him a hearing, saying that Obama should not nominate a justice in an election year.
Good morning all. Here’s what’s up in Cincy and beyond today.
It’s your last day to vote in the Ohio primary election, so go vote, vote, vote. You can find out your polling location and accepted identification (which includes your driver’s license, military ID or a current utility bill or bank statement with your address on it) here. It looks like we’ll have a big turnout for a primary — more than 14,000 people went to the ballot during the first hour of voting. More than 400,000 people across the state voted early — 80,000 more than 2012’s primary election.
• A new report says more revenue is needed for Hamilton County’s Metro bus system and that county taxpayers should ante up to pay for the service. The report by the 20-member Metro Futures Task Force, which has been in the works for six months, says current funding models for the bus service aren’t sustainable. Metro serves all of Hamilton County, but currently runs primarily on city taxes. The group didn’t say when a ballot initiative could go before county voters asking for money to fund the service, and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority leadership says all options, including fare increases or service reduction, are on the table as SORTA looks to make bus service more sustainable.
• Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil is distancing himself from GOP presidential primary frontrunner Donald Trump after appearing at his rally in West Chester Sunday afternoon. Neil has called his appearance “selfish” and says he only did so because Trump invited him to attend. Neil did not speak at the event, but did appear on stage in uniform and posed for pictures with Republican Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones at the event. Democrats, including Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke, immediately criticized Neil for his appearance at the event.
• Speaking of that rally, Trump gave a shoutout to Cincinnati’s hit king Pete Rose during that event, saying he should go to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. But now his eagerness to associate with Rose might have gotten Trump in some hot water. Trump Sunday also tweeted a picture of a baseball signed by Rose and bearing the message, “Mr. Trump, please make America great again.” Some news organizations took that as a possible endorsement from Rose, something Trump’s campaign probably didn’t mind as he fights to win Ohio’s primary today. The only problem — Rose said through an attorney that he’s not endorsing anyone, and that he didn’t send Trump the signed ball at all. Oops.
• The sister of Avondale resident Sam DuBose, who was shot and killed by a UC police officer last summer, had some tough questions for Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders. At Sanders’ Sunday night town hall in Columbus, Terina Allen asked the candidate what he would do about police accountability if elected president and told him that DuBose would have celebrated his 44th birthday the day before had he not been shot. Sanders offered condolences for Allen’s loss, then outlined new training procedures for officers and said he would institute automatic Department of Justice investigations for citizens killed in police custody or while being apprehended by police.
Sanders is fighting Democratic presidential primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton for a victory in Ohio's primary today. The Vermont senator has trailed Clinton heavily here in the past — Ohio's moderate Democrats have long supported the Clintons — but a big upset in Michigan and intense on-the-ground campaigning efforts over the past week have made a dent, some polls show.
• Finally, in these last hours before primary voting ends, the question looms large: Will Ohio Gov. John Kasich win his home state or be given a humiliating loss at the tiny hands of Trump? Kasich has gotten a last minute friend to jump in and help him pull Ohio: former GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. The prominent Republican and vocal Trump detractor hasn’t endorsed Kasich, per se, but was stumping for him across the state yesterday.
Polls show Kasich and Trump in a tight race for Ohio’s 66 delegates. Trump is currently winning in the delegate count, but losing big states like Ohio could keep him from reaching the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination outright, sending the whole mess to a complicated brokered convention. Another (slight possibility): U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, another ideological firebrand, could catch up to Trump if he doesn’t keep winning and still has the mathematical possibility of clenching the nomination himself. Outside the battle for Ohio, look for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to drop out soon if he doesn’t win his home state of Florida. It looks very unlikely that Rubio can pull off a win there, by the way, with Trump polling far ahead of Rubio there.
It is finally Ohio’s turn to vote for their party’s nominee. Poll hours are 6:30 am - 7:30 p.m.
The Republicans’ last stand
All hands are on deck to stop Trump’s warpath to the GOP nomination — even Marco Rubio’s campaign manager urged Ohio voters to vote for Gov. John Kasich, who is the only GOP contender that will put up a fight in the buckeye state.
Ohio is a rich prize: It’s a winner-take-all contest — meaning all 66 delegates go to the first-place winner, unlike most states that divide a portion of delegates amongst the candidates based on how many votes they received.
Kasich is aggressively campaigning in his home state, hosting larger rallies and touring with former GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney. If Kasich loses his own state to Trump, his campaign is finished. However, Trump has a strong national lead and Kasich would still be in fourth place even if he secured Ohio. Capturing the buckeye state is seemingly a moral victory.
Trump dominated in Kentucky’s coal country with blue-collar workers, which the real-estate mogul could potentially repeat in the Cleveland and Toledo area. However, Kasich’s foothold with Ohio Republicans and home field advantage can give him an organizational edge.
The GOP race will likely be called late — with recent polls showing Kasich and Trump in a deadlock, Tuesday is going to be a tight race.
All polls show Trump has a strong lead in other Tuesday states: Florida, Illinois and North Carolina. Currently there are no major polls for Missouri. There’s a total of 424 delegates up for grabs for the GOP with Tuesday’s states combined.
