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by Staff 06.22.2015 108 days ago
Posted In: Winning at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

CityBeat Wins Mad Awards 2015

Reporters, editors and designers recognized for work published in 2014

CityBeat writers and designers were recognized last week with seven first-place awards and eight runners up by the Cincinnati chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The awards ceremony recognized work completed during the 2014 calendar year, and it followed announcements of two other journalism contests — the Cleveland Press Club statewide contest and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia national awards.

The Cleveland Press Club recognized nine pieces of work, including two first-place winners, while three CityBeat staffers are finalists in the AAN contest (including Art Director Rebecca Sylvester, for her cover art for "Pileup at the Morgue," "Stranger than Fiction" and "The Love List"). AAN winners will be announced July 18.

This year’s most recognized piece of writing and reporting was “Stranger Than Fiction,” by Arts & Culture Editor Jac Kern and Staff Writer Nick Swartsell. The story won two first place awards in the Cincinnati SPJ contest — Arts/Entertainment Reporting and Investigative/Enterprise/Database Reporting — placed second in the Cleveland Press Club contest and is a finalist for the AAN’s national Arts Writing award. The Cincinnati SPJ describes it as such: “Extraordinarily thorough examination of the real impact of a staged reality TV show on an impoverished Cincinnati neighborhood. Homes were trashed to make for better TV. Story also presents a global look at how neighborhood revitalization really works.”

Other Cincinnati SPJ first-place winners were CityBeat columnist Kathy Y. Wilson for a collection of her columns; Nick Swartsell for Business Reporting (“Whose Gonna Drive You Home?”); John Lasker for Government Reporting (“Legal Limit?”); Rebecca Sylvester for Newspaper/Magazine Design/Graphic (“RAW Numbers”); and the CityBeat staff for Special Section (“Best of Cincinnati 2014”).

CityBeat photographer Jesse Fox won first place in Cleveland Press Club’s “Spot News Photography” category for her image titled, “Hands Up for Justice.” Danny Cross and Maria Seda-Reeder won first place in Arts & Entertainment Reporting for “Your Name Here.”  

In addition to Kern’s and Swartsell’s “Stranger Than Fiction,” the Association of Alternative Newsmedia named Rebecca Sylvester a finalist for Cover Design and Jesse Fox’s “Faces of Pride” project a finalist for Innovation/Format Buster.

A complete list of winners and finalists for all three contests is below:

Cincinnati Society of Professional Journalists


WINNER: Jac Kern & Nick Swartsell, "Stranger Than Fiction"

JUDGE'S COMMENTS: Extraordinarily thorough examination of the real impact of a staged reality TV show on an impoverished Cincinnati neighborhood. Homes were trashed to make for better TV. Story also presents a global look at how neighborhood revitalization really works.


WINNER: Kathy Wilson

JUDGE'S COMMENTS: Most of the entries were strong and focused. Wilson's were straight and to the point. She exercised the kind of passion in her opinions that left no doubt about her feelings, regardless of what you thought of them. Some entries in this category were so polite it was hard to remember it was a column for analysis and opinion. Wilson hit both on the head.


WINNER: Nick Swarstell, "Who's Gonna Drive You Home"

JUDGE'S COMMENTS: An engagingly written piece that ably considers the local reverberations from new, disruptive business models.


WINNER: John Lasker, "Legal Limit"

JUDGE'S COMMENTS: This detailed and lengthy expose about the use of flawed breathalyzers in Ohio suggests possible story ideas for other states. Well-reported and well-balanced.


WINNER: Jac Kern & Nick Swartzell, "Stranger than Fiction"

JUDGE'S COMMENTS: This story skillfully combines good reporting about two issues – the questionable integrity of a “reality” TV show and its impact on property in an at-risk neighborhood. A long read, but worth it.


WINNER: Staff, CityBeat, “Best of Cincinnati 2014"

JUDGE'S COMMENTS: Fun, funky look at the best of what the city has to offer, as well as some well-written features of general interest to city and suburban dwellers. Visually exciting and fun, and let's face it, who doesn't like to know all there is about beer?


WINNER: Rebecca Sylvester, "RAW Numbers"

JUDGE'S COMMENTS: I think Rebecca did a great job presenting this idea. The stylized graphic treatment showing the money flow from events around the world to the "wheelbarrow-of-revenue" was a nice touch. There’s a good balance between all the elements on page. I also thought the red money backdrop in the pointer box was a nice graphic touch that emphasized the information being presented. Nice work!



