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by Nick Swartsell 06.17.2015 73 days ago
Posted In: News, Budget at 04:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Council Finally Passes FY 2016-2017 Budget

Spending plan restores human services funding, but Cranley vetoes other Democratic priorities

Cincinnati City Council today passed its FY 2016-2017 budget, a $1 billion spending plan that hews closely to the one drawn up by Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black, but with boosted human services funding originally left out of the plan. 

The budget boosts police officers and will spend $110 million on road repair and fleet maintenance, big priorities for Cranley. Cranley called the budget "great" today as it passed, saying it is structurally balanced and forward-looking.

But not everyone got what they wanted from the process, and heightened tensions between the mayor and council may have left some hard feelings. Cranley and council have been fighting back and forth during the budget process. This morning, Cranley compared Democratic council members to children on a WLW talk show. Democrats have fired back with their own harsh words.

Despite the political wrangling, the final budget resulted from a deal cut this morning between the mayor and members of council, including council conservatives and Democrat Vice Mayor David Mann. The compromise provided an extra $500,000 in funding for traditional human services vetted by the United Way, an amount above the $2.5 million in the city administration's previous budget proposal.

That brings human services up to the $3 million for United Way-chosen human services organizations council unanimously requested last November, an amount initially left out of Black's budget. The city aims to fund human services at 1.5 of its capital budget, a goal it hasn't hit in a decade. Today's deal brings the city to .8 percent of the capital budget.

But the deal also left the council's five Democrats facing a mayoral veto on other spending priorities: individual ordinances calling for a $400,000 grant to co-op Clifton Market, $150,000 for bike lanes, $24,000 for new bus stops in Bond Hill and more money for community organizations. 

"If the trade-off is we don't get bus shelters in Bond Hill or work on bike trails or public support for Clifton Market I think it is worth the trade-off," Mann, the Democrat who helped broker the deal, said during today's council meeting.

Those individual ordinances were the result of a move by Cranley to split up Democrats' original omnibus budget counter-proposal. That put the individual pieces at the mercy of Cranley's veto. Each measure received only five votes on council. Six are needed to override a mayoral veto. True to his word, Cranley vetoed all four of the ordinances he took issue with. Cranley says the move increases transparency and keeps extra pork out of the budget. Democrats, however, have accused the mayor of playing politics, noting that the city administration's $375 million operating budget still came in omnibus form. Several, including Democratic Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, have said that amounts to ignoring the majority of council.

A standoff over Cranley's capital budget and Democrats' unfunded priorities led to speculation that Cincinnati might undergo a partial government shutdown, but today's deal and subsequent vote effectively funds the city's government when the current budget expires June 30.

City Hall was less successful in making a decision about streetcar operations today, however. City Council couldn't agree on either of the two operating bids presented by the Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority, meaning that SORTA itself will now make the call. That means the agency will probably select the cheaper turnkey solution, in which a management company will be able to hire outside employees instead of using SORTA's union workers. That bid came in at $4 million for the first year of operations, under the city's maximum of $4.2 million. A union-friendly management bid came to $4.7 million. SORTA says it legally cannot enter into a contract for which it does not have funding.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.17.2015 73 days ago
at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Big day at City Hall; questions about Fairfield pool arrests intensify; state GOP nixes proposed fracking taxes

Hello Cincy. Let’s talk about the news today. It's going to be a crazy one with lots of action, or inaction, at City Hall.

Speaking of that: Mayor John Cranley had some choice words about Democrats on council as he took to WLW this morning to discuss the budget. Cranley explained his reasoning behind splitting up council's suggestions for the capital budget into separate ordinances, a move council Democrats have called “overtly political.”

“This is a real breakthrough — to be able to say we’re going to bring more transparency to these votes so we can isolate spending,” Cranley said. He then took some shots at council’s five Democrats. “Someone’s gotta play the heavy. Someone’s gotta say, ‘We can’t just pay for everything.’ Someone has to put them on adult supervision.”

Cranley’s comments come as council and City Hall are poised for a knock-down, drag-out battle over the city’s budget. Today’s council meeting should be very interesting — originally, council was expected to pass the city's financial plan today, but the political wrangling between Cranley and council could mean that key parts of the budget plan won’t pass at council's meeting. That has set off worries from some that the city could face a partial government shutdown. The city has until June 30 to pass its budget, but Democrats have expressed confidence a deal can be reached in that time.

Questions continue about a series of arrests June 9 at a Fairfield pool that some say amount to racially charged excessive use of force by police. Fairfield police pepper sprayed and arrested Krystal Dixon, 33, and members of her family after Fairfield Aquatic Center staff said the family refused to leave the facility. Staff members have said the family was asked to leave because one of the children didn’t have swim trunks. Dixon said she had trunks for the child, but that staff insisted they leave anyway. Police arrived and the incident quickly devolved into a tussle between officers and several pool-goers. Two adults, including Dixon, were arrested on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. A 12-year-old girl was charged with assault and a 15-year-old was charged with resisting arrest as well. Both were charged with disorderly conduct. Video of the arrests shows the police pressing Dixon's 12-year-old niece against a patrol car. Dixon and her supporters say the incident happened because she and her family are black. Forest Park faith leader Bishop Bobby Hilton has called the incident police brutality and said that the girl suffered broken ribs and a broken jaw at the hands of the officers. Police dispute this and say the officers acted appropriately. Dixon was in court today and will have a pretrial hearing on her charges July 8.

