Hey Cincy. Good morning. Hope your weekend was chill. I got to eat some rad kimchi and embarrass myself via karaoke at a Korean restaurant. Fun times. Anyway. Here’s what’s going on around town and beyond today.
Things are getting hot around the new I-71 interchange being constructed in Walnut Hills and Avondale, with property and cash changing hands rapidly as the urban core’s first highway on- and off-ramp since the 1970s nears its spring 2016 completion date. Developer and controversial Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board member Shree Kulkarmi has cashed in on property around the forthcoming highway interchange, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. Two companies controlled by Kulkarmi, Uptown Partners LLC and Beecher Investments LLC, sold 16 properties around the new interchange to another limited liability corporation listed at the same address as Neyer Properties, Inc., one of the city’s largest property developers. In doing so, Kulkarmi doubled his money. Property records show the developer paid about $636,000 for the properties; they sold for more than $1.3 million. Since 2013, Kulkarmi has spent $865,000 purchasing 22 properties around the interchange. Other developers have also been rushing for properties in the area. Nonprofit development corporation Uptown Consortium Inc. has spent nearly $12 million on 100 properties in the area, the first step in constructing what it envisions as an “innovation corridor” along Reading Road.
• Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing still doesn’t have a trial date related to murder charges he faces for the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose. Tensing had a pretrial hearing this morning, but a county judge said the discovery, or evidence-gathering, phase of prosecution is still ongoing, delaying the actual trial. His next pretrial hearing will be Dec. 15.
• Oops. The medical records of more than 1,000 UC Health patients were accidentally emailed to an unauthorized email address nine times since August 2014, the health provider says. The compromised information includes patient names, medical record numbers and diagnosis records. UC Health has said it has fixed the problem, which it has attributed to an email glitch.
• Before he peaced out on his ultra-powerful perch as speaker of the House of Representatives last month, John Boehner had been in office longer than I’ve been alive. So what’s a former powerbroker once only a couple heartbeats away from the presidency to do in his retirement? Golf? A few extra rounds in the tanning bed? A few glasses of red wine followed by a good cry? Probably all of the above for Boehner, but also, some soul-searching about what state he should buy a car in, the fact he hasn’t driven in nine years and figuring out how he’s going to get by with “hardly any” staff members to help him out. Oh, and also stacking tons of cash making speeches about all that stuff and about how nothing was ever good enough for those radical Republicans he had to deal with in the House. Where do I sign up for that retirement package?
• Finally, we’ve all heard about the attacks that rocked Paris Friday night, killing more than 100 and wounding hundreds more. For better or worse (definitely worse), expect that tragedy to be a huge factor in the coming 2016 elections, especially in the immediate aftermath as candidates on the Republican and Democratic side alike wrangle with each other over their party’s nomination. The events in Paris cast a long shadow over Saturday’s Democratic primary debate, for instance, tilting the conversation heavily toward foreign policy and U.S. military intervention. That, some pundits argue, gave Dem frontrunner and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton a big debate boost over her upstart challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist running mostly on a domestic policy platform promising to tackle income inequality.
Meanwhile, renewed threats from the Islamic State, which has taken credit for the Paris attacks, promise similar terror in the U.S., specifically in Washington, D.C. That’s set of a further fervor on the right in regard to U.S. military strength and the need to close the country’s borders to immigrants and refugees. The fear induced by the attacks gives Republican candidate Donald Trump an especially strong hand, as draconian measures sealing off the nation’s borders have been one of the few concrete policy stands the real estate magnate has taken thus far in his campaign.
It’s Friday. It’s early. I haven’t had coffee yet. For all those reasons, I’m going to hit you with a briefer version of the morning news today. Think of it as fewer words between you and your weekend. You’re welcome.
So, did Mayor John Cranley violate election rules by literally giving a shout out to his park tax plan in a polling place on election day? That’s what a complaint filed yesterday by poll worker Mary Siegel alleges. Siegel says Cranley shouted “vote yes on Issue 22” inside the Urban League building in Avondale as voters cast ballots. That violates Ohio law, which stipulates campaigning must be done outside a 100 foot perimeter of polling places. Cranley has acknowledged that he made a mistake by discussing Issue 22 while he was in the polling place “for a few minutes.” Now it’s up to the four-member, bipartisan Hamilton County Board of Elections to decide whether to hold hearings to further investigate the incident. Board member and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke says these infractions happen all the time, and that the mayor’s apology should be sufficient. Hamilton County GOP chair and BOE member Alex Triantafilou has called the allegations “disturbing,” however, and said he’d like to hear more from the mayor.
• Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black is set to announce news about the city’s search for a new police chief today at 10:30 a.m. at City Hall. It’s unclear exactly what the news will be, but a notice from the manager’s office mentions the “next phase” of the hiring process, perhaps meaning candidates have been identified for the job. The top cop spot is open after Black dismissed former CPD chief Jeffrey Blackwell in September after months of friction between Blackwell and city administration. Blackwell’s supporters say his firing was political — the former chief was brought on by Cranley predecessor Mark Mallory — but the administration says many in the department had trouble working with the former chief because he was disconnected from officers and could be intimidating to other staff members. Interim Chief Elliot Isaac replaced Blackwell. We'll update this post after the news conference later this morning.
UPDATE: City Manager Harry Black has announced Interim Chief Eliot Isaac as the only candidate for Cincinnati Police Chief. Black said the next step in the process will require Issac to go through a series of private panels starting Monday that will include members of the community, Cincinnati Police Department, clergy, business community and sentinels. Isaac has worked for the CPD for 26 years and has served as Interim Chief since September.
• Let's be real: Black Friday is brutal and depressing. But some retailers are stepping up to offer an alternative, including a local spot. Environmentally minded general store Park + Vine, on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, has announced that it will be closed on Black Friday and will instead partner with local environmental group Imago to offer a six-mile urban hike from its store into Clifton. Part of the proceeds from that hike — which includes lunch from Park + Vine and other goodies — will go to OTR’s Holidays in the Bag, which supports local nonprofits. This year’s beneficiary is Future Leaders OTR, an entrepreneurship program run by OTR startup resource hub Mortar for low-income folks looking to start their own businesses. Park + Vine founder Danny Korman says he’s modeling his opt-out of the year’s biggest shopping day on outdoor equipment retailer REI’s recent pledge to close all of its stores on Black Friday this year. REI will give all employees a paid day off as a way to encourage folks to go out and enjoy nature.
Here are some short state news thangs:
• One of the Ohio Democratic Party’s top officials has officially switched her endorsement in the party’s presidential primary from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders. Former secretary of state candidate Nina Turner announced yesterday she’s backing Sanders in his bid for the big office next year. That’s something of a blow for Clinton’s juggernaut campaign: Ohio is a must-win state in next year’s presidential contest, and Turner has been one of Clinton’s biggest boosters here. Turner says she’s interested in Sanders’ strong commitment to voting rights and income and wage equity, and will play an active role in his campaign.
• Another day, another report commissioned by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office claiming the Cleveland police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was reasonable. This time, the report comes from a retired police officer in Florida named W. Ken Katsaris, who said that Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann had “no choice” but to shoot Rice on the playground where he had been reported playing with a gun that a caller said “was probably fake.” A dispatcher didn’t relay that last part, though, and video footage shows the cruiser Loehmann was riding in speed up within feet of Rice. Loehmann then jumps out and shoots Rice almost immediately.
Advocates for Rice’s family criticized the release of Katsaris’ report by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, who has released two other sympathetic reports written by former law enforcement officials calling the shooting justified. A grand jury is currently hearing evidence from McGinty’s office about the case to decide whether Loehmann should be charged in the shooting. Report author Katsaris also testified for the prosecutor’s office during a trial over the controversial shooting death of two unarmed black motorists in 2013. One-hundred-thirty-seven rounds were fired during that confrontation, which came after the two led police on a high-speed chase. The officer on trial during that case, Michael Brelo, was acquitted.
• Finally, Gov. John Kasich, one of the about 10,000 GOP candidates for the party’s presidential nomination, has had a rough stretch of late. He was booed at the last Republican debate. His low poll numbers aren't budging. And yesterday, he got heckled in a room full of senior citizens in New Hampshire for talking about defunding Planned Parenthood. To be fair, though, it was a mixed bag in terms of partisan issues. He also got pushback from some audience members when he discussed a modest minimum wage increase in Ohio. Yeesh. Tough crowd.
Hey everyone! Here are your morning headlines.
