Hey Cincy! Here’s the news today.
Happy holidays. If you like political drama, then the city’s streetcar is the gift that keeps on giving. The latest dustup comes over Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black’s memo to Mayor John Cranley and City Council late last week that questions whether the $4.2 million operating plan Council passed earlier this year will provide sufficient funds to run the streetcar. According to an not-yet-complete independent audit cited by Black, that plan could fall as much as $1.5 million short of the money needed to keep the 3.6-mile loop transit project running. That shortfall counts a $9 million overall financial pledge from The Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation to help fund operations of the streetcar in its first few years. The alarm comes from new independent projections about the operating costs and income of the streetcar when it starts running next year. The results of that audit have yet to be revealed, but preliminary numbers suggest the project might run between $750,000 to $1.5 million over budget. Hopefully, city officials, council members and media will wait until the full audit comes in before they start more interminable bickering about this shit. Oh, wait, too late.
• Cincinnati yesterday became the first city in the country to pass a ban on so-called conversion therapy, an often religiously based practice that attempts to turn LGBT people, often minors, straight. The legislation comes a year after transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide following bullying. Alcorn's parents took her to conversion therapy for a time. You can read more about the new legislation in our story published yesterday.
• The city today swore in its new police chief following the firing of Chief Jeffrey Blackwell earlier this year. Their pick? Interim police chief Eliot Isaac, who has been the only named candidate in the search for a new permanent head to the police department. City officials promised a national search for a new CPD leader following Blackwell’s ouster, though some have questioned whether that search was thorough enough and whether Isaac was intended to be the city’s pick the whole time. Yesterday, City Council wrangled over raising the pay grade for the police chief to $180,000 a year, which proponents said was a key bargaining chip in keeping Isaac chief on a permanent basis. Council ultimately passed a pay raise for the position, but Democrat Council members Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach balked at the raise, saying the city needs to focus on better pay for its rank-and-file workers.
• According to personal finance website Wallethub.com, which regularly cranks out interesting factoids about cities, Cincinnati is the eighth-best place in the country to celebrate New Year's Eve. That’s kind of a strange ranking to me, since New Year's is all about the parties you go to, and parties are all about who you know at them. But Wallethub found other ways to quantify the quality of New Year's Eve festivities, including price of NYE party tickets, forecasted precipitation, legality of fireworks and other metrics. Cincy came out pretty well all things being equal — just behind Portland, Ore. and just ahead of Las Vegas somehow. So if you have great friends in every major American city (or the money to fly 100 of your nearest and dearest to any of them), or, hell, if you don’t have any friends at all, this ranking should give you a great idea of where to go.
• A week or so ago, we told you about a bill the Ohio General Assembly is considering that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns into day care centers, college campuses and private airplanes, among other places. Now U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who represents Ohio, is making news with his reaction to that bill. The Democrat says Ohio lawmakers are “lunatics” for considering such a law, citing mass shootings as among the reasons he thinks the bill is a bad idea. One funny thing to emerge from the debate: Concealed weapons will still be forbidden at the State House. Republican lawmakers call that an oversight. They also say Brown should learn more about the 2nd Amendment before calling them crazy. And on and on the gun debate goes.
• Finally, here’s a bummer bit of information. For the first time in decades, Americans who are considered “middle class” are not a majority of the country’s population, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Pew’s data shows America’s middle class is receding quickly, now making up about 50 percent of the total population, a drop from 54 percent in 2001. Meanwhile, the ranks of the low-income and high-income are swelling, demonstrating the widening income gap in America. What’s more, an increasing amount of the earnings in America are heading toward that upper income group. In 1970, 62 percent of earnings went to the middle class. These days, it’s more like 43 percent. At the same time, high-income households are now taking home 49 percent of America’s aggregate income these days, up from 29 percent at the dawn of the 1970s. Pew considers “middle income” to be between 67 percent and 200 percent of America’s median household income, or between about $42,000 and $126,000 last year for a family of three.
I’m out. Later all.
Hello all! Let’s talk about news today.