• The building that currently houses the Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine could soon be a new theater for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. The building is one of a number of locations that have been considered for the CSC, which has outgrown its current rented location on Race Street. The city’s 2016 budget has set aside $200,000 toward renovations of the location on 12th and Elm streets. The Drop Inn Center, which has been renamed Shelterhouse, will now be two locations — a women’s shelter in Mount Auburn that opened last week and a men’s shelter that will open in the fall in Queensgate. Cincinnati City Council approved the move last year.

• Speaking of shelters moving out of downtown: Plans and graphics have been released for the luxury hotel that will occupy the former Anna Louise Inn building in Lytle Park. Eagle Realty, the real estate arm of Western & Southern Financial Group, purchased the property from Cincinnati Union Bethel after protracted legal battles. CUB had operated a shelter there for more than 100 years. The Anna Louise Inn is now located in Mount Auburn.

• Cincinnati’s Metro bus ridership is falling. The question is why. Ridership on the city’s public bus system fell 5.7 percent between January and April 2015, SORTA data shows. That’s troublesome to the transit authority. Most of the drop has come from lagging numbers on suburban express routes, including those going between downtown and Madeira, West Chester and Anderson Township. The falling numbers are tough because SORTA has considered asking taxpayers for more money next year in the form of a sales tax increase so it can expand service. Could this year's relatively low gas prices have played a role? I don't know, but it seems like a fair question to ask, considering many of the routes with falling ridership serve areas where tons of people also own cars they can drive if they chose. Meanwhile, it’s not all doom and gloom. The transit agency’s Metro Plus initiative between downtown and Kenwood has increased in ridership by more than 10 percent. Metro Plus mimics light rail by running more often and more quickly by virtue of fewer stops.

• Did controversial former attorney Eric Deters take a bunch of swag from a local restaurant? That’s what a recently filed lawsuit says, but Deters denies it. Deters was leasing out a building in Independence, Kentucky to Angelo’s Family Restaurant. The restaurant told Deters that it couldn’t pay the rent anymore and was closing. Its owners allege that Deters then locked up the doors to the building and sat on $10,000 worth of the restaurant’s stuff. Deters says the restaurant owes him $400,000 on the lease and that he’s just locked the building up until he and the restaurant settle up. The Angelo family, however, charge that Deters has sold, given away, or consumed their property — restaurant stock and equipment — and that they didn’t violate the terms of their lease.

• In state news, GOP state lawmakers have eliminated a tax on oil and natural gas drilling proposed by Gov. John Kasich from the state’s budget. The taxes on fracking-derived oil and natural gas have been a big priority for Kasich, as it was designed to help plug holes in the budget left by his proposed income tax cut. Twenty percent of the taxes collected would have also gone to counties in Ohio in which fracking takes place. Lawmakers cut that proposal, saying there wasn’t enough time to reach an agreement about it. They’ve instead pledged to create a task force to look into the idea later. The Ohio General Assembly is expected to vote on the budget this week. It must be passed by June 30, when the current fiscal year budget expires.

 
 
by Staff 06.17.2015 73 days ago
at 08:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
larry gross

Remembering Larry Gross

Longtime staffer and columnist Larry Gross passed away June 15, 2015. He was 61.

CityBeat is sad to announce the passing of longtime staffer and columnist Larry Gross, a great friend, an innovative and thoughtful author and a longtime supporter of independent media. He was 61. 

To honor his memory, we're re-publishing his November 2014 column, "Should I Die Tomorrow," in which Larry reflects: "I have a feeling if my life really does pass before my eyes, I’m gonna die knowing I had a pretty good one. For that, I’m feeling thankful and blessed."

His family asks that in lieu of flowers or donations to consider supporting a locally owned business, alternative newspaper or artist whose work speaks to you.


"Should I Die Tomorrow"
By Larry Gross

Just so you know, I’m writing this in mid-afternoon in late October. I know this column will run in CityBeat in early November and will be my last one before Thanksgiving. I’m assuming I’m going to live long enough to get these words to my editor. Of course, you know what happens when you assume. 

Actually, I seldom assume anything. There’s no guarantee I will live to see another day. Death isn’t something I think about all that much, but when I do, it doesn’t scare me like it did when I was a kid. Hell, I’m 60 years old now and feel lucky to have lived this long. I think the older you get, the more you put things in proper prospective, and today, in late October, I’m thinking about my life and also the people I love who have been in it. 

Should I die tomorrow, I know my daughter is going to be just fine. She has a management job at Kroger — started out as a bagger there when she was a teenager. I like to think she gets her strong work ethic from me. If that’s not the case, just let me think it anyway. She got married in September of 2013 to a great guy who also works for Kroger. I guess I’m not supposed to like my son-in-law, you know, taking my little girl away from me and all that, but I do like him and know he loves my daughter and will protect her when I’m gone. 

Should I die tomorrow, I know my son is going to be OK, too. He just got engaged to a wonderful girl, owns his own home and has a great job at General Electric. When he was a little boy, it concerned me that, for whatever reason, I didn’t feel close enough to him. That changed after he came to live with me a few years after my wife and I divorced in 1994. The trials and tribulations and the give and take between us during his teenage years brought us closer together. I look back on those days and cherish them. He knows this, as I’ve told him many times. 