Residents of an Avondale apartment complex are demanding their landlords pay up after the collapse of the apartment's roof last Friday. Approximately 70 residents of the Burton Apartments have been living in a Days Inn since last week, and with the help of Legal Aid Society and the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition are asking their landlords PF Holdings and the Puretz family to fix the apartment complex and, in the meantime, continue to provide temporary assistance. So far the owners, who are based out of New Jersey, have said they'll pay for just a week at the Days Inn, leaving the residents, which include 17 children, worried that they'll being kicked out of the hotel come this Friday. PF Holding and the Puretz family own other subsidized housing complexes in Walnut Hills and Avondale and are currently under litigation by the city for the poorly maintenance of those properties. One resident of the Burton Apartments told the Enquirer the complex was in such bad shape the week before the roof collapsed, they were using umbrellas in the hallways when it was raining. For now, residents are hoping to retrieve some of their possessions when the building is inspected tomorrow at noon by the city.
Former restaurateur Liz Rogers is scheduled to be in court tomorrow. Rogers faces charges for impersonating a Cleveland police officer last March when workers arrived to repossess her car. She faces a maximum of 30 days in jail and $250 fine. Rogers was the owner of Mahogany's, a failed restaurant at the Banks. Last March, she was ordered to pay back $100,000, one-third of the loan that the city gave her in an effort to bring more minority-owned businesses to the area, and made the first payment at the beginning of this month.
This time last year I couldn't stroll through Over-the-Rhine while satisfying a craving for macarons. Oh, how times have changed! The last 12 months OTR has seen 41 new, independent businesses open, more than double from the year before, bringing to the area new, typically pricier, beer halls, night clubs and fancy taco bars. On Tuesday the Chamber of Commence kicked off the seventh annual Shop Local celebration to bring Christmas shoppers to the area so they will no longer worry about where to find the best mini-cupcakes.
A bill proposed by Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Monclova Township) would cut the amount of time Ohio's unemployed receive benefits in half. Sears' bill would knock the current number of weeks of unemployment from 26 down to somewhere between 12 and 20. Her plan comes as an attempt to pay off some of the debt Ohio has to the federal government. When the recession struck, Ohio had to borrow $2 billion from the feds and is still in the red for $774.8 million, which Sears says could come from cutting the unemployment benefits as unemployment is low in the state now, but opponents to the bill say that it unfairly goes after just one group of people and adds more hurdles for already hard-to-obtain benefits.
A Utah judge has removed a foster child from a lesbian couple's home, citing he's found evidence that claims the 1-year-old girl would be better off with heterosexual parents. Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland were married last summer and are already the parents of two children and said they were planning on adopting the girl when a judge halted the process. The couple said they asked the Judge Scott Johansen for his evidence, but he has not produced it. Peirce believe the move was based on his religious beliefs, which are not known, but the Washington Post reports he is a graduate of Brigham Young University, which is operated by the Mormon Church. The church has recently voted to exclude kids of same-sex couples until they are adults.
That's all for today! Email me at email@example.com with any happenings in the city.
Democrats and Republicans gathered in front of the board of elections yesterday scratching their heads and trying to figure out just what went wrong on Election Day when a series of glitches forced Hamilton County polling places to stay open two additional hours. Most of the blame was placed on the new electronic sign in system, which was programmed with the wrong cut-off date for voter registration, excluding as many as 11,000 people. The system's manufacturer Tenex Software Solutions, which created the system for $1.2 million and set the cutoff date as July 6 and not October 5, issued a public apology yesterday. But lucky for them, as voter turnout is generally low across the United States, official estimates put the number of excluded people around 4,000. Other culprits for the Election Day disaster include poor Internet connections, older poll workers unfamiliar with the new technology and problems with the machines reading old, worn down driver's licenses' barcodes.
Is your dream to ride the streetcar in a drunken haze Friday night post-OTR bar hopping and binge drinking? Well, Mayor John Cranley and SORTA are working to make that dream a reality! SORTA is thinking of extending the streetcars' hours before it's even made its debut to the public. Currently, the streetcar is scheduled to operate 6 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every other day of the week. Two plans have been launched that would generally start service a little later in the morning, around 7 a.m., and keep it running until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, which conveniently coordinates with closing time for the bars. Mayor Cranley says he supports the streetcar operating later to support the growing nightlife in Over-the-Rhine and downtown. SORTA will submit the revised schedule to its board and City Council at the beginning of next year.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative by the Federal Housing Finance Agency has selected Cincinnati as one of 18 cities that will let local community organizations get first dibs before the general public on foreclosed properties owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. The project, which hopes to help cities that were hit the hardest by the housing crisis, selected cities that have at least 100 properties valued at less than $75,000. Cincinnati easily hit this mark with between 301 and 700 properties falling into this category. The program will launch Dec. 1 and also be extended to other troubled Ohio cities like Akron, Dayton, Columbus and Toledo.