Finalist: Nick Swartsell, "Dreaming Big"


Finalist: Danny Cross & Maria Seda-Reeder, "Your Name Here"


Finalist: Jason Gargano, "The Rebuilder"

Finalist: Josh Katzowitz, "Homegrown Heroes"


Finalist: Nick Swartsell, "Change of Heart


Finalist: Nick Swartsell, "Last Clinic Standing"


Finalist; Nick Swartsell, "Historic Crossroads"


Finalist: Mike Breen, "Spill It"

Cleveland Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards

Complete list here.


FIRST PLACE: Danny Cross, Maria Seda-Reeder, “Your Name Here

JUDGE'S COMMENTS: Investigative journalism in an arts & entertainment piece — an unusual and refreshing combination. This was a longer piece, but it was well-written and compelling to read.


FIRST PLACE: Jesse Fox, “Hands Up for Justice”


SECOND PLACE: Jac Kern & Nick Swartsell, “Stranger Than Fiction


THIRD PLACE: Jason Gargano, “The Rebuilder

JUDGE'S COMMENTS: Really liked how this story started out, what he was saying and what he really felt. The commitment to team, fans and the community. No sportizms. Clearly a man who knows himself. If there’s a sports features category, this should be in it too. Packed paragraphs with great descriptions. Nice!


SECOND PLACE: Nick Swartsell, “Pileup at the Morgue


SECOND PLACE: Josh Katzowitz, “Homegrown Heroes

JUDGE'S COMMENTS: Interesting local-interest piece with a national reach.


SECOND PLACE: Nick Swartsell, "Battling Barriers

JUDGE'S COMMENTS: In-depth, comprehensive look at issue of sex-trafficking. Good use of description.


SECOND PLACE: Jesse Fox, “Zip Dip”

Association of Alternative Newsmedia

Complete list here.



Jac Kern & Nick Swartsell, “Stranger Than Fiction


Rebecca Sylvester


Jesse Fox, “Faces of Pride

by Nick Swartsell 06.22.2015 108 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Community supports fallen officer; Uptown Rental Properties buys entire Corryvillle block; Strickland leads in Senate race

Good morning y’all. Here’s what’s going on in Cincy as we all try to wake up and do work.

It’s been a somber few days in Cincinnati since Friday, when Cincinnati police officer Sonny Kim was shot and killed by a gunman in Madisonville. Though I can’t imagine how devastating that loss must be for his family, the community has come together to try and help them in their time of need. A GoFundMe account started by Mason Police Association President Derek Bauman has raised about $95,000 for the Kim family. University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono has announced his three sons will receive free undergraduate tuition at UC should they choose to go there.

Kim was responding to a 911 call about a man with a gun when he encountered 21-year-old Trepierre Hummons. Police say Hummons texted friends about his plan to commit “suicide by cop” and placed the 911 call himself to lure police to him. Hummons shot Kim before Hummons himself was killed by police. Kim was the first officer killed in the line of duty in Cincinnati in 15 years. Hummons was the 29th person killed by police in that time. Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell called Kim “one of our best,” citing the numerous commendations he’s received. In his off time, Kim, a resident of Evendale, ran a karate dojo in Symmes Township. Mayor John Cranley has asked Cincinnatians to wear blue Friday, June 26 in memory of Kim. In the wake of Kim’s shooting, Blackwell has announced a two-week delay in implementation of CPD’s recently announced 90-day violence reduction plan.

• Uptown Rental Properties, a major developer in Corryville and the surrounding areas, now owns an entire city block of properties in the neighborhood. The developer has purchased 11 properties from the New Nazarene Baptist Church as well as another single family home on the block, which it has been interested in for two decades. Uptown has yet to announce plans for the spaces, and the church itself is leasing the building it formerly owned from Uptown until it finds a new location. But the purchase could well be a sign that more major development is afoot in Corryville. Uptown Rental Properties has been very active in the area, currently building more than 250 apartments in two nearby developments collectively worth $55 million. The developer also has big plans for neighboring Mount Auburn, where it has planned another $55 million in apartments and office space.

• Speaking of development, the Cincinnati Planning Commission has given the green light to a Towne Properties development that would feature seven newly constructed 2,800-square-foot townhomes on Elm Street in Over-the-Rhine. However, the city’s Historic Conservation Board wants changes before the project goes forward, saying the buildings are “too short and squat” and should have more individuality overall, among other criticisms. As someone who has been criticized for these same shortcomings, I feel for these prospective buildings just a little. No one has ever told me that I “need more detailing around the corners” or that I need to be three stories tall to emphasize the verticality of my district, though, so that’s where my empathy ends. Towne will have to tweak the designs to meet the board’s suggestions and come back before it for final approval. The townhomes will be the Mount Adams-based developer’s first foray into Over-the-Rhine, and the development effort will led by former 3CDC VP Chad Munitz. Each townhome will have a garage and a private backyard. Expected starting price for each is $650,000.