Should I die tomorrow, I’ll be grateful to my ex-wife who I have remained friends with since our divorce in 1994. I still see her about once a month. I think we get along better as friends instead of husband and wife. We’ve always got plenty to talk about — especially when it comes to our two wonderful kids. 

Should I die tomorrow, I’ll be thankful to my parents who did the best they could for their children. They made mistakes — hell, all parents do — and some of those mistakes affected me later in life. I’ve worked through the issues. You know, you do what you have to do to make life work. 

Should I die tomorrow, and this is something I never thought I would say, I’ll be glad my mother pushed my brothers and I into being country music entertainers when we were little. We never became “stars,” but we met a lot of real stars that most kids would never get a chance to meet. I mean, how many kids can say Loretta Lynn kissed them? Because of my mother, I can. 

Should I die tomorrow, I’ll be thinking of my twin brother who has passed before me and my younger brother, who is still alive. Some brothers drift apart in adult life, but not us “Gross kids.” Despite our sometimes differences, we always stayed close. 

Should I die tomorrow, I’ll look back on those 30-plus years of being an accountant with gratitude. I’m glad I had the mindset for that kind of work. Sometimes it was interesting, but seldom, if ever, exciting. Having said that, it paid the bills, bought the houses, purchased the cars and put my kids through school. I can’t ask for anything more than that. 

Should I die tomorrow, I’ll be thankful for October 17, 1997. That’s the day I got fired from an accounting job and decided to start pursuing my life-long dream of wanting to be a writer. It took plenty of practice and a lot of rejection, but now, over 17 years later, I think I can say I’m a writer without feeling strange saying it. I think I made it. My audience may be relatively small, but I’ve gotten the kind of readers I wanted to get and I’m grateful for the people who have read me throughout the years. I try to never take any of them for granted. 

Should I die tomorrow, I’ll be anxious to see if my life really will pass before my eyes. I’m kind of hoping it does. I have great memories of grandparents, aunts, uncles and old friends. I want to relive those memories before I take my last breath. 

I have a feeling if my life really does pass before my eyes, I’m gonna die knowing I had a pretty good one. For that, I’m feeling thankful and blessed. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Read thoughts from Larry's son on Larry's blog here.
 
 
by CityBeat Staff 06.16.2015 74 days ago
at 03:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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This Week's Dining Events

This week's dining events include Margarita Madness, Jungle Jim's International Beer Festival, Bacon Fest and more. Most classes and events require registration; classes frequently sell out.

WEDNESDAY 17

Margarita Madness —
Head to Newport on the Levee for CityBeat’s annual Margarita Madness party. Local restaurants compete to win best margarita, as voted by the public and a panel of special guest judges. Rain or shine. 5:30-8:30 p.m. $40. Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., citybeat.com.

Taste of the NFL — The Cincinnati Bengal’s 13th-annual Taste of the NFL features dinner-by-the-bite from more than 40 of the Tristate’s favorite restaurants, with Bengals players, coaches and alumni. Event includes silent auction and more to benefit the Freestore Foodbank. 6:30-9:30 p.m. $150. Paul Brown Stadium, Downtown, 513-482-7539.

Lobstapalooza — Enjoy this culinary crustacean in myriad ways: in soup, in salad, on a sandwich, as an appetizer, in a lobster cocktail, in a quesadilla, curried, steamed and whole … the list goes on. Through July 3. Prices vary. Washington Platform, 1000 Elm St., Downtown, washingtonplatform.com.

THURSDAY 18

Chicken and Waffles — Learn to make bacon waffles with roasted chick, herbed waffles with breaded chicken, chicken gravy and Sriracha-honey topping. 6-8 p.m. $75. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

Cook and Connect — A cooking class and professional networking event. Learn to make a simple dish surrounded by art, music, cocktails and local professionals. 6:30-8 p.m. $20. Kennedy Heights Arts Center, 6546 Montgomery Road, Kennedy Heights, facebook.com/simplynetworking1.

FRIDAY 19

Jungle Jim’s International Beer Festival — Features more than 400 beers from more than 100 different breweries, rarities, obscurities and brewery exclusives. 7:30-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $50; $20 non-drinker. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

Gifts from the Summer Kitchen — Share summer gifts all season long. Make and share bread and butter pickles, espresso-balsamic barbecue sauce, raspberry-lemon biscotti and more. 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $50. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com. 

Henke Winery 19th Anniversary — Free cake and half-priced appetizers, plus special wine prices to celebrate the winery’s 19 years. 3-11 p.m. Free. Henke Winery, 3077 Harrison Ave., Westwood, 513-662-9463.

Great Parks Dinner Series — A murder mystery with a side of dinner; a full side actually — it’s a buffet. Figure out whodunit in this adults-only interactive murder, “A Night at the Oscars. 6:30 p.m. $35. Mill Race Banquet Center, 1515 W. Sharon Road, Winton Woods, greatparks.org.

SATURDAY 20

Celestial Sips Wine Tasting  — A wine tasting under the stars. Taste three biodynamic wines, take a tour of the Observatory and stargaze (if clear). 8-10:30 p.m. $60. Cincinnati Observatory Center, 3849 Observatory Place, Mount Lookout, cincinnatiobservatory.org.

The Porkopolis Pig & Whiskey Festival — A fun-filled day of barbecue, whiskey sampling and live Americana and Bluegrass music. Sample food from Cincinnati’s best barbecue restaurants and more than 30 varieties of bourbon, scotch and whiskey. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Free; prices vary for food and drink. The Shoe at Horseshoe Casino, 1000 Broadway, Pendleton, citybeat.com.