Gov. John Kasich might still be lagging behind in polls, but at least he's determined to be heard. In the fourth GOP presidential debate last night, Kasich got the second most air time, but obtained most of it by interrupting fellow nominees and moderators. In the process, he managed to get Donald Trump booed then himself booed when he said he would bail out the big banks and launched into an exchange with real estate tycoon Trump over immigration and fracking. The Columbus Dispatch reported that while Kasich's new aggressive tactics and moderate positions may be good in the general election, it might not fare so well for him in the primaries, where he is already the underdog and is easily overshadowed by the more extreme Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Football, America's favorite sport, causes head injuries and concussions. So we should all be signing up little Billy and Jane for soccer, right? Well, turns out soccer also causes head injuries when players heading the ball, which looks impressive, but may actually cause a lot of damage later on. So the United States Soccer Federation, which oversees U.S. soccer youth national teams, has unveiled a new set of regulation, one of which is prohibiting children 10 and under with their precious developing brains from heading the ball. The move comes to resolve a lawsuit was filed by players and parents in August 2014 against FIFA, U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization for failing to monitor all the head injuries.
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Civil rights leader and former presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson visited the University of Cincinnati on Tuesday, speaking to students and activists for about 45 minutes on a number of topics related to recent national discussions around race, college activism and voting. Jackson’s remarks drew a packed house of about 100 at the school’s African American Cultural and Resource Center.
UC has been at the center of those conversations both locally and nationally after UC police officer Ray Tensing shot unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose July 19 in neighboring Mount Auburn. The aftermath of that shooting has raised both renewed activism around racial inequities and racial tensions on UC’s campus.
Jackson has been in Cincinnati for the last two days, meeting with local ministers and business leaders before making his impromptu appearance at UC. During his talk, Jackson spoke about another university that has been a focus of the national debate on racial equity. Jackson returned often to recent events at the University of Missouri, where racial tensions in the past few weeks led to the resignations of university president Tim Wolfe and chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
Student activists there staged protests and a grad student undertook a week-long hunger strike over racially charged incidents on campus and what they saw a subsequent lack of action by school administrators. The protests culminated in a move by university football players refusing to take the field until the hunger strike ended.
“It really shows the power of one dedicated person, one student who decided to fast to get everybody else’s attention,” Jackson said. “Sacrifice matters.”
Jackson encouraged students at UC to vote, to focus on academics and to be clear in demands for racial equity on campus and beyond.
“The agenda must correspond to the needs,” Jackson said about campus activism at UC, the University of Missouri and elsewhere. “The board of directors hire the president. The C-suites make decisions on a day to day basis. The faculty. The tenured professors whose jobs are secure in the academic world. The supplier contracts on this campus. The university lawyers. The advertising and marketing. All of this should be an agenda for change.”
A group at UC called the Irate8 that formed in the aftermath of the DuBose shooting has staged rallies, teach-ins and other peaceful efforts to advocate for black students on campus. The group is named for the 8 percent of the school’s student body that is black. The Irate8 points out Cincinnati’s population is 45 percent black and has pushed the UC administration to articulate a plan to boost diversity on the school’s main campus to better reflect the demographics of the city as a whole.
On Oct. 15, the Irate8 released a list of 10 demands for UC’s administration. In that list, the group asks that for establishment of campus-wide racial awareness training, disinvestment from any companies running private prisons, the hiring of at least 16 black staff and senior faculty members over the next three years and the doubling of the school’s percentage of black students on campus.
The group is also pushing for substantial reform to UC’s police force in the wake of the DuBose shooting, highlighting the large disparity between blacks and whites in stops and arrests by the department in the past year. In 2014, 17 whites and 52 blacks were stopped by the UC police force. Police issued 30 citations to whites that year and 119 to blacks.
Administrators say they’re working to address activist’s points. Meanwhile, racially charged statements similar to those that sparked tensions at the University of Missouri have cropped up on social media at UC, further increasing tensions at the school.
Despite those messages, however, Jackson said collaboration and diversity are the keys to success for activists at UC.