• Marijuana legalization effort ResponsibleOhio faces a potential legislative roadblock even if its state constitutional amendment gets on the ballot and is approved by voters. State lawmakers are working to pass a ban on monopolies in the state constitution, a law that looks tailor-made to short circuit ResponsibleOhio’s efforts. If passed, that law would make the weed legalization effort’s proposal, which limits marijuana growth to 10 sites owned by the group’s investors, illegal before it even goes into effect. The anti-monopoly law must be passed by the state House and Senate and signed by Gov. Kasich before going into effect. ResponsibleOhio needs to collect more than 300,000 signatures this summer to get its initiative on the ballot. Its plan would legalize weed for anyone over 21, create the 10 grow sites and also allow for small amounts of non-commercial home growth.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich has said he would support removing the confederate flag from South Carolina state buildings if he lived there. In the wake of the tragedy in Charleston, S.C. last week where a white gunman killed nine black parishoners at a historically black church, a debate has raged about that state’s display of the flag above the state capitol building. Shooter Dylann Roof has expressed white supremacist ideals and sympathies and prominently displayed the flag on his car. The shooting has led to calls for removal of the flag from the capitol, and a number of liberal and conservative politicians have backed the idea.

• Democratic challenger and former Ohio governor Ted Strickland is leading over incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman in the 2016 race for Portman's Senate seat, a new poll shows. Strickland leads Portman by six points, according to a recently released Quinnipiac University poll. Meanwhile, Strickland’s Democratic primary challenger, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, continues to search for state-wide recognition. Eighty-five percent of voters across the state said they didn’t know enough about Sittenfeld to make a decision about him.

• Finally, as you might already know if you’ve been glued to SCOTUSblog like I have, the U.S. Supreme Court today did not release its decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges, the landmark case that could decide the national fate of same-sex marriage. The court has just a few more days on which it will release decisions before its term is up at the end of the month. Meanwhile, OTR resident Jim Obergefell, for whom the case is named, continues to wait.

Story tips? Ideas on where I could get a used touring bike? Tweet at your boy or do the email thing.

by Colleen McCroskey 06.19.2015 111 days ago
Posted In: Events, Holiday at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Father's Day Dining Specials

Local dad-tastic restaurant deals, in case you aren't having a cook-out

Fathers don't necessarily get the same brunch love that mom's do when it comes to their special day, but there are certainly local restaurants celebrating dads with dining specials.

BB River Boats: Mix it up a bit and bring dad on a brunch or dinner cruise with spectacular views of the skyline. Brunch features French toast and biscuits with sausage gravy while dinner offers up baked white fish and three-cheese mac and cheese. Brunch 1-3 p.m.; dinner 5:30-7:30 p.m. $43 adults; $22 kids. BB Riverboats, 101 Riverboat Row, Newport, Ky., bbriverboats.com.

Crave: Father's Day Feast for the King — an all-you-can-eat prime rib feast. 4 p.m. Sunday. $19.95. Reservations required. Crave, 175 Joe Nuxhall Way, The Banks, Downtown, craveamerica.com.

Fatherhood Community Celebration: The Talbert House's annual party that advocates for promoting fatherhoods. Dads (and families) can enjoy free food, games, arts, activities, live music and more. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Free. Sawyer Point, Pete Rose Way, Downtown, talberthouse.org.

Findlay Market: Whilst you can always take pops down to Taste of Belgium’s original location for a low-key Father’s Day treat, we recommend spending the morning at the market with the fam and scooping up fresh, local ingredients to make dad his favorite dinner that night. Trust us, he’ll love it. 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 45202. 

Kings Island: Perfect for those with little ones who might not want to sit still at a nice dinner, Kings Island is putting on a Father’s Day Cookout where dad eats free. The all-you-can-eat buffet includes: brisket sandwich, all beef hot dogs, fried chicken, mac and cheese, baked beans, corn on the cobb, coleslaw, sliced watermelon, potato chips, ice cream treats and assorted Coca-Cola beverages. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. $16.99; $12.99 for season pass holders. Kings Island, 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason, visitkingsisland.com.

Metropole at 21c: A Sunday supper for dad featuring a special "manly man’s feast," prepared by chef Jared Bennett and the Metropole culinary team. Mains include hanger steak or jerk barbecue chicken, with chocolate cake for dessert. 5:30-10 p.m. Sunday. Metropole at 21c, 609 Walnut St., Downtown, metropoleonwalnut.com.

The Palace: Brunch options include chicken and cornbread waffles, crepes, sweet potato hash and bloody mary's by the glass or pitcher. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Prices a la carte. Walk-ins welcome. The Palace at the Cincinnatian Hotel, 601 Vine St., Downtown, cincinnatianhotel.com.