Hops with Pops: Pre-Father’s Day Party — Head to Mt. Carmel to celebrate dad a little early with sweets and meats, including barbecue, smoked brisket and special craft beers on the brewery’s patio. 1-7 p.m. Prices vary. Mt. Carmel Brewing Company, 4362 Mt. Carmel-Tobasco Road, Mount Carmel, mtcarmelbrewingcompany.com.

Father’s Day Steak and Ale — Head to The Summit restaurant at the Midwest Culinary Institute for a steak dinner, grilled on the patio if weather permits. Call for pricing, time and reservations. The Summit at the Midwest Culinary Institute, 3520 Central Parkway, Clifton, 513-569-4980.

SUNDAY 21

Bacon Fest — Head to Coney Island for a Father’s Day full of bacon dishes from local food trucks and restaurants. 1-8 p.m. Free; free parking for dads. Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., California, coneyislandpark.com. 

TUESDAY 23

Summer Favorites from My Assyrian, Armenian, Persian and Turkish Family — A menu featuring chef David Warda’s family’s blend of Near East cuisines. Learn to make Persian cold buttermilk-yogurt soup, grilled Assyrian lamb patties, Turkish stuffed eggplant and more. 6-8:30 p.m. $50. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

 
 
by Jac Kern 06.16.2015 74 days ago
at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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I Just Can't Get Enough

Jac's roundup of pop culture news and Internet findings

The long-awaited Entourage movie is now in theaters, and for those looking for what’s essentially a supersized episode of the HBO show (which follows this secret formula: celebrity cameo + expensive car + boobs + “Baby bro!”), the movie version delivers. Is it one of the greatest movies of the year or even week? Of course not. But it stuck close to the source material, more so than, say, its lady-counterpart Sex and the City.

In celebration of this tribute to BFFs and fame, Funny or Die’s Gil Ozeri embarked on the ultimate Entourage binge complete with his own entourage of dozens of your favorite actors, writers, comedians and all-around funny people.

Did you ever wonder if those cheesy Lifetime dramas are intentionally ridiculous? Exhibit A: Upcoming unauthorized Full House movie. Exhibit B: (Already? Yup.) The unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 movie. Like, do they know how bad these productions are and do it to be funny or do they just not care? And who are "they"? I don’t know! But I do know that someone over at Lifetime has an excellent sense of humor, as evidenced by this trailer for upcoming thriller A Deadly Adoption — starring two of the most hilarious humans out there, Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell.

One of Seinfeld’s myriad memorable moments came when George’s fiancée died from licking a bunch of cheap wedding invite envelopes laced with toxic glue. (The scene was even referenced on The Hills, and that’s a perfectly acceptable detail to recall, thankyouverymuch). Rumors circulated about why the character was written off, and Jason Alexander revisited the episode and the reasoning behind Susan’s departure on The Howard Stern Show.

Here is a pug recreating Kim Kardashian's pics from her (gag) selfie book, sent to me by my mom — HI MOM! (She's definitely not reading this.)

Dr. Ruth, Carrie Bradshaw, Patti Stanger and all other real and fictional relationship experts can go ahead and step to the side, because Aziz Ansari is the new authority on love and dating. The Parks and Rec star’s Modern Romance book is out now, and it offers a glimpse at relationships in the digital age. Peep this awesome trailer (there’s trailers for books now, I guess):

I saw Aziz’s local performance on his Modern Romance tour last year and if that was any indication, this will be a seriously poignant (and obviously funny) read. If you can’t wait to get your hands on a hardcover or if finishing a book is too much of a commitment for you (Aziz probably has a chapter on people like you), check out this Time article, adapted from the book.

Father’s Day is this Sunday. Enjoy these dad jokes.

Elusive fashion trolls Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turned 29 this weekend, and the twins emerged from their tiny woodland nook to celebrate in a truly shocking way. Not only did the girls throw an Olympics-themed field day bash (I thought smoking cigarettes was their most strenuous form of activity?!), but they wore…they wore…printed athletic T-shirts!!!

 

Also, the Game of Thrones finale aired and obviously I just can't even go there right now. The atrocity of Olsens in Beefy-Ts is more manageable than that shit.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.16.2015 74 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Cincy budget battle gets real, folks freak out; Fairfield police accused of improper use of force; half of Ohio charter school's students found to be fictitious

Good morning y’all. Did you hear that the city government is grinding to a halt? Only not really, not yet at least.

You see, the city must have a financial plan in place by July 1 and there’s a battle afoot over the city’s capital budget. That funds a lot of things like road repairs, fleet updates and the like. But it’s different than the operating budget, which, you know, keeps the city government operating. You can find out more about the battle in our coverage yesterday, but it basically boils down to a struggle between city council, which is trying to get some of its priorities included in the capital budget, and the mayor, who has broken what is usually a single, omnibus budget ordinance down into individual pieces so he can veto parts he doesn’t like. Make no mistake: not passing a capital budget would be bad, bad, bad. It would mean that the city was out of compliance with state law, opening city government up to lawsuits and even temporary state oversight.  But the folks at City Hall have two weeks to hammer something out. In the meantime, at least we have the Cincinnati Enquirer to explain this situation to us. Yesterday’s headline blared, “Cincy faces government shutdown,” while an editorial today councils folks to “take a deep breath” because “the process is working as it should.” Great to see our intrepid daily has started reporting from multiple alternate dimensions instead of the single alternate dimension it normally covers.