Let’s play a rousing game of “would you rather” shall we? As in, would you rather take the upcoming Over-the-Rhine/downtown streetcar late at night when you’ve got your swerve on from your sixth OTR-brewed high-ABV craft beer, or early the next morning when you’re hungover and on the way to work? The good news: You might be able to do both. Cincinnati City Council’s transportation committee yesterday asked the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority to study whether it would be feasible to run the streetcar later than the initially proposed 10 p.m. weekday and 12 a.m. weekend cutoffs. Some businesses in OTR, as well as Mayor John Cranley, would like to see the cars run later Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to capture the weekend bar crowd. But Cranley also suggested the cars start running at 7:30 a.m., a time many streetcar supporters say is too late to capture early-morning commuters. Other plans put forth by SORTA would start operations at 7 or even 6:30 a.m., which streetcar boosters like more. A 7:30 a.m. start time would make Cincy’s system the latest-starting of all the modern streetcar systems around the U.S., supporters of earlier times say.
• A lot happened in Cincinnati’s startup scene over the past year, including big successes by minority entrepreneur support program Mortar, lots of activity from individual grant-giving philanthropy People’s Liberty, a big expansion by startup incubator The Brandery and more. All told, a ton of things happened in Cincy's entrepreneur-centered startup economy, and you can check out a whole year-in-review piece here.
• Amid rate hikes and investigations into possible mismanagement, will Hamilton County take over operations of the Metropolitan Sewer District, which is currently run by the city of Cincinnati? Not so fast, city officials say. Mayor Cranley and members of Cincinnati City Council have warned the county that they’re not ready to hand over the reigns just yet, and while they’re open to discussions about challenges MSD is facing, they’re in no mood to cede control of the enormous operation. Last month, county commissioners sent a letter to city officials proposing a new arrangement in which the county would take over management of MSD, citing price increases for ratepayers and allegations that the sewer district is being mismanaged. But the city says those allegations are baseless. Currently, the county owns much of MSD and the city runs the sewer system, per a 1968 agreement. Much of the current strife over the MSD stems from a federal court-ordered $1 billion overhaul of the sewer system.
• It’s a rough week to be into sweets, right? First, Kroger recalled some of its brownies yesterday on the worst possible day of the year, National Brownie Day (yes that’s apparently a thing). The retailer is pulling the brownies because they might contain walnuts, even though that isn't mentioned in any allergy warning labels. And this morning, the OTR location of Holtman’s Donuts had a kitchen fire that will shutter the location for an indeterminate amount of time. This is the most upset I’ve been about baked goods since that truck ran into Servatti last year.
• Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban charter schools from using public money to advertise themselves. Democrats in the Ohio Senate are pushing the legislation because they say public schools aren't allowed to use taxpayer funds to promote themselves to parents of potential students or to take political stands on issues, but that privately run but publicly funded charter schools do so all the time. The bill wouldn't prohibit those schools from using donated money or other non-public funds to advertise.
• The Butler County GOP failed to settle on an endorsement for any of the candidates vying to replace former House Speaker John Boehner in Congress. Boehner is retiring after a two-decade run in the House, mostly due to strife within the GOP between tea party conservatives and more establishment-allied Republicans. Butler County makes up a big part of Boehner’s former 8th Congressional District, and an endorsement from the county GOP could have been a big win for a candidate looking to take the party’s nomination in the upcoming special primary election. The district, which encompasses many suburban areas north of Cincinnati, is heavily
Republican, meaning that Boehner’s successor will almost certainly be decided in the GOP primary. Who that will be, however — and whether they will be allied with the more establishment wing of the GOP or a tea party insurgent — is still very much up in the air.
• Speaking of the GOP, the fight for the party’s presidential nomination has been a non-stop circus lately, and it’s mostly thanks to one man. Yes, yes, this is another blurb about Donald Trump. The real estate mogul’s comments earlier this week suggesting the U.S. prohibit any Muslims from entering the country caused a huge outcry, drawing condemnation even from many staunch conservatives.
Despite that, however, bigwigs in the Ohio Republican party say they would stand behind Trump should he win the nomination. At least one big local party name has diverged from that trend, however: Outgoing Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, who has said that the party needs to distance itself from Trump's rhetoric. Presumably, other party leaders are still under the assumption that there is no way Trump, who has been the GOP frontrunner for months now, can actually win the nomination and that an establishment candidate like Marco Rubio will start surging in the polls any day now. Trump has been surpassed in some polls in the GOP’s first primary state, Iowa. Unfortunately for the GOP establishment, he’s been passed up by a candidate many hate just as much: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has continually helped goad tea party Republican representatives into defiance of party leadership in the House.
• Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden is under fire again. This time for messing with one of a reporter's all time favorite things: public records. Carden recently changed the retention schedule, a listing of public records available in the Parks Department for public use, without state or local approval prompting questions from State Auditor Dave Yost. But strangely enough, Carden appears to be unsure of what the retention schedule even is. The Enquirer reports when they asked him something about it while covering election issues, he responded that he didn't know what it was, and that it wasn't part of his administration. An attorney for the City Hall issued a statement saying the whole thing was a misunderstanding by the department's staff, who didn't know they needed approval prior to changing the schedule. The Parks Department has been under scrutiny in the past few months for top officials' pay and campaign donations brought on by Mayor John Cranley's election push for a parks tax levy, which failed at the polls.
• Cincinnati may get a new police chief by the end of this year, and it looks like he already might be getting a raise. City Council voted in committee yesterday to increase the top salary for police and fire chiefs to $165,000 a year. Former police chief Jeffrey Blackwell was making $135,000 a year when he was fired last September. The only candidate for the position is currently interim chief Eliot Isaac, who has hired Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke to negotiate his salary. City Manager Harry Black has said he hopes to have a new chief in place by the end of this year.
• The recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the 355th in the country this year, has reignited the heated debate on gun control. While many have demanded further restrictions on guns, Boone County Sheriff Michael Helmig posted a message on his Facebook page requesting that those with conceal and carry permits carry their weapons for the safety of themselves and others. He called on his fellow Kentuckians to uphold the second amendment and protect the country from foreign and domestic terrorism.
• Several Greater Cincinnati school districts have made Niche's list of top school districts. The San Francisco-based start-up that uses data to rank schools put Indian Hill Exempted Village School District as ninth on its list of the 100 best school districts in the U.S. Also making an appearance is Sycamore Community School District at no. 66, Wyoming City School District at no. 69, Mason City School District at no. 79 and Mariemont City School District at no. 93. To see the list for yourself and an explanation of their methodology, or to guess my own home school district, which is somewhere on the list, but is far from Ohio, click here.
• Cincinnati's also made a list of one of the fastest growing areas for the creative classes. The Atlantic's CityLab found Cincinnati has a 21 percent growth in the creative class from 2000 to 2014. It's nestled comfortably between Salt Lake City and Charlotte. The post also has more fun maps and facts and figures so check it out.
• The Trump-Kasich war of 2015 continues. Gov. and GOP presidential candidate John Kasich has recently taken on the strategy of attacking fellow headline-grabbing GOP candidate and real estate tycoon Donald Trump. In response, Trump has released a 15 second video on Instagram that combines a speech given by Kasich with the sound of crickets while Trump is shown speaking to a roaring crowd, leaving just one obvious question for viewers: When will these two grow up?
• Trump has again succeeded in making headlines for another extreme, ill-informed statement. Yesterday, Trump called on the nation's leaders to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. until authorities have figured out exactly what happened in the Dec. 2, San Bernardino, Calif. shooting that left 14 dead at a social services center by two Islamic extremists. Trump's comments, unsurprisingly, have been met with criticism across the country from many including Rick Kriseman, the mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla., who tweeted Monday night that he was banning Trump from his city until "we understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps."
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for story tips, questions, comments or concerns.
Good morning all. Hope you had a great weekend and are quickly chipping away your holiday shopping duties. I… have barely even started, unfortunately. Anyway, here’s the news today.
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority could see a boost from a new federal transportation spending package. The five-year, $305 billion transit spending bill is expected to clear Congress and be signed by President Barack Obama as soon as this week, and it could mean up to $20 million more a year for Ohio’s transit agencies. In addition, agencies will be able to apply for access to a pot of extra money totaling up to $300 million a year specifically aimed at improving bus service. Metro hopes to compete for some of that cash as it looks to improve service over the coming years. A report released last month found that current bus service only connects riders to about 40 percent of jobs in the city.