Summit Restaurant at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State: Celebrate dad with a steak and ale dinner Sunday, with a selection of steak and beer pairings. Call for pricing and reservations. The Summit, 3520 Central Parkway, Clifton, facebook.com/thesummit.MCI.

by Sarah Urmston 06.19.2015 111 days ago
Posted In: Playlist at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Your Weekend Playlist: The War On Drugs, Lost in the Dream

On Wednesday, June 10, The War On Drugs performed live at the Madison Theatre in Covington, Ky. They slowly becoming one of my favorite artists in just a few short months, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch these guys while they were in town, just minutes from my city.

This American Indie Rock band from Philly began back in 2003 after Kurt Vile and Adam Granduciel met at a party. (Alcohol really does bring people together for more than just a one-night stand). Finally calling themselves The War On Drugs in 2005, the rest became history.

The disparate crowd in the Madison Theatre grew silent as Vile stepped onto the stage of smoke with his back turned away from us. The intro music patiently slipped through the fingers of the players, giving the crowd enough time to psych themselves up before Vile slowly circled, sending his voice through the microphone. I’d like to think goosebumps were contagious in that moment.  

The show kicked off with “Burning” from their album Lost in the Dream, an album that needed and deserved an entire concert time. They dove into each song random and out of order, just the way concerts should be. They even chose to throw their most popular track “Red Eyes” into the middle of the show — something we as music-lovers are unfamiliar with, subconsciously expecting the ordinary concept of “saving the best for last” (or in some cases, the most popular). Instead, it kept the crowd on their toes. It kept us wondering … what’s next?

My personal favorite didn’t come on until sixth to last. Waiting for “In Reverse” kept my anticipation high throughout the entire show, leaving me thoughtless and speechless and I swayed and felt more than what can be felt from listening through ear-buds.

The overall energy of the room was exactly what you’d expect it to be. The drifting rhythms and synthesized sounds of the acoustics was enough to send anyone into a parallel universe — a place I found myself throughout the show as I clung tightly to my beer with one hand and my friend’s arm with the other. "Lost in the Dream" truly says it all.

Vire’s communication with the audience was scarce, but with such strong lyrics that symbolize love, isolation and depression, it became more about speaking through the music. Instead of having to explain why a particular song was written or what is was about, it is left up to the listener to decide. It was all about interpretation.

A handful of songs from various other albums were chosen and thrown in the very beginning, as well as the encore before closing out with “Suffering,” also from Lost in the Dream. It was a slow closer (also uncommon) as if it was meant to easily transition people back down from concert to reality.

As a surprise during the encore of the show, we were treated to The National drummer Bryan Devendorf stepping in and taking over. It’s safe to say the crowd went a little nuts in the best way possible.

Every inch of the album Lost in the Dream was just as beautiful live as it is right from your Spotify playlist. Whether you’re taking a drive far out in the distance or spending an hour on your bedroom floor with your feet up on the wall, this is the background sound you’re looking for. You’ll be back for seconds — I promise. 

by Zack Hatfield 06.19.2015 111 days ago
Posted In: Film at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Foreign Film Friday: Chunhyang (2000)

Two cinemas weave — though not seamlessly — together in Chunhyang, South Korean filmmaker Im Kwon-taek’s adaptation of Chunhyangaa, a legendary Korean folktale that follows the journeys of two lovers, one poor and one aristocratic, as they face problems within Korea’s ancient class system. The two cinemas in question are traditional film cinema and pansori, a Korean storytelling custom where a vocalist tells a story accompanied by a percussionist playing a buk, a traditional Korean drum. Its roots come from the Korean for “sound” and “a place where many people gather.” In a way, this makes it a type of cinema that predates film by hundreds of years.

For me, pansori was harsh at first. It felt out of place, the grating transitions back and forth between the live pansori performance in modern day South Korea and the dramatic portrayals in 18th century Korea too cobbled-together to resemble a harmonious story. But then I surrendered to its slow, sometimes arrhythmic tempo, and its strange, lithe magic was an experience I haven’t felt in a movie since. By intertwining traditional storytelling techniques with a (somewhat) contemporary one, we as an audience are able to experience firsthand the tensions that exist in a culture between old and new.

