Hello all! Let’s talk about news today. There’s a lot of it, so I’ll refrain from my normal verbosity (you probably got enough long-windedness from the GOP presidential debate last night anyway) and just give you the facts.
• As a bike commuter, I’m intrigued. As a reporter who follows the trials and travails of building bike infrastructure in this city, I’m skeptical. But intrigued. A coalition of bike groups is unveiling Cincinnati Connects today, a plan that would link up various proposed or in-progress bike trails to create a 42-mile loop around the city. The groups involved include boosters of major bike trail proposals like Wasson Way and the Millcreek Greenway, along with Queen City Bike and others. Those trails, along with connectors, would need to be completed for the plan to come to fruition. But boosters say they have a much better chance at things like federal TIGER grants — which Wasson Way was recently passed over for — with this larger project. The group says 242,000 of the city’s 300,000 people would live within a mile of a bike trail should the project take off. But will it help me avoid getting flattened by that one guy who drives his SUV, like, 60 miles an hour down Highland Avenue as I bike to work in the mornings? Here’s hoping.
• Hamilton County has yet to set a trial date for Ray Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer who shot and killed unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose in Mount Auburn over the summer. At a pretrial hearing yesterday, prosecutors said they’re still in the evidence-gathering phase of their investigation, a statement that frustrated DuBose’s mother, Audrey DuBose. The court did set another pretrial hearing for Feb. 11 next year. In the meantime, a settlement to a wrongful death civil suit brought by DuBose’s estate against UC could be near. That settlement could be worth millions. Tensing pulled over DuBose because he didn’t have a front license plate on his car. Though Tensing claimed DuBose tried to drive off and dragged the officer, footage from Tensing’s body camera appears to show that story is false.
• It’s baaaack. Thanks to a change of heart by a Cincinnati City Council member, the much-discussed Over-the-Rhine parking plan has new life after a mayoral veto sunk it earlier this year. At that time, Council had five votes in favor of the plan, which would block off 450 parking spots for residential permit holders. Those permits would cost $108 a year or $18 for low-income residents. Another 151 spots would be set aside for service workers in the neighborhood. Cranley didn’t like the idea, however, saying that people all over the city pay for the streets and thus have a right to park on them. Now, however, Councilman Charlie Winburn has been persuaded to switch sides and vote for the measure, giving Council a veto-proof majority. Winburn says he asked OTR community members about their biggest problems and that parking came up over and over again in those discussions.
• Speaking of Mr. Winburn, it looks like his road to running as the Republican candidate for the county commission seat vacated by outgoing chair Greg Hartmann just got easier. Winburn’s fellow council member, Christopher Smitherman, an independent, announced yesterday that he won’t seek the Republican nomination in that race. Smitherman cites more work he'd like to do on City Council as his reason for foregoing the race. That leaves Winburn the most likely choice to face Democrat Denise Driehaus, who formally filed paperwork for her candidacy earlier this week. Winburn has yet to do the same, but has expressed serious interest in the race.
• The U.S. Department of Justice will review a request by the family of Tamir Rice to remove grand jury deliberations from the jurisdiction of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty and conduct a federal investigation into the police shooting of Rice. That request came in the form of a letter to the DOJ in which attorneys for the family outlined what they say is misconduct by McGinty, including remarks made by McGinty to the press that the family had economic interests at heart in pursuing the case, the alleged disparaging of a defense expert witness and an alleged incident where a prosecutor stuck a toy gun in a defense expert witness’ face while he was testifying. Rice, 12, was playing with a toy gun on a playground when he was shot by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann. Dispatchers did not relay information to Loehmann from a 911 caller who stipulated that Rice was a child and that the gun he was holding was probably fake.
• The organizations that sponsor Ohio charter schools will get a new rating system after data rigging at the Ohio Department of Education earlier this year left low-performing online charters out of a statewide charter school performance evaluation. That scandal resulted in the dismissal of ODE’s School Choice Director David Hansen, who admitted to leaving the school data out of evaluations on charter school sponsors. Now, ODE is expecting to put in place a more rigorous 12-point scale that is weighted depending on school size. So if a charter sponsor has a small school that is failing but larger ones that are doing well, it won’t be penalized as much as it would be otherwise. Some have questioned this scale, however, saying students and parents at failing schools suffer no matter the school’s size. The new rating system is expected to be implemented early next year.
