Good morning, Cincy! I hope your struggle to get out of bed and commute wasn't too bad this morning. Here are your morning headlines.
With less than a week left until election day, ResponsibleOhio is working hard to drum up all the support it can get for Issue 3. The most recent pro-Issue 3 TV ads feature Hamilton Prosecutor Joe Deters and Cincinnati basketball star Oscar Robertson urging voters to support legalizing marijuana. Deters, who is not identified as the county prosecutor in the ad, says he supports Issue 3 because he's tired of seeing drug dealers make money while local governments cut back on safety spending. Issue 3 would legalize marijuana but limit its growth to just 10 commercial farms run by ResponsibleOhio investors. Deters is not one of the 10 investors, but did lead a task force for the super PAC that produced a report that pointed to favorable results for the Ohio economy if the initiative passed. Robertson, on the other hand, is an investor in one of the commercial farms in Anderson Township. In his spot, he says he supports legalizing marijuana for its medical benefits. The ads will air in all 11 of Ohio's major media markets.
• A poll released by Issue 22 supporters points to favorable results for Mayor John Cranley's initiative to create a permanent hike in property tax to support the city's parks. The poll of conducted by a firm in Washington D.C. found that 56 percent of voters said they will vote for Issue 22 as opposed to 35 percent, who said they are against it. Opponents say the poll was released to discourage the opponents of the measure, and Issue 22's campaign manager admits that those polled tended to be older and more conservative than the average Cincinnatian.
• As the one-year anniversary of the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice approaches, the grand jury in Cuyahoga County is underway. Cleveland police officers and Cuyahoga County sheriff's deputies have spent the last few weeks testifying and, most recently, prosecutors have started presenting evidence in the shooting. Rice's family said it learned the jury started from the media and has called for a special prosecutor to replace Timothy McGinty after he released two reports from separate sources that concluded that the Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann acted reasonably in shooting the boy, who was holding a pellet gun outside a recreation center. Attorneys from Rice's family called into question the reports stating that they come from sources with a pro-police bias and are disappointed that Loehmann hasn't stepped aside yet.
• Ready to watch the Republican presidential hopefuls try to debate tonight? Governor John Kasich is and, according to the Columbus Dispatch, he might be showing his true colors. Kasich, who is known for being blunt, has reeled it in on the campaign trail, but last Tuesday in his hometown of Westerville, he said he's "done with being polite and listening to this nonsense." The situation's starting to turn a little desperate for Kasich, who's polling at the bottom of the national candidates and is far from frontrunners like former surgeon Ben Carson and business tycoon Donald Trump. The debate airs at 8 p.m. on CNBC and should hopefully make for some good T.V. at the very least.
Hey all! Here’s the news today. It’s a nasty, rainy pre-Halloween mess out there, so gather ‘round the warm, cozy glow of your computer screen and I’ll tell you some scary stories. Mostly about politics.
• Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee yesterday discussed a possible ban on panhandling near schools. You can read more about the proposed law in tomorrow’s issue, but here’s the long and short of it: Law and Public Safety Chairman Christopher Smitherman would like to make it illegal to panhandle within 50 feet of a school building, and his reasons for that are pretty interesting. Smitherman cited recent school shootings, many of which have actually happened on university campuses, as reasons to be extra-vigilant and to allow extra policing powers around schools.
”When I’m picking my children up 50 feet from the school, I don’t want anyone asking me anything about anything other than what I’m focused on,” Smitherman said. “Having someone on grounds that you don’t know around children makes everyone a little nervous. I wanted it much farther. I wanted it thousands of feet away, or miles away, but I had to compromise.”
He also reflected that such a law is necessary because he’s not allowed to exercise his right to concealed carry in or around a school.
“I want to know that the staff can sort it out,” he said. “For my children. Because I have already taken the position, because of the law, that I can’t have a firearm to protect myself or my children.”