• Tucked away in that same transit bill might be more money for rail travel as well, which could be a great thing for an effort to bring daily rail service between the Queen City and Chicago. The local chapter of transit advocacy group All Aboard Ohio has been working hard to expand that service along Amtrak’s Cardinal Line, which currently runs trains between here and the Windy City three times a week. Those trains leave Union Terminal in the middle of the night, however, and aren’t seen as a practical transit option for many in the city. The total amount in the bill set aside to revive old train routes or expand existing ones is only $20 million for the whole country; an amount experts say won’t get Cincinnati to the finish line by itself. Though All Aboard Ohio estimates expansion of the existing Cardinal Line would only cost about $2 million, our region will have to vie with some strong contenders for the a very small pot of money. Still, transit advocates say, the increased funding is a start.
• Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach will introduce legislation designed to ban so-called conversion therapy, he has announced. The Christian-based therapy seeks to “convert” LGBT people, often youth, to heterosexual preferences. Transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide last year after she was bullied for her status, was enrolled in the therapy after coming out to her parents. Seelbach's proposed law would fine therapists in the city administering conversion therapy $200 a day. Cincinnati would be the first city in the country to have such a law should council approve the legislation.
• Cincinnati’s chapter of the NAACP elected new leadership last week after a year of controversy and political wrangling, and incoming officials say they’re going to bring the civil rights organization back to its roots. Robert Richardson Sr., president-elect of the Cincinnati NAACP, has announced the organization representing black Cincinnatians is severing its ties with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, a conservative group the local chapter often allied with under former NAACP president and now-Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman. The change in direction comes after the chapter’s last president, Smitherman ally Ishton Morton, was sued by the civil rights organization’s national office over an allegation that it incorporated as a branch of the NAACP fraudulently and was spending money allocated to the organization without authorization to do so. Richardson says that under his tenure, the Cincinnati NAACP will return its focus to core civil rights issues such as voting access.
• A short, sad note: Local AM talk radio station 1230 WDBZ The Buzz is no more. The station, which served as Cincinnati’s main talk station serving the city’s black community, has been replaced by gospel programing by parent company Radio One. The Buzz was more or less the only station in town airing a number of programs dedicated to exploring and discussing issues within the black community. Talk show host Lincoln Ware, whose show runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will stay on the air, as will a syndicated program by Al Sharpton, but all other Buzz programming has ceased.
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been pulling in the most money of any GOP presidential primary candidate in his home state, but other candidates have more donors giving smaller amounts, according to campaign finance records. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson led Ohio in terms of number of donors with more than 2,400, followed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. But Kasich’s campaign did take home a pretty good amount of cash, raking in more than $2 million from his donors in Ohio. He’s going to need those fat stacks, though. Kasich is still lagging behind in polls, and recent flubs, including a less-than-stellar debate appearance and an abandoned call to create a new government agency to spread Judeo-Christian values, haven’t helped his chances.
• Cincinnati-based Macy’s Department Stores are the subject of a lawsuit out of New York City alleging the store discriminates racially against shoppers there. The lawsuit says the chain takes advantage of a so-called “shopkeeper’s privilege” law which allows stores to hold suspected shoplifters and demand civil penalties without a trial. New York resident Cinthia Carolina Reyes Orelanna filed the suit, saying that in July 2014 she was detained by security employees at a store in New York City and held until she paid a $100 fine. She was then released to the NYPD. Shoplifting charges against her were eventually dismissed. Orelanna’s suit claims that more than 6,000 shoppers were detained in this way by Macy’s stores in New York between October 2012 and October 2013.
And I’m out. Later all.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
• Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters yesterday released video footage of the June 19 Madisonville shooting of Cincinnati Police Officer Sonny Kim. The video from Officer Tom Sandmann's dash cam shows suspect Trepierre Hummons charging off screen while Officer Kim is seen lying on the ground with Hummons' mother kneeling beside him in an attempt to aid him. Hummons was fatally shot by Officer Sandmann, which is not seen in the video, but the video appears to support the notion that Sandmann acted according to police procedure as Hummons apparently had already shot Officer Kim. Deters praised Officer Sandmann's response for stopping what he believed was an attempt at mass murder by Hummons and said Sandmann won't face charges. The case never went before a grand jury because Deters said he found Officer Sandmann's reaction justified.