• So, the question on everyone’s mind. Did Ohio Gov. John Kasich break through in last night’s presidential debates? Not really. We did see a kinder, softer Kasich, however, as opposed to the sharp-elbowed interrupter who graced the stage at the last debate. Instead, he called out other candidates for fighting in what was perhaps the most contentious GOP debate yet. The tussling often centered around foreign policy and national security, and while Kasich wasn’t as abrasive as his last performance, he seemed to have a hard time getting a word in edgewise against frontrunners like Donald Trump and the recently emergent Sen. Ted Cruz. His campaign says Kasich has a busy schedule of appearances in early primary states that will bolster his profile among voters, but it’s clear time is running out to make the big splash Kasich will need to boost his flagging poll numbers and rise above the crowded GOP field.
Good morning! Here are your morning headlines.
• The streetcars are arriving one by one in Cincinnati, slowly parading around the city to get ready for their debut in the second half of 2016, but a new report released by the project's financial advisor says the cars might also be dragging in some money problems behind them. The report by Davenport and Co. says the city could be more than $1 million short during its first year. The company ran four different scenarios weighing all of the streetcars funding sources — fares, advertising, reduced tax incentives for developers, parking meters and a back-up of nearly $1 million from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation — and estimated deficits ranging from $830,000 to $1.4 million by 2017. They estimated a deficit between $495,000 and $2.4 million in 2021. Vice Mayor David Mann, a streetcar supporter, wasn't phased by the report, saying the city could handle the deficits the streetcar brings.
• The city has released a plan to help end some of the city's food deserts. Right now certain parts of Avondale, Bond Hill, Evanston, Northside and Fairmount are among the neighborhoods that struggle the most to offer access to fresh foods. The city is launching the Grocery Attraction Pilot Program to try to fill in some of those grocery store holes in the city by offering incentives such as tax abatements and waiving the city's annual food permit fee for up to give year for new and future grocers operating in those areas. The Clifton Market in Clifton, the proposed Apple Street Market in Northside and grocery stores in Avondale would qualify for the program. Council's Neighborhoods Committee passed it on Monday, and it could go in front of Council for a full vote on Wednesday. In order to quality, the stores would have to hit certain benchmarks designated by the feds: at least 6,000 square feet, operate in an area where at least one-third of residents live more than a mile from a grocery store and where the census track shows a poverty rate of at least 20 percent or a family median income that is 80 percent or less of Cincinnati's average.
• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine won't get his hands on Planned Parenthood for at least 28 days now, at least according to U.S. District Court Judge Edmund Sargus, who issued a temporary restraining order for the health clinic Monday. DeWine has asserted that Planned Parenthood clinics in Cincinnati and Columbus have improperly disposed of fetal parts and says the requirement that fetuses are disposed in a "humane" way might be "vague." DeWine hoped to sue to stop the clinics from disposing of fetal parts, but Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against his office and the Ohio Department of Health on Sunday. Planned Parenthood's Cincinnati-based attorney, Al Gerhardstein, said that the organization has been properly disposing of fetal parts for more than 40 years and that DeWine is now changing the rules on them.
• Along the same lines, several other Ohio Republican lawmakers have argued that aborted fetuses should be cremated and buried instead of disposed in a landfill. In a proposal that was started a month before DeWine's allegations, Sen. Joe Uecker (R-Miami Township), Reps. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) want to change the way the clinics dispose of fetal tissue and are proposing that a woman who has an abortion can choose on a form whether or not she prefers cremation or burial. The disposal method would be an alternative to the use of medical waste companies, which heat and sanitize the remains before dumping them in a landfill. The proposal comes after Indiana and Arkansas passed similar laws earlier this year.
• It was a sad day for hometown hero Pete Rose yesterday. Major League Commissioner Rob Manfred informed the former Cincinnati Reds player verbally and in writing that he would not lift the permanent ban Major League Baseball placed on him 25 years ago. Rose has been banned since 1989 for betting on games while he was the Reds' manager.
Good morning all. Hope your weekend was grand and not too spoiled by the disastrous Bengals loss/Andy Dalton injury Sunday, or, if you’re a UC basketball fan, their loss yet again to XU in the Crosstown Shootout. Luckily, I’m only vaguely aware of sports so I was just dandy. Anyway, news time.
Planned Parenthood of Ohio is firing back against Attorney General Mike DeWine’s allegations that the women’s health organization has been using a company that disposes of fetal remains in landfills. DeWine announced that Ohio will pursue civil penalties against Planned Parenthood over the allegations, which the AG says were discovered during an investigation into alleged sale of fetal remains for research. Donation of remains for research purposes is legal in other states, but illegal in Ohio, and the AG’s investigation found no evidence clinics in the state are engaged in the practice. However, DeWine announced that investigation did find three Planned Parenthood clinics, including one in Cincinnati, had contracted with a medical waste company that disposed of abortion remains in landfills, which he says violates a state law requiring such remains to be disposed of in a humane way. Planned Parenthood has called the allegations false and says the announcement is politically motivated. They’ve filed a federal lawsuit against the state for making the claims.
