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?
Hey all. Let’s talk about news real quick.
A Fairfield Police officer stationed at Fairfield High School was suspended for three days without pay after he accidentally shocked a student with a Taser last month, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. An investigation into the incident found that the officer wasn’t acting with any malice toward the student, but concludes that it “should not have occurred.” No kidding. Reports from the department reveal officer Kevin Harrington has “displayed his Taser in the past to students without a valid law enforcement purpose.”
Harrington was speaking to a 17-year-old student in his office about her recent breakup with her boyfriend. The officer says he was trying to cheer her up. At one point the student reflected that she would probably get back with the boy and be in Harrington’s office again in a few weeks. At that point, Harrington joked, “if you were my daughter I would just tase you.” He pulled the Taser out, but thought it didn’t have its cartridge in it. The Taser, a newer model, had a second cartridge in the handle. It went off, and one of the barbs went into the student’s abdomen. According to officials, Harrington has admitted to pulling out his Taser around students 15 to 20 times during his three years of service at the school.
• As we told you recently, Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann will face a tough challenge from Democrat and current State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton in his quest for reelection next year. Hartmann was at the center of a fight last year over the county’s sales tax hike to fund renovations to Union Terminal, a tax which initially also included funds for Music Hall. Cutting the latter from that deal has made Hartmann and fellow Republican commish Chris Monzel unpopular in some circles. But Hartmann says he’s ready to fight for another term, and that his stance on Music Hall saved tax payers tons of money and will be seen as a positive by many voters. Hartmann discussed that and many other issues surrounding his reelection bid in an in-depth interview with the Business Courier. It’s worth a read.
• Speaking of elections next year, is former Ohio governor and U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Strickland worried about a recently announced super PAC backing Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld? Not at all, he says. Both Sittenfeld and Strickland were at Longworth Hall last night for the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s fall fundraiser last night. At the event, Strickland told reporters that he’s focused on incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman and that Sittenfeld isn’t his enemy. He also expressed confidence that opponents could spend millions against him and would still come out the winner of the 2016 race, a vital one for Democrats looking to take back control of the Senate. Sittenfeld also spoke at the event, challenging Strickland to a debate. But the former guv says that’s unlikely to happen, mostly because he’s more focused on Portman. Strickland has little incentive to debate Sittenfeld, as he’s the frontrunner with a huge lead against the councilman and statewide name recognition from his time as governor.
• I might be stepping over into our music department’s turf on this, but I think it’s pretty cool and worth a brief mention. Cincinnati is the setting of a new video by rap legend Talib Kweli. The video for Kweli’s “Every Ghetto” shows Kweli hanging around various Cincinnati locations with some Cincinnati notables, including local rapper Buggs Tha Rocka, who is sporting Cincinnati-based Floyd Johnson’s Ohio Against the World gear. There are shots of various downtown locations, the fountain on the corner of Clifton and Ludlow avenues and more. The song was also produced by long-time Kweli collaborator and Cincinnatian Hi-Tek. Pretty rad.
• Ohio has delayed scheduled executions again over the lack of proper drugs necessary for administering the death penalty, state officials announced yesterday. The announcement comes after the state said earlier this year that it would cease using a two-drug cocktail designed to replace thiopental sodium, the drug once used in administering the death penalty. Ohio has had trouble sourcing that drug, which American companies will no longer sell for execution use. The two-drug cocktail used to replace it has caused abnormally long, and some critics say painful, executions in Ohio and other states. But the state is finding it difficult to obtain more thiopental sodium, even from overseas suppliers, forcing officials to push back scheduled executions. Ohio has more than 25 executions scheduled between January 2017 and 2019.
• Finally, I assume you’re familiar with Westboro Baptist Church, the group of religious extremists known for protesting gay rights at funerals and many other incredibly charming and principled activism efforts. The kooky group of far-right warriors is at it again, focusing their ire and formidable protesting skills on… Kentucky’s most famous clerk of courts Kim Davis. That’s right. Even the clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses in protest of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same sex marriage can’t escape the hateful wrath of the Westboro folks. Wait. Aren't y'all supposed to be on the same side here? Apparently not. Davis is a hypocrite, Westboro members say, because she’s been divorced and remarried. A few members of the group picketed outside Davis’ office yesterday and called for Davis to divorce her current husband and return to her original husband… for some reason… and also said that Davis should do her job and issue marriage licenses and focus on protesting same-sex marriage in her own time, because “God hates oath breakers just like he hates adulterers and hates same-sex marriage.” Well then. It’s really hard to know who to root for here, folks.
