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by Natalie Krebs 12.31.2015
Posted In: News at 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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
Posted In: News at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

by Natalie Krebs 12.30.2015
Posted In: News at 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

More than 100 people march in Cincy to protest Tamir Rice decision; Suburbanites lead votes against failed marijuana reform; Cincy ranks as top beer-loving city

Good morning Cincy! Here are your morning headlines.  

• A rally and march in Cincinnati last night drew more than 100 people protesting a Cuyahoga grand jury decision not to indict officers in the Cleveland police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The event drew a diverse group of activists and speakers from Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, local unions and workers’ rights advocates, representatives from Cincinnati’s Islamic community, the Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective and others. The rally began at Findlay Park in Over-the-Rhine followed by a march to Cincinnati Police Department District 1 headquarters in the West End. Attendees brought toys to symbolize Christmas gifts Rice was not able to receive this year due to his death. Those toys will be distributed to disadvantaged children in the community, BLM organizer Brian Taylor said.  
Earlier this week, a grand jury declined to bring charges against officers involved in Rice’s Nov. 2014 death, a move which has sparked outrage from Rice’s family and anti-police violence activists across the country. In Cincinnati, march organizers released a list of demands aimed at Cuyahoga County, including the firing of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, a reopening of the Rice case against officer Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, an indictment for those officers, and a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the shooting. At the rally and march in Cincinnati, activists also drew parallels to the July police shooting of Samuel DuBose, a black motorist killed by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing was charged with murder for that shooting, but has yet to stand trial. 

• The U.S. Department of Justice announced earlier this month that they will be suspending the equitable sharing program that allows police to keep a large chunk of money and property seized from individuals. Local law enforcement will still be allowed to do it, but they will no longer be able to keep up to 80 percent of it. The program is controversial because police are able to keep property from those who are never actually charged with a crime like Charles Clark II, who now famously had $11,000 in cash seized by police at the CVG airport in February of 2014. CPD says they use the reportedly received $1.1 million they received from the program between 2010 and the middle of 2015 to pay for outside training for their police force, but non-profits like Washington D.C.-based Institute of Justice say the current program is problematic because it's become a money grab for law enforcement. 

• Who exactly voted against ResponsibleOhio's failed attempt at marijuana reform this past election? According to an analysis by Mike Dawson, a Columbus-based election statistics expert, well-to-do suburbanites represented the group with the highest amount of opponents to the measure. Nearly 70 percent of voters in the suburbs of Toledo and Columbus voted against it, while 60 percent of Dayton, Cleveland and Cincinnati suburbanites opposed it. Urban voters favored the legalization 5 percentage points more. While many opposed Issue 3 because it limited the growth of marijuana to just 10 commercial farms, Dawson told the Associated Press that suburbanites also fear that marijuana will be a gateway drug in their communities. 

• Cincinnati ranks as one of the best cities in the U.S. for beer drinkers. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent time in this city with its many breweries, beer-centered bars and massive Oktoberfest that rivals Munich, but the website SmartAsset ranked Cincy as number 10 in the U.S. It beat out Columbus and Cleveland in the ranking, having 14 breweries and 4.7 microbreweries per 100,000 people. With the average beer costing a mere $3 a pint, I'll drink to that.    

by Nick Swartsell 12.28.2015
Posted In: News, Police at 02:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

No Charges for Officers in Tamir Rice Shooting

Verdict from Cuyahoga County grand jury comes more than a year after 12-year-old's death

Cleveland police officers involved in the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice will not face criminal charges related to the child’s death, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office announced today.

A grand jury has been deliberating for months about the case, which has grabbed national attention as debate continues over police-involved shootings of people of color.