• A group of about 50 gun law reform advocates gathered in Northside Sunday to protest gun violence. National group Moms Demand Action organized the rally, which was one of many around the country aimed at highlighting the damage gun violence does to communities as well as pressuring politicians to pass tighter restrictions on the availability of firearms. One of the laws the group is protesting is House Bill 48, which would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns into daycare centers, college campuses, churches and some government buildings. That bill passed the Ohio House and is now being considered by the state Senate.
• City of Cincinnati administration has proposed a 36-percent cut in funds to neighborhood community development corporations, and the heads of those organizations are crying foul. In an editorial that ran yesterday in the Cincinnati Enquirer, CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati head Patricia Garry said the proposed cuts would “cripple” CDCs. The non-profit groups work to create economic development and shore up housing and commercial space in the city’s neighborhoods. They include the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Corporation, the Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation and a number of others, many of which signed the editorial by Gerry.
The groups rely on federal money from Community Development Block Grants and HOME programs that the city administers. Other programs receiving those funds from the city face much smaller cuts, Garry writes. Council’s Budget and Finance Committee will vote today on whether to slash funding to the CDCs. If it passes there, full council could vote on the cuts later this week. It's not the first time the city administration and Mayor John Cranley have sought to cut funds to CDCs, a move critics say is contradictory to his campaign promises to serve the city's neighborhoods first and foremost.
• Oh, yeah, back to the Bengals for a minute. The team is asking the county to commission a study from independent experts comparing Paul Brown Stadium to other NFL stadiums across the country and recommend possible upgrades. The county will most likely end up footing the bill for a good portion of any recommended improvements, much the way it paid $7.5 million of the $10 million it cost to put in a new scoreboard last year and $3 million for stadium-wide WiFi. Bengals officials say the upgrades could be necessary to keep the stadium competitive with other NFL facilities. The request for a study on upgrades is stipulated in the Bengals’ contract with the county, a deal that has been very controversial. Outside observers have called it one of the worst deals for taxpayers in sports stadium history. The $450 million stadium, approved by voters in 1996, has left the county struggling with debt and forced to shift funds from other revenue sources to cover the overall stadium deal.
• West Chester-based AK Steel has announced big layoffs at a Kentucky production facility, where as many as 620 workers will be out of work for an indefinite period of time. The move won’t affect all of the 900 employees at the company’s Ashland, Kentucky plant, but the news is still a big blow for the community, where AK is a major employer. The company says market conditions and low steel prices will force reductions in production, causing the layoffs. AK’s administrative offices are in West Chester Township, and the company also runs a large production facility in Middletown. That location has been hiring as recently as this summer.
• Finally, did Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s recent attacks on Donald Trump help Ohio’s big queso in his quest for the GOP prez nomination? Probably not. As the mainstream of the Republican Party begins to repudiate Trump over his statements about halting all Muslims from entering the U.S., among other inflammatory remarks, Kasich wants some credit. He’s been saying these things for weeks, by gosh, and people should recognize that he was early among GOP presidential primary contenders to call out the Donald. But it’s not really playing out that way, which leaves Kasich looking like he’s just crying out for attention.
“People are now beginning to wake up and say that this dividing is not acceptable, but I’ve been saying it for weeks, before anybody else even thought to pay attention to it,” Kasich said to reporters in South Carolina last week. “I’m glad I started it.”
Hm. Sometimes, though, being an early adopter doesn’t necessarily make you more popular. Kasich’s poll numbers haven’t really budged since his tangles with Trump, and more recent criticisms of the real estate magnate seem to skip over any mention of Kasich altogether. The Ohio guv’s attacks on Trump come as he works frantically to woo GOP voters, who so far have relegated him to single-digit returns at the polls.
Good morning all. It’s Friday. I’m ready for the weekend. You’re ready for the weekend. Let’s keep this news rundown brief today, k? Here's what I've seen floating around in the news and what I have written in my own reporter's notebook.
