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by Nick Swartsell 01.08.2016 117 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
yvette simpson

Morning News and Stuff

Could Simpson oppose Cranley in 2017?; Griffey will wear Mariners cap in HOF plaque; economy grows, wages do not

Good morning all. Here’s your news for this morning.

First, let's go to something we’ve been talking about here at CityBeat HQ for a little bit now: Who might oppose Mayor John Cranley in 2017? One of the top names on a lot of people's lips (and someone we’ve speculated might launch a campaign) over the past few months has been Democrat Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. This is kind of a non-news story, but Simpson has said she hasn’t ruled out that possibility. She gave the standard “I’m still focused on my current job” answer when asked by The Cincinnati Enquirer about the possibility but also said she would consider running against her fellow Democrat. Simpson and Cranley have vastly different styles and, at times, very different policy ideas. The two have butted heads often in Council, including over provisions for human services funding in the city’s budget process and former Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell’s firing last year.

• It’s official: The Hamilton County GOP has tapped Dennis Deters to fill the Hamilton County Commission seat vacated by outgoing commission head Greg Hartmann. The move has been widely expected since Deters, brother to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, filed to run for that slot in the 2016 election. The county GOP named Deters as a temporary fill-in after Hartmann abruptly announced he would not seek reelection and then that he would step down early. The temporary gig gives Deters a better chance at landing the full-time job: He’ll have almost a year of incumbency when he faces off against Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus, who looks to be a formidable opponent.

• Well, how do you like that? This is the third day in a row I’ve written a blurb about Ken Griffey, Jr., who will be wearing a Seattle Mariners hat in his Hall of Fame plaque. Yes, yes, he spent more of his professional years there, I guess. And scored way more home runs and by every other statistic had his best years there. But come on. Dude went to high school in Cincinnati and played for years with the Reds — as did his dad Ken Griffey, Sr. The Griffey name is a Cincinnati name. Wait, his dad played for the Mariners, too? Ugh. Fine. Take him, Seattle. We have a bunch of Hall of Famers of our own, and we invented professional baseball anyway.

• So, extending the theme of surprisingly famous Cincinnatians I’ve drawn out over the past few days, let’s get one more in there before the weekend. Did you know that a Cincy attorney made the cover of the New York Times Magazine recently? And that Rob Bilot, who works for a law firm usually tasked with defending big corporations, is on that cover for aggressively pursuing one of the world’s largest, DuPont, over environmental damage its caused in West Virginia? The story is a very good read and worth a look.

• Here’s something kind of unusual: the Ohio Republican Party has voted to endorse Gov. John Kasich’s bid in the GOP presidential primary. That may seem like a no-brainer — Kasich is governor of the state, after all, and one of the state party’s most powerful members — but state-level parties usually stay neutral in primaries so they can support party voters’ choice of candidate better in the general election. Party officials say they’ve made the move because Kasich is popular in the state and has a strong conservative record. The nod could be a big boost for Kasich: Republicans desperately need Ohio to win the presidential election.

• Finally, this is the same story nearly every month, but here it is again: the U.S. economy added nearly 300,000 jobs in December. Things are going pretty well, employment level-wise, unless you’re a miner, in which case things are probably not going so well on a number of levels. Mining jobs were one of the few categories that saw losses. But it’s not all good news. Like past positive job gains, this one comes with the caveat that wages remain flat for U.S. workers. There were zero wage gains in the month of December, and pay for employees across the country rose just 2.5 percent in 2015 overall.

Annnnd I’m out. E-mail or tweet me story tips or the best gear/tricks for cold-weather bicycling. Also, give me a shout if you have thoughts about the Netflix docu-drama Making a Murderer. I have so many half-baked thoughts about that show.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 01.07.2016 118 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
beerissue_madtree-cans

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati voter questions Cruz eligibility; MadTree expanding; Ohio education rank plummets

Good morning all. Here’s a very brief rundown of some big stories in the news today.

As we told you about yesterday, a law enforcement roundtable convened by Mayor John Cranley met in Bond Hill to discuss ways to reduce violence, especially gun violence, in Cincinnati neighborhoods. There were a few key takeaways from community leaders like Rev. Damon Lynch, Ozie Davis III, State Sen. Cecil Thomas and others. Some stressed the need to build off the city’s historic 2001 collaborative agreement, which sets community policing expectations and police accountability measures. Others pushed for juvenile justice reform, citing huge racial disparities in juvenile warrants issued by Hamilton County. Poverty was also highlighted as a key issue. There will be five community discussions around the issue of neighborhood violence throughout January and February.

• Yesterday, Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame with a record-setting percentage of voter in the process giving him the nod. Griffey received 99.3 percent of the votes from those responsible for choosing inductees, the highest of any player ever.

• Local beer purveyor MadTree brewery is expanding, moving into an $18 million brewery and taproom it is constructing in Oakley. That brewery will be at the old RockTenn Co. paper mill on Madison Road. On top of the 4,500-square-foot bar, they’ll also have a pizza restaurant on site. Omg. I wonder if they’ll let me live there.

• By now, you’ve probably heard of the militiamen who have taken over a wildlife refuge in Oregon in protest of the federal government and two ranchers who have been imprisoned for arson. But did you know there’s a Cincinnatian among the two dozen or so armed men involved in the standoff? Pete Santilli hosts a conservative online radio show here. Well, usually he does. These days he’s hunkered down with the group in Oregon and acting as a sort of spokesman for them. He recently posted a nearly hour-and-a-half-long video of the scene at the wildlife refuge. Cincinnati always finds its way into national news somehow, I guess.