Rice was shot Nov. 22, 2014 while on a playground in Cleveland. A 911 caller reported that Rice was playing with a handgun, but told a dispatcher that it appeared to be fake. The dispatcher did not relay that information to officers. Surveillance footage shows the officers pulling within feet of Rice in a police cruiser. In the video, officer Timothy Loehmann exits the passenger side of the cruiser and shoots Rice within a few seconds. Loehmann and his partner, officer Frank Garmback, do not provide medical attention to Rice, instead waiting for an FBI agent to do so. Rice later died at the hospital.

Other cases of police-involved shootings, including July 19 shooting death of motorist Samuel DuBose by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, have moved more quickly. Tensing was indicted on murder and manslaughter charges later that summer.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has said the long process was about doing a thorough investigation. But members of Rice’s family have said they think McGinty is making efforts to protect the officers and the Cleveland Police Department.

In a statement released following the grand jury's decision, the family accused McGinty of "abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment."

The family has held a dim view of the outcome of the case for months. The Rices cried foul, for instance, at a March court filing from the city of Cleveland which stated that Rice was responsible for his death, saying it was caused by “failure to exercise due care to avoid injury.”

The city later apologized for the wording of the legal document.

“In an attempt to protect all of our defenses, we used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive,” Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said at a news conference. “Very insensitive to tragedy in general, the family and the victim in particular.”

McGinty commissioned three law enforcement experts to draw up reports about the incident, all of which found the shooting “reasonable,” citing Loehmann’s lack of knowledge about Rice’s intentions and the realistic-looking pellet gun he was playing with.

But there are questions about the objectivity of those investigations.

Retired FBI training specialist Kimberly A. Crawford issued one of those reports. Attorneys for Rice’s family have pointed out that Crawford’s arguments for the acceptability of other law enforcement shootings have been rejected by the Department of Justice for being too lenient to officers. Another investigator, Denver District Deputy Attorney S. Lamar Sims, has made previous statements in support of Loehmann’s actions before undertaking his study.

While the Rice family’s attorneys cite these moves by the city and prosecutor McGinty as reasons to move the grand jury deliberations outside Cuyahoga County, McGinty has said that his office and the grand jury are impartial.

Officials with the prosecutor's office cited a "perfect storm of human error" and suggested that Rice looked much older than a typical 12-year-old when explaining the grand jury's verdict. The prosecutor's office also said that tapes show Rice pointing the toy gun at passersby near the recreation center earlier in the day.

Two other experts hired by the Rice family issued reports saying Rice’s killing was not justified and that officers responsible should be prosecuted. They point out the short succession of events and the fact that Rice did not have the gun in his hand at the time of his shooting. The toy was tucked in his pants at the time.

Rice’s death occurred just two days before a grand jury in St. Louis, Mo., declined to indict a white officer who shot unarmed 19-year-old Michael Brown. Like Brown, Rice has become a touchstone for activists who protest racially charged police shootings and who call for law enforcement reforms in the United States.

According to data culled by journalists at British publication The Guardian, more than 1,000 people have been killed in officer-involved shootings in the United States this year, including 30 in Ohio, the seventh-most of any state. Blacks are twice as likely as whites to die in those incidents. While a good number of those deaths came from armed confrontations, many others involved unarmed citizens.

Rice’s shooting happened just weeks before the Department of Justice released the scathing results of an 18-month investigation into the Cleveland Police Department’s use of force. Among the cases cited in that investigation: a 2012 incident in which 13 police officers fired almost 140 rounds at two unarmed occupants of a car that had been involved in a police chase. One officer reportedly stood on the hood of the couple's car and repeatedly fired rounds through its windshield. That officer was acquitted of criminal charges in May. Both occupants of the car died.

“We have concluded that we have reasonable cause to believe that CPD engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the report states. The report triggered an intensive consent decree between the Cleveland Police Department and the federal government, which will oversee changes in the department's use of force policies, training and other reforms.

In a letter earlier this month, Rice’s family called on the DOJ to investigate their son’s death. The DOJ said Dec. 15 that it is reviewing that request.