• The Hamilton County Board of Elections has released its report on last month’s rather rocky election day. The results, as you might expect, weren’t great. The report found that a crazy 84 percent of polling locations experienced difficulties that day. Those problems ranged from trouble with new electronic voting systems to poll worker errors and poll locations that closed earlier than the extended time ordered by a judge. The report is headed today to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who, let us remember, originally pinned voting difficulties solely on poll workers here in Hamilton County. Getting our polling situation worked out is a big deal, as Hamilton County was piloting a new voting system that will be extended to the rest of the state next year and because the county looks to be a pivotal battleground in perhaps the most important swing-state in the country for the next year’s presidential election. The BOE report recommends opening polls earlier and fixing bugs in voting software ahead of next year's elections.
• City of Cincinnati officials Wednesday unveiled a new plan to fight the city’s food deserts. The Grocery Attraction Pilot Program will provide financial incentives for the establishment of new grocery stores in neglected parts of the city and provide support for existing grocery stores in areas at risk of becoming food deserts. The federal government defines a food desert as an area where at least 20 percent of residents are below the federal poverty line and live more than a mile from a grocery store. Cincinnati has several such areas, including Avondale and tucked-away places like Millvale. Those incentives and support include tax abatements for stores that come into under-served communities and a waiver on the cost of food supply permits for five years. The city will front the cost of the permit inspection and provide faster, more flexible scheduling of those inspections for grocery stores in such areas. A proposed cooperative grocery in Northside, Apple Street Market, could be one of the stores eligible for that assistance. You can find out more about that project in our cover story about food co-ops and more about the city’s food access problem here.
• City Manager Harry Black confirmed yesterday that the city did not list the job posting seeking a replacement for ousted former Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, nor did the city interview outside of CPD for the job. Black defended that decision yesterday at a press conference announcing the hiring of interim chief Eliot Isaac as Blackwell’s permanent replacement, saying that Eliot, a 25-year veteran of CPD, is the best candidate for the job. Though many called for a national search for a replacement, Cincinnati City Council members said they supported Isaac in his new role. Council Wednesday voted to boost the pay range for the chief position from $136,000 to $163,000, though the original proposal by city administration would have put the top-level salary at $180,000. Some members of Council balked at that raise. Supporters on Council and in the city administration said that the pay bump was needed to secure Isaac as the new chief. Opponents of the raise said the city should focus on providing better wages to the city’s hourly workers. Isaac faces one more hurdle before he’s good to go as chief — he’ll need to relocate into the city limits from his home in Forest Park. He’s indicated he’s willing to do so.
• The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority today held its State of Metro presentation and issued its report on the future of its bus service. Big changes for the coming year include a new transit center in Oakley, smaller buses running more routes in the city’s under-served areas and smartphone-enabled ticket buying options. The announcement that Metro will run smaller buses comes after a near-strike by the Amalgamated Transit Union, which initially balked at the suggestion because Metro wanted to use drivers who do not have commercial driver’s licenses and pay them less money than current Metro drivers. ATU and Metro reached an agreement the day before a strike vote earlier this month, and now Metro will use its regular drivers to drive the smaller buses. Officials with the bus service announced at the presentation that Metro has balanced its budget for 2016 without raising fares or reducing service.
• Finally, some county prosecutors in Ohio are resisting widespread calls to reform the state’s grand jury process, including Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser. The push for reform comes after several high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men across the state, including the death of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, John Crawford III in Beavercreek and Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati. Earlier this year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich convened a task force on community-police relations made up of state lawmakers, community leaders and law enforcement professionals to study the issue. Reforms increasing transparency in the often-secretive grand jury process was among the recommendations that task force suggested. Gmoser told a state committee charged with deciding upon reforms to the grand jury process that the current process works well, and that changes will only compromise the sensitive nature of grand jury proceedings, which are secretive in order to keep from leaking information and biasing a potential trial jury.
Hamilton County Court Judge Peter J. Stautberg, writing on Wednesday to order the hearing for Daniel Hamberg, pointed out that Ghiz was in error when she claimed Hamberg had admitted to beating 13-month-old Cohen Barber and might have been biased against the defendant when she handed down his 11-year prison sentence and $20,000 fine.
“The trial court’s remarks at the sentencing hearing and on the radio show made plain that the court imposed the maximum prison sentence based not on the sentencing purposes and factors, but on its disregard for the opinions of the defense’s experts and the unfounded belief that the victim’s death had resulted from an intentional '“beat[ing],' ” Stautberg wrote.