Chunhyang is an ideal gateway film into the cinema of Korea, territory that can often seem daunting to Western moviegoers due to the century-spanning political baggage that stretches from the Joseon Dynasty to the Korean War to current events. But the sweep of the region’s moral tides encompasses a generally universal understanding, and this film is full of simultaneously heart-wrenching and understated pathos as we watch forbidden trysts and suspenseful compromises unfold. It’s a folktale, but the ache of its themes will always be, perhaps unfortunately, timeless. 

by Staff 06.19.2015 111 days ago

Your Weekend To Do List (6/19-6/21)

A ton of stuff is canceled, thanks to Tropical Depression Bill

Tropical Depression Bill is slated to make his way through the Tristate on Saturday (WCPO weather report here) with heavy rains and the possibility of flooding. Many of this weekend's events have been postponed due to weather, including Paddlefest — with the exception of Friday night's River Music & Outdoor Festival at Coney Island — and CityBeat's Porkopolis Pig & Whiskey festival, which has now moved to Saturday, Aug. 1. The rest of the outdoor events listed below have not yet been postponed, but please call or check social media before you head out — we'd hate for you to be left out in the rain.

Gorge on goetta at MainStrasse's GOETTAFEST

Cincinnati has a lot of regional culinary specialties that non-Cincinnatians find weird (like, you know, Skyline), but goetta might take the cake. Made of ground pork, pinhead oats and spices, Cincinnati’s signature breakfast food has been ingrained into our city’s cultural DNA since it was first invented by German immigrants in the late 19th-century as a way to stretch a serving of meat into several meals. Cincinnati has a lot of regional culinary specialties that non-Cincinnatians find weird (like, you know, Skyline), but goetta might take the cake. Made of ground pork, pinhead oats and spices, Cincinnati’s signature breakfast food has been ingrained into our city’s cultural DNA since it was first invented by German immigrants in the late 19th-century as a way to stretch a serving of meat into several meals. 5-11:30 p.m. Friday; noon-11:30 p.m. Saturday; noon-9 p.m. Sunday. Free. Mainstrasse Village, Sixth Street, Covington, Ky., mainstrasse.org.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Photo: Micha Warren

Rock with THE JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION at Woodward Theater

Musical provocateur Jon Spencer chose the perfect handle for his new project when it was formed back in 1991 — Blues Explosion — and it continues to accurately reflect the visceral sound and fury emanating from his incendiary trio almost a quarter century later. The Blues Explosion’s numerous releases have been among the most scorchingly inventive and influential releases of the modern Rock age. Next year will be The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s 25th anniversary. And its recently released new studio album, Freedom Tower - No Wave Dance Party 2015, may well be the proof that the threesome is just getting warmed up. Read more here. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion performs Friday at Woodward Theater. More info/tickets: woodwardtheater.com.

Jungle Jim's International Beer Festival
Photo: Provided

Cure what ales you at Jungle Jim's INTERNATIONAL BEER FESTIVAL

Cure what ales you this weekend as Jungle Jim’s brings more than 400 beers to the table for its 10th-annual International Beer Festival. You can taste (and buy) brewskis from more than 100 breweries around the world while enjoying picnic-style food.  Beer buffs and experts will be in attendance to talk shop about the sudsy art form, and you can taste special brews and rarities. The fest kicks off with a firkin tapping, “a keg of beer that’s been fermented inside of the barrel it’s fermented in,” according to Jungle Jim. 7:30-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $50 daily; $20 non-drinker. Oscar Event Center, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

By This River at the Weston Art Gallery
Stop by the opening of BY THIS RIVER at the Weston Art Gallery

The Weston Art Gallery hosts an opening reception for a group exhibition curated by Michael Solway, director of the Carl Solway Gallery, featuring six American artists “exploring the sensorial, geographical, historical and ephemeral dispersal of water from rivers to oceans.” The show began as part of an ongoing conversation between Solway and Fluxus pioneer Ben Patterson regarding their long-held mutual instinct to live near major bodies of water, and will bring together recent works by artists working in photography, painting, sculpture, paper, video and sound, as well as a series of interactive constructions. Opening reception: 6-9 p.m. Friday. Through Aug. 30. Free. 650 Walnut St., Downtown, westonartgallery.com.

Vince Morris
Photo: provided 
Laugh with VINCE MORRIS at Funny Bone on the Levee
Columbus native Vince Morris has never felt more comfortable on stage. “I have enough material that I let the crowd take me where they want to go,” he says. “I’ll talk about fatherhood or social issues, but I don’t have a strict set list. I don’t like to be too organized.” Raised by a single dad, his material about fatherhood also comes from his own experiences helping to raise his 6-year-old daughter. Wednesday-Sunday. $12-$15. Funny Bone on the Levee, Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., funnyboneonthelevee.com.