In Cincinnati, Black Lives Matter will rally Dec. 29 at 6 pm at Findlay Playground in Over-the-Rhine. Organizers ask attendees to bring toys to donate to local charities in honor of Rice.

by Nick Swartsell 12.28.2015
Posted In: News at 09:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Leelah Alcorn remembered; Ohio legislature not representative of state; Kasich sees upswing in New Hampshire

Good morning all. Hope your holidays have been good and, if you’re into the giving and receiving gifts thing, that you got and gave some good ones. So what’s up with news?

Greater Cincinnati’s transgender community will gather this morning at 10 a.m. at the Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine to remember Leelah Alcorn, the teen who took her own life one year ago today by stepping into traffic on I-71 near Mason. An online note auto-published after her death described the isolation and depression Alcorn felt over her treatment by her parents and peers because of her transgender status. That note challenged others to “fix society” and make it a more accepting place for people with non-binary gender identities. Cincinnati has made some progress toward that end: Cincinnati City Council passed a ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors. That therapy seeks to turn LGBT people straight and is usually religiously based. Councilors in Cincinnati who practice that therapy on minors will receive a $200 fine. Cincinnati is the first city in the country to pass such a ban. Many transgender activists in the city say that’s a good start, but isn’t enough. They’re calling for increased help and protection for transgender people, especially the most vulnerable trans groups — people of color and minors who have become homeless because of their status. A number of trans people across the country in those vulnerable groups have been murdered in recent years.

• Local news is a little slow this week, but plenty is happening statewide. Let’s zoom out for a minute. Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld continues to make the rounds in Ohio as he seeks to become the Democratic party’s nominee in the race for Republican Rob Portman’s U.S. Senate seat. Meanwhile, former Ohio governor and Dem frontrunner Ted Strickland has played a quieter waiting game, appearing at a few small events and releasing little in the way of policy statements or other missives aimed at wading into the political fray. That’s probably strategic: Polling shows Strickland, a well-known political force throughout Ohio, has carried a lead over incumbent Portman even as Sittenfeld trails both. Still, some statewide political figures are saying Strickland needs to start bringing substantive ideas to his campaign as Sittenfeld hits him with criticisms on gun control, climate change and other progressive issues. The Democratic underdog has also challenged Strickland to debates, but the frontrunner has so far been mum about facing off. Political experts believe Strickland will continue to ignore Sittenfeld unless he makes inroads with prospective voters.

• Is the Ohio legislature truly representative of the state? If you break it down demographically, it would seem not. Among those least represented in the state house: women, who make up 51 percent of Ohio’s population but hold just 25 percent of its legislative seats. Other groups, including Hispanics, are also under-represented, according to a report in the Dayton Daily News. It’s more than just a numbers game — the lack of representation means that public policy doesn’t take into account Ohio’s various populations and perspectives.

“With someone not in the room, a group not in the room representing different genders, sexual orientations, races — it’s a bunch of people guessing what that must be like,” state Rep. Dan Ramos told the paper. Ramos, a Democrat from Loraine, is one of just three Hispanic members to ever serve in the Ohio General Assembly. Though the state house has slowly become more representative over time, there is still a long way to go, some lawmakers say. That will take big social changes. Women are just as likely to win elections as men, some studies suggest, but are less likely to be in a position to run for office in the first place due to societal gender roles, parenting responsibilities and other factors.

• A grand jury decision could come any day in the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old with a toy gun shot by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann last November, the Associated Press reports. But the Rice family believes Loehmann won’t be charged in the shooting, according to their attorney, who has accused Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty of using the grand jury proceedings to “engineer denying justice” to the family. It’s been well over a year since the shooting, which was sparked by a 911 call from a man waiting for a bus. That call stipulated that the gun Rice had was probably fake, but a dispatcher didn’t relay that information to officers. The cruiser Loehmann was riding in stopped just feet from Rice. Loehmann jumped out and shot the boy within seconds of exiting the vehicle. The grand jury has heard testimony from experts convened by McGinty, who say the shooting was reasonable given what Loehmann knew about the situation, and other experts gathered by the Rice family who say Loehmann should be charged with the child’s death. The case has received national attention as police shootings of black citizens continue to rouse protests and calls for change.