"The dream must include all of us," Jackson said, repeatedly admonishing student activists to build inclusive coalitions with other groups of all races on campus and beyond around student debt, voting access and other issues to achieve their goals. "The more people I include, the bigger my agenda gets."
Hey Cincy. There’s a ton of interesting stuff going on today. Let’s talk about some of it.
• The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce this morning is hosting a series of discussions about transit in the region, and the event has drawn a packed house. The event comes on the heels of a less-than-stellar report about Greater Cincinnati’s transit options. According to that report, only 22 percent of jobs in the city are easily accessible by public transit, and only 58 percent across the region are within a 90-minute transit ride.
The Chamber’s event today features a panel discussion involving local transit officials and experts and a keynote address from former Zipcar head and transit expert Gabe Klein. Among the highlights: Republican Cincinnati City Councilwoman and chair of the Council’s transportation and regional cooperation subcommittee Amy Murray advocating for an expansion of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Metro system via a county-wide tax increase. That ask may appear on the ballot next November. Democrat Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, also speaking on the panel, pointed to the fact that the region is dead last among peer cities in terms of transit connectivity, and that this weakness could hamper economic growth.
Klein’s talk focused on the way transit can increase a city’s economic competitiveness, and how high emphasis on highways and lack of transit options can hamper a city’s walkability and its ability to attract young people. Klein also argued in favor of a return to density in city centers, especially density focused on eliminating the need to rely on cars to get to necessities.
“Making cities dense again, a place where people want to be, just makes sense,” Klein told attendees, arguing that increased density with less reliance on cars (and need for parking, for example) changes the equation for developers and residents when it comes to making decisions about where to build and live.
• Speaking of transit, the streetcar is taking its first trips under its own power today around Over-the-Rhine. You may see the shiny new orange and white vehicles, which look a little like space trains or something, making a 1.6 mile loop between the southern edge of Washington Park and Henry Street just north of Findlay Market. There won’t be any street closures along the route as officials seek to test how motorists and pedestrians interact with the new addition to traffic. The cars will travel very slowly most of the time — about three miles an hour — though at times the cars will be bumped up to 10 mph and occasionally all the way up to a top speed of 25 mph. The tests could take up to three days.
• About 20 local fast food, homecare and childcare workers gathered at City Hall this morning to advocate for a boost in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The demonstration was part of a larger group of events happening across the country today advocating for the wage boost with an eye toward the 2016 elections. According to organizers, walkouts, city hall rallies and other events are planned in more than 270 cities nationwide today. The group gathered at Cincinnati City Hall this morning will also rally in Norwood at noon. In addition to wage increases, the groups, part of the Fight for 15 movement, are also protesting for increased union rights in industries that aren’t friendly to collective bargaining. Organizers say today’s rallies are just the start of a year-long effort to put pressure on candidates and officials to take steps to expand collective bargaining rights and wages for low-income workers. More than 2 million Ohioans make less than $15 an hour.
• What’s the difference between jail and a cozy stay in a place you found on Air B&B? Here’s a hint: it’s not the price. Jail stays in some parts of the state can cost you an average of more than $70 a day, a report from the American Civil Liberties Union found recently. Those fees can add up. One man who has been booked multiple times on non-violent drug charges now owes the state more than $21,000 for his time in county jails. Not all jails charge booking or daily fees, but at least 16 in the state do. Generally, county commissioners decide whether or not to charge the one-time booking fees (which Hamilton and Butler Counties do) and the recurring daily fees (which they do not). The ACLU is asking the state legislature to create rules against those charges.
• Finally, is a dynamic duo of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the cards for the 2016 presidential election? Pundits have been opining on the possible dream team (or nightmare scenario/comedic and bumbling buddy movie in the making, depending on your political leanings) after noticing the two contenders for the GOP presidential nomination have been notably less than hostile to each other during debates and in the press. Kasich brings experience and well, one of the nation’s biggest swing states. Rubio brings youth and… one of the other big swing states. Of course, neither one wants to play Robin to the other’s Batman just yet and take the VP spot, but time could change that, especially if Kasich doesn’t take a big upswing in the polls in places like New Hampshire, the early primary state where the Ohio gov has said he must do well to continue his campaign.
Good morning Cincy. Let’s talk about what’s been going on in the news the past few days.