• More Cincinnatians in national news:
Bill Sloat, a Hamilton County resident, former newspaper reporter (including freelance for CityBeat), has asked the Hamilton County Board of Elections to verify that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is eligible to run for president. The constitution stipulates that presidents must be naturalized U.S. citizens. Cruz was born in Canada, though his parents were citizens of the U.S. at the time, giving Cruz dual citizenship. Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship before announcing he was running for president. But Sloat, who says he thinks Cruz probably is qualified to run for the top job, has asked Hamilton County to wade into the question before it puts him on the March 15 GOP primary ballot.

• Finally, well, there’s no good way to say this, so let’s just come out with it. Schools in Ohio plummeted in national rankings last year, going from fifth in the country to 23rd. Driving a lot of that drop? The state’s skyrocketing achievement gap between rich and poor students. Ohio ranks 43rd in the nation by that measure. Massachusetts ranked highest in the country in the rankings. Nevada was last.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 01.06.2016 119 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Morning News and Stuff

Community policing round table convenes; Griffey poised to enter MLB HOF; Kasich in danger of being cut from GOP debate

Good morning y’all. There are tons of things going on in the news today, so let’s get right to it.

Mayor John Cranley is convening a community policing roundtable this morning in Bond Hill that will feature Cincinnati Police Department Chief Eliot Isaac, City Manager Harry Black and more than 20 community leaders. The effort comes as gun violence in communities continues to be a subject of great concern among city leaders. While violent crime in the city as a whole has remained flat, shootings in 2015 rose 28 percent over 2014 levels. While those numbers are still well below peak levels recorded in past decades, city officials say they’re unacceptable. The roundtable discussion starts at 10 a.m. at 1740 Langdon Farm Road. Five other community listening sessions will also be held over the next two months, including sessions Jan. 11 at the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center, Jan. 25 at the Evanston Recreation Center, Feb. 1 at the Westwood Town Hall, Feb. 8 at the Bond Hill Community Center and Feb. 22 at the College Hill Community Center.

• As we mentioned yesterday, future riders of Cincinnati’s coming streetcar are one step closer to knowing what times they’ll be able to cruise the 3.6-mile loop. Cincinnati City Council’s Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee yesterday approved hours suggested by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Agency, priming full Council to give final approval today. The cars will start at 6:30 a.m. on weekdays for you OTR/downtown commuters. They’ll end at 1 a.m. on weekends for you OTR/downtown drinkers. For more, check out the full story linked above.

• Speaking of the streetcar: The wise sage P-Diddy once said he couldn’t stop until he saw his name on a blimp. (Did that ever happen, btw? Can P-Diddy stop now?) Similarly, city leaders can’t stop until they see someone else’s name on the side of the streetcar. With the months ticking down until the first passengers step on board, the race is on to find sponsors willing to plunk down some big bucks to plant their logo on the side of the strange-looking space trains. A deal with a major corporation or other large organization could net the transit project’s operating fund between $100,000 and $300,000 a year. Hm. I wonder what Bad Boy Records marketing budget is running these days? Paging Puff…

• Maybe the political action committee supporting Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld could buy some streetcar-mounted campaign ads. (This seems incredibly problematic, actually, but it’s a great segue so let’s go with it.) New Leadership for Ohio, a super-PAC boosting Sittenfeld’s Senate Democratic primary bid against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, has raised a pretty impressive $733,501 over its 100-some-odd days of existence. The super-PAC says the number is a very real sign of the support Sittenfeld has across the state as he seeks the nod to go head-to-head with incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman. Sittenfeld’s campaign and other groups like New Leadership will need to keep making phone calls, though. Portman has a cool $11 million stacked for his re-election campaign. That’s P-Diddy money right there.

• Expect social media blitzes and other ads to come from the super-PAC’s big haul, including ads hitting both Strickland and Portman on their gun control records. Sittenfeld has come out a strong supporter of gun control efforts, including those introduced by President Barack Obama yesterday

• This is a quick but good one. Hometown hero and baseball legend Ken Griffey, Jr. is poised to gain induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. What’s more, he could be the first-ever player to receive a unanimous vote for entry into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. (Fellow former Red Tom Seaver has come closest. He got 98 percent yesses on his induction vote.) All that in Griffey’s first year of eligibility — Griffey retired in 2010.

• Dang. Cincinnati people are super-famous and making prestigious lists all over the place: Two Cincinnati-based entrepreneurs just made Forbes magazine’s annual “30 under 30” list. Over-the-Rhine-based startup incubator Mortar founders Derrick Braziel and William Thomas received the honor for their work with the business booster, which focuses on helping those with good business ideas who have traditionally been left out of the startup game up. Mortar’s latest success: a holiday pop-up shop featuring participants’ products in Walnut Hills.

• Remember when your stoner friends were telling you that if you didn’t vote for ResponsibleOhio’s plan to legalize marijuana in the state, there would be no chance for a companion bill that wipes away low-level weed convictions? Well, that was some bad information, which is surprising because my stoner friends are generally very accurate and informed about the ins and outs of cannabis jurisprudence. 