Deters released two versions of the dash cam footage yesterday: one 50 minutes uncensored and one shorter pixelated version which blurs out Officer Kim lying on the ground, which was played at the press conference. Deters has waited more than five months after the shooting to release the video because of the ongoing investigation into the incident, which is now closed. The case has sparked some attention for when the appropriate time is to release footage of officer involved shootings after the body camera footage of former University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing was released just two weeks after he fatally shot unarmed motorist Samuel Dubose on July 19.
• One of Cincinnati's bridges could be in line for a federally funded multi-million dollar makeover. The Brent Spence Bridge project could possibly get hundreds of millions of dollars from a five-year $281-million transportation bill. The bridge is one of the many connecting Ohio to Kentucky and is a priority of the business community to fix as it is a constant source of congestion and is functionally obsolete, but remains a necessary daily route for transporting many goods. The feds will not foot the bill for the entire cost of the project, which is at an estimated $2.6 billion, and the Greater Cincinnati area will have to match the funds, which might mean charging tolls.
• The Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP has elected Robert Richardson, Jr. as its new president. The chapter, faced with legal troubles, hasn't functioned in a year. Richardson will be the first leader since 2012. The race to become the newest leader of the historic organization that represents minorities wasn't hard for Richardson, as his name was the only one on the ballot. According to the Enquirer, he's hoping his team will restore focus on civil rights issues facing the city.
• It's finally winter, my least favorite season. If you planning on surviving the next few months like me by curling up with an alcoholic beverage to pass the miserable days of snow and ice, there's good news. Local brewery MadTree announced that it's at capacity and looking for a new facility. Its co-founder Kenny McNutt says he's eyeing the old RockTenn Co. paper mill in Oakley as the next potential brewing spot. McNutt apparently underestimated Cincinnati's diehard love of beer and says the company has grown a lot faster than anticipated. The company hasn't said what will happen to its original home on Kennedy Avenue, and there's no timeline yet for when they are planning to relocate.
• But if drinking in locally run businesses is not your style, well, Starbucks has also applied for permits to serve beer, wine and liquor at its new location in the recently opened Liberty Center. The giant coffee chain is trying out an evening concept and would actually include local brews, too. Starbucks has applied for liquor permits in other Ohio cities like Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo.
• By now, you've probably heard of the horrific mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, which happened yesterday morning around 11 a.m. Police have identified two suspects, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, who reportedly walked into a social services center and killed 14 and wounded 17 during an office holiday party. Farook reportedly worked at the center. The couple was killed several hours later after a shootout with local police.
Good morning, Cincinnati! I'm back from Thanksgiving in Texas where the weather was actually colder and wetter than here. That's a definite win for the north. Here are your headlines:
Ever since Mayor John Cranley's park tax levy failed, the city has been looking for other ways to fund the highly anticipated Wasson Way bike trail — and it might be through the state of Ohio. Cranley and City Manager Harry Black sent a letter to the Cincinnati Business Committee asking it to ask the state for money to fund three segments of the trail between Montgomery Road and Eastern Hills Lane at Hyde Park Plaza. The four initial phases are estimated to cost $17.5 million, but the city is only asking the state to kick in $4.5 million, the cost of construction. The cost of the total project is still unknown, but some estimates put it around $23 million. The city estimates that with help from Ohio, the first three segments could be ready for biking in 12 months.
Speaking of bike trails, the city of Toledo presented a $32 million plan for 13 bike paths across the city. The project would disrupt some traffic by cutting a few four lane roads down to two lanes, which upset some Toledo residents, but was seen as necessary by the Toledo Department of Engineering to keep up with the times. One city administrator said bike lanes would help Toledo keep up with the competition between modern cities to offer residents a high quality of life.
Leaders from the Corporation for Findlay Market and Over-the-Rhine Brewery District say creating a second Over-The-Rhine entertainment district could be good for business. The plan would split the neighborhood in half and double the amount of liquor licenses for business owners. City Council's Neighborhoods Committee will hear the plan on Dec. 16, but it already has the support of Vice Mayor David Mann and OTR Community Council, which voted in favor of it earlier this year. Liquor licenses in Cincinnati are handed out by geographic area. The current OTR entertainment district has a cap of 15 liquor licenses for its 179-acre area, and there's currently a long waiting list for businesses to obtain one.