Rubio and Kasich trail behind Trump with 163 and 63 delegates, respectively. Going into Tuesday, Trump sits at 460 delegates. Due to his strong lead in other Tuesday states, Trump taking Ohio likely assures his nomination.
With the most recent polls showing Kasich with a slight lead in Ohio, Trump made multiple stops in the state over the weekend. The GOP frontrunner added a last minute stop in Youngstown, Ohio Monday, canceling an event in Florida, where he has a strong lead.
Ted Cruz visited Columbus Sunday in an effort to knock Kasich down a few points in the poll. The Texas senator has been positioning himself as the only one who can take Trump down. Cruz holds second place with 369 delegates to Trump’s 460.
Democratic race tightens in the Midwest
After a crushing defeat in the South, Bernie Sanders is aiming to gain traction in Tuesday’s line of industrial states, hoping his economic message of “disastrous” trade deals resonates in areas hit hard by manufacturing losses.
Sanders has been propelled by his upset victory in Michigan, where he toppled Hillary Clinton’s nearly 30-point lead, undoubtedly prolonging the battle for the Democratic nomination.
Going into states with a larger white voter base and with a lot of donation cash in the bank, Sanders can hold his ground against Clinton until the summer.
However, the Vermont senator didn’t put a dent in Clinton’s delegate advantage after her dominance in states like Alabama and Arkansas. Clinton leads with 1,231 delegates; Sanders has 576.
Clinton has consistently led in Ohio, however, the gap has closed dramatically. In September, a Quinnipiac poll found her ahead of Sanders by 21 points. Now she leads with 5-percent, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.
With Ohio having similar demographics and trade issues as Michigan, it is possible Sanders can upset the political landscape again in the buckeye state. However, with some major schools such as The Ohio State University on spring break, it is possible that the college crowd largely being out on vacation can cripple Sanders.
About 30 Clinton supporters turned out to Sunday’s CNN Democratic Town Hall event at Ohio State, holding signs on campus in support of the former secretary of state. There was no turnout of Sanders supporters. Given he wins the younger vote with huge margins, spring break might be troubling for Sanders in Ohio and other states.
A look at the candidates:
Donald Trump: The GOP frontrunner is seemingly unstoppable with channeling the country’s anger against Washington.
John Kasich: Ohio’s governor has struggled to stand out in this race. He hopes capturing his home state can give him an advantage in the GOP convention.
Ted Cruz: The Texas senator has secured his spot in second place and is quickly catching up to Trump.
Marco Rubio: He was the Republican establishment’s pick and was the guy most thought would lead the party. However, with so few delegates under his belt and the likelihood that he will lose his home state of Florida, Rubio’s campaign is on life support.
Hillary Clinton: She has been the consistent frontrunner, gathering superdelegates
and has her husband and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown campaign with her in Ohio.
Bernie Sanders: The Vermont senator will likely start performing better now that the election is going into whiter states. His ground game is strong with supporters marching through downtown Cincinnati a few weeks ago. Sanders appears to have virtually unlimited funding from supporters.
How do I figure out if I’m registered and where to vote?
You can go to the Hamilton County Board of Election site. You will be able to see if if you are registered and locate your polling station.
Happy Pi day, Cincinnati! I hope you enjoy that quick, nerdy distraction because it's also less than one day until Ohio heads to the polls to vote in the primary election. Here's a rundown of your morning headlines.
Donald Trump spoke to a crowd of more than 4,000 on Sunday at the Savannah Center in West Chester, making him the only presidential candidate so far to make a stop close to Cincinnati. The GOP frontrunner's unscripted speech took many shots at Ohio Gov. John Kasich, his main republican rival in the Ohio primary, and leading Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Members of the audience asked Trump questions about education and care for returning war veterans — which he mostly failed to answer. The rally was mostly peaceful, as compared to some of Trump's other recent rallies, with a crowd of around 100 protesters gathered outside the rally and a brief interruption by two Bernie Sanders supporters who were quickly escorted out.
• Meanwhile, the rest of the presidential candidates have been popping up all over Ohio, hoping to woo Ohioans at the last minute into voting for them. In addition to Trump, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz and John Kasich made appearances across the state this weekend. According to a Quinnipiac poll released today, this election should be a close one. Kasich is tied with Trump, while Sanders is trailing former Clinton by five points.
• Democratic rivals Clinton and Sanders spoke to a crowd of more than 3,000 at the Ohio Democratic Party Legacy Dinner at the Greater Columbus Convention Center yesterday. Clinton spoke much longer than Sanders, clocking in 25 minutes as compared to less than 10 minutes for Sanders. However, both reportedly received standing ovations and considerable enthusiasm from the crowd.
• Even Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is trailing far behind Trump and Kasich in Ohio polls, made an appearance in Columbus at the Northland Performing Arts Center on Sunday, pushing himself as the only Republican to who could realistically knock off Trump.
• Gov. Kasich is scheduled to make an appearance Westerville and North Canton today. Sanders is scheduled for Cleveland and Youngtown, the latter of which Trump is also expected to visit today as well.