Secretary of State Jon Husted has pushed the so-called “Fresh Start Act” offered along with ResponsibleOhio’s proposed constitutional amendment on to Ohio’s General Assembly, where lawmakers will decide whether or not to institute it. The law could allow citizens in Ohio to apply to have convictions for certain low-level marijuana possession expunged. It’s unclear whether lawmakers will pass the bill, or how effective it would be without its complementary weed-legalization constitutional amendment, though multiple groups are working to get another legalization effort on the ballot this year.

• Finally, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is in danger of suffering a major blow to his already-lagging GOP presidential primary campaign. There are indications the big queso may not make it onto the grown-up stage at the next GOP debate next Thursday, which means he’ll be relegated to a second-tier debate with other low-polling candidates. That would be a huge setback: Kasich’s campaign at this point hinges on his breaking through to a national audience, which is most likely to happen with a few big moments in a solid debate performance. Right now, he’s trailing far behind highly charismatic and well-funded frontrunners like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and real estate hairpiece model Donald Trump.

 
 
by Steve Beynon 01.05.2016 120 days ago
Posted In: 2016 election at 05:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
randpaulgraphic copy

Primary Cheat Sheet: Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul (Republican)

Fun fact:

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is a practicing ophthalmologist that specializes in corneal transplants, cataract and glaucoma surgeries and LASIK procedures.

The 52-year-old constitutional conservative has spent time during every senate recess performing pro-bono eye surgeries for low income Kentuckians and citizens of poor countries like Haiti. Even if he wins the presidency, Paul claims he will continue his practice and joked about turning the Lincoln room into a surgical suite.

It’s probably safe crown Paul as having one of the greatest political ads in a long time, courtesy of America’s Liberty PAC. 

What’s up with the campaign?

Paul is probably the most libertarian candidate of the bunch. He’s all about citing the 10th Amendment, dreams of abolishing the IRS and wants to severely cut the defense budget and end the surveillance state. He’s also one of the only Republicans that seemingly has the backing of millennials.

He has all the ingredients of a solid Republican candidate, a true conservative that literally takes a chainsaw to the tax code and genuinely wants to dismantle the “Washington Machine.” Even liberals can appreciate his non-interventionist foreign policy agenda and acknowledging the threat of climate change.

However, the crowded GOP race hasn’t treated Paul nicely. He has struggled to make it to five percent in national polls, fighting for scraps with Carly Fiorina and Gov. Chris Christie.

Some point to Paul’s troubles being that libertarianism is an extreme minority in America’s political landscape, which would also explain his father’s performance when he ran for president. In a 2014 study, Pew Research found that only 11 percent of Americans identify as Libertarians and know what it is.

Conservatives say they want a smaller government, but that’s not what we see in the astonishing support for Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson who call for expanding surveillance programs and a further expansion of the government’s military footprint.

Paul’s attack on Sen. Marco Rubio for being “liberal on military spending” gets roaring applause from a Republican audience; aggressive military spending, however, creates an even bigger applause line.

It’s worth pointing out that if the White House doesn’t work out, he’s also running for reelection in Kentucky’s 2016 senate race.

Voters might like:

      Rand Paul is probably your best friend if you want marijuana legalization. He invokes the 10th Amendment and classic libertarian values regarding pot, saying the only victim is the individual and that the federal government shouldn’t have a role in controlling consumption. Paul wants less people in jail and shines a light on the victims of marijuana prohibition mostly being poor black males.

      One of last year’s biggest political stories was Paul’s 10-and-a-half-hour filibuster lambasting government surveillance programs. He had the backing of 10 other senators, seven of which were Democrats. This filibuster looked like a man defending the Fourth Amendment and fighting an overreaching government, perfectly encapsulating what this politician is all about.

      The U.S. spends more than the next 13 countries combined on its military. Paul wants to reduce the empire, bringing the troops home from not only the Middle East but Europe and the Pacific. This may be unpopular with hawks on both sides of the aisle, but this is an issue that can bring liberals and fiscal conservatives together.

...but watch out for:

      Paul’s defense spending agenda is also kind of weird. Last spring he called for swelling the Pentagon’s budget $76.5 billion, about a 16-percent increase in fiscal year 2016. It doesn’t help that the alleged isolationist announced his presidential bid in front of an aircraft carrier. This flip-flopping hurt the Kentucky senator with libertarians and those on the left that might have not minded a President Rand Paul. He was gearing up for a presidential run and we all know politicians often go against some of their ideas to liven their base, but going against the one thing that could have jettisoned the right and the left is odd.

      Like a lot of Republicans, Paul wants to eliminate the Department of Education. A move that’s likely impossible, and is consistent with his virtual absolutism that the federal government should play no role in your life. Considering millennial conservatives are one of Paul’s top supporters, they should be aware this is the bureaucracy that allots federal student loans and allocates federal resources to universities. The already little government support for schools is a large reason tuition is so high.

      Last summer, Paul proposed a 14.5-percent flat tax in a column for The Wall Street Journal. Most Americans agree the tax code needs simplified. However, there is a lot of skepticism from economists that say his plan would cost the country more than $1 trillion, some estimate as high as $15 trillion over the next decade.

Biggest policy proposal:

Last year, Paul reintroduced the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, or the REINS Act. In a nutshell, this would give Congress final say on any federal action that would cost more than $100 million annually.

This potentially takes a lot of power out of the executive branch and puts more accountability on state representatives.

War:

Things change when someone gets into office, but Paul might be the least likely candidate to take the U.S. into another ground war, especially in the Republican field. He is strongly against using boots on the ground, but hasn’t made any clear stances on continuing President Obama’s air campaign. During the CNN debate Paul said, “There will always be another Clinton or Bush if you want to go back into Iraq.”