• Last year, the federal tax credit geyser ran dry in Ohio for a minute, leaving groups like 3CDC and Cincinnati Development Fund without federal tax credits. It was the first time ever no projects in the state received credits. But that dry spell was short-lived. This year, 3CDC and CDF will get $45 million and $42 million respectively in new market tax credits for development projects. 3CDC has been Cincinnati’s major developer in downtown and Over-the-Rhine in the past decade, spending almost $1 billion in OTR in that time. CDF, meanwhile, has provided a quarter-billion dollars in loans in Greater Cincinnati, most of which have gone to affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods.

• Forest Park faith leader Bishop Bobby Hilton today made accusations that police in the city of Fairfield broke a 12-year-old’s jaw and fractured three of her ribs during an incident at a pool last week. Police were called to the Fairfield Aquatic Center last week to remove a group of teenagers who refused to leave after they were asked to vacate the area. Fairfield Police Chief Michael Dickey says the officers were defending themselves during the incident, a claim he says is backed up by video footage he’s witnessed. Dickey said he had not heard about the girl’s injuries until he was informed about Hilton’s news conference.

• A battle over tax credits isn’t stopping a Noah’s Ark themed attraction in Northern Kentucky. Religious group Answers in Genesis is going ahead with construction on the $84 million Ark Encounter park in Grant County despite a court battle around $18 million in state tax credits for the park. The application for those credits was eventually rejected by the state because of the group’s religious work and hiring stipulations that make potential employees profess their faith. Answers says it won’t use those hiring practices at the Ark Encounter park, but the state still says the attraction is part of its religious ministry, not just a tourist attraction. The project is about 20 percent complete, Answers says.

• Lawmakers in the Ohio Senate have walked back on a plan to eliminate the state’s historic preservation tax credit program for two years. Republican lawmakers tucked a provision that would have frozen the program as the state transitioned from a tax credit-based system to a grant system. That caused widespread criticism from across the state, convincing lawmakers to back off the proposal. Initially, it looked like $25 million in tax credits awarded to Cincinnati’s Music Hall  would be in jeopardy if the proposal was adopted, though lawmakers said that project and others already promised credits would receive them. Now, thanks to the uproar, Republicans in the Senate say they’ll remove the provision from the budget and form a commission to study shifting from credits to grants in the future.

• A really quick hit: a state audit at a now-defunct charter school found that half of the school’s students didn’t exist. State Auditor David Yost revealed yesterday that half of the 459 students listed by General Chappie James Leadership Academy in Montgomery County were fictitious. Yost says that the discrepancy seems to be a result of fraud and not simple record-keeping errors.

• Finally, on to national news. You’ve probably already heard about the strange case of former Washington State NAACP head Rachel Dolezal, who has for many years presented herself as a black woman even though both of her parents are white. Dolezal was thoroughly and embarrassingly outed by her parents recently, a move that rocketed Dolezal to all the wrong kinds of viral fame over the weekend. And it’s only gotten weirder from there: in an interview today, Dolezal says she's identified as black since the age of five and still considers herself black, in part because she has biracial children. But the story gets more befuddling still. Reports show that Dolezal sued Howard University, where she attended an MFA program, over what she claimed was discrimination… because she was white. This entire situation is so confusing and problematic I don’t even know what to say, so, there you go.

Hit me up on Twitter or send an old-fashioned e-mail, why don’t ya?

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.15.2015 75 days ago
Posted In: News, Budget at 03:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Council's Big Bad Budget Adventure

Council, mayor wrangle over spending priorities as deadline ticks closer

Cincinnati City Council's Budget and Finance Committee today wrangled over the city's upcoming, $1 billion budget, passing the operating portion of that financial plan but leaving a fight over capital spending for another day.

Basic services like police and fire aren't under threat in the budget battle — those are paid for from the city's $375 million operating budget, which council looks poised to pass. But other services could be temporarily shelved and the city could face legal action or state oversight if it doesn't pass a complete budget before its June 30 deadline.

A complex dance for power between council Democrats and Mayor John Cranley has left the capital part of the budget, which funds everything from road improvement to economic development to bike lanes, at an impasse.

The majority coalition of council members say Cranley is trying to block their will, but Cranley says the group is trying to force a shutdown.


“A majority of City Council seems poised to vote down the City’s Capital Budget and threaten a government shutdown because members couldn’t get their pet projects funded,” Cranley said in a harshly-worded statement June 15.  “Because some councilmembers were upset that their pet projects weren’t included, the City will not be able to repave our roads or replace our aging police cruisers, fire trucks and ambulances.”

The five Democratic council members — Yvette Simpson, Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Wendell Young and David Mann — have prioritized six expenditures in the budget that Cranley opposes. Those priorities were by and large left out of City Manager Harry Black's initial budget, so Democrats drew up their own omnibus budget proposal, which Cranley looked likely to veto wholesale, since he can't line-item veto things. At least, not officially.

Cranley says the budget Democrats on council have presented is structurally unbalanced because it uses one-time sources of money to pay for some of council members' spending priorities.