Hamberg received the sentence from Ghiz last April after taking a plea deal on involuntary manslaughter charges for his role in Cohen Barber’s death in 2012. Hamberg says the child fell down the stairs and hit his head. Prosecuting attorneys in his trial last year, however, alleged Hamberg shook or beat Barber. Prosecutors initially sought murder, aggravated murder, felonious assault and endangering children charges for the defendant, but later offered the plea deal, citing difficulty in getting murder convictions in cases like Hamberg’s from juries who don’t want to believe an adult would kill a child.
Heather Noonan, the child’s mother, told authorities that Barber would often jump down the small stairset into the arms of waiting adults. Noonan’s family would later call for Hamberg’s conviction on murder charges, however.
While prosecutors said they had experts ready to testify that Barber was shaken, several medical experts for the defense testified that the child’s death was brought about by a single blow to the back of the head and subsequent swelling and seizures, not from a series of blows or shaking. That evidence seemed to back up Hamberg’s assertions that while he might have been negligent in looking after the child, he did not strike or shake him.
Hamberg is a veteran of the Marines disabled by injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan.
During his sentencing, Ghiz blasted Hamberg for killing the child, then said on the air with 700 WLW's Bill Cunningham the next day that the child’s death “came from a number of different things, but they can’t pinpoint exactly what it was… a lot of people know that as shaken baby syndrome. I don’t know that that was the case here. I think the kid was just beat.”
Ghiz also asserted that, “He admitted to it. I don’t care if he had been president of the United States, he’s perfectly capable of behaving in an appropriate manner, and beating a child and admitting to beating that child, and pleading to that is not OK.”
The judge, who is a former Cincinnati City Council member, also shrugged off expert testimony that seems to back up Hamberg’s side of the story, saying that “you can get an expert to say anything.”
Ghiz handed down the maximum sentence, 11 years in prison, which Hamberg is currently serving. His attorneys appealed that sentence after Ghiz’s remarks, and now Hamberg will receive a new hearing regarding his sentence by another judge.
Stautberg was joined by Hamilton County Judge Sylvia Hendon in his call for a new trial. Judge Patrick DeWine dissented, citing procedural concerns he had with the court’s decision.
Hey Cincy! Here’s the news today.
Happy holidays. If you like political drama, then the city’s streetcar is the gift that keeps on giving. The latest dustup comes over Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black’s memo to Mayor John Cranley and City Council late last week that questions whether the $4.2 million operating plan Council passed earlier this year will provide sufficient funds to run the streetcar. According to an not-yet-complete independent audit cited by Black, that plan could fall as much as $1.5 million short of the money needed to keep the 3.6-mile loop transit project running. That shortfall counts a $9 million overall financial pledge from The Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation to help fund operations of the streetcar in its first few years. The alarm comes from new independent projections about the operating costs and income of the streetcar when it starts running next year. The results of that audit have yet to be revealed, but preliminary numbers suggest the project might run between $750,000 to $1.5 million over budget. Hopefully, city officials, council members and media will wait until the full audit comes in before they start more interminable bickering about this shit. Oh, wait, too late.
• Cincinnati yesterday became the first city in the country to pass a ban on so-called conversion therapy, an often religiously based practice that attempts to turn LGBT people, often minors, straight. The legislation comes a year after transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide following bullying. Alcorn's parents took her to conversion therapy for a time. You can read more about the new legislation in our story published yesterday.
• The city today swore in its new police chief following the firing of Chief Jeffrey Blackwell earlier this year. Their pick? Interim police chief Eliot Isaac, who has been the only named candidate in the search for a new permanent head to the police department. City officials promised a national search for a new CPD leader following Blackwell’s ouster, though some have questioned whether that search was thorough enough and whether Isaac was intended to be the city’s pick the whole time. Yesterday, City Council wrangled over raising the pay grade for the police chief to $180,000 a year, which proponents said was a key bargaining chip in keeping Isaac chief on a permanent basis. Council ultimately passed a pay raise for the position, but Democrat Council members Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach balked at the raise, saying the city needs to focus on better pay for its rank-and-file workers.
• According to personal finance website Wallethub.com, which regularly cranks out interesting factoids about cities, Cincinnati is the eighth-best place in the country to celebrate New Year's Eve. That’s kind of a strange ranking to me, since New Year's is all about the parties you go to, and parties are all about who you know at them. But Wallethub found other ways to quantify the quality of New Year's Eve festivities, including price of NYE party tickets, forecasted precipitation, legality of fireworks and other metrics. Cincy came out pretty well all things being equal — just behind Portland, Ore. and just ahead of Las Vegas somehow. So if you have great friends in every major American city (or the money to fly 100 of your nearest and dearest to any of them), or, hell, if you don’t have any friends at all, this ranking should give you a great idea of where to go.
• A week or so ago, we told you about a bill the Ohio General Assembly is considering that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns into day care centers, college campuses and private airplanes, among other places. Now U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who represents Ohio, is making news with his reaction to that bill. The Democrat says Ohio lawmakers are “lunatics” for considering such a law, citing mass shootings as among the reasons he thinks the bill is a bad idea. One funny thing to emerge from the debate: Concealed weapons will still be forbidden at the State House. Republican lawmakers call that an oversight. They also say Brown should learn more about the 2nd Amendment before calling them crazy. And on and on the gun debate goes.
• Finally, here’s a bummer bit of information. For the first time in decades, Americans who are considered “middle class” are not a majority of the country’s population, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Pew’s data shows America’s middle class is receding quickly, now making up about 50 percent of the total population, a drop from 54 percent in 2001. Meanwhile, the ranks of the low-income and high-income are swelling, demonstrating the widening income gap in America. What’s more, an increasing amount of the earnings in America are heading toward that upper income group. In 1970, 62 percent of earnings went to the middle class. These days, it’s more like 43 percent. At the same time, high-income households are now taking home 49 percent of America’s aggregate income these days, up from 29 percent at the dawn of the 1970s. Pew considers “middle income” to be between 67 percent and 200 percent of America’s median household income, or between about $42,000 and $126,000 last year for a family of three.
I’m out. Later all.
Hello all! Let’s talk about news today.
Let’s play a rousing game of “would you rather” shall we? As in, would you rather take the upcoming Over-the-Rhine/downtown streetcar late at night when you’ve got your swerve on from your sixth OTR-brewed high-ABV craft beer, or early the next morning when you’re hungover and on the way to work? The good news: You might be able to do both. Cincinnati City Council’s transportation committee yesterday asked the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority to study whether it would be feasible to run the streetcar later than the initially proposed 10 p.m. weekday and 12 a.m. weekend cutoffs. Some businesses in OTR, as well as Mayor John Cranley, would like to see the cars run later Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to capture the weekend bar crowd. But Cranley also suggested the cars start running at 7:30 a.m., a time many streetcar supporters say is too late to capture early-morning commuters. Other plans put forth by SORTA would start operations at 7 or even 6:30 a.m., which streetcar boosters like more. A 7:30 a.m. start time would make Cincy’s system the latest-starting of all the modern streetcar systems around the U.S., supporters of earlier times say.
• A lot happened in Cincinnati’s startup scene over the past year, including big successes by minority entrepreneur support program Mortar, lots of activity from individual grant-giving philanthropy People’s Liberty, a big expansion by startup incubator The Brandery and more. All told, a ton of things happened in Cincy's entrepreneur-centered startup economy, and you can check out a whole year-in-review piece here.
• Amid rate hikes and investigations into possible mismanagement, will Hamilton County take over operations of the Metropolitan Sewer District, which is currently run by the city of Cincinnati? Not so fast, city officials say. Mayor Cranley and members of Cincinnati City Council have warned the county that they’re not ready to hand over the reigns just yet, and while they’re open to discussions about challenges MSD is facing, they’re in no mood to cede control of the enormous operation. Last month, county commissioners sent a letter to city officials proposing a new arrangement in which the county would take over management of MSD, citing price increases for ratepayers and allegations that the sewer district is being mismanaged. But the city says those allegations are baseless. Currently, the county owns much of MSD and the city runs the sewer system, per a 1968 agreement. Much of the current strife over the MSD stems from a federal court-ordered $1 billion overhaul of the sewer system.
• It’s a rough week to be into sweets, right? First, Kroger recalled some of its brownies yesterday on the worst possible day of the year, National Brownie Day (yes that’s apparently a thing). The retailer is pulling the brownies because they might contain walnuts, even though that isn't mentioned in any allergy warning labels. And this morning, the OTR location of Holtman’s Donuts had a kitchen fire that will shutter the location for an indeterminate amount of time. This is the most upset I’ve been about baked goods since that truck ran into Servatti last year.
• Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban charter schools from using public money to advertise themselves. Democrats in the Ohio Senate are pushing the legislation because they say public schools aren't allowed to use taxpayer funds to promote themselves to parents of potential students or to take political stands on issues, but that privately run but publicly funded charter schools do so all the time. The bill wouldn't prohibit those schools from using donated money or other non-public funds to advertise.
• The Butler County GOP failed to settle on an endorsement for any of the candidates vying to replace former House Speaker John Boehner in Congress. Boehner is retiring after a two-decade run in the House, mostly due to strife within the GOP between tea party conservatives and more establishment-allied Republicans. Butler County makes up a big part of Boehner’s former 8th Congressional District, and an endorsement from the county GOP could have been a big win for a candidate looking to take the party’s nomination in the upcoming special primary election. The district, which encompasses many suburban areas north of Cincinnati, is heavily
Republican, meaning that Boehner’s successor will almost certainly be decided in the GOP primary. Who that will be, however — and whether they will be allied with the more establishment wing of the GOP or a tea party insurgent — is still very much up in the air.
• Speaking of the GOP, the fight for the party’s presidential nomination has been a non-stop circus lately, and it’s mostly thanks to one man. Yes, yes, this is another blurb about Donald Trump. The real estate mogul’s comments earlier this week suggesting the U.S. prohibit any Muslims from entering the country caused a huge outcry, drawing condemnation even from many staunch conservatives.
Despite that, however, bigwigs in the Ohio Republican party say they would stand behind Trump should he win the nomination. At least one big local party name has diverged from that trend, however: Outgoing Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, who has said that the party needs to distance itself from Trump's rhetoric. Presumably, other party leaders are still under the assumption that there is no way Trump, who has been the GOP frontrunner for months now, can actually win the nomination and that an establishment candidate like Marco Rubio will start surging in the polls any day now. Trump has been surpassed in some polls in the GOP’s first primary state, Iowa. Unfortunately for the GOP establishment, he’s been passed up by a candidate many hate just as much: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has continually helped goad tea party Republican representatives into defiance of party leadership in the House.
• Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden is under fire again. This time for messing with one of a reporter's all time favorite things: public records. Carden recently changed the retention schedule, a listing of public records available in the Parks Department for public use, without state or local approval prompting questions from State Auditor Dave Yost. But strangely enough, Carden appears to be unsure of what the retention schedule even is. The Enquirer reports when they asked him something about it while covering election issues, he responded that he didn't know what it was, and that it wasn't part of his administration. An attorney for the City Hall issued a statement saying the whole thing was a misunderstanding by the department's staff, who didn't know they needed approval prior to changing the schedule. The Parks Department has been under scrutiny in the past few months for top officials' pay and campaign donations brought on by Mayor John Cranley's election push for a parks tax levy, which failed at the polls.
• Cincinnati may get a new police chief by the end of this year, and it looks like he already might be getting a raise. City Council voted in committee yesterday to increase the top salary for police and fire chiefs to $165,000 a year. Former police chief Jeffrey Blackwell was making $135,000 a year when he was fired last September. The only candidate for the position is currently interim chief Eliot Isaac, who has hired Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke to negotiate his salary. City Manager Harry Black has said he hopes to have a new chief in place by the end of this year.
• The recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the 355th in the country this year, has reignited the heated debate on gun control. While many have demanded further restrictions on guns, Boone County Sheriff Michael Helmig posted a message on his Facebook page requesting that those with conceal and carry permits carry their weapons for the safety of themselves and others. He called on his fellow Kentuckians to uphold the second amendment and protect the country from foreign and domestic terrorism.
• Several Greater Cincinnati school districts have made Niche's list of top school districts. The San Francisco-based start-up that uses data to rank schools put Indian Hill Exempted Village School District as ninth on its list of the 100 best school districts in the U.S. Also making an appearance is Sycamore Community School District at no. 66, Wyoming City School District at no. 69, Mason City School District at no. 79 and Mariemont City School District at no. 93. To see the list for yourself and an explanation of their methodology, or to guess my own home school district, which is somewhere on the list, but is far from Ohio, click here.
• Cincinnati's also made a list of one of the fastest growing areas for the creative classes. The Atlantic's CityLab found Cincinnati has a 21 percent growth in the creative class from 2000 to 2014. It's nestled comfortably between Salt Lake City and Charlotte. The post also has more fun maps and facts and figures so check it out.
• The Trump-Kasich war of 2015 continues. Gov. and GOP presidential candidate John Kasich has recently taken on the strategy of attacking fellow headline-grabbing GOP candidate and real estate tycoon Donald Trump. In response, Trump has released a 15 second video on Instagram that combines a speech given by Kasich with the sound of crickets while Trump is shown speaking to a roaring crowd, leaving just one obvious question for viewers: When will these two grow up?