The proposal drew some pushback from homelessness advocates, who point out that there is little statistical evidence linking panhandling and violence, and that school shooters are usually a different group entirely. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson also expressed concern about the proposed ordinance, suggesting it won’t add any more protection than current laws already provide. Representatives from Cincinnati Public Schools expressed conditional support for the ordinance, which makes exceptions for some kinds of passive panhandling including musical performances commonly known as busking.
The committee did not vote on the proposed ordinance yesterday, but will hear further testimony about it and potentially vote to move the ordinance to full Council at the committee’s next meeting.
• So here’s a big news flash: red meat and processed meats are bad for you. The World Health Organization recently released a study suggesting links between processed pork and beef products and cancer, and it’s been a huge boon for media outlets looking for something to fill up a slow news week. The media hand-wringing has been especially intense here in Cincinnati, because we used to be the world’s meat-packing hub for a couple brief years in the 1840s or something and continue to have the nickname Porkopolis as a hangover from that one time our city was literally living high on the hog. Now we find out that the same substance that gives us Cincinnatians life and identity also brings death. Clearly, we’re a city in crisis, but luckily, there’s some great journalism going on about Cincinnati’s meaty existential dilemma.
• U.S. Senate hopeful and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is getting a bit more national press for his run in the Democratic primary. In a recent interview in the National Journal, Sittenfeld lays out his case for his Senate aspirations, explaining why he sees himself as a better choice than former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Those reasons include an orientation toward innovation and collaboration the 31-year-old Sittenfeld touts as second nature and says that his opponent doesn’t have. In the interview, he also explained why he thinks it’s important for Democrats to continue to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement and revealed that he’s never smoked marijuana, which he says may be a liability for future politicians instead of an asset. The continued national ink can only be good news for Sittenfeld, but the upstart candidate still has a long slog ahead if he’s going to convince Democratic primary voters that he’s a better choice than his rival, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. For one, Strickland leads incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman in polling, and some Democrats have asked why the party should switch horses mid-stream when the one its on is winning the race. Err, that may be a mixed metaphor but you know what I mean.
• Here’s a funny story. Two Republican candidates for president are arguing about which one gets credit for keeping auto worker jobs in Ohio. Real estate guy and combover icon Donald Trump says his incessant badgering and shit-talking convinced Ford to move production of certain mid-sized trucks to Ohio from Mexico to avoid shutting down a plant near Cleveland. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. and fellow GOP prez contender John Kasich says it was his tax incentives. The hilarious part? The agreements that kept those jobs in Ohio were brokered by the United Autoworkers Union, which is, uhhh, a union. One thing both Trump and Kasich agree on: they don’t like unions. Though Kasich gets some credit from Ford for tax incentives he threw their way, the company continually cites the negotiations with the UAW as a big reason Ohio’s jobs stayed in the state. So, yeah, that’s awkward.
• Speaking of Kasich, his administration is getting national attention for a new plan to fight opiate addiction. Kasich introduced plans recently to spend $15 million linking doctors and pharmacies and their records with a computer database that keeps track of prescription opiates around the state. Ohio is the first state to attempt a fully-integrated computer tracking system for the drugs, which could help find and eliminate fraudulent uses of prescriptions.
• Finally, maybe you’ve heard people talk about the school-to-prison pipeline, which some activists say contributes to higher levels of incarceration for young people of color. And maybe you’ve shrugged that off and said, you know, “I’m sure police presence in schools is a good and necessary thing” or something similar. I’m not going to argue with you about it, but you should probably watch this video of an officer forcibly arresting a student sitting at her desk. It involves him tipping over her desk and chucking her across the room. The officer in South Carolina is currently suspended as an investigation continues into the incident. Just food for thought about that whole police presence in schools thing.
That’s it for me. Hit me up via e-mail or Twitter with Halloween costume or party ideas. I’ve already got some rad stuff on my radar for my favorite holiday, but I’m always up for more options.
Happy Friday, Cincinnati! Here are your headlines.
• Mayor has hit a few more speed bumps on his proposed city park tax levy. Charter Committee of Greater Cincinnati has come out against his proposed levy after initially taking a neutral position. The group changed its mind after a letter by nine board members suggested that had access to how the board members were voting a month ago, and then made calls to some member to vote neutral on the measure. responded that he did indeed call come board members, but, hey, it's a free country. "Do I talk to people? Yes, I believe in free speech," he told the Enquirer. He also denied having any knowledge of the board's original vote.