Cranley takes issue with six spending priorities Democrats on council have promoted, calling them wasteful. Those priorities include $400,000 for Clifton Market, a co-op looking to fill the vacant former Keller's IGA in Clifton, $24,000 for high-tech bus shelters in Bond Hill, $150,000 for repairing and building new bike lanes, an extra $500,000 for the city's human services fund, bringing it up to a level council unanimously voted to fund last year, and extra funds for the health department. Those extra expenditures would be paid for in part by pausing some of the city manager's proposed extensive $100 million in road repairs.

"I cannot support these items and hope that City Council won't either, but I am referring these items as stand-alone ordinances to the Budget Committee so that council will have the opportunity to have an up-or-down vote on all of the City Council requests," Cranley said in a statement this morning. "The people of Cincinnati created a Charter in which six votes are required to overcome a mayoral veto.  We should not try to subvert the Charter we took an oath to uphold."

Council Democrats met with Budget and Finance Chairman Charlie Winburn late last week to hammer out a compromise, and it looked as though things would be O.K. In the meantime, however, Cranley moved to have council's budget priorities broken down into 19 individual ordinances, giving him the ability to veto them on what amounts to a line-item basis.

"We worked with his budget chair. We sat down with Charlie Winburn and worked out a budget that his budget chair supported," Young says. "And then we get, 'you're trying to bankrupt the city.' If we're working with Charlie and something Charlie says he supports, and suddenly Cranley's having a hissy fit, we don't even know what it's all about. That's where we are."

Winburn said Cranley didn’t take up the compromise budget because he wasn’t “in the loop” about it.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld called presenting the operational budget as an omnibus document and council's captial budget as a series of ordinances "weird" and "overtly political." Sittenfeld said he felt like a majority of council's wishes were being disregarded by the move.

“Treating different items so differently raises suspicion I think for any member of the public,” Sittenfeld said. “I don’t see why funding for the health department or human services or Clifton Market would be separate. Some things are protected behind the veil of an omnibus, and some things aren’t. I’d say put it all together, and if the city administration or the mayor doesn’t want to do that, it’s kind of on them whether or not they want to shut down the city government.”

The maneuvering has caused the current impasse as the four Democrats in today's budget and finance committee meeting balked at voting for the administration's capital budget. That raised alarms from council conservatives, including Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman, who both cautioned against going down the road toward "a government shutdown."

That language echoes statements Cranley made in a news conference this morning when he accused council Democrats of attempting to shut down city government over their priorities and compared them to Republicans in Congress. Councilmembers Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young shot back.

"I defy anybody to look at the budget we've proposed and see how that shuts the city down," Young said. "That's just not what we're trying to do. I'm really offended that he'd even say that about us."

"The concern that we as members of council have is that a budget was prepared by the city manager, and then the mayor had the opportunity to weigh in on it, and then it got to us," Simpson said. "It's our turn as policy makers to say, 'here's where we would make adjustments.' "

Council was scheduled to vote on the budget June 17, but it's unclear whether it will pass at that meeting. The city has until June 30 to pass a budget. If it does not, Cincinnati's city government could be subject to legal action, or even state oversight, as it is required by state law to have a full budget passed. The city's current budget expires July 1.

 
 
by Staff 06.15.2015 75 days ago
 
 
elis bbq

Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend

A surprising amount of different types of cuisine.

Each week CityBeat staffers, dining writers and the occasional intern tell you what they ate this weekend. We're not always proud — or trendy — but we definitely spend at least some money on food. 

Sarah Urmston: I spent my Sunday afternoon under the hot sun with a case of Corona Light and a basket full of Eli's BBQ. My friend and I set up camp on one of their multiple picnic benches and played a round of corn hole with a group of people sitting across from us as we waited for our authentic barbecue sandwiches to come out. Alongside the overflowing pulled pork was mashed potatoes, their famous mac and cheese, and coleslaw, which I piled even higher on the meat stuffed between two buttered, toasted buns. It was the best way to fuel up before heading to see Dawes and Hozier perform live at Horseshoe Casino, closing out an already awesome weekend. 

Ilene Ross: I am a huge fan of leftovers. Thankfully this dovetails nicely with the fact that I can never narrow down my menu choices at restaurants, so I am a compulsive over-orderer. Leftovers are marvelous things. On lazy days I adore having a fridge full of things to either quickly consume in their original state or magically transform into something new, usually with some simple addition like a fried egg. On Thursday night, the BF and I dined al fresco at Dutch’s in Hyde Park. After consuming a gigantic charcuterie and cheese platter and their miraculous truffle popcorn, I knew that most of the short rib grilled cheese and brussels sprouts we had ordered would be coming home. I was right, and it made for the perfect late-night dinner on Friday with the addition of a pint of Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. No egg necessary.

On Sunday, the BF and I attended one of my very favorite food events in town, Healthy Roots Foundation’s Midsummer Harvest. This year it took place out at Carriage House Farm with 20-plus chefs and vendors preparing and serving delicious food, wine and spirits to raise funds to ensure a healthy start to all babies in the Tristate. We gorged on outstanding “My Grandmother’s Goetta” from chef Michael Shields of BrewRiver GastroPub; Marksbury Buttermilk Fried Chicken with truffle butter, parsley sauce and a spring vegetable salad from chef Todd Kelly of Orchids; cornmeal bellini with Marksbury ham from chef Frances Kroner of Sleepy Bee Café; barbecue pork shoulder tacos with salsa verde, queso fresco, Carriage House radishes and Waterfield’s cilantro from chef Daniel Wright of Pontiac BBQ; and so much more. De rigueur for the sweltering day were Molly Wellmann’s super refreshing cocktails.