The primaries are elections in which the parties pick their strongest candidate to run for president. In Ohio, Election Day is Tuesday, March 15. Go here for more information on primaries. CityBeat will be profiling each of the candidates every week until the primaries in March.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 01.05.2016 120 days ago
Posted In: News, Streetcar at 02:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Council Poised to Set Streetcar Hours

Transit project would run early during weekdays, stop before bars close

Though you’ll be waiting a while if you try to catch one any time soon, riders now have an idea of exactly what times they’ll be able to catch the coming streetcar when it starts picking up passengers in September.

Cincinnati City Council’s Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee approved operating hours presented by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority at its Jan. 5 meeting. That sets up full Council to approve those hours as soon as Jan. 6.

The streetcar will run Monday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. until midnight and from 6:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday. On Saturday, the cars will run the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown from 8 a.m. until 1 a.m. On Sundays and holidays, the transit vehicles will run from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The cars will run every 12 minutes during peak operating hours, which SORTA suggests will be Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. All other times, the cars will run every 15 minutes.

“We tried to build a schedule that would address a lot of concerns” raised at past City Council meetings and in public forums, says SORTA’s director of rail services Paul Grether. Those concerns mostly revolved around consistent start times for the vehicles, hours early enough for commuters to get to work and late operating hours to serve patrons of bars and restaurants in OTR and downtown.

Earlier suggestions for operating hours started later and ended earlier, except on weekends, when it would have run until 2 a.m.

Council members on the committee seemed satisfied with the schedule.

“We’ve had people downtown from the bars and nightlife places who have said how they’d like it to stay open late,” Transportation Committee Chair Amy Murray said at the Jan. 5 meeting. “And we’ve also talked to early-morning businesses to see what time the peak morning time is. I think this really sets it up. It seems like this really captures what people have been asking for.”

SORTA officials say seasonal schedules are possible, if necessary, and that data will be collected to track ridership trends. Three or four times a year, the transit agency will decide whether hours need to be adjusted. Major changes in the schedule would require public hearings, but unless those changes shift the amount of money being spent, no federal approval is needed.  

“Our schedule really does depend on how the people of Cincinnati utilize the streetcar,” said Councilman Kevin Flynn, the surprise swing vote who allowed the streetcar to go forward during a dramatic showdown between council and Mayor John Cranley in 2013. “The beauty of the contracts are that there is that flexibility. Once we see what the ridership numbers are, these times can be adjusted within reason.”

One thing riders shouldn’t count on — catching a ride on the streetcar after closing down the bar. Bars’ 2 a.m. closing time was a concern brought up by some in public hearings, but late-night partiers will have to take a cab or use a ride sharing service.

“This is not, for lack of a better word, a drunk bus,” Councilwoman Yvette Simspon said.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 01.05.2016 120 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
beer_brewingheritagetrailrendering_grantparkmural

Morning News and Stuff

Greater Cincinnati could see major development in 2016; SORTA to make recommendations for streetcar operating hours; Ohio's Democratic caucuses to meet tonight

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

• Change is coming this way, or so some say. Leaders of Madisonville say they hope 2016 could be the neighborhood's year for development. Some of the upcoming changes in the town include the opening of a restaurant and two apartments in the vacant FifthThird Building on Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue by the end of this month, and six new retailers are expected to open this spring. The Madisonville Urban Redevelopment Corp. has also hinted that more deals are possible to come this winter in terms of new apartments and retailers. 

• This is could also be a big year for the development of Cincinnati's brew trail in Over-The-Rhine. Construction of the first 2.3-mile leg of the trail is set to begin some time this year. Construction of the $5.2 million trail will take three years overall, and it will ultimately stretch from the Horseshoe Casino on Reading Road, down Liberty Street to McMicken Avenue. City officials are hoping upon completion that residents and tourists will be so inspired to grab lunch or a beer at one of the local businesses along the way as they stumble, er, walk down it. 

• An Over-The-Rhine-based real estate company has purchased the former Strietmann Biscuit Company Building and plans to renovate it into nearly 90,000 square feet of office space. Grandin Properties has purchased the more than 100-year-old building located on 12th Street and Central Parkway for $1.6 million and plans to spend between $12 and $15 million on renovations. The ultimate plan will include loft-style offices and very possibly room for another OTR restaurant. 

• SORTA plans to make its recommendation to city council's transportation committee today for the streetcar's hours of operation. The recommendations would have the streetcar commence operating at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday. It would stop operating at 11 p.m. on Sundays, at midnight Monday through Thursday and 1 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday — one whole hour shy of bar closings. It would run every 15 minutes except during peak hours where that interval would be 12 minutes, with peak hours defined as 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

• The Cincinnati Streetcar looks ready to run some time this year after a very long political struggle. But the excitement over the arrival of the shiny, new cars might have made Northern Kentucky forget the headache its controversy causes many Cincinnatians. Covington Mayor Sherry Carran says her city is now looking at the possibility of a streetcar. The Covington Business Council is planning a panel discussion on the possibility of a streetcar on Jan. 21, which will feature councilman Chris Seelbach and former mayor Roxanne Qualls.  