• Trump has again succeeded in making headlines for another extreme, ill-informed statement. Yesterday, Trump called on the nation's leaders to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. until authorities have figured out exactly what happened in the Dec. 2, San Bernardino, Calif. shooting that left 14 dead at a social services center by two Islamic extremists. Trump's comments, unsurprisingly, have been met with criticism across the country from many including Rick Kriseman, the mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla., who tweeted Monday night that he was banning Trump from his city until "we understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps."
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Good morning all. Hope you had a great weekend and are quickly chipping away your holiday shopping duties. I… have barely even started, unfortunately. Anyway, here’s the news today.
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority could see a boost from a new federal transportation spending package. The five-year, $305 billion transit spending bill is expected to clear Congress and be signed by President Barack Obama as soon as this week, and it could mean up to $20 million more a year for Ohio’s transit agencies. In addition, agencies will be able to apply for access to a pot of extra money totaling up to $300 million a year specifically aimed at improving bus service. Metro hopes to compete for some of that cash as it looks to improve service over the coming years. A report released last month found that current bus service only connects riders to about 40 percent of jobs in the city.
• Tucked away in that same transit bill might be more money for rail travel as well, which could be a great thing for an effort to bring daily rail service between the Queen City and Chicago. The local chapter of transit advocacy group All Aboard Ohio has been working hard to expand that service along Amtrak’s Cardinal Line, which currently runs trains between here and the Windy City three times a week. Those trains leave Union Terminal in the middle of the night, however, and aren’t seen as a practical transit option for many in the city. The total amount in the bill set aside to revive old train routes or expand existing ones is only $20 million for the whole country; an amount experts say won’t get Cincinnati to the finish line by itself. Though All Aboard Ohio estimates expansion of the existing Cardinal Line would only cost about $2 million, our region will have to vie with some strong contenders for the a very small pot of money. Still, transit advocates say, the increased funding is a start.
• Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach will introduce legislation designed to ban so-called conversion therapy, he has announced. The Christian-based therapy seeks to “convert” LGBT people, often youth, to heterosexual preferences. Transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide last year after she was bullied for her status, was enrolled in the therapy after coming out to her parents. Seelbach's proposed law would fine therapists in the city administering conversion therapy $200 a day. Cincinnati would be the first city in the country to have such a law should council approve the legislation.
• Cincinnati’s chapter of the NAACP elected new leadership last week after a year of controversy and political wrangling, and incoming officials say they’re going to bring the civil rights organization back to its roots. Robert Richardson Sr., president-elect of the Cincinnati NAACP, has announced the organization representing black Cincinnatians is severing its ties with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, a conservative group the local chapter often allied with under former NAACP president and now-Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman. The change in direction comes after the chapter’s last president, Smitherman ally Ishton Morton, was sued by the civil rights organization’s national office over an allegation that it incorporated as a branch of the NAACP fraudulently and was spending money allocated to the organization without authorization to do so. Richardson says that under his tenure, the Cincinnati NAACP will return its focus to core civil rights issues such as voting access.
• A short, sad note: Local AM talk radio station 1230 WDBZ The Buzz is no more. The station, which served as Cincinnati’s main talk station serving the city’s black community, has been replaced by gospel programing by parent company Radio One. The Buzz was more or less the only station in town airing a number of programs dedicated to exploring and discussing issues within the black community. Talk show host Lincoln Ware, whose show runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will stay on the air, as will a syndicated program by Al Sharpton, but all other Buzz programming has ceased.
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been pulling in the most money of any GOP presidential primary candidate in his home state, but other candidates have more donors giving smaller amounts, according to campaign finance records. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson led Ohio in terms of number of donors with more than 2,400, followed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. But Kasich’s campaign did take home a pretty good amount of cash, raking in more than $2 million from his donors in Ohio. He’s going to need those fat stacks, though. Kasich is still lagging behind in polls, and recent flubs, including a less-than-stellar debate appearance and an abandoned call to create a new government agency to spread Judeo-Christian values, haven’t helped his chances.
• Cincinnati-based Macy’s Department Stores are the subject of a lawsuit out of New York City alleging the store discriminates racially against shoppers there. The lawsuit says the chain takes advantage of a so-called “shopkeeper’s privilege” law which allows stores to hold suspected shoplifters and demand civil penalties without a trial. New York resident Cinthia Carolina Reyes Orelanna filed the suit, saying that in July 2014 she was detained by security employees at a store in New York City and held until she paid a $100 fine. She was then released to the NYPD. Shoplifting charges against her were eventually dismissed. Orelanna’s suit claims that more than 6,000 shoppers were detained in this way by Macy’s stores in New York between October 2012 and October 2013.
And I’m out. Later all.