• One of parks projects is in jeopardy. Rev. Damon Lynch III of the New Prospect Baptist Church, the site of one several proposed projects, decided not to sell the church's land to the city after a town hall meeting last night. The proposed $8 million Neighborhood Center — including a swimming pool, tennis courts and an urban campground — was to use most of the church's land and will now have to be privately funded. Lynch and members of the church said yesterday they refused make a move as drastic as selling the land to support a vision that they claim was initially their own. They'd rather hold on to the land and do it themselves.
• A Republican lawmaker from Mount Lookout has introduced a plan to make Ohio a "right-to-work" state. Under Rep. Tom Brinkman's plan, Ohioans would have the option of opting out of unions and their dues. The measure would make Ohio the 26th state to pass "right-to-work," putting it in the same family as Wisconsin, Michigan and Texas. Brinkman's measure has opposition from Democrats, of course, who say these kind of plans lead to lower wages, reduced benefits and an overall less safe work environment. But the measure also might have a hard time getting past his fellow Republicans, including Gov. John Kasich, who has stopped going after unions after a state referendum overturned his attempt to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
• The Ohio Senate just voted to defund Planned Parenthood, but that’s not enough for Gov. Kasich, who'd also like to see the clinic stripped of its Medicaid funding. Ohio Right to Life has been pushing Kasich to cancel contracts with Medicaid, but that might not sail through like the Senate's bill did two days ago. Federal law prohibits Medicaid programs from excluding qualified healthcare providers, which Planned Parenthood is.
• State lawmakers finally released a report on the state's fracking tax that confirms what many environmental groups, and even Kasich himself, have asserted: The severance tax in Ohio is really, really low, but they also recommended not increasing it right now. Republican Sen. Bob Peterson of Salina said that with the oil and gas industry dealing with deflated prices, now would not be the time to increase the tax, which Kasich has called "a total and complete rip off to the state." The report was released by a task forced created to study the tax in the last state budget. Kasich, who has been pushing for the increase in order to fund income tax cuts, called the findings "disappointing."
• No one needs the upcoming weekend more than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spent more than eight hours yesterday testifying before a Republican House committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead. Lawmakers grilled Clinton on why requests for additional security were denied. The hearing brought little new information on the attack, which has been a sore subject for Clinton, and Democrats say the committee was called as a way to knock back support for the leading Democratic presidential candidate during an pivotal time on the campaign trail.
You’ll find a lot of good theater choices this weekend — Death of a Salesman at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is fine, moving production of a classic drama, while Ensemble Theatre has a hit with its one-man comedy, Buyer and Cellar, about a guy managing a shopping mall in Barbra Streisand’s basement. Here’s a review that provides my comments on both. If you enjoy Nick Cearley’s performance at ETC, you might want to come back for a late-night performance (Friday and Saturday at 11 p.m.) by The Skivvies, his musical duet in underwear with another New Yorker, Lauren Molina. They’ll feature special guests — Drew Lachey tonight and Beth Harris of The Hiders on Saturday. (No info on what they’ll wear … or not wear.) He’s doing B&C through Nov. 1, but the Skivvies happen only this weekend.
This weekend is your last chance to see the romantic comedy Sex with Strangers at the Cincinnati Playhouse (it closes Sunday). It’s a very entertaining and contemporary piece about two very different writers who are strongly attracted to one another. Last evening I attended the opening of the Playhouse’s production of Mad River Rising. Set in an abandoned barn that’s seen better days, it’s the story of Angus Stewart, a man who’s seen better — and worse — days. As a 7-year-old in 1937, he witnessed a tragic flood that washed away most his family’s farm. He was part of rebuilding it, but in 2015 Angus, now 85, is seeing a flood of modernity threatening his world. Stubborn, cantankerous and sharper than he appears at first glance, he escapes from a nursing home and hides out in the barn, where family members — past and present — swirl around him. And in the hands of actor Robert Hogan, the portrait of Angus is memorable. It’s onstage through Nov. 14.