• The settlement of a Duke Energy Class Action lawsuit could mean a little more money for some Cincinnatians this winter. Ohioans who were a Duke customer and Ohio homeowner or renter between 2005 and 2008 and received a card in the mail from "Williams vs. Duke Energy" could be eligible for at least $200 from the company. Duke recently lost the lawsuit that claimed the company overcharged customers, but it has still not admitted it did anything wrong. It did, however, agree to refund $80 million to some of its customers. 

• Tonight Ohio Democrats will hold caucuses in all 16 of Ohio's congressional districts to choose candidates, meaning Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, for delegate and alternate at this year's Democratic National Convention, which will begin on July 25 in Philadelphia. To find out more information on Southwest Ohio's Democratic caucus meetings for districts 1, 2 and 8, taking place tonight, click here. 

• The Obama administration is expected today to announced an executive action that includes a package with 10 provisions attempting to increase gun control in the U.S. Possibly the biggest change would require gun sellers on the Internet and at gun shows to obtain a license and conduct background checks, closing the long-debate gun show "loop hole." Obama also wants to dedicate $500 million in federal funds to the country's neglected mental health system. Republican members of Congress have already spoken out against Obama's plan, saying he's overstepped his reach. The executive actions comes in the wake of the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. on Dec. 2, which killed 14 people. The New York Times reports that gun sales have spiked in the wake of the California shooting and Obama's announcement.

• Where are the most cycle-friendly cities in the world? Well, according to London's Guardian, they're in places like Denmark and the Netherlands, not surprisingly. But keep scrolling down, and eventually Cincinnati gets mentioned. Since 2000, the city has seen a 350-percent increase in cyclists on the road, but it still falls way short when it comes to bike commuters, who represent only 1 percent of all commuters. Once we get past this cold weather, I can't wait to start being one of those few bike commuters again.

Email any story tips to nkrebs@citybeat.com.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 01.04.2016 121 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_prison

Morning News and Stuff

Cincy to face many transportation issues in the new year; State hits six month mark for new prison drug treatment program; Kasich takes aim at Christie and Rubio

Happy New Year, Cincinnati! Hope everyone had a fun and safe kickoff to 2016. Here is your first round up of headlines this year. 

• So, 2016 will probably be the year of some exciting elections as we inch closer to November, but locally, Cincinnati faces many upcoming issues dealing with planes, trains, and automobiles. According to this Enquirer list, some major transportation issues to look out for include keeping an eye on the streetcar's operating deficit, figuring out who's going to spearhead the major task of repairing the western hills viaduct, watching CVG slowly and painfully turn into a multi-carrier airport and seeing if SORTA will push a transit tax proposal on this year's ballot. One issue absent from the list is a local non-profit's ambitious push to get more bike lanes in the city, and only time will tell how far that project will get by the end of this year. 

• The new year marks the six-month anniversary of a state program launched last summer to offer more drug addiction treatment options in Ohio's prisons. Last June, the state allocated $27.4 million in the budget to help pay for drug counselors to treat inmates with addiction issues three months before they are released. After they are released, they are eligible to sign up for Medicaid to help fund further treatment. The program is authorized to run through June of this year and is an attempt to reduce crime by taking away drugs as the motive for offenders with known addiction issues. Before the program launched last July, Ohio had released approximately 4,000 untreated inmates back out into the community who were either ineligible for treatment because they were serving less than six months or the programs were already full. Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has hopes to extend the program pending the legislature's approval of its funding in this upcoming year. 

• Gov. John Kasich started out this new year extending his attacks from Donald Trump to fellow GOP presidential candidates New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. During an interview with NBC News, Kasich claimed he has proven able to handle issues like taxes and jobs better than Christie, and said Rubio lacks experience. He even compared the one-term Senator to President Barack Obama, who was also a one-term Illinois Senator when he became president. Kasich, who is still hanging out at the bottom of polls, has stated throughout his campaign that he feels his years of experience have been overlooked. 

• Maybe 2016 will finally be the year of a total revolution in the United States. Or so the Bundy militia in Oregon hopes. The group is in its second day of occupying the federal buildings on the Malheur National Wildlife refuge in Harney County, Oregon, claiming that the feds took the land unconstitutionally in the early 1900s. The militia apparently came out to help two ranchers who are headed to prison for arson, but they were rejected by those they came to aid so they turned to reclaim the refuge instead. According to the Guardian, Harney County Sheriff David Ward isn't buying their claim that they came to support the two convicted arsonists. He believes they're trying to spark a revolution across the country.

Send me any story tips or last minute New Years resolutions to add to my growing list to nkrebs@citybeat.com.
 
 
by Steve Beynon 12.31.2015 125 days ago
Posted In: 2016 election at 01:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Primary Cheat Sheet: Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders (Democratic)

Fun fact:

Don’t think your vote counts? The first office Sanders held was mayor of Burlington, Vt., and he won the election by 10 votes in 1981. That small margin of victory led this Jewish politician on a course to the Senate and the race for the presidency.

What’s up with the campaign?

Bernie Sanders is one of two Independent senators serving in Congress. However, he caucuses with Democrats and is largely considered the most liberal member of the Senate. The Vermont senator is running a populist campaign and focuses on domestic economics, often pointing to the growing wealth of America’s elite while the middle-class shrinks as a “moral outrage.”

The self-described Democratic Socialist fills convention centers with crowds and is very popular amongst the college crowd and to those on the left that are frustrated with the Democratic party’s move to the center over the last couple of decades.