The University of Cincinnati and city officials continue to work on a revised memorandum of understanding in regard to the university’s police force, officials for both organizations told Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee today. Following the July 19 shooting death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing, the city is working to fold UC’s police officers into Cincinnati’s collaborative agreement. That agreement, which establishes guidelines for training, community engagement and accountability for Cincinnati police officers, sprang up in the wake of civil unrest following the 2001 police shooting death of unarmed 19-year-old Timothy Thomas. Officials with UC and the city have said they hope to have a renewed memorandum of understanding by spring 2016. Until that time, UC officers are limited in their off-campus patrolling abilities. Following the DuBose shooting, campus activists have called for further actions to ensure racial equity within the university’s police force and the UC campus as a whole, many of which go beyond the city’s work to establish a new set of working agreements with the UC police department.
• It’s been a rough couple weeks for Wasson Way, the proposed bike path that would stretch 7.6 miles from Xavier University to Newtown, but there’s some good news ahead in the form of a state grant. Late last month, the federal government announced the project wouldn’t be receiving millions in Transit Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants that could have gone a long way toward funding the $7 million to $11 million effort. Bike path advocates got more bad news last week when voters passed on Issue 22, a property tax increase charter amendment that Mayor John Cranley proposed to fund Wasson Way and a number of other projects. But late last week, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources approved a $500,000 grant to fund a portion of the path stretching two-thirds of a mile between Madison Road and Dana Avenue on the city’s East Side. Both Cincinnati City Council and private philanthropy groups are working to find additional funding for the path, which boosters tout as a way to spur economic development in the area.
• One project that won’t feel a negative impact from the Issue 22’s ballot failure is a proposed Ziegler Park redevelopment. That project passed another hurdle Friday when the Cincinnati Planning Commission approved plans for the park, which include a new pool, an extensive green space, a water feature and updates to basketball courts. Officials with 3CDC and the city say efforts to change up the park, located on Sycamore Street in Over-the-Rhine across from the former SCPA building, are going forward with federal tax credits and other funds and weren’t dependent on a possible $5 million windfall had the parks tax increase passed.
• City of Cincinnati officials have asked a county judge to declare vacant buildings owned by an out-of-town developer public nuisances and to hand control over the crumbling structures to a group who can fix them. Washington, D.C.-based 2414 Morgan Development, LLC owns 10 buildings in OTR and another in Avondale, all of which have significant code violations. The development group says it is working on the buildings and could have them up to code in as little as a month and a half. But the city says it’s been pressuring the group for months to fix the properties and that the buildings are serious hazards to the public and could mean injury or death for firefighters should one burst into flames.
• If you’re a fan of natural grocer and hipster joke punch line Whole Foods but you’re not a fan of spending half your paycheck on organic kale and a $50 juice cleanse kit, you’re gonna love this. According to Whole Foods financial reports, Cincinnati will be one of the first cities in the country to get a new, more value-priced concept called 365 by Whole Foods Market. The store, which will occupy an as-yet-unannounced location, will be smaller than the sprawling market at Rookwood Commons and will have lower-priced organic produce and other items. Other cities getting the new stores include Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Bellevue, Wash., and Santa Monica, Calif. Cincinnati’s location is expected to open in 2017.
• Finally, we’re still talking about the Brent Spence Bridge and probably will be for some time. A proposed alternative to the antiquated bridge’s needed $2.6 billion revamp has been shrugged off as unrealistic by many officials, but it might still be on the table with the election of tea party Republican Matt Bevin as Kentucky governor. Basically, some Northern Kentucky business leaders opposed to the possibility of tolling on the Brent Spence to fund the multi-billion project have proposed… uh, another multi-billion-dollar project, the construction of a 68-mile bypass highway leaving I-75 in Springboro, Ohio and returning to the highway in Grant County, Kentucky. That project would require its own $100 million bridge over the Ohio River in addition to the high costs of building the highway itself.
Transportation policy experts say the construction of that bypass could take decades and cost billions, but Bevin has signaled he’s open to considering it as an option to reduce stress on the overcrowded and somewhat crumbling Brent Spence. That bridge was built in 1963 and, as a vital link in one of the country’s busiest shipping routes, currently carries double the daily traffic it was designed to accommodate.
One of the most important questions to come out of last night’s election isn’t about the results of any specific ballot issue, but instead about the process by which voters cast, or, in some cases, had a hard time casting, their ballots.
Many are wondering why voting was so arduous in Hamilton County yesterday, with technical glitches forcing some voters to cast provisional ballots and imprecise information given by poll workers sending other voters scrambling.