Kevin Hart
Photo: Provided
See the hardest working man in show business, KEVIN HART

Kevin Hart, everyone’s favorite little comedian and most likely literally the hardest working man in show business (in the past two years he’s been in seven movies, including Ride Along, The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard and on and on), brings his “What Now?” stand-up tour to U.S. Bank Arena. According to Billboard, “What Now?” is on its way to becoming the highest-grossing comedy tour of all time. 7 p.m. Saturday. $49.50-$150. U.S. Bank Arena, 100 Broadway, Downtown, usbankarena.com.

Summer Solstice Lavendar Festival
Photo: Provided
From medicine to aromatherapy or as a fragrant ingredient in everything from cookies to tea, the Summer Solstice Lavender Festival allows attendees to stroll through blooming fields of lavender to pick a bundle and learn about its uses, as well as purchase lavender-infused body and food products. Going hand-in-hand with the herb’s calming properties, three-minute gong meditation sessions will be held all day, along with several workshops like lavender painting and wreath making. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Free. Peaceful Acres Lavender Farm, 2387 Martinsville Road, Martinsville, peacefulacreslavenderfarm.com.

Juneteenth Festival
Photo: Provided
Celebrate the end of legal slavery in America at the JUNETEENTH FESTIVAL
Juneteenth, a national celebration of Emancipation Day and the legal end of slavery in America, will hold its 28th-annual festival at Daniel Drake Park. The nonprofit festival will include historical reenactments (including visits from Abe Lincoln and Harriet Tubman), exhibits, craft demonstrations, live music and a wide variety of food. An amalgamation of June and “nineteenth,” the name reflects the date in 1865 when General Gordon Granger reissued the Emancipation Proclamation. The event, whose popularity has skyrocketed, aims to bring Cincinnati’s diverse community together to celebrate freedom. A special Father’s Day concert caps the weekend on Sunday. Noon-9 p.m. Saturday; 2:30-6 p.m. Sunday. Free. Daniel Drake Park, 5800 Red Bank Road, Kennedy Heights, juneteenthcincinnati.org.

'Il Trovatore'
Photo: Provided
See Cincinnati Opera's first summer production, IL TROVATORE
Leading off the Cincinnati Opera's 95th season is Il Trovatore, Giuseppe Verdi’s melodrama based on that old staple of Italian opera known as “la vendetta,” or vengeance. Don’t focus on the plot, which was considered overblown even in Verdi’s day, though it does propel some of Verdi’s most familiar music, including the “Anvil Chorus.” And what a cast: bass Morris Robinson, tenor Russell Thomas and the highly anticipated debut of mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton in the role of the vengeful gypsy Azucena. Read more here. 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday. More info/tickets: cincinnatiopera.org.

Colin Farrell in 'True Detective'
Photo: Lacy Terrell
Watch the season premiere of TRUE DETECTIVE
After a wildly successful debut season, the second iteration of crime-drama anthology True Detective is under a microscope. How can — or perhaps just can — the first season be topped? While a cop drama featuring Surfer, Dude stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson seemed forgettable on paper, True Detective rose to become one of the best programs of 2014. Season Two brings us a new setting, crime and cast: the disappearance of a California city manager leads to an investigation involving a dirty cop (Colin Farrell), a career criminal trying to go legit (Vince Vaughn), an uncompromising sheriff (Rachel McAdams), a damaged war-veteran officer (Taylor Kitsch) and the U.S. transportation system. Expect a more linear narrative set in the present day around various California locales, with more complicated characters to delve into. Writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto returns with rotating directors. While it’s counter-productive to harp on comparisons to Season One, it’s hard not to speculate if this season will be as strong or if it could be the Midas touch for the diverse cast — particularly Vaughn and FarrellSeason Premiere, 9 p.m. Sunday, HBO.

Bar Rescue (9 p.m., Spike) – Jon visits a bar that’s been a backdrop for a porn video.

Halt and Catch Fire (10 p.m., AMC) – Stress at Mutiny mounts as Cameron and Donna deal with the fallout from Sonaris in addition to money troubles. Elsewhere, Joe calls in Gordon’s help to get West Group’s computer systems running during off-hours.

Ballers (Series Premiere, 10 p.m., HBO) – Entourage: Sportz (alternate title) stars Dwayne Johnson as a retired football-star-turned-athlete-manager in Miami.

The Brink (Series Premiere, 10:30 p.m., HBO) – Three disconnected, unlikely men in U.S. government/military (Jack Black, Tim Robbins and Pablo Schreiber) are tasked with preventing World War III when a geopolitical crisis arises.