Hello all. I hope your weekend was good. I spent part of my Saturday volunteering at the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative’s annual Youth Summit at Xavier University. The summit involved a number of sessions on topics youth in Cincinnati said they wanted to know more about. Hundreds of young folks crammed into sessions about goal setting, fitness, civic engagement and more.
There was also a two-way facilitated conversation between Cincinnati police officers and youth attendees as well as remarks from CPD Chief Eliot Isaacs, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson and others. Cincy’s young people face a lot of challenges, but it’s good to be reminded how smart and driven they are and that there are a lot of people out there doing good work to help empower them.
Anyway, here’s the news today. On Friday, city workers welded together the last bit of track for the streetcar, bringing the highly contested transit project one step closer to reality. So far, streetcar construction has been on time and on budget, though a revelation over the summer that the cars themselves will be somewhat delayed has raised concerns. The city itself did not hold any official ceremonies — officials say that will come when the streetcars themselves show up at the end of the month. But the grassroots group Believe in Cincinnati, which helped keep the project going after it was paused by Mayor John Cranley in 2013, held their own event as the final bits of track were placed. Front and center at that celebration was a look ahead toward a proposed next phase of the project, which advocates would like to see head Uptown toward the University of Cincinnati and the city’s hospitals. Cranley remains opposed to the so-called Phase 1b plans, at least until the initial phase, which is a 3.6-mile loop through downtown and Over-the-Rhine, can be evaluated.
• Speaking of Over-the-Rhine, one of its mainstay breweries is growing. Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. just finished a $5 million expansion, the center of which is 12 new fermenters that will increase its brewing capacity from 15,000 barrels a year to 50,000. It has also added new equipment that will allow it to produce more cans of beer in addition to bottles. Up to now, the brewery had been using a mobile canner. All this increased capacity means that Moerlein will be able to produce all of its historic Hudepohl brand beer right here in Cincy, an operation that had been contracted out to other breweries outside the city.
• Let’s head next door to Pendleton real quick, where the next phase in a large redevelopment project by Model Group is taking shape. Cincinnati City Council on Friday approved a 12-year property tax abatement worth nearly $90,000 a year on Model’s $6.4 million redevelopment plan, which will create 30 market-rate apartments and about 1,200 square feet of retail space in the three- and four-story rowhouses on East 12th and 13th streets. The project is expected to be completed by September of next year.
• Hamilton County Commissioners today will consider a proposal by Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil to create a heroin detox facility in the county’s Justice Center. The plan would use $500,000 to create an 18-bed treatment center to help inmates detox off the drug with medical help. That’s a big change from what happens now, and in most jails, where inmates are often left to detox cold turkey. Neil and project proponent Major Charmaine McGuffy, who runs the Justice Center, say detoxing without medical attention can be fatal for inmates. Neil says the current approach to dealing with inmates hooked on opiates isn’t working and that the county needs a new plan. It takes about a week of medical attention and a round of special drugs to undergo a chemical detox like the kind the proposed treatment facility would administer.
• Finally, as we’ve talked about before, Gov. John Kasich has identified New Hampshire as a make-or-break state for him in the GOP presidential primary election. If he doesn’t do well in the Granite State’s Feb. 9 primary, he says, he’s outtie. Sooooo… uh, how’s it going? Not so great so far, it would seem. Kasich’s still struggling to make a name for himself in the key state, according to news reports, with many potential GOP primary voters saying they don’t know enough about him. About 45 percent of the state’s potential GOP voters have a positive opinion of the Big Queso (this is my new nickname for Kasich). Hm. Perhaps our guv should make a few more ill-advised jokes or leak more Instagram videos of himself dancing to Walk the Moon.
I’m out. Twitter. Email. Hit me with news tips or suggestions on where to get some new rad sneakers. I’ve been told the bright blue Nike Dunks I’ve been wearing forever are annoying.
Photographers Laurie Simmons and Matthew Rolston have both previously done series based on its collection of dummies, and Simmons even used them in a 40-minute film, The Music of Regret, that also starred Meryl Streep.
Now Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art is hosting a new theater work, The Ventriloquists Convention, that is based on the annual event here that Vent Haven sponsors. According to the MCA, “the piece imagines meetings among the convention delegates and their dummies, who each maintain distinct voices and identities.”