New Edgecliff Theatre offers an imaginative fundraiser every year around Halloween. They call it “Sweet Suspense,” and it’s a production in the form of a radio drama, often of a familiar noir thriller. It happens on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at The Hoffner Lodge (4120 Hamilton Ave. in Northside). Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, a psychological crime thriller from 1951, is the material this year, a classic mystery about two people who meet on a train and conjure a twisted plot for a perfect murder. The evening’s “sweetness” is a complimentary dessert buffet at intermission with desserts from local restaurants and bakeries. Tickets are $35 (888-428-7311).
I dropped by Clifton Performance Theatre last week to see The Norwegians. C. Denby Swanson’s bitter comedy is about women scorned in Minnesota and a pair of nice hit men they hire to whack their former boyfriends. The production has a cast of excellent local actors — Miranda McGee, Carol Brammer, Michael Bath and Sean Dillon — but it’s an odd piece of writing. Director Cathy Springfield has done her best to make this distant cousin of Fargo both entertaining and coherent; but she’s only partially succeeded. There are moments of sardonic humor, but I never really got the point.
Opening this week: Ken Ludwig’s tribute to the comic farces of the 1930s and 1940s, The Fox on the Fairway is up and running at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets: 513-241-6550. … Two university productions to check out this weekend: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Xavier (7:30 p.m., plus a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.) Tickets: 513-745-3939. … Shakespeare’s seldom-produced The Winter’s Tale opened this week at Northern Kentucky University; it’s onstage through Sunday. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
Closing: WIT – Women in Theatre is offering the second and final weekend of David Ives’ sexy and provocative Venus in Fur, which was well received at the Playhouse when it was staged there in April 2014. WIT presents its shows as the St. John United Church of Christ in Bellevue, Ky. Tickets can be purchased at the door for performances at 8 p.m. tonight or Saturday. … The Hunchback of Seville, an irreverent comedy co-produced by CCM drama at Know Theatre has its final performance on Saturday. You should be able to buy tickets at the door.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
FRIDAYATTRACTIONS: THE ART OF THE BRICKMillions of LEGO bricks are taking over the Cincinnati Museum Center. Anticipated exhibit The Art of the Brick features more than 100 artworks created by contemporary artist Nathan Sawaya using nothing other than LEGOs. Explore life-size human figures, a 20-foot-long T-Rex skeleton and replicated famous paintings, including “Starry Night” and “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” plus familiar sculptures like “The Thinker” and the Sphinx. Sawaya has also created a Cincinnati-themed piece that will be revealed when the exhibit debuts. Create your own LEGO masterpieces in the interactive Brickopolis, and don’t miss special themed days revolving around Star Wars, dinosaurs, superheroes and more. Through May 1. $19.50 adults; $12.50 children 12 and under. Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate, 513-287-7000, cincymuseum.org.
HALLOWEEN: NEWPORT IS HAUNTED TOURCovers a wide range of grisly topics from murder and suicide to decapitation. Follow your guide by lantern light as he or she regales you with tales of haunts including Bobby Mackey’s Music World. 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday. $20. Tours begin at 18 E. Fifth St., Newport, Ky., americanlegacytours.com.
Good morning Cincy. Here’s a rundown of the news today.
More details are coming to light surrounding Issue 22, the proposed charter amendment to fund new projects in the city’s parks.
First, The Cincinnati Enquirer has information on the donors funding the campaign promoting the proposed amendment. Among the names that contributed the $670,000 raised by the campaign are some you’ll find familiar: Western & Southern, Kroger, Duke Energy and American Financial Group all contributed $50,000. More than half the donations to the campaign came from corporate sources. Western & Southern will participate in a plan to renovate Lytle Park, which is next to its corporate headquarters, if the amendment passes. W&S says it gave the money solely to support the city’s parks, which it says help attract people to Cincinnati.