While the entire state of Ohio, and really, much of the country, waited to see if voters would legalize marijuana here, Hamilton County fumbled with errors. Now, some are wondering whether these stumbles are related to a new electronic voting system, and if the difficulties could spell trouble during next year’s sure-to-be-contentious presidential election, where Ohio will play a central role.
Voters reported problems with the county’s new voting system in the West End, Madisonville, Evanston, Northside, Clifton, Coryville, Mount Lookout, Roselawn, Hyde Park, Northside and other areas. The system, which relies on tablet computers to scan IDs and check in voters, hasn’t been used before.
Secretary of State Jon Husted put the entire state’s election results on hold so the county could extend voting times until 9 pm. The order for polls to stay open an extra two hours came from a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert P. Ruehlman in response to injunctions from Issue 3-backers ResponsibleOhio and former State Sen. Eric Kerney, who cited long lines at some polling stations.
The appeals to the court came after voters in a number of precincts throughout the county reported that, though they had registered to vote months prior, the new electronic voting system employed by the county did not recognize their names and would not allow them to cast electronic ballots, even if their registration was confirmed by written voter logs. Some were asked to cast provisional ballots, or to head to the Hamilton County Board of Elections office downtown.
Jane Pendergrast of Delhi Township reported on Twitter that she had to cast a provisional ballot after her name didn’t show up in the e-poll books. Pendergrast said a poll worker told her the same difficulties had happened to about 50 other voters at the polling location.
Meanwhile, other poll workers were confused by ID requirements and asked voters to cast provisional ballots unnecessarily, some voters say.
The provisional ballots are only counted if elections are close, leading some voters to feel like their votes didn’t matter.
Kevin LeMasters voted at one of the county’s largest polling locations, the Coryville Recreation Center. That voting location serves more than 1,700 voters. He says poll workers there were requiring voters to fill out provisional ballots if the address on their IDs did not match information in the Board of Election’s electronic system, despite the fact that’s not what BOE rules stipulate.
“What concerns me is the following, this particular location is the 2nd largest polling location out of 557 in Hamilton and should be staffed appropriately,” LeMasters said in an e-mail. “It is situated close to UC's campus where the large majority of students do not have an ID with the same address considering the fluid nature of their housing. Was this an accident, something nefarious? Whether malice or ignorance, it is unacceptable either way.”
Secretary of State Husted visited Hamilton County polling locations earlier in the day, when difficulties voting were already being reported. Husted blamed poll worker error for the problems, despite the fact many seemed to be technical in nature and had much to do with the new electronic system used to gather votes.
“"By and large, it's working great," Husted said yesterday. "Any time you have a massive technology change, you're going to have some problems."
Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson pushed back at Husted’s assertion via social media, saying constituents were reporting that tablets used in vote gathering were freezing or not connecting to the internet; technical problems that aren’t necessarily due to poll worker error.
Meanwhile, other, non-technical difficulties popped up. In Northside, some voters found themselves
locked out of a polling location around 7:30 pm, even though it was
ordered to stay open until 9. Eventually, voters there were able to gain
entry to the location, which poll workers said had been locked by
The voting difficulties are the latest chapter in Ohio's fraught struggle over voting access. Voting rights advocates have fought state efforts to reduce voting hours in recent elections, especially in urban areas.
Hamilton County Board of Elections members said no voters appear to have lost the opportunity to vote due to the difficulties and that they don't represent any sort of disenfranchisement, either accidental or purposeful.
But the rocky questions linger about the electronic system, which is set to go state-wide next year, just as the country focuses on Ohio and its pivotal role in deciding an especially heated presidential election.
If you already miss the excitement of following local ballot issues, there are a couple that look likely for next year. Supporters of the Preschool Promise, an initiative that looks to extend preschool to more Cincinnati children, are holding an introductory event tonight at Rhinegeist brewery from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. With 44 percent of the city's children living in poverty, that initiative looks to be a big one for 2016.
• Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Republicans handed Democrats a beating. Bevin's election as governor is something of an upset, as polls had Conway up by as much as five points heading into voting. Bevin is only the second GOP
governor in the last 40 years in Kentucky. The race was also a walloping down-ticket, with Republicans taking most major statewide offices except
attorney general, won by Democrat Andy Beshear, and secretary of state,
which Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes hung onto. Not good news for