Some criticize Sanders’ major proposals such as single-payer health care, free public college, a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure and social security expansion as “radical.” Even the 74-year-old senator admitted that taxes would have to raised on people beyond America’s wealthiest one percent. Critics point to the failed initiative in Vermont to establish a “Medicare for all” plan mostly because the effort would have eaten the state’s entire budget.

While Sanders sometimes beats Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire polls, he has been behind her for almost the entire campaign. However, he has raised more money than the Republicans. The Sanders campaign also recently announced he has more donations from females than Clinton and more than two million contributions, a fundraising record for American politics.

One of the campaign’s flagship ideals is not taking big donations, or funds from corporations. The maximum legal contribution is $2,700. Sanders hasn’t sought money from wealthy liberals, despite support.

Voter might like:

      With the college crowd being saddled with an average $28,000 of debt and working for Ohio’s $8.10 minimum wage only to live in their parent’s basement, it’s easy to understand why they’ve been taken by Sanders’ rhetoric of a fair economy.

      Sanders has been serving in government since 1980, which arguably gives him the most padded resume of the bunch.

      People like a winner, and this senator has gathered the largest crowds in the primaries. The Washington Post reported 27,500 people came to see him speak in Los Angeles. He has gathered similar sized crowds in Boston, Cleveland and Little Rock, Ark.

...but watch out for:

      The term “socialist” still scares people. Sanders has been pushing hard to communicate his definition of “Democratic Socialism,” often invoking FDR and Eisenhower.

      Strong anti-gun advocates say the Independent from Vermont is weak on guns due to a vote allowing firearms in checked bags on AMTRAK. He also voted against making gun manufacturers legally accountable for crimes committed with their firearms. 

      The Sanders campaign has been fighting against Hillary Clinton’s “inevitability.” His proposals are popular on the left, but drive the right crazy. He is often framed as “the cool guy who won’t win anyway.”

Biggest policy proposal: The College for all Act of 2015 was proposed to committee May 19, 2015 and aims to make four-year public universities tuition-free. His plan outlines a 0.5-percent tax increase on stock trades, 0.1 percent on bonds and 0.005 percent on derivatives to pay for it.

War: Sanders voted against the war in Iraq but is very vocal about the Islamic State being a major threat. He wants to maintain President Obama’s aggressive air campaign and Special Operations’ ground missions.

However, Sen. Sanders wants bordering Muslim countries to lead the fight and opposes utilizing conventional U.S. ground troops, saying, “It is worth remembering that Saudi Arabia, for example, is a nation controlled by one of the wealthiest families in the world and has the fourth largest military budget of any nation. This is a war for the soul of Islam and the Muslim nations must become more heavily engaged.”


The primaries are elections in which the parties pick their strongest candidate to run for president. In Ohio, Election Day is Tuesday, March 15, 2016. Go here for more information on primaries. CityBeat will be profiling each of the candidates every week until the primaries in March.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 12.31.2015 125 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Bevin plans to reform Kentucky Medicaid; Kasich gets new billionaire supporter; Cities worldwide increase security for New Year's Eve

Happy New Year, Cincy! Here are your final morning headlines of 2015. 

• It hasn't quite hit 2016 yet, but new Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin is already thinking ahead to 2017. The Republican governor has said that he plans to transform the state's Medicaid plan, which will take effect in January 2017 and will affect the approximately 1.3 million people who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Gov. Bevin says he's not quite sure what the plan will be yet and has enlisted a team of experts to help develop it, but hopes it will be something like Indiana's — complete with tiers of coverage, cancellation policies for people who have missed payments, premiums and co-pays. 

• Meanwhile, Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is still a GOP presidential candidate, has gotten the support of a former Bill Clinton billionaire donor. Billionaire investor Ron Burkle, who is worth approximately $1.58 billion and has mostly supported Democrats in the past, is scheduled to host a Jan. 12 fundraiser for Kasich at the Soho House in Los Angeles. Burkle, who made most of his money through grocery-chain investments, was also a supporter of Bill Clinton when he ran for president, and apparently maintained a close relationship after with the former president. Burkle also gave money to the Hilary Clinton 2000 Senate campaign and her first unsuccessful 2008 campaign for presidency. 

• While I'm on the topic of billionaires, the rise in the split in wealth has been an ongoing hot topic this past year. To end out the year, The New York Times has published a story on the ways that the country's wealthiest avoid paying taxes. The country's tax rate on the wealthiest has slipped in the last decade. Twenty years ago, the top 400 earners paid 27 percent of their income in taxes. Now, that rate is less than 17 percent for a group that earns on average $336 million a year. It's a pretty interesting read that will also unfortunately make you feel very, very poor. 

• I moved to Cincinnati from Texas in the middle of 2015, and while I've enjoyed much of the city's German-inspired cuisine, some days I'd kill for a good taco. But that's just my opinion. So how does Ohio's food scene rank in comparison to the rest of the country's? Well, website Thrillist puts Ohio, home to White Castle, Wendy's and Skyline Chili, at number 28 — right in the middle. Kentucky with its bourbon-infused dishes right across the river came in at ninth, but at least we beat Indiana, whose apparent love of chain restaurants earned them the spot of number 41 on the list. But California tops the list — with Texas and its glorious world of tacos and barbecue, coming in second. 

• In the post-Paris attacks world, cities everywhere are tightening their security on New Year's Eve. Brussels cancelled its celebrations while Paris cancelled fireworks. New York City will put 6,000 officers, including 500 specially trained in terrorist attacks, in Times Square to monitor the expected crowd of 1 million.  