Uptown Consortium, a non-profit development group composed of representatives from the University of Cincinnati, the uptown hospitals and other big employers focused on the neighborhoods around UC, gave $100,000. Uptown Consortium has a big interest in Burnet Woods, which sits at the heart of the uptown neighborhoods.
Individuals gave money, too. Folks living in Hyde Park, which stands to benefit from the proposed Wasson Way bike path, have been especially supportive of the effort. Donations from that zip code totaled more than $70,000. Various park board members and their spouses, as well as local philanthropists, also donated to the campaign.
• Meanwhile, revelations about big bonuses taken by Cincinnati Park Board leaders between 2004 and 2010 are causing controversy. In 2013, park leaders overseeing both the public Cincinnati Parks Board and the private nonprofit Cincinnati Parks Foundation reached a confidential settlement with the Ohio Ethics Commission regarding those bonuses, but questions linger about the way more than $100,000 was routed from public accounts to private ones with the foundation again in 2011. There are also concerns about a never-completed or published city audit of the way money was transferred between the two organizations. Cincinnati Parks Executive Director Willie Carden ran the public board and the private foundation at the time the bonuses were paid. Marijane Klug, who worked just under Carden in the public organization, also received large bonuses for her work from the private funds. Mayor John Cranley has said he has faith in the Park Board, but also said Cincinnati City Council should commission an independent audit in the name of full transparency.
• Duke Energy has entered an $80 million settlement to end a lawsuit alleging that it gave its biggest customers improper discounts on their electricity at the expense of other users. According to allegations in the suit, in 2004, Duke, then called Cinergy, brokered a secret deal with 22 of its largest industrial clients while it was seeking a rate hike from the state. From 2005 to 2008, the suit alleges, those customers paid a lower rate on their electricity — a rate that was subsidized by everyone else using Duke’s services. As a result of the settlement, residential customers could see rebates up to $400, while commercial users affected by the secret deal could get up to $6,000 back.
• The Ohio Senate yesterday passed a bill to strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood in the state. The legislation would divert about $1.3 million dollars from the women’s health organization because it provides abortions and direct that money to other clinics across the state that do not. The federal money is used for things like health screenings, not abortions, but conservative lawmakers say they want to end any association between the state and Planned Parenthood. The bill also forbids public entities like schools from partnering with the organization on things like sex education.
"This bill is not about women's health care," said Senate President Keith Faber, who sponsored the bill. "It's about whether we're going to fund an organization that has its senior leadership nationally, who by the way get money from Ohio, who believe it's good public policy to chop up babies in a way it makes their parts more valuable so they can buy a Lamborghini."
The push to defund the organization comes after heavily edited videos were released this summer purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue to undercover activists. Those videos have largely been debunked, but the organization’s donation of fetal tissue for scientific research has raised outcry among conservatives. An effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to strip all federal funds from the organization nearly led to a government shutdown earlier this month. Ohio clinics do not participate in fetal tissue donation, which is illegal in the state. Planned Parenthood runs 28 clinics in Ohio, three of which provide abortions. The Ohio House is considering a similar bill, which it expects to pass in the coming weeks. A reconciled bill will then go to Gov. John Kasich's desk for his final approval.
That’s it for me. I’m off tomorrow, so have a great weekend, y'all.
Hey all. Thanks for wading through the sea of Back to the Future Day-themed blog garbage to hang out and talk about news!
Last night, there was another debate Uptown about Issue 22, the proposed amendment to Cincinnati’s charter that would fund big changes to the city’s parks as well as much-needed maintenance for them. The big difference between this debate and the last one, which was held downtown last week, was that Mayor John Cranley himself argued for his proposal. Cincinnati attorney Don Mooney once again represented the opposition to the parks plan.
Most of the debate was a retread of points the two sides have already made, and little new was revealed, with one major exception. Cranley revealed for the first time that a joint city-county tax proposal was considered at the beginning of this year when Issue 22 was first being drawn up. That potential levy would have been a 2-mill property tax increase that would have funded upkeep to Great Parks of Hamilton County as well as at least some of the 16 projects Cranley has proposed for Issue 22. But Cranley says the deal “just didn’t make sense” because all of the proposed new park projects he wanted funded are within the city proper. Both the county and the Cranley administration agreed that a joint city-county levy didn’t make sense, according to the mayor.