• Will Ohio governor and GOP presidential hopeful John Kasich’s fortunes turn around in the wild world of the Republican presidential primary? At least one poll suggests there might be a glimmer of hope yet for the perpetual presidential underdog. A new Quinnipiac poll out of New Hampshire has Kasich third only to Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the state, which holds the country’s second primary Feb. 9. That’s a big step up for Kasich — he was running sixth in New Hampshire earlier this month. In the past weeks, Kasich has stepped up his ground game in the state with more campaign staff and appearances there. The Kasich campaign has gone all-in on New Hampshire, indicating if the candidate doesn’t do well there, he may well pack it in and call it a day. But even as Kasich makes some progress in the Granite State, he’s still struggling in Iowa, another vital state hold its primary Feb. 1.

by Nick Swartsell 12.23.2015
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
joe deters

Morning News and Stuff

Dennis Deters wants to borrow his brother's name for commissioners election; Clifton Market set to begin construction; Bevin strikes county clerk names from marriage licenses

Good morning, all. Here’s a quick rundown of the news before a retreat into a hole to finish all the things I need to finish so I can then finish my holiday shopping.

Some people like Joe Deters, Hamilton County’s prosecutor. That’s none of my business. But do they like him enough to check his name on a ballot twice? That could be the situation voters face next year in the Hamilton County commission race for a seat current commission head Republican Greg Hartmann will vacate on Monday. Kinda. Joe’s running for reelection as prosecutor, and his brother, Dennis Deters, is running in next year's race for the seat against well-known Democrat Denise Driehaus. However, he’s registered for that race as Dennis Joseph Deters. That’s raised the ire of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, which has called the move a cheap trick aimed at capitalizing on the Republican prosecutor’s name recognition among county voters. They point out that on property records and past registrations, the commissioner candidate has listed his name as Dennis P. Deters. Dems fired off a letter to the Ohio Secretary of State yesterday seeking to block Dennis Deters from using “Joseph” on the ballot. This is going to be a very interesting race, folks.

• A long-time anchor in the Clifton business district will get new life starting in February. Grocery cooperative Clifton Market has closed on a nearly $3 million construction loan from the National Cooperative Bank, allowing it to move forward with plans to establish a co-operative grocery store. The rest of the more than $5 million project has been funded by more than 1,000 share holders and nearly 200 shareholder loans to the co-op. The project will also get a 12-year tax exemption passed by Cincinnati City Council earlier this month. The grocery will occupy the former Keller’s IGA building on Ludlow Avenue, which will see construction starting Feb. 1. The store should be open by next summer.

• While I may be panicked about my holiday shopping, I’m not as panicked as the folks who drove a van through a display window at Saks Fifth Avenue downtown this morning in a pretty ballsy smash-and-grab scheme. The perps then jumped into another waiting car with about $11,000 in purses and sped off Police are looking for them now. Have no fear, holiday luxury item shoppers. Saks Fifth Avenue is apparently open, albeit with extra police presence.

• Kentucky marriage licenses will no longer carry the name of the county clerk who issued them after an executive order from brand new governor Republican Matt Bevin. That order comes after Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis raised controversy over this summer’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Davis claimed her religious rights are violated by that court order, and that her name on a marriage license for a gay couple is a sin. The resulting legal battle over Davis’ refusal to issue licenses landed her in jail briefly. Bevin promised that he would enact the executive order during his campaign for governor, which some political pundits say may have influenced staunch social conservatives to turn out and vote for him. Now, 15 days into his term, Bevin has made good on that promise.