European director/choreographer Gisèle Vienne is working with American novelist Dennis Cooper on this project, joined by German puppet-theater company Puppentheater Halle.
The MCA also says that Vienne and Cooper “developed their approach for this show from documentary and fictional sources, building it into a group of quirky portraits of ventriloquists celebrating their shared interests and friendship. The show explores why ventriloquists do what they do, and what lies behind the relationships that they have with their dummies.
“Performed by nine ventriloquists-puppeteers, the piece hinges on the use of multiple layered dialogues, including the ghostly, non-physical ventriloquists' voices. These portraits enable Gisèle Vienne to continue her ongoing research into the interplay between physical presence and dissociation that she had developed in prior projects.”
If you want to attend (no word yet on Cincinnati performances), The Ventriloquists Convention takes place Nov. 12-14 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $30 and available at the MCA Box Office at 312-397-4010 or mcachicago.org.
The Ventriloquists Convention is supported by the French-American Fund for Contemporary Theater, an initiative of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. and the Institut Français, It is also funded by the Florence Gould Foundation and the Catherine Popesco Foundation for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Goethe-Institut and the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.
There are almost too many good shows for you to enjoy this weekend, but depending on what you like, you’ll probably find it somewhere.
Cincy Shakes production of Death of a Salesman doesn’t open until tonight, but all sings point to a strong production, headlined by one of our region’s best actors, Bruce Cromer, as beaten-down Willie Loman, who I interviewed for my CityBeat column this week. He’s matched with another fine local stage performer Annie Fitzpatrick as Willie’s faithful but worried wife; two of the Shakespeare team’s excellent company of actors, Jared Joplin and Justin McCombs, play Willie’s sons who can’t quite bear up to the weight of his expectations. Arthur Miller’s play is one of the greatest, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award. So if it’s serious drama, get tickets for this one, onstage through Nov. 7: 513-381-2273.
Want something more frivolous and entertaining, but still a great performance? Show up at Ensemble Theatre for Buyer and Cellar, a one-man show about a guy pretending to be a shopkeeper in a vast basement treasure trove of acquisitions on Barbra Streisand’s Malibu estate. It’s 90 minutes of non-stop storytelling, rooted in a real place — but with a fantasized chain of events. Actor Nick Cearley is a comic gem, performing in a smartly written script that requires him to conjure up not just Alex, the actor hired to wait on Barbra, “the customer” (one and only), but the singer herself and a handful of others. Great fun to watch. Here’s my review. Through Nov. 1. Tickets: 513-421-3555.
If you love a good Broadway musical, you need to show up at the Aronoff and score a seat for the touring production of Pippin. (CityBeat review here.) It’s a show from 40 years ago (by Stephen Schwartz, the creator of Wicked more recently), but this version of an award-winning Broadway revival from two years ago is full of Cirque du Soleil-styled acrobatics, as well as some great songs and performers. It’s a sort of fairytale embroidered from a real historical character from the 9th century, the son of the monarch who launched the Holy Roman Empire. It’s about the young Pippin’s arduous search for a meaningful life. The “Leading Player,” a kind of emcee/storyteller, is Gabrielle McClinton, who handled the role on Broadway for part of its two-year run there, and Charlemagne, Pippin’s father, is played by veteran actor John Rubinstein — who originated the title role back in 1972. (He’s 68 now, but still an energetic, animated performer.) Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Shows previous opened that are also worth seeing include the very serious drama Extremities at the Incline Theater in E. Price Hill (tickets: 513-241-6550), onstage through Sunday; and Sex with Strangers, a very modern romance about writers who envy one another’s careers and lust after one another’s bodies, has another week and a half at the Cincinnati Playhouse (tickets: 513-421-3888).
Let’s talk about the latest in the ongoing debate over Issue 22, Mayor John Cranley’s proposed charter amendment to fund changes to the city’s parks via a 1 mill property tax levy. Yesterday, Parks Director Wille Carden said figures estimating the cost of 16 proposed projects that would be funded by that amendment were generated by the mayor’s office. Carden said that those estimates are at best rough guesses and that the amendment might not fund all of them. Overall, the mayor’s office says those projects will cost $85 million and that decisions about which will be funded will depend on public input, how shovel-ready each one is and other considerations. Issue 22 detractors used these revelations to further press their criticisms of the amendment, saying that the proposed property tax is ill-considered. Supporters are standing by the amendment, however, saying that even if all the projects aren’t funded, the city’s parks stand to benefit greatly from the measure.