The number of Arabic speakers have shot up this year for Mason City Schools. This year, 38 percent of its English as a Second Language (ESL) students are native Arabic speakers, up from 8 percent last school year. Most families have come from Saudi Arabia for a program called Destination Excellence at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center that recruits out-of-area patients to the hospital as a way to attract more talent to the medical center. But the program has created a conflict for the school district. The majority of these families hold B-1/B-2 business and tourist visitor visas, which actually prohibits them from enrolling their children in public schools. That law clashes with the federal law that prohibits schools from asking their students their immigration status. The school has followed advice from various state government officials to allow the students to attend, but it is also scrambling to accommodate the cost alongside the influx of Arabic speakers.
A New Day for America, the super PAC behind Gov. John Kasich's presidential run, is taking aim at fellow GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. The super PAC recently aired a series of ads against Trump and mailed out fliers to New Hampshire voters criticizing Trump's comments on immigration. Kasich's campaign has been focusing on New Hampshire to get ahead, and a spokeswoman for the super PAC said they're working on targeting "soft" Trump supporters in the state.
Good morning Cincy. Here’s a quick rundown of some big news stories today.
Ah, high school athletics. A place where we can lay aside our differences and come together in mutual appreciation of sport in all its unifying glory. Or not. Last Friday, Moeller High School in Montgomery cancelled its season-opener basketball game at Taft High School, which is located in the West End, because of a scheduled Black Lives Matter rally downtown. Moeller officials cited concern for the safety of their students and say the decision was made collaboratively between the two schools. But representatives from Taft say that’s not true, and that Moeller made the decision unilaterally and at the last minute. What’s worse, Taft’s athletic program counts on proceeds from games like the one against Moeller, and at least for now is out the money it would have made from ticket sales. A spokesperson for Moeller said the game will be rescheduled. Some fans even showed up at Taft for the game, unaware it had been cancelled. Channel 9 reported that Moeller took the game off its calendar Saturday morning.
• Mason-based work wear and janitorial supply giant Cintas Corporation has settled for $1.5 million a decade-old gender discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The suit alleges that Cintas refused to hire qualified female workers in its sales department in Michigan between 1999 and 2005. The EEOC checked the number of female employees the company hired against the number of applications it received and found that a significant number were denied employment despite their qualifications. In addition to paying the monetary damages for missed wages to those women, Cintas will also undergo an independent review of its hiring practices.
• Which public school systems in Ohio provide the greatest value when you consider housing costs vs. school performance? Here’s a hint: they’re not around here. Finance website Nerdwallet.com crunched school performance, property value and property tax numbers to come up with a ranking of all the school districts in the state. That list shows that most of the best-value schools are around Toledo, which has relatively low housing costs and comparatively higher-performing school districts. Meanwhile, Cincinnati Public Schools came in at 605 in the ranking of 608 schools.
• A federal court has ordered the state of Ohio to commute the death sentence of a Hamilton County man convicted of murdering his neighbor in 1997, or to hold a new trial on the punishment phase of that conviction. Rayshawn Johnson was found guilty of murdering Shannon Marks with a baseball bat, and a jury decided on the death sentence for the crime. But Johnson did not get adequate legal representation during a phase of the trial that considered mitigating factors in his actions, including childhood abuse. A number of those factors make the death penalty inappropriate for Johnson, according to a 4-3 vote by the federal appeals court, which overturns an earlier Ohio Supreme Court decision upholding the death penalty ruling for Johnson. The state can hold the mitigation phase of the trial again or commute Johnson’s sentence to life in prison.
• Ohio is only days away from stripping more than $1 million in funding for health services that has in the past been given to the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics thanks to a law passed by both the state House and Senate. But the wording of that law could create a number of unintended consequences, including removing the funding from non-Planned Parenthood related entities such as the Columbus Public Health Department.
The law works by barring any organization affiliated with abortion providers from certain state and federal grants. But the wording of the law is tricky, and could mean that some programs designed to address STD prevention, infant mortality and other major, non-abortion-related concerns could lose out. Currently, Planned Parenthood wins the money in question in a competitive, state-administered process. Other providers that participate in that process, including Columbus Public Health, say they will not be able to accommodate a rush of new patients that could come from Planned Parenthood ceasing its health care services. None of the programs targeted by the funding cut are abortion related. State lawmakers say they’re simply making sure that taxpayers don’t contribute funds to abortion providers. The House and Senate bills must be reconciled, after which the legislation will go to Gov. John Kasich's desk to be signed into law.