• As you may know, Cincinnati has gained population for the first time in decades over recent years. But that trend doesn’t hold true for the rest of the Buckeye State. A recent study found Ohio among the biggest losers when it came to population loss among states. Though we’re not as bad as New York, which lost an incredible 653,000 people (though, hey, they also have a ton of people) to domestic migration. Now, New York’s population still grew slightly in that same time period due to births and immigration from other countries. But alas. Ohio lost the sixth-most population to domestic migration last year, with about 150,000 people streaming out to greener pastures or, well, probably actually Texas or Florida or something. Those states topped the list when it came to gaining population from migration. Texas gained more than 735,000 people, for example.

• Finally, here's your daily update on the presidential election that hasn't even really started yet but is already driving me crazy. A few days ago, Donald Trump used the word “schlonged” to describe Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Democratic primary defeat to Barack Obama. We all know this by now. But, did you know that “schlonged” isn’t actually a dirty word, according to The Donald? No, the dishonest and godless horde of journalists who exist simply to oppress Trump have merely distorted your view of the word, according to the GOP presidential primary candidate. It doesn’t actually mean male genitalia at all. It simply means to defeat badly, according to Trump, and it is his enemies in the media who want to tell you otherwise. Of course. Trump’s use of the word, which is indeed a slang term for, uh, male genitalia, set off a new round of controversy over the outspoken and many say factually challenged candidate. So far, Trump’s dalliances with both sexist language and sheer disregard for factual information have done nothing to his poll numbers: He’s still the frontrunner in the GOP primary.

by Natalie Krebs 12.22.2015
Posted In: News at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Police Chief Eliot Isaac sworn in; Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann to step down next week; Grand jury rules no indictments in death of Sandra Bland

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

• So maybe many of us are getting ready to sit back, relax and take a few days off for the holidays, but not Cincinnati's newest police chief, Eliot Isaac. Isaac was sworn in as Cincinnati's first black police chief last night at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. In a ceremony witnessed by more than 200 people, Isaac told the crowd the recent uptick in violence was "unacceptable," and, according to the Enquirer, said, "Tomorrow morning, we roll up our sleeves and we go to work." Isaac was officially offered the position by city manager Harry Black two weeks ago after going through a brief community vetting process. He was the only candidate for the position.  

• While Chief Eliot was being sworn in last night, Cincinnati police officers were also voting Fraternal Order of Police President Kathy Harrell out of her position. In a vote of 2-1, Harrell was replaced by Dan Hils, a sergeant in District Three who has spent 28 years with the department. Harrell has served as president for the last six years and was pulled out into the spotlight when former CPD chief Jeffrey Blackwell was fired last September. Hils ran a campaign centered around officers' pay, which appear to be increasing as revenue is decreasing. Apparently, it paid off for him. He beat Harrell in a vote of 507 to 207. 

• Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann has just announced this morning that he will resign some time next week. Hartmann recently announced he was not running for re-election last month, but said he expected to finish out his term. The move clears the way for the GOP's executive committee to appoint a replacement to finish out his term. Attorney Dennis Deters has filed to run as a Republican candidate and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters also said he's considering throwing his hat in the ring against Democratic State Rep Denise Driehaus who is leaving her position at the State House because of term limits. 

• I'm currently experiencing my first Cincinnati winter, and so far compared to Minnesota, where I grew up, it's nothing, but I've heard it can get pretty chilly. But maybe this is one of the reasons Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman applied for the position of city manager of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Virginia Beach media has reported that he is one of the two finalists for the job. Sigman came close to being fired by the county board earlier this year, and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said that people generally only last a few years in Sigman's position. So maybe his interest in the position isn't weather-related after all.  

• Last-minute Christmas shopping is hard with the crowds, full parking lots and general aggression the holiday season brings out in all of us, but add racial profiling on top of that, and it makes Christmas trips to the mall nearly impossible. Bengals running back James Wilder Jr. says he was out shopping at a Toys R Us in Florence, Ky. yesterday when he claims a store manager accused him of stealing. Wilder posted several tweets and a video claiming a store manager stopped him just after he arrived and accused him of trying to walk out of the store with a cart full of toys earlier. Wilder said he was at least able to buy the video game he needed for his nephew before leaving the store.  

A Texas grand jury has ruled not to indict anyone in the July death of Sandra Bland. Bland was arrested on July 10 during a traffic stop for failing to signal a turn in Waller County, Texas. She as found dead three days later in her cell, and apparently hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag. Her death was ruled a suicide, but her family has disputed the idea that Bland would kill herself. The event resulted in national protests about the way African-Americans are treated in police custody.

Happy holidays, Cincinnati! Remember to send me story tips or awkward family holiday photos .
by Nick Swartsell 12.21.2015
Posted In: News at 10:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
greg hartmann

Morning News and Stuff

Hartmann to step down early 2016; Sittenfeld slams Strickland on gun control; prez debates on a Saturday?

Good morning all. Let’s talk about news.

The announcement last week that a number of cycling advocacy groups and bike trail initiatives are going all-in on a 42-mile loop around the city was exciting for the city’s cyclists, to be sure. But how feasible is that plan, and what’s the time frame for it? As the Business Courier reports, that’s still somewhat up in the air. Boosters of the project say it will take money from the city, state and federal governments, as well as private giving, to fund the multi-million dollar loop. The proposal would link four independent proposals — the Wasson Way, Ohio River West, Mill Creek Greenway and Oasis trail — in a bid to maximize impact and extend bike trails into 32 Cincinnati neighborhoods. Boosters of the plan say 18 miles of the loop, including stretches along the Mill Creek, are already complete. Another 10 miles could be done by 2020, they say, stressing the proposal is a long-term effort.

• Here’s some big news that could change the dynamic of next year’s Hamilton County Commissioners race. The current head of that commission, Greg Hartmann, is expected to resign early in 2016, and Republicans intend to name Colerain Township Trustee Dennis Deters as his temporary replacement. Hartmann’s term ends next year, and he recently announced he would not seek reelection. That seemed to leave the door wide open for Democrat Denise Driehaus, who recently filed to run for the seat. But now the race will be a more heated contest as Driehaus runs against Deters, who will have the advantages of nearly a year in office by election time. The Republican’s brother is Joe Deters, current Hamilton County prosecutor, which will further boost his prospects come November. Driehaus also has strong name recognition, however, thanks to her stints in the State House and her brother, Steve Driehaus, who represented the Cincinnati area in Congress. It’s not uncommon for outgoing commissioners to bow out early, and as long as they do so 40 days before the election, state law dictates that their party gets to choose a temporary successor. Partisan control of the three-member county commission hangs in the balance. Currently, Republicans control the county’s governing body 2-1.

• Tomorrow, residents of Grant County in Kentucky will go to the polls to decide whether or not to formally end its status as a dry county where alcohol sales are prohibited. Supporters of the change say it’s about economic development and allowing establishments like hotels to offer services visitors want. Opponents, however, worry about increases in drunk drivers, alcoholism and whether the measure will change the general character of the community there. Grant County is a generally pretty conservative place — it’s home to the upcoming Ark Encounter Noah’s Ark theme park, for example. Currently, because of the laws in the county, only five establishments there serve alcohol. They’re all restaurants that seat more than 100 people and get 70 percent or more of their revenue from food. Supporters of the ballot initiative would like to extend alcohol sales to the county’s five cities while allowing the rest of the area to stay dry — making Grant a so-called “moist” county. Currently, 31 counties in Kentucky are dry, and another 53 are “moist.” 36, including Boone, Kenton and Campbell Counties making up Northern Kentucky, allow full alcohol sales.

• The upcoming 2016 Senate race is getting tough in Ohio, with Democrat candidate and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland getting slammed for his past opposition to gun control legislation. Primary challenger and current Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld’s campaign is hitting Strickland on ads the elder Democrat made while he was running for governor in 2010 touting his record on gun rights. That ad had Strickland holding a hunting rifle and slamming Kasich for voting for gun control legislation that Strickland opposed. In subsequent years, however, Strickland changed his tune and now says he supports gun control, especially in the wake of mass shootings like the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. But Sittenfeld, a staunch supporter of gun control efforts, says that his primary opponent’s record against gun control is long and clear.

As we’ve told you before, the 2016 race looks to be a pivotal one for both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats are scratching to regain control of that chamber after they lost it last year. Meanwhile, Republicans are looking to shore up their gains in what will likely be a challenging presidential election year when more Democratic voters turn out. Whoever wins between Sittenfeld and Strickland will go on to face incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who has raised millions for his reelection bid but remains vulnerable, according to some polls.

• Finally, I guess we should talk about Saturday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate, eh? First, a bit of commentary: It seems supremely unwise to hold said debate on a Saturday night right before the holidays, as people are scrambling to get to various pubs and restaurants to catch up with out-of-town friends and relatives home for the holidays. It’d be super-interesting to read more about why the Democratic National Committee made that decision, but I digress.

The debate seems to have merely solidified the three candidates’ statuses, as there were neither major flubs nor breakthrough moments for any of them. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton came across as the moderate and competent expert politician. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders continued to sound the notes of the populist rabble-rouser with a skeptical outlook on financial institutions and foreign wars. And former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley once again made a few good points and then promptly disappeared back into the woodwork. In that way, the debate sort of functioned the way these things are supposed to on paper: It gave interested voters a chance to see what the candidates say they’re all about, how they handle themselves under pressure, and which one most aligns with any particular person’s views on the issues. What it didn’t do was drum up much excitement or hype for the party’s candidates, something that seems to be the main point of these things in our rabid, vapid 24-hour-news-cycle world these days. That, coupled with recent Democratic Party infighting about campaign data, could well hobble Dems come election time. Though, admittedly, that’s still a fairly long way away.

by Nick Swartsell 12.17.2015
Posted In: News at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Busy day as council approves OTR liquor districts, other measures; Cincy developments win big Ohio tax credits; the crowded race for Boehner's seat

Hey all! Time for your news run down. A lot of stuff happened in Cincinnati City Council yesterday, so we’ll focus on that.

First, let’s go to one of the bigger topics around town lately, a proposal Council passed yesterday that will split Over-the-Rhine’s current entertainment district into two separate districts and extend them north. Council’s go-ahead for that plan means the neighborhood will get twice as many liquor licenses as it had before. There were concerns about the plan, including some from community members worried that it would cause the neighborhood to become too rowdy or stoke the neighborhood's ongoing gentrification. Entrepreneurs on the other hand cheered the decision, saying it will allow new businesses to open and new jobs to be created, especially in the northern part of the neighborhood. Anyway, I made you a rough map of those districts so you can know if a new craft beer cocktail/artisanal tatertot place is headed your way. Blue is the original district and red and orange are the new districts. You're welcome.

• Council also wrangled, again, over the application of Community Development Block Grants from the federal government. Those grants diminish every year, and this year about $700,000 less is available for programs funded by those grants. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson objected to plans to cut funds to youth employment programs paid for with those grants, but eventually moved forward with the cuts on the condition that the city would try to plug the holes with money from its $19 million surplus.

• At the same meeting, Council approved a less-controversial measure designed to save nine historic mosaics that once occupied the now-demolished concourse at Union Terminal. Those mosaics, made in 1933 by Winold Reiss, are once again in a space that will soon no longer exist — a soon-to-be torn down terminal at CVG. The city and the airport board will split the cost of moving the murals, which will be relocated to the Duke Energy Convention Center.

• Finally, Council also approved adjustments to its downtown and OTR tax abatement plans, allowing developers in those neighborhoods to keep their tax abatements on the improvements to their property up to twice as long. The catch: those property owners have to double their contributions to a fund that will provide money for the coming streetcar.

• Outside of Council chambers, a couple local development projects got a big up yesterday when Ohio announced the recipients of the next round of state historic tax credits. Among the 18 (yep, 18) projects awarded the credits in the Cincinnati area: more than $700,000 in credits for a $7.4 million renovation project that will bring a 20-room boutique hotel to a historic building in OTR being developed by 3CDC, and $2 million in credits for a $20 million project called Paramount Square in Walnut Hill seeking to redevelop six historic buildings at the intersections of Gilbert Avenue and McMillan Street. Among those buildings is the iconic Paramount Building. That project is being undertaken by Model Group and the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and will create 44 market-rate apartments as well as commercial space.

• Finally, if you thought the GOP presidential primary race was crowded, check this out. Seventeen GOP candidates are lined up for former U.S. Rep. John Boehner’s congressional seat, along with a Democrat, a Libertarian and a Green Party candidate. The special election for Boehner’s seat, which he abruptly vacated last month after his tenure as House Speaker got pretty brutal, represents a unique opportunity for otherwise little-known candidates to take a step up in the political world. But candidates will have to vie for that opportunity on an accelerated basis: The Republican primary for that election is March 15.

by Natalie Krebs 12.16.2015
Posted In: News at 03:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cincinnati women hold mixed-faith prayer vigil in response to Islamaphobia

Fountain Square vigil drew more than 200

At least 200 people gathered downtown on Fountain Square during their lunch hour today to take part in a multi-faith, women-led prayer service for peace in response to recent outbursts of Islamaphobia.

The event, co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati and Christ Church Cathedral, is a response by faith community in Cincinnati to the recent uptick in anti-Muslim sentiments across the country in the wake of the recent deadly attacks in San Bernardino, California and Paris. 

The event featured an all-female lineup of 13 faith leaders representing Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Espiscopalian, Hindu, Jewish, Morman, Sikh and Unitarian communities.

"For us to stand together on basically our town square, makes an incredible statement," says Shakila Ahmad, president of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in Westchester. "And I hope it makes a statement to cities across the country where mothers and sisters and daughters need to stand up for their children because this is impacting our kids in unbelievably horrible ways." 

Ahmad said she teamed up with Michelle Young of the American Jewish Community and several other faith leaders at another prayer service and decided they needed to do something about the recent rise in intolerance against the Muslim-American Community.  

Ahmad said once the prayer service was decided, they had Fountain Square booked within 15 minutes. 

For Young, the current backlash against Muslim-Americans was reminiscent of the way the Jewish community was treated at the beginning of Nazis rule of Germany.

Natalie Krebs


"I thought, this is how it must of felt in the beginning as a Jew in Germany in Berlin. Hate talk is not even responded to with love. We're just quiet, wondering if it's true," she says. 

The message of love and tolerance of diversity was reiterated by most speakers to a crowd of many races and religions. Some woman wore hijabs while other carried signs with Bible passages on them.  

"What I like about you is that I see the United States right here. Because I see a diverse crowd gathered together in peace and in harmony and love. This is the country I know. This is the country I was born into," said Reverend Sharon Dittmar of the First Unitarian Church in Cincinnati at the prayer service. 

Some also spoke of messages of unity among women and communities of faith. 

"For alone we may be only a small flame, but uniting together may we create a great light diminishing the blackness of despair, of bigotry and hatred bringing forth reconciliation, hope and understanding," said Rabbi Margaret Meyer, president of the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati to the crowd.

Natalie Krebs


Ahmad of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati says they focused on woman for the prayer service because women typically are loving and look out for each other and their children, but also to slash through another common stereotype held against the Islamic community. 

"In my own faith of Islam, women, contrary to what people think, have incredible respect and power," she says.