Be safe tonight, Cincinnati, and see you next year!
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.30.2015 126 days ago
Posted In: News at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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We've Got You Covered

A look back at some of CityBeat's favorite news features from 2015

CityBeat's news team has been all over the map this year. In the past 365 days, we've delved deep into college athletic funding, the experiences of refugee families in Cincinnati, new community ownership models for neighborhood grocery stores and any number of other issues.

Often, we’ve covered stories no other media outlet in Cincinnati thought to. Hopefully you enjoyed it. Here are some of our most unique news stories this year. 

Despite new development, Cincinnati is still a deeply segregated place.

Our story detailing the long history that has kept large portions of Cincinnati’s African-American population in low-income neighborhoods explored why many in our city struggle to access economic opportunity.

In the past year, intense tensions around race in America have re-emerged, sparking protests, civil unrest and reams of media coverage. But underneath issues around law enforcement’s role in black communities lie other problems. A pervasive and historically entrenched economic segregation in predominantly black neighborhoods continues to seal off many Cincinnatians, creating desperation and setting up extra barriers for residents of those communities. This lack of opportunity also informs the city’s much-publicized recent upswing in gun violence, its sky-high infant-mortality rate and a host of other problems.

City officials, neighborhood activists and experts have all offered ideas to alleviate this segregation, but it’s clear a complex, long-term and multi-faceted set of solutions is needed to improve the prospects of black Cincinnatians. 


UC officials approved an $86 million renovation of Nippert Stadium in 2013 despite unanimous opposition from the Faculty Senate, which recommended using Paul Brown Stadium for home football games. Work was completed this summer. Photo: Jesse Fox

UC students come for education, but their fees go to sports

Over the past decade, University of Cincinnati leaders have used student fees and tuition to cover a nearly five-fold increase in the university’s athletic department’s annual deficit while cutting academic spending per student by almost 25 percent.

In 2013, UC officials provided the athletic department with a $21.75 million subsidy, records show, using student fees and money from the school’s general fund, which is primarily funded by tuition. The total subsidy amounts to $1,024 out of the pocket of every full-time undergraduate student on UC’s main campus. The four-year price tag costs each student more than $4,000.

The situation at the University of Cincinnati is not unique. An investigation by a UC investigative journalism class, which was published by CityBeat, looked into the eight largest public universities in Ohio in the Football Bowl Subdivision, finding that with one exception, college administrators and trustees impose hidden fees and invisible taxes on thousands of working-class students who pay tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to keep money-losing athletic departments afloat.

Many of these same schools are cutting faculty jobs and slashing academic spending. Between 2005 and 2013, academic spending per full-time undergraduate student at UC, adjusted for inflation, dropped 24 percent, according to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a national group of current and former college presidents seeking to reform college athletics using research studies and, more recently, online databases. 

Are cooperative groceries the future in Cincinnati?

Cooperatively owned groceries are uncommon in Cincinnati, but over the past few years, the concept — a business owned and controlled by the people who work and shop there, instead of a large chain or local corporation — has started to gain steam here. The model has existed, and even thrived, elsewhere for years. Interest in co-ops has seen a big revival in the last decade as well, specifically as an alternative to big-box chain stores like Walmart. Unlike chains, supporters say, co-ops keep their profits in the community and allow for local input.

The increasing interest in this alternate model comes partly from necessity — neighborhoods like Clifton and Northside are popular places underserved by grocery stores, and the industry is only getting more difficult for those with more traditional business models in mind.

But even with the big efforts and big visions of nascent co-ops like Apple Street Market and Clifton Market, questions linger. The excitement for an alternative grocery model has reached a high point, but there are also a number of voices questioning if co-ops will work in a challenging grocery market.

Local efforts like Clifton Market have made strides, securing funding and setting construction dates. Despite doubts, Cincinnati’s age of the co-op might be around the corner. 


This building on Walnut Street, now called Branderyhaus, once housed Reginald Stroud’s karate studio and convenience store. Developers say tenants were relocated because the building needed major improvements.
Photo: Nick Swartsell

As Over-the-Rhine changes, some long-time residents find themselves forced to leave

Many have trumpeted the changes happening in Over-the-Rhine, a quickly redeveloping but historically low-income, predominantly black neighborhood. But for former residents like Reginald Stroud, who ran a convenience store and karate studio in a building on Walnut Street he lived in with his family, that redevelopment has led to some bitter realities. Stroud was forced to move to Northside this year after the building was redeveloped.

Recent Census data suggests that Stroud isn’t the only one departing OTR. The area’s demographic makeup seems to be changing in parts of the neighborhood that have seen large-scale redevelopment.  

Development in OTR has, until recently, been limited to the southern part of neighborhood, where the building Stroud lived in is located. Those efforts have changed the economic, and perhaps the racial, makeup of the area.

Developers and city officials say diversity is a key concern as OTR continues to change. And work is underway in other neighborhoods like Northside to find ways to encourage equitable economic development. But for former OTR residents like Stroud, those assurances provide little comfort.

UC suspends its campus sexual assault program, even as sexual assault continues to be a national issue

As University of Cincinnati students began filing onto campus to start classes this fall, a battle was raging over a program run by the UC Women’s Center designed to aid sexual assault survivors.
 
The debate — signaled by public meetings, a protest and a flurry of social media posts — centered around the role of the RECLAIM Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate Program. A round of training for the program was suspended this fall, causing concern among students.

RECLAIM participants say they were just a few days away from beginning the necessary 40-hour intensive training for the program, which offers sexual assault counseling and prevention strategies, when they received an email in early August from the Women’s Center stating that the training was cancelled.

Advocates say RECLAIM can’t exist without yearly training. UC says the program will continue, but as the university works to reschedule training, it has remained in flux.


A baptism at St. Leo Photo: Nick Swartsell

Refugees in Cincinnati find hardships in neglected neighborhoods, but also build community

Iraqi refugee Oday Kadhimand his family came to the United States a year ago after an arduous four-year wait and settled in Millvale. That neighborhood and its surrounding communities are part of the unseen Cincinnati, an area that houses many of the city’s more than 90,000 residents living below the federal poverty line. 
  


The neighborhood is also one of the city’s most violent, struggling with drug activity, shootings, break-ins and murders. For families like Kadhim’s, the violence is an echo of the very strife they’ve come here to escape.



Kadhim and his family aren’t the only ones who struggle with the neighborhood’s challenges. Two-hundred Burundian refugees have ended up there in the last decade, plus others who have arrived more recently. The total number of refugees in the neighborhood is unclear — even the organizations helping refugees get acclimated don’t keep long-term statistics — but it’s clear they’re a big presence there, and often a positive one.



Dozens of the refugees living in this often-ignored corner of the city have found unique and vibrant ways to build community, helping to energize a 125-year-old church just down the road in North Fairmount. Some see their presence as hope that the area can rise again. 

But for many like Kadhim, the neighborhood’s danger, isolation and poverty remain obstacles to achieving the dreams of peace and prosperity they believed they could find in the U.S.

A new court helps those who have been sex-trafficked start over

When Caroline (whose name CityBeat changed to protect her identity) came out as transgender during high school, her mother asked that she leave her house and neighborhood in Northern Kentucky. That rejection started a long, harrowing journey through sex trafficking and addiction from which it took Caroline years to recover. Now, a new court has helped her erase a criminal record she never should have had in the first place.

Caroline’s transgender status was part of her vulnerability. Her pimps worked a whole group of transgender women, playing on their insecurities and search for acceptance. She describes how traffickers would brand them — burning them with cigarettes or hot clothes hangers. Caroline suffered beatings and also mental and emotional abuse. Then there was the danger from the johns.

Two murders of transgender women in the past few years illustrate the dangers Caroline once faced. Twenty-eight-year-old Tiffany Edwards was killed in Walnut Hills in June 2014, and Kendall Hampton died there at age 26 in August 2012. Police suspect both were engaged in sex work at the time they died. Both, like Caroline, were women of color.

The CHANGE Court, presided over by Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Heather Russell, will give those like Caroline a chance to expunge convictions for acts done under the duress of sex trafficking. The court is part of a wider shift in attitudes away from viewing sex trafficked individuals as criminals. Social service and law enforcement agencies are increasingly seeing them as victims in need of help.

The court’s focus will go beyond folks like Caroline, who have already triumphed over the horrors of sex trafficking,  providing a road out of the world of coerced sex work for those who have yet to escape.


Two immigrant laborers working on a Warren County job site Photo: Mike Brown

Immigrant workers victimized by wage theft fight back

Imagine you work hard to put food on the table, but your employer isn’t paying you when it say it will — or at all. Now imagine you can’t take easily report it or take the employer to court.

Because employers capitalize on their fear of being deported, undocumented immigrant workers are frequently victims of wage theft, whether it’s being paid less than minimum wage, shorted hours, forced to work off the clock, not being paid overtime or not paid at all.

From 2005 through 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor collected more than $6.5 million in unpaid wages from Ohio construction companies for workers who were cheated out of minimum wage, overtime pay or the regional prevailing wages required for public projects. Some 5,500 workers were affected, but how many were undocumented immigrants wasn’t recorded by the agency. The $6.5 million collected by labor officials for all workers is likely only a fraction of the actual wage theft in the industry, union officials say.

What’s needed, according to those officials, is the political will to adequately staff state and federal enforcement agencies so they can find violators without waiting for complainants to step forward. Ohio’s Bureau of Wage and Hour Administration, which enforces wage laws on public projects as well as minimum wage requirements and pay to minors, has just six investigators and one supervisor to cover the entire state.

Enforcing wage and hour laws is seen as “anti-business” among Ohio employers, chambers of commerce and its Republican-dominated government, some watchdog groups say, meaning that changing the situation seems a daunting political challenge.


Ice Cream Factory in Brighton Photo: Scott Beseler

Alternative spaces are changing and evolving in Cincinnati

The DIY ethos in Cincinnati is alive and well, though where and how under-the-radar spaces operate is in flux.

The city has been a surprising hotbed for self-funded, not-for-profit art, music and party spaces, which exist in a twilight world just beyond the economic, regulatory and social rules that usually bound more traditional, for-profit entertainment venues. They’ve been aided by the low rents and lax oversight often found in the city’s more neglected corners and by a community of people looking for something outside the norm. And proponents of these under-the-radar venues say they’re important for more than just a few boundary-pushing art shows.

Many say these venues have given otherwise-unavailable opportunities to generations of Cincinnati artists and musicians. What’s more, urban experts say, such DIY spaces are good for the social health of cities. But as interest in urban living continues to take hold in Cincinnati and those once-neglected pockets of the city attract the gaze of developers, the future of these unique places has become uncertain.

 
 

 

 

 
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