Photo: via IMDb 
See DOPE from director Rick Famuyiwa
Director Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood) has been rather quiet since Brown Sugar back in 2002, with only one other feature as a writer-director (2010’s Our Family Wedding) and a screenplay credit for Talk to Me in 2007. But he’s riding a strong wave of attention following the reception of his latest coming-of-age dramedy Dope at the Sundance Film Festival, which is not necessarily known as a hotbed for embracing stories about geeks in Inglewood, Calif. While there will certainly be gangsters, drug dealers and tough choices facing the film’s young college hopeful (Shameik Moore), Famuyiwa won’t forget to highlight the pop culture referencing teen dreams that will not be deferred nor deterred.

by Rick Pender 06.19.2015 111 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 09:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stage Door: A Good Chance for Laughs, and the Opportunity to Dance the Night Away

There’s not too much theater going on as summer moves in with full heat. But there are enough laughs at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company for several shows with the production of the great 2011 British farce, One Man Two Guvnors. It’s based on a play from the 18th century called The Servant of Two Masters, but don’t think that because it’s a classic it will be over your head. This show has slapstick, fart jokes, silly antics, sly innuendo and just about anything else that might induce laughter. Matthew Lewis Johnson is a comedy machine as the irrepressibly hungry (and hopelessly confused) Francis Henshaw, and he’s not the only one. At least a half-dozen of Cincy Shakes regulars dive into the hilarity headfirst. There’s also a great band playing tunes that sound like Pop numbers from the early 1960s; the story had been updated to the British seaside town of Brighton, where scandalous behavior was apparently the norm. Signing on to work for two bosses who have cross-purposes and connections that Francis doesn’t know about, he’s in for a raucous 24 hours as he tries to keep a lot of plates spinning — almost literally. Demand for tickets was strong from the opening last week (this show won awards in London’s West End as well as on Broadway in 2012, where James Corden played the manic Henshaw), so you’ll find two added performances to the announced schedule — this Saturday and next at 2 p.m. Tickets: 513-381-2273.

Tickets are even scarcer, apparently for The Producers at Cincinnati Landmark Productions new Incline Theater. That zany musical about trying to make money on a Broadway flop has been a big success, heavily subscribed from start to finish. You might try for the waiting list (513-241-6550), but don’t get your hopes up. Same goes for Commonwealth Theater Company’s production of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys at Northern Kentucky University, (859-572-5464) also in its final weekend. It’s a dinner theater production, and it looks like most of the seats at that table are taken, too.

Since you can’t get into either of those, how about a free interpretation of the movie Footloose on Saturday evening? The dance troupe Pones Inc. and Gorilla Cinema have joined up to present the film in a parking lot in Covington (at West Seventh and Washington streets) starting at 8 p.m. All the inspired dance scenes from the 1984 film about teens in a town where dancing is discouraged will be performed live, and you’re welcome to join in! No charge for admission; snacks and suds available for purchase. Check out the trailer:

Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

by Nick Swartsell 06.18.2015 112 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

City passes budget; last-minute state budget change could shut down clinics; mourning in Charleston, S.C.

Hey all. Here’s what’s up this morning.


Cincinnati City Council yesterday passed its $1 billion fiscal year 2016-2017 budget despite worries that wrangling between council and the mayor could spiral into a partial city government shutdown. The budget council passed looks similar to the one proposed by City Manager Harry Black, though it includes the full $3 million for United Way-vetted human services agencies council requested last November. Black’s original budget funded traditional human services at a much lower level.

The budget process this time around was full of last-minute deals and switcheroos by various council members. Vice Mayor David Mann, for instance, stepped across the line between his fellow Democrats on council and Mayor John Cranley to help engineer the final deal. Mann’s negotiations sometimes caused chagrin among his fellow Democrats — his vote against giving infant mortality agency Cradle Cincinnati $275,000 made that priority vulnerable to a veto, which Cranley took advantage of. All told, Cranley vetoed six ordinances containing Democratic council priorities, including a $400,000 grant for Clifton Market and $150,000 for bike lanes. Council had a majority of five votes on those spending measures but couldn’t muster the sixth to override the mayor. You can read all about the fiscal fun times in our coverage here.


• One thing council didn’t pass yesterday was an agreement about who will operate the streetcar. That means the Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority will step in to decide which bid to take — most likely the cheaper turnkey option, in which an outside management company chooses its own workers instead of unionized SORTA employees. That option came in at about $4 million, just under the city’s $4.2 million budget for operating the streetcar. Another management bid approved by council’s budget and finance committee Monday involved a company overseeing SORTA employees and came in at $4.7 million. SORTA officials have said in the past that they can’t take up a bid for which they don’t have the money, so it looks like the cheaper option will happen by default, despite pro-union Cranley and five Democrats on council backing the more expensive option.