• More than 350 people gathered on Saturday in East Price Hill to march in support of the city's undocumented immigrants. The Rally for Hope was organized by immigration activists in response to recent raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas. The rally featured testimony from local immigrants from Central America and a two-mile march through the neighborhood with protesters calling for the federal government to halt the deportation of undocumented immigrants.
Remember to wear green or you’ll get pinched at the 50th annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Smale Riverfront Park might be the prime viewing location to see the parade this year as it follows a new route along the river from Paul Brown Stadium to Freedom Way and Rosa Parks Street. Rain or shine, the McGing Irish Dancers will step dance their way down the parade route, along with floats, bagpipers, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and more. This year’s honorary grand marshals are Chris and Janeen from WGRR’s “Married with Microphones.” Noon Saturday. Free. Parade leaves from Mehring Way and Central Avenue, Downtown, cincystpatsparade.com.
EVENT: SAINT PATRICK'S DAY CELEBRATION ON FOUNTAIN SQUAREJoin Cincinnati’s Irish (and non-Irish) brethren on the Square for a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. The all-day party features live Celtic Rock from the likes of The Kells and Fintan, Guinness on tap and themed merchandise for those who forget to wear green. Have a beer and practice your Irish step on the Square. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.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. “At its core, affordable housing is a very simple math problem. 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 has 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.
Since last week’s Stage Door I’ve seen several productions that are definitely worth checking out.
Diogenes Theatre Company is presenting Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days at the Aronoff Center’s Fifth Third Bank Theater through Sunday. Don’t ask me to tell you what it’s about — it’s by Beckett, so it’s an absurdist piece that deals with existence, loneliness and happiness.
There are two characters: Winnie talks incessantly, while Willie barely speaks at all. They’re a couple, it seems, but they’re living minimal and seemingly diminishing lives, literally stuck in holes in a vast, arid landscape. Nevertheless, Winnie seems to remain relentlessly optimistic about the future, while Willie doesn’t have much to say but seems weary of it all. It’s one of those works (like Beckett’s Waiting for Godot) that can be interpreted in numerous ways, so I’ll leave that to you. But I will say that it’s a rare opportunity to see an impressive acting performance by Amy Warner, a professional who graced local stages for more than a decade. She now lives in Minnesota with her husband, former Playhouse Associate Artistic Director Michael Evan Haney, who staged this piece. In the show’s shorter second act, she is buried up to her neck — and still presents a compelling performance based almost solely on facial expressions. (Willie is played by Michael Sommers who teaches at the University of Minnesota.) This show won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a fascinating script that will keep you talking with anyone who joins you to a performance. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is presenting Antony & Cleopatra, the second installment in its staging of Shakespeare’s Roman plays. It uses many of the same actors in roles established in its recent staging of Julius Caesar (April 8-May 7), most particularly Nick Rose as the ebullient but besotted Roman general Marc Antony. Guest actress Chantal Jean-Pierre is Cleopatra, the object of his obsession. The role is an unusual one for Shakespeare — the Egyptian queen is strong-willed, impulsive and downright willful. Jean-Pierre’s performance put me in mind of Beyoncé, strong and sassy performer who knows how to manipulate her audience. I can’t say her performance struck me as historically accurate, but it has an emotional essence that distills her power over the aging warrior. It’s not the chemistry I expected, but she’s intriguing to watch. Kyle Brumley plays a slightly creepy, slow-mo Emperor Octavius, a reticent but efficient in establishing his power yet drained of passion. Cincy Shakes stages this sweeping story with projected video and animation to depict sea battles and military combat, and that’s a plus for this production. The show is one for completists who want to check it off, but I found it overlong and not always compelling. Through June 4. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
The Cincinnati Playhouse’s staging of Theresa Rebeck’s Bad Dates is an entertaining evening of storytelling by a woman who’s trying to make a go at finding love after a dry spell and at middle age. It’s amusing without being in any way profound, but you’ll like Vivia Font’s charming performance as Haley Walker, a sweet but uninhibited girl next door — at least next door in New York City. This show was an immense hit for the playhouse in 2005, and it seems likely that this revival will pack the Shelterhouse Theatre through June 12. (CityBeat review here.) Tickets: 513-421-3888.
If you’re a musical theater fan and willing to spring for a ticket to the touring production of Cabaret at the Aronoff, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a fittingly slutty interpretation of Kander and Ebb’s powerful piece, and this rendition doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to the sinister undertones of life in Berlin before World War II as the Nazi regime rose to power. The show has great music, but sometimes that takes precedence over the admonitory tale of people unwilling to see what’s right in front of them. The tour features a strong ensemble, especially with 2000 CCM grad Randy Harrison as the sleazy, sinister emcee. He’s so engaged in this role that right after intermission he ad libs his way through a few minutes of audience interaction — spreading the discomfort beyond the stage. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Quite a few shows are wrapping up runs and seasons this weekend, what with Memorial Day not far behind when Cincinnati theaters tend to slow down. It’s final curtains for Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing at the Playhouse, Brigadoon at the Covedale, the truly excellent staging of Violet at Ensemble Theatre, plus Next Fall at Newport’s Falcon Theatre and Catch Me If You Can by Showbiz Players at the Carnegie in Covington.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday.