Hey all! Hope your weekend was a good one. Here’s your news today.
Recent funding shifts by Cincinnati city administration away from a prominent anti-blight organization have caused a rift between the city and the group’s supporters. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black earlier this month informed City Council and Mayor John Cranley that he would be redirecting $100,000 from nonprofit Keep Cincinnati Beautiful to private contracting group Four Evergreen because the latter completes blight mitigation work cheaper and more quickly. But supporters of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful contest that claim, saying that the city’s data is inaccurate and that the group has actually reached its targets at a lower cost per lot.
Keep Cincinnati Beautiful chairman Brad Lindner, CEO of United Dairy Farmers, fired off a strongly worded letter to the city condemning the move and a Cincinnati Enquirer story that reported the city’s data without confirming it with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful. Lindner said the purportedly erroneous data was “negligently presented to the public” and called the Enquirer’s reporting “sensationalized and mean spirited.” The paper says the data was presented in a Cincinnati City Council meeting, where representatives from Keep Cincinnati Beautiful were present but did not contest it. Enquirer leaders say the paper will continue to look into the issue.
• At least 40 racial justice advocates gathered yesterday in West Price Hill and Westwood to protest the deaths of Melvin Murray, Jr. and Paul Gaston after encounters with Cincinnati police. Gaston died Feb. 17 after he was shot multiple times by three CPD officers. CPD officials say he was reaching for a realistic-looking pellet gun in his waistband at the time. Murray died in a car accident following a pursuit by police. Murray’s family said officers in that pursuit failed to render aid following the accident and might have rear-ended Murray’s car, which was demolished after the incident.
Protesters at yesterday’s event gathered in West Price Hill, near the site of Murray’s accident, and then marched to Western Hills, near where Gaston died. There, they observed three minutes of silence symbolizing the three hours they say Gaston lay in the street after his shooting. Organizers are pushing for the dismissal and indictment of officers involved in both incidents. City officials say the officers acted appropriately in both situations, though they did condemn dash cam audio of the officers in Murray’s chase calling him a “dumbass” and other insults.
• The Queen City has landed on a dubious list, ranking 10th most distressed city in the country on a new list by The New York Times. The ranking was devised from seven factors, including percentage of adults who are employed, the percentage of adults who have a high school diploma, the city’s poverty rate, housing vacancy rate and other factors. Cleveland was the nation’s most distressed city, and Toledo also made the list at number four.
• With Music Hall’s major renovations just a few months away, the project’s leaders are showing the public just what kind of transformation they’re envisioning for the Cincinnati landmark. Those changes include a new lounge area behind the auditorium, fewer but wider and more comfortable seats, a more luminous lobby area and restoration of windows on the building’s façade that are currently bricked up. Those changes, along with many others, are projected to cost $135 million. State tax credits, the city and private donors have stepped up to cover most of that cost, but $5 million remains to be raised to fully fund the project.
• Finally, U.S. Senate hopeful and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has picked up a powerful endorsement in his underdog Democratic primary race against former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, one of the state’s biggest newspapers, has endorsed Sittenfeld over Strickland, saying the former is more specific about policy proposals and has shown a willingness to engage with important issues that Strickland hasn’t. You can check out the paper’s weird slideshow endorsement here. Earlier this month, Sittenfeld also picked up an endorsement from former Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste, a prominent Democrat.
Strickland still leads Sittenfeld by a wide margin in almost all polls and is currently neck and neck with incumbent U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in polling around the general election. But Sittenfeld’s campaign points to the endorsements as signs his campaign is picking up steam ahead of the state’s March 15 primary.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
Two top officials at Cincinnati's VA Medical Center have landed in hot water with the The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. On Thursday, The feds removed Dr. Barbara Temeck, the chief of staff for the medical center, from her position. Officials from the department also proposed that Jack Hetrick, director of the regional Veterans Integrated Service Network, be removed from his position. Hetrick submitted his notice for retirement Thursday after he was informed of the department's proposal. The actions come in response to the results of an investigation by the VA Office of the Medical Inspector and Office of Accountability. The preliminary results found Temeck was referring veterans to clinics outside the VA as a way to cut costs for the clinic. The move resulted in many veterans reporting issues with the quality of care from other clinics and difficulties navigating the bureaucracy that came along with it.
• Ohio's Department of Education released its state report cards for each school district Thursday, and based on its report card results, if Cincinnati Public Schools were a bratty 16-year-old, it'd be grounded for sure. The report cards rank districts based on students' results for state tests, district spending of public money and how well the school addressed achievement gaps for different groups of students. According to the scores, CPS is falling far behind in its graduation rates and how it handles students with disabilities, earning "Fs" in these categories. It is doing well with the gifted kids, however, earning an A in this category. Overall, the district got 2 "As," 1 "B," 1 "C," 1 "D" and 5 "Fs." But even though CPS's scores appear to be very sub-par, some have questioned the relevance of the information, which is based off of a standardized test the state no longer uses.
• The Tracie Hunter saga continues. Supporters behind former Hamilton County are claiming that officials have allowed critical computer evidence in her case to be destroyed. At a press conference Thursday, they claimed that special prosecutors or juvenile court officials allowed one computer with the vital evidence to be erased while mishandling the other computer's hard drive and called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the issue. Hunter was convicted in 2014 on a felony charge of mishandling confidential documents. She recently lost an appeal on the conviction and has asking the state's Supreme Court to review the case.
• Gov. John Kasich has held on tightly to his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, and he's not giving up any time soon. He told a crowd of his supporters on Wednesday that he will not be dropping out of the race. But political experts are speculating on how long Kasich will actually stay in following poor results in Nevada and South Carolina during the past week. Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges says he might do better in Mississippi, Virginia and Vermont, the neighboring state of New Hampshire, where he came in second behind Donald Trump in the state's GOP primary. But it's still going to be a long, difficult and unlikely road for Kasich to actually catch up to frontrunner Trump.
There’s an exciting array of theater on local stages this weekend, a perfect time to check out a live performance before you settle in for the Academy Awards on Sunday night.
It seems that all a theater needs to do these days is mention Jane Austen and fans line up for tickets. I’m sure that’s what Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has in mind with its production of Emma, opening tonight. It’s the story of an amateur matchmaker who loves to meddle in the love lives of others. But when her efforts on behalf of her friend Harriet go awry, Emma Wodehouse has to undo the damage. Cincy Shakes’ productions of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility broke box-office records, and there’s no reason that show adaptation (also by Jon Jory, who led Actors Theatre of Louisville for 32 seasons). Tonight’s the opening, and the show will be onstage at 719 Race St. through March 26. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
Last June, the Audience Pick of the 2015 Cincinnati Fringe was dungeon by the Hit The Lights! Theatre Company from New York City. In fact, the company has roots here in Cincinnati; its co-founder says, “We’re overjoyed to be returning to Cincinnati, our home away from home, to invite audiences into a more fully-formed dungeon than they last encountered.” The show is about a young man who enters the unknown to rescue something he holds dear. The show is inspired by kabuki, video games, horror movies and Pixar shorts, creating a world where darkness speaks louder than light. Two encore performances this weekend at Essex Studios (2511 Essex Place) in Walnut Hills at the Cincinnati Actors Studio and Academy (CASA, Room 282B), tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets: $15 at the door.
It’s the final weekend for three shows on campus at Xavier University, presented in repertory: Miss Julie, a classic by August Strindberg; Betrayal, a heady drama by Harold Pinter; and Begotten, a world premiere by senior theater major Tatum Hunter. At the Gallagher Student Center Theater through Sunday. Tickets: 513-745-3939.
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s world premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s The Revolutionists (on the Shelterhouse Stage through March 6) has another week to run. It brings together a quartet of badass women, under house arrest during the French Revolution — including Queen Marie Antoinette and assassin Charlotte Corday. Awaiting their likely demise by the guillotine, they encourage, inspire and support one another during the horrific Reign of Terror. Sounds serious but it’s a very funny, irreverent fantasia performed by an excellent cast. I gave this one a resounding Critic’s Pick. Through March 6. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
The characters might express the feeling that “It Sucks to Be Me,” but I don’t think anyone in the audience will feel that way watching Cincinnati Landmark’s production of Avenue Q at the Incline Theater in Price Hill. The darkly funny and very adult parody of Sesame Street has been staged by local stage veteran Elizabeth Harris with a cast of singers and actors who know how to bring puppets to life — politically inappropriate, from start to finish. It’s an evening of gasps, giggles and guffaws. Through March 6. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
A pair of Cincinnati Rock bands had new projects revealed today on a couple of popular and far-reaching music websites.
Wussy’s music video for “Dropping Houses,” the first single from the band’s forthcoming Forever Sounds album, debuted on Stereogum this morning. The clip was made locally, directed by Lightborne’s Scott Fredette (who gets a shout-out in the accompanying write-up and also plays with local band Culture Queer). Check the clip out below.
Forever Sounds is released by the Cincy imprint Shake It on March 4 and the band plays a pre-release show this Saturday at Woodward Theater. Read CityBeat’s cover story on the band from last week here.
Meanwhile, another band with national/international attention on them growing, Electric Citizen, has its second album for the Riding Easy label, Higher Time, due for release May 13 (you can pre-order here). Today the website for popular Rock mag Revolver premiered a new song from the album, “Golden Mean.” Click here to listen.
The Higher Time track “Evil” can be heard below.
Electric Citizen heads out on an extensive European tour supporting Wolfmother beginning in April.
This morning, organizers of the Bunbury Music Festival — which returns to Cincinnati’s riverfront (on stages throughout Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove) June 3-5 — announced the lineup for this year’s event. This is Bunbury’s second year under the ownership of Columbus, Ohio-based concert promoters PromoWest Productions and its fifth overall.
Scheduled to perform at the 2016 Bunbury festival: The Killers, Florence + the Machine, Mudcrutch (featuring Tom Petty), Tears for Fears, Haim, Ice Cube, Of Monsters and Men, Grimes, Big Grams, Umphrey’s McGee, The Neighbourhood, X Ambassadors, Elle King, G. Love & Special Sauce, Charles Bradley, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Bayside, The Wombats, The Dear Hunter, The Mowgli’s, Diarrhea Planet, Grizfolk, Cincinnati native Cal Scruby, Here Come the Mummies, Austin Plaine, Red Wanting Blue, Oddisee, Coleman Hell, Lany, Whilk & Misky, Connor Youngblood, PVRIS, Louis the Child, Foxing, Lydia, The Shelters and Holy White Hounds.
Three-day passes are available now for $169 (single day tickets will also be available for $89). VIP ticket options are also available. Click here for more info.
Customers entering Building Value in Northside are greeted by a yard of
bathtubs, sinks and other home furnishings. It might seem like a graveyard for
building materials, but these old home fixtures are awaiting a new life.
This is confirmed by the set of child-sized lawn chairs by the store entrance.
Upon closer inspection it’s clear that the chairs are actually repurposed
shopping carts. Inside, customers bustle around the store through aisles of
cabinets, shelves and other furniture looking for a new home.
All of the goods available for purchase at Building Value are either donated by
homeowners who no longer use them or salvaged from demolished homes. Anything
bought here can be given a new life in another home rather than sitting in a
While two men get out a tape measure to see if their dream cabinets will fit
inside their kitchen, the store cat Bella Value perches atop the checkout
counter as the clerk asks a customer to sign a donation form.
“With or without the cat’s help?” he asks. Bella seems indifferent to the man’s
signature as he signs off on the goods he donated to the store.
Building Value’s main mission is to employ people with disabilities and other
workplace difficulties and give them the training needed to obtain positions in
the construction field that pay livable wages.
Those who complete Building Value’s training program develop basic
deconstruction skills. They may then be hired by companies like Messer
Construction, a partner of Building Value.
“A combination of our program and our store work hand in hand,” Daniels says. “The
deconstruction part tears down buildings and brings it back to the store; the
store sells it so that we can make money to fund our mission.”
Instead of completely knocking a house to the ground, Building Value works to
take it apart piece by piece so that almost all parts are salvageable and able
to be resold in the store. All proceeds benefit programs at Easter Seals, a
nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities for those with disabilities or
disadvantages to realize their full potential. The tristate chapter of Easter
seals founded the store in 2004.
“We’re trying to carefully remove items so that it can come here and get a
second life as the same thing or maybe repurposed,” Daniels says. “Our biggest
component here is how much stuff we divert from the landfill.”
The cheapest way to demolish a building is to completely raze it and dump all
of the components into a landfill, Daniels says. Although Building Value does
not demolish homes this way, having the service done by them may be comparable
or cheaper because the items salvaged for resale are tax-deductible donations.
“The thing that separates us from another business is that all the material
that comes back to the store is an actual tax write-off to the organization
that offsets their bill,” Daniels says.
The customers who shop at Building Value are contractors, house flippers and
those looking to repurpose old items — a group Daniels proudly calls “the
Pinterest crowd.” Since the key to making money off these ventures is finding
cheap materials, Building Value is an essential shopping destination for these
Before Daniels became the store manager, he flipped old houses and was a
frequent customer himself. He combines his skills from managing a Walgreens
store with his knowledge of what homebuilders need to run Building Value.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today.
Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman is set to introduce a motion in today’s Council meeting asking that a portion of the Central Parkway Bikeway be removed. The stretch of bike lane, which separates cyclists from the road with vertical plastic barriers, was constructed in 2014. Cyclists cheered the lanes, but a few business owners in the neighborhood groused about parking concerns. No parking spots were taken by the lanes, but cars along some stretches now have to park in the right lane of Central Parkway instead of on the curb. That’s caused safety concerns, which Smitherman cities in his call to remove the lane from the 1600 to the 2000 block of Central Parkway — about half a mile between Liberty Street north to where Central Avenue intersects Central Parkway. Some community councils, however, have expressed support for the lanes and would even like to see them expanded.
• Let’s keep talking about places for people to park their big metal death boxes, shall we? Nah, just kidding, cars are cool. But it’s also pretty cool that the Covington City Commission voted yesterday to temporarily give up five parking spots for a six-month art installation there. The art in those so-called parklets will range from stationary bikes that power a movie projector to an enormous xylophone, all designed to bring new activity and vibrancy to Covington’s Madison Avenue. It was a controversial decision, with some business leaders along the busy main street expressing concern about the lost parking, but city leaders say they hope to increase pedestrian traffic and business near the installations. The city also created four new spaces along Madison for temporary parking while the parklets are up.
• Guess who is stumping for the Trump in Northern Kentucky? One hint: He’s an attorney who has been suspended from practicing law by the Kentucky Supreme Court last year, and he shares a name with some prominent Hamilton County politicians. You got it. Eric Deters is running reality TV star Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District, which includes Boone, Campbell and 16 other counties in the state. The state’s Supreme Court suspended Deters last May for ethical violations, though Deters is currently fighting for reinstatement. He’s fought legal battles over previous suspensions as well. Trump’s campaign continues to steamroll other GOP primary contenders. He easily won Nevada’s caucuses, sending political commentators into new levels of dismay and panic.
• Ohio’s U.S. Senate race is neck and neck between incumbent Republican Rob Portman and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. A new poll by Quinnipiac University released today shows the two virtually tied in the pivotal race, which is part of a larger wrangle for control of the Senate between Democrats and Republicans. Forty-four percent of those polled said Strickland had their vote, while 42 percent said Portman was their man. That’s not great news for Portman, who should be ahead by this point as the incumbent. Meanwhile, Strickland’s Democratic primary opponent, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, trails far behind the two main contenders, mainly due to lack of name recognition. The three campaigns have spent more than $2 million on the race thus far.
• Let’s keep talking about polls, shall we? Particularly, let’s chat about that same Quinnipiac poll, which also shows Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, besting either of the Democrats’ potential nominees here. Fifty-four percent of voters in that poll said they would choose Kasich, while 37 percent said they would choose former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she got the nod. Thirty-five percent said they would choose Bernie Sanders if he were nominated. That’s better than any other GOP candidate in the field.
Marco Rubio came in second, more narrowly besting Clinton and Sanders. Donald Trump came in third, basically tying Clinton and Sanders. That last bit is illustrative of the differences between highly charged GOP primary voters and the general electorate. A poll we talked about yesterday had Trump walloping Kasich among GOP primary voters here. Kasich’s campaign has of course latched onto the results as he clings onto hope that the race will turn for him. Kasich took a beating in the South Carolina primary and the Nevada Caucuses, but his campaign staff is citing the poll as a reminder that, historically, the route to Republican victory in the general election goes through the heart of it all.