• Do you want to live in a really swanky downtown apartment, but can’t afford penthouse prices? Do you love the feeling of sleeping standing up nestled cozily next to the soothing hum of your refrigerator? Then I’ve got good news for you. Really tiny luxury apartments, or, if you prefer the glass is half full outlook, really big luxury closets, will soon be part of the downtown rental landscape here in Cincinnati.
Michigan-based developer Village Green has announced that it will add sub-400-square-feet micro apartments to the plans for the 294 luxury units slated for the 1920s-vintage Beaux Arts building at 309 Vine St. The ultra-small apartment concept has been a hit in bigger cities like New York and San Francisco, where they basically give young professionals a place to hang their snazzy grown-up shirts and pass out for a few hours when they’re not freelance coding at a co-working space or drinking microbrews at a post-happy hour semi-business-casual networking dinner. Now, Cincinnatians, this lifestyle can be yours as well.
• A retrial date has been set for suspended Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge Tracie Hunter. A jury could not agree on eight of nine felony counts Hunter was tried for last year. Those charges include misuse of a court credit card, forgery and tampering with evidence. Hunter was convicted on a ninth count involving charges she gave her brother, a juvenile court employee, confidential records to use at his own disciplinary hearing. She was sentenced to six months in prison for that conviction, but is free as her case works its way through the appeals process.
Hunter’s supporters say the accusations against her are political in nature and point to the fact she’s the first female African American judge in the juvenile court system. Many, including State Senator Cecil Thomas, also point to what they say are defamatory statements made by Hamilton County prosecutors about Hunter. Hunter ran on a promise to greatly reform Hamilton County’s juvenile justice system, which some say treats juveniles of color inequitably. Those charges of inequitable treatment are the subject of a pending lawsuit filed last year against the county. Hunter was elected in 2012 after a hotly contested recount showed she narrowly defeated her Republican opponent.
• Where’s Gov. John Kasich? There’s nothing novel about accusations of absenteeism for governors who are running for president, so it’s no surprise that people are asking if Ohio’s very own 2016 GOP presidential primary contender is putting in enough time at his day job as the state’s top exec. But it’s a worthwhile question to ask as the Big Queso racks up the frequent flyer miles between New Hampshire, home and other big primary states.
Kasich's spokesman says his “cell phone works just as well in Cincinnati, Iowa as it does in Cincinnati, Ohio,” but if I tried that line on my boss I don’t think it would go so well. The questions come as other candidates in the race — including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and governors like Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie — take heat for being away from the home base stirring up support for their presidential ambitions. Kasich’s camp says technology allows the guv to stay on top of things here while he’s out schmoozing with donors elsewhere, and so far his packed travel itinerary hasn’t put a dent in his 62-percent job approval rating among Ohioans. But others who would know cast doubt on the efficacy of splitting your time between the big gig on the state level and auditioning for the top spot in the country. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the GOP primary earlier this month, said it’s been really hard running a state and running a campaign at the same time. Keeping that in mind, Kasich’s answer that “cell phones are a thing” doesn’t seem quite as compelling.
• Finally, the GOP in the House of Representatives may have finally sorted out their big dilemma when it comes to finding a House speaker. Maybe. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last night announced he would run for the speakership, which is being vacated by Ohio’s own Rep. John Boehner. But there’s a big catch: The entire House GOP has to unite behind him, and all must agree to a set of conditions Ryan has stipulated. That’s a tall order, considering a group of a few dozen hardline conservative representatives drove Boehner out of the top spot last month and show few signs of being willing to bend on their demands for ideological purity from a new leader. A few have already signaled they may not support Ryan as he runs for speaker. That could scuttle chances for a Ryan speakership and put Boehner, who has promised to stay on until a new speaker is elected, in an indefinite state of purgatory as not-quite-outgoing speaker. Sounds like a fun job, right?