I’m out. Later all!
Good morning all. Hope you had a great holiday weekend. Here’s the news today.
Cincinnati’s last remaining women’s clinic that provides abortions will remain open until at least May following a last-minute decision by the Ohio Department of Health to grant it a license. Back in September, the ODH denied Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn its first request for a variance to state laws requiring clinics to have transfer agreements with local hospitals. That move could have shut the clinic down, but an ensuing court injunction kept it open. Now, the ODH has approved the clinic’s second request for a variance on the last day of a 60-day deadline stipulated by new state laws. That request listed four doctors with individual admitting privileges at local hospitals. The clinic’s previous request listed three.
• Three of Cincinnati City Council’s most conservative members have been pretty good buds up to this point, even tapping each other to pick their successors should one of them leave council early. But the cozy coalition between council members Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn, both Republicans, and Christopher Smitherman, an independent, could change rapidly as the race for a Hamilton County commissioner seat heat up. None of the three are officially running yet, but Smitherman and Winburn have at least grabbed petitions that would enable them to appear on the ballot, and Murray said she’s considering her options in terms of the race. If two or all three jump into the race for departing commissioner Greg Hartmann’s seat, things could get less friendly. As the Business Courier points out, party primaries can be brutal, no-holds-barred affairs.
• Meanwhile, The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a story yesterday on City Council’s accomplishments two years into its newly extended four-year terms. It also, strangely, both lauds council for getting a lot done while at the same time criticizing it for being “rife with feuding, dysfunction and for some members, missed meetings.” The piece takes a negative view of council Democrats’ disagreements with Mayor John Cranley and dings council overall for its lack of “one voting bloc” and “one agenda among members.” Which, to editorialize, seems like a very weird critique of a democratic body. Don’t we have nine council members so we can have different viewpoints and different goals? Anyway, take a look at the article, which does have some good tidbits of information in it about what council has been up to.
• About 60 protesters with Black Lives Matter Cincinnati took to the streets downtown Friday. The group says the rally through downtown and Over-the-Rhine was held in solidarity with activists in Chicago, where hundreds have decried recently released video of the Chicago Police Department shooting of Laquan McDonald. McDonald was shot 16 times by a CPD officer last year as he was walking away from police. Though McDonald was armed with a three-inch knife, the officer who shot him had arrived on the scene just seconds before and was a safe distance away from McDonald. The officer was subsequently charged with murder. The rally in Cincinnati follows a similar event last weekend to remember Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot by police in Cleveland last year.
• Does Over-the-Rhine need more liquor licenses? As we explored this spring in our feature on neighborhood entertainment districts, many people are pushing for ways to expand the number of licenses available in some Cincinnati neighborhoods. A new plan being proposed would do just that for OTR, doubling the number of licenses available in the neighborhood by splitting up its current neighborhood entertainment district into two parts and extending its boundaries north. While advocates of the plan say it would aid economic development in the area, especially around Findlay Market, others are asking for balance and caution, saying that too many bars could make the area less livable for residents.
• Hamilton County commissioners are set to approve the county’s upcoming budget this week. As they prepare to do that, though, there’s a hubub going on over the county sheriff’s office. The department, headed by Democrat Sheriff Jim Neil, makes up by far the largest single expenditure in the fiscal plan: $59 million of the county’s $200 million general fund expenditures go to the office. But the hard part has been that the department doesn’t stay within the lines on that budget and is expected to be about $5 million over the $54 million spending mark stipulated by the current budget. That has caused some pushback from county commissioners, who have said Neil needs to be more strategic about his spending. So what’s responsible for the overruns? Officials say lack of communication has played a role, but also needed staff increases and modernization efforts within the department have contributed to the cost overruns.
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Hey Cincy. Hope you’re winding down your work week. It’s T-minus two days 'til turkey time, which also happens to be my birthday this year. I’m hyped for both. Oh, and if you want to get your favorite reporter a b-day gift, I’ll take a pair of these in size 8.5 thx. Huh. Now you know my shoe size, which is kind of creepy.