• A majority of Cincinnati City Council now officially opposes that charter amendment, with council members Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach yesterday penning an editorial against Issue 22. Seelbach and Young cited lack of provisions for public input and better uses for the tax dollars at stake as among the reasons they’re joining council members Charlie Winburn, Amy Murray and Yvette Simpson in opposing the plan. Vice Mayor David Mann and Councilmen Kevin Flynn, P.G. Sittenfeld and Christopher Smitherman all support the amendment, citing the opportunity to provide vastly better funding for the city’s parks as the reason for their support.
• One of the projects on the Issue 22 list is a revamp of Ziegler Park, which sits on the Over-the-Rhine side of Sycamore Street right on the border with Pendleton. The Park Board yesterday voted to acquire the land necessary to begin that revamp, which will proceed with or without the Issue 22 funding. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation is a major partner on the $30 million project and has said it is assembling funding to make the renovation of the park a reality. 3CDC says a new pool and water attraction will be part of that overhaul, as well as a large green space across the street next to condos in the former SCPA building.
That green space will sit atop a large parking garage very similar to one built underneath Washington Park in OTR. The basketball courts currently next to Ziegler will be preserved, though new courts will be installed. The proposed revamp has caused some controversy in the community, which is predominantly low-income and black. Some activists have expressed concern that changes to the park could exclude current long-term residents of the area. 3CDC says it has held a number of public meetings and is striving to make the park accessible to all, but bitter memories of Washington Park’s renovation still linger. Activists point to the changes to that park, which removed basketball courts, sitting spaces along the perimeter of the park and other features popular with long-term users, as reasons for their concerns.
• Members of Cincinnati Black Lives Matter tomorrow are throwing a block party in Mount Auburn to honor the life of Sam DuBose and other unarmed people of color killed by police. The event, which is meant to rally support around the families of DuBose, Quandavier Hicks and others, kicks off tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Thill and Vine streets and will feature free music and food, and later a rally protesting police violence. Meanwhile, a push for greater accountability and justice continues at the University of Cincinnati, which employed officer Ray Tensing, who shot DuBose back in July. Tensing is currently facing murder charges for that shooting, but student activists at UC are asking for bigger changes, including a big increase in the enrollment of black students on UC’s main campus. Currently, only 5 percent of students at UC’s flagship Clifton campus are black. You can read the full list of steps the so-called Irate8 (named after the 8 percent of black students in the UC system as a whole) here.
• I’m a history nerd, so this is really, really cool. Yale University recently released thousands of never-before-seen pictures of Depression-era America taken by Works Progress Administration photographers. Among them are a bunch from Cincinnati, which you can see here. It’s always super-interesting to see these kinds of candid shots, which illustrate what every day life was like back then, taking away some of the mists and myths of history and making that time period seem very relatable and not-so-distant. Check ‘em out.
• Finally, what would Gov. John Kasich do if he won the
Republican nomination for presidency and then the general election in 2016?
Well, according to the guv, he’d basically dismantle the federal government’s
funding for transportation and education, letting states decide through block
grants how they’d like to handle those services. Kasich is putting forth a
so-called “balanced budget” proposal that would do just that as a demonstration
of what he’d do if he wins the White House. Oh yeah, that budget proposal
also slashes taxes for large corporations and high earners, dropping the top
tax rate from nearly 40 percent to 28 percent. It also gives a slight increase
to the Earned Income Tax Credit, which goes to the country’s lowest earners.
Most of Kasich’s cuts, however, come on the top end of the earning spectrum, and would actually… get ready for this… create a budget deficit for the first eight years they were in effect, according to the man himself. Kasich says increased profits and economic activity from the lower taxes, along with big spending cuts, would then balance things out, however, filling revenue gaps created by the tax cuts. If all that sounds familiar, it’s because conservatives have been touting this approach since Ronald Regan was president. Has a similar plan worked in Ohio? Kinda-sorta-not really. Kasich has cut income taxes, but spending has also grown in Ohio. Kasich has raised other taxes, mostly sales taxes that put a higher proportional burden on low-earners, to make up the difference. The state does have a surplus, mostly because the economy has rebounded and Ohio, like most other states, has added jobs. How much of this was Kasich’s doing, however, is up for serious debate.