Casey Arnold: Friday I went to Kaze for a book event (Many Levy's Calorie Accounting release party). I always love their edamame because it's served chilled with lots of salt. I also ordered the Kaze salad which is unique because of the small spicey peppers mixed in with the greens. A friend of mine ordered the shishotos appetizer, which are those same peppers served hot with bonito flakes. The heat coming from the peppers makes the flakes look like a living organism as they curl and flail around, which was equal parts neat and stinky.

Anne Mitchell: I ate the whole season of Orange is the New Black

Jac Kern: Jeff and I went to Vitor's Bistro on Saturday. They had a five-course dinner-for-two special going on so we made reservations and grabbed a shamefully large bottle of wine to bring (they're BYOB). I've never ordered off the menu at Vitor's; every meal I've had there has been a chef's choice coursed dinner, which can be really fun if you are a person that likes food. This special basically worked the same way: the server asks if you have any allergies, dietary restrictions or strong dislike of anything; this time they also asked if we wanted beef, fish, pork or chicken as an entrée. We let the chef decide. Every plate that came out was a hit for us. We both got a creamy gazpacho (more of a cool tomato basil bisque than a cold salsa-like "soup" I've come to expect), a single deep-fried seafood ravioli in a lobster cream sauce and a light but flavorful salad with peaches, nuts and blue cheese. We received cod and steak as our entrées, which we split and, for dessert, their signature French toast and a crème brûlée torte. I was disappointed we didn't get to try to apple pie egg roll some others had received (I'm a nosey diner), but that feeling lasted for about three seconds once I dug into the crunchy, caramelized cake served in a martini glass. Overall, it was a fun, delicious farm-to-table meal that I'm hoping negates the fact that I ordered LaRosa's twice this weekend.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.15.2015 75 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cranley veto

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley vows budget vetos; highway means demolition for Newport housing project; Ohio Senate's budget bad for low-income, report says

Good morning all. Here’s what’s up today.

The back and forth about the city’s budget continues. In a news conference this morning, Mayor John Cranley said he would divide up council Democrats’ budget proposal and put individual spending items to an up or down vote. That’s significant because the five Democrats on council don’t have enough votes to override a mayoral veto on those items. Cranley has said Dems’ proposal, which came in response to City Manager Harry Black’s budget, isn’t structurally balanced and that he’ll veto any spending items he deems wasteful or unnecessary. That would include $400,000 for co-op grocery project Clifton Market, an increase in bike lane spending and other provisions. In saying he would veto the bike lane spending increase, Cranley called the Central Parkway bike lane a “disaster.” Cranley also got in a dig at his fellow Democrats, comparing them to Republicans in Congress and warning them not to “shut down the city” over disagreements about the budget. Cranley has also suggested he will cut suggested funds for human services by $500,000, continuing the wrangling between the administration and city council over the hot-button issue. There is a City Council Budget and Finance Committee meeting today at 11:30. I’ll update this as I find out more.

• In the meantime, let’s cross the river for a couple stories, shall we? The last large HUD housing project in Newport is slated for demolition next year as highway Ky. 9 is extended through the city. That means residents who live in the complex’s 171 units will be moved elsewhere around the region. That’s caused mixed feelings among those who live there and others in the city, this Cincinnati Enquirer story reports. Some residents are excited for the chance to move elsewhere with more room and new neighbors. Others are apprehensive about where they’ll be next year and say they’re not sure how they’ll make the change. The demolition fits in with HUD’s general movement away from large-scale public housing toward Section 8 vouchers and smaller sites scattered around the region.

• Whistle blowers have filed two lawsuits against a Northern Kentucky state agency alleging thousands of dollars a day in wrongful billings. The suits also allege that the whistleblowers were terminated by that agency when they tried to address those problems. One suit alleges that the Northern Kentucky Area Development District, which is supported by state and federal grants, billed for senior care services it did not actually provide. A former employee claims that when she tried to bring those billings to light, she was terminated from her job. Another alleges that an employee who tried to bring attention to possible card abuse within the agency was unjustly fired for doing so. The NKADD says the agency has investigated those claims and is clear of any wrongdoing, and that the two former employees were let go for reasons unrelated to their allegations. The suits, filed separately, are in Boone County Circuit Court.

• The Ohio Department of Transportation could lose more than $1 billion in federal funding if it doesn’t find a way to include more minority- and female-owned businesses in the contracts it awards. A federal review found that ODOT is not in compliance with federal laws around inclusion in contracting and must draw up a plan for how to improve. If it doesn’t, or if its plan doesn’t meet federal muster, the department could lose out on the federal money. ODOT has until July 20 to submit its plan, and officials there say they’re confident they can satisfy federal requirements.

• Finally, let’s circle back around to budgets for a minute, but on the state level this time. The Ohio Senate’s state budget proposal is worse for low-income Ohioans than even another conservative plan in the Ohio House, a new report by the progressive-leaning Policy Matters Ohio says. The state Senate’s plan would lower taxes for the top one percent of wealthy Ohio residents to the average tune of $10,000 a year. Meanwhile, the middle 20 percent of Ohioans would see only a $20 reduction in taxes and the bottom 20 percent of earners would actually see an increase of $26 in taxes a year. Much of that boost for the highest one percent comes from a decrease in taxes on businesses, according to the report. You can read the whole breakdown here.