But here’s something awesome: There will be tons of political fodder for you to argue awkwardly about around the dinner table with your family this Thanksgiving. Consider this news update your guide to all the best terrible conversations you’ll be having soon.
• You can start with something mild, like debating whether or not Mayor John Cranley should have gotten off the hook for his election-day outburst at a polling location in Avondale. OK, “outburst” is a little harsh. The Cran-man just got a bit over-enthusiastic about Issue 22, the parks tax proposal, and shouted out that people should vote yes on it a couple times. Who doesn’t like to see enthusiasm for the democratic process? But uh, campaigning and telling people how to vote in a polling place is pretty firmly against the rules, especially when you’re a political figure. Despite that, the Hamilton County Board of Elections yesterday announced that it will not be seeking any penalties against the mayor for his breach of the rules. Pollworker Mary Siegel argued that the BOE should start cracking down on such electioneering infractions in the future, because the rules are rarely enforced now.
• If the ensuing argument about that doesn’t heat things up while you’re waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, try talking with your conservative Uncle Jeff about the University of Cincinnati white student union that was set up on Facebook a few days ago. The group’s posts feature prognosticating on how “European Americans” face special challenges on campus and in society in general and other nonsensical claptrap designed to draw people into useless race-related Internet debates. Anyway, the page is almost certainly fake, set up in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a plan hatched on a national white supremacist message board. The UC-themed page uses language almost identical to similar sites across the country, many of the likes on the page’s posts come from out of town Facebook accounts and the whole thing comes across as a reminder not to feed the trolls. So, uh, don’t feed the trolls. Meanwhile, there are more serious and terrifying anti-Black Lives Matter incidents happening of late.
• Just a couple days after Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, dropped a bombshell by revealing he’s decided not to run for reelection, three Cincinnati City Council members are saying they’re considering running for his seat. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn have both expressed some interest, with Winburn saying he could switch from a planned run for county recorder to the commission race if the party wants him to. Murray has said she’ll take the Thanksgiving holiday to think it over before deciding, but is intrigued. Meanwhile, independent Christopher Smitherman has said he might run as a Republican for the seat. Whoever the Hamilton County GOP taps will face Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton, who is leaving the state House due to term limits.
• The second Cincinnati streetcar arrives today and will soon be making test trips around the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown. This argument pretty much scripts itself, so just say "streetcar" to your public transit-hating dad and watch the holiday magic unfold.
• Black leaders from across the state met yesterday at The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati headquarters in Avondale to discuss the state of black Ohio. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which includes local politicians State Sen. Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Alicia Reece, held the public meeting in part to discuss the wide disparities facing the black community here and across the state. Ohio ranks second-to-last in the nation in infant mortality rates, according to the caucus. Closer to home, the group singled out continued issues at the University of Cincinnati, which has been the site of serious racial dialogue around disparities in higher education. The group also discussed efforts toward police reform, which have been slow in coming even after several high-profile police shootings of unarmed black citizens here and a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich. You can read more about how activists are continuing to fight for those reforms in this week’s news feature.
• GOP presidential primary contender Donald Trump came to Ohio yesterday. He didn’t talk as much shit about Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he has in the past. Per usual, his speech was light on policy proposals and heavy on bombast. What else really needs to be said? His remarks to a crowd of 10,000 mostly focused on how the U.S. has become “soft and weak” (despite spending more on its military than all other countries combined) and about how he’s leading in all major polls (sadly, this claim is actually true). He also gave a shout out to waterboarding, the controversial torture technique once used by the U.S. to extract intelligence from terrorism suspects. Trump’s all for bringing it back. Another thing Trump likes, according to his hour-long remarks: lists. As in, lists of people who are Muslim, which Trump thinks should be compiled by the federal government. Thanksgiving family debate difficulty level: black diamond.
• Finally, Indiana Governor Mike Pence faces a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union over his refusal to take in Syrian refugees. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, the Indianapolis nonprofit that handles refugee resettlement for the state. Pence pressured that organization to turn away Syrian refugees earlier this month. The ACLU says in doing so, he violated both the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. This would be a great topic to discuss with your cousin Tami, who has that Gadsen flag bumper sticker on her Hummer.
That’s it for me. Later!