And I’m off to city council. Tweet at me or e-mail me.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.12.2015 78 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
music hall

Morning News and Stuff

Family, community speak out about Hicks shooting; state Senate plan wouldn't axe Music Hall credits; Deters: weed should be legalized

Good morning Cincy. Here’s what’s happening today.

Local activists and the family of QuanDavier Hicks held an emotional rally yesterday at Northside’s  Hoffner Park, just blocks from the apartment on Chase Ave. where police officer Doris Scott shot the 22-year-old Tuesday night. The rally was organized by Cincinnati Black Lives Matter and drew more than 200 people, culminating in a march down Hamilton Ave. and across the I-75 overpass. The event was peaceful, but anger and tension were obvious.

“We’re here because no matter what version of what went down Tuesday night you lean toward, there’s a lot that’s wrong,” said Cincinnati Black Lives Matter organizer Brian Taylor. “The media has very quick to demonize Hicks. Hicks may have had a criminal record. He may have done some things wrong in the past… But his record has nothing to do with whatever happened that lead to him being killed. He should not have been killed in contact with police.”

Hamilton County Clerk of Court records show Hicks had five minor drug charges, some of which had been dismissed.

Among those in attendance at the rally were Hicks’ mother, Erica Woods, who came from Atlanta with Hicks’ father and siblings for the rally. At one point during the march, Woods collapsed from exhaustion on the overpass and was aided by marchers and police. She was then taken away in an ambulance.

“I birthed the boy in 1993,” she said earlier in the evening. “I had to come 800 miles here because nobody told me my child was taken from me. The community of Northside and social media told me my son is dead. Two days later, he’s laying frozen in a box. I haven’t been able to look at his face. I still haven’t gotten an answer from any police. I just want an answer. Because what you’ve printed six different times just doesn’t make any sense.”

Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell was at the rally and march, along with a large contingent of officers. Police say they were in an apartment building at 1751 Chase Ave. Tuesday night searching for Hicks because a 911 caller on Colerain Ave. said he had earlier entered her house without her permission and threatened her life over the phone. While police were knocking, they say, Hicks opened a door adjacent to one officer Scott and partner Justin Moore were standing at and pointed a .22 caliber bolt-action rifle at them. Moore grabbed the rifle and Scott shot Hicks in the chest, officials say. Woods and others question that version of events, however, and have pressed police for more information. Police held a press conference Wednesday where they played the 911 call and showed pictures of the rifle and crime scene. CityBeat will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

• So yesterday I told you about the Ohio Senate’s plan in its budget proposal to roll back the state’s historic preservation tax credits, ending the program for the next two years. As written, that proposal would have nixed $25 million in tax credits awarded to Music Hall, a key piece of that landmark’s restoration. Now, however, lawmakers have said they don’t mean to take credits from projects like Music Hall that have already been promised the money. Republicans in the Senate say they want to create a grant program to replace the tax credits, and that the ceasation of the program is the only way to move toward that change. Critics point out that state grants must be renewed every two years, while the credits do not. They say it is hard to complete long-term preservation and economic development work without the assurance of funding over the long haul.

• The Wasson Way bike trail could be up and running in two years, Mayor John Cranley said yesterday in a news conference along the path of the proposed bike project. That timeline could extend, however, if the city doesn’t get $17 million in TIGER grants it applied for last month. The city recently agreed to purchase 4.1 miles of railroad right of way from Norfolk Southern Railway at $11.8 million to make the project a reality. The total cost of the project is estimated at $30 million. Nonprofit the Wasson Way Project also announced yesterday it was beginning a fundraising drive to collect $600,000 for design and engineering work around the project.

• A task force headed by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and funded by legalization group ResponsibleOhio has released its study on marijuana legalization, and guess what: the report paints a generally positive picture of the impacts of legalizing weed. The report predicts the creation of 35,000 jobs from legalization and more than $7 billion in economic activity. It also says increased crime would be unlikely. The study, completed by Deters and a host of other task force participants including Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman, uses a number of previously existing data sets to ascertain legalization’s impact on the economy and law enforcement in Ohio. The report’s rather rosy tint might seem surprising at first, given Deters’ relatively conservative record as prosecutor, but when you zoom out just a little it all becomes more clear. First, there’s the fact that the report was underwritten by ResponsibleOhio. Deters says he and the rest of the task force are objective in their findings. But critics, including Ohio State Auditor David Yost, point out that the task force seems to be stacked with supporters. Deters has close business ties with head ResponsibleOhio organizer Chris Stock. Both work at the same Cincinnati law firm, critics point out. The legalization effort, which looks to land an initiative for voters to consider on the November ballot, has been controversial. The plan would legalize marijuana for anyone over the age of 21, but would restrict commercial growth to 10 ResponsibleOhio investor-owned facilities around the state.

• Finally, a Cleveland Municipal Judge yesterday found that there was enough evidence to charge two officers in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last November. Rice was shot by officer Timothy Loehmann while the child was playing with a toy pistol on a playground in Cleveland. Judge Ronald Adrine ruled there is probable cause to charge Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, dereliction of duty or reckless homicide. The ruling is mostly a symbolic gesture, however, as the Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office is charged with convening a grand jury to hand down those charges.

 
 

 

 

 
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