• But hold up, wait, there’s controversy around those bids. The head of the Amalgamated Transit Union says SORTA is “playing games” with the bidding process and that a cheaper option involving unionized workers might be available. ATU head Troy Miller has been emailing council members saying that one of the bidders, a company called First Transit, didn’t make it as a final bid despite having a cheaper plan that used union workers. That plan would have cost about $4.1 million, just under budget. The company has called that option a turnkey proposal, but says it would use union members. Here’s more on that story in this article by WCPO.


• Speaking of SORTA, and in less divisive news, the agency has released real-time streaming bus-arrival data, which has enabled for the creation of a new app that allows users to track the progress of Metro buses. That app was developed by local tech company Gaslight and will be available starting today. That is amazing. Like, an app that actually does something useful in my life on a daily basis instead of just having me take pictures of the food I’m eating or posting about dogs or something.


• 3CDC will use at least some of the $45 million in federal new market tax credits it just received to change up Ziegler Park in Over-the-Rhine, officials with the development group announced today. The project, which will expand and renovate the park, according to 3CDC, is expected to cost $27 million. Programming in the park, including fitness classes and basketball leagues, will be part of the project. The development group has said it will not be eliminating basketball courts or the pool at the park, a major sticking point with community members during the developer’s changes to Washington Park on the other side of OTR in 2012.


• More last-minute changes to the state budget mean that some women’s health clinics that provide abortions might be in danger of closing, at least temporarily. Ohio law requires clinics to have admitting privileges with local hospitals, or to obtain a variance from the Ohio Department of Health. A new tweak to those laws in the state budget would require those clinics to obtain their variance from the state within 60 days or shut down. Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Campbell Surgical Center in Mount Auburn and the Women’s Med clinic in Dayton both operate on variances. The Planned Parenthood site in Cincinnati waited a full year to receive its variance last year and is currently awaiting another one. Women’s Med has waited two years for its exception. The state Senate expects to pass the budget today, after which it will negotiate its version with the Ohio House of Representatives ahead of a June 30 budget deadline.


• Finally, I don’t even know what to say about this other than to express some kind of unutterable sadness and anger. As you’ve probably already heard, nine people were shot to death while they prayed in a church in Charleston, South Carolina last night. The African Methodist Episcopal Church is an iconic, historically black church that has been serving black congregations since 1816. Charleston's Emanuel AME church, where the shooting took place, has been there since 1891 and has been a symbol of both refuge and resistance for the black community there. The suspected shooter, who was caught on video, is 21-year-old Dylann Roof, whose social media presence shows affiliation with or sympathy for white supremacist groups. Authorities are calling the shooting a hate crime. Among the dead, according to relatives, is South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, a civil rights leader and also the church’s pastor.

by Nick Swartsell 06.17.2015 112 days ago
Posted In: News, Budget at 04:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Council Finally Passes FY 2016-2017 Budget

Spending plan restores human services funding, but Cranley vetoes other Democratic priorities

Cincinnati City Council today passed its FY 2016-2017 budget, a $1 billion spending plan that hews closely to the one drawn up by Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black, but with boosted human services funding originally left out of the plan. 

The budget boosts police officers and will spend $110 million on road repair and fleet maintenance, big priorities for Cranley. Cranley called the budget "great" today as it passed, saying it is structurally balanced and forward-looking.

But not everyone got what they wanted from the process, and heightened tensions between the mayor and council may have left some hard feelings. Cranley and council have been fighting back and forth during the budget process. This morning, Cranley compared Democratic council members to children on a WLW talk show. Democrats have fired back with their own harsh words.

Despite the political wrangling, the final budget resulted from a deal cut this morning between the mayor and members of council, including council conservatives and Democrat Vice Mayor David Mann. The compromise provided an extra $500,000 in funding for traditional human services vetted by the United Way, an amount above the $2.5 million in the city administration's previous budget proposal.

That brings human services up to the $3 million for United Way-chosen human services organizations council unanimously requested last November, an amount initially left out of Black's budget. The city aims to fund human services at 1.5 of its capital budget, a goal it hasn't hit in a decade. Today's deal brings the city to .8 percent of the capital budget.

But the deal also left the council's five Democrats facing a mayoral veto on other spending priorities: individual ordinances calling for a $400,000 grant to co-op Clifton Market, $150,000 for bike lanes, $24,000 for new bus stops in Bond Hill and more money for community organizations. 

"If the trade-off is we don't get bus shelters in Bond Hill or work on bike trails or public support for Clifton Market I think it is worth the trade-off," Mann, the Democrat who helped broker the deal, said during today's council meeting.

Those individual ordinances were the result of a move by Cranley to split up Democrats' original omnibus budget counter-proposal. That put the individual pieces at the mercy of Cranley's veto. Each measure received only five votes on council. Six are needed to override a mayoral veto. True to his word, Cranley vetoed all four of the ordinances he took issue with. Cranley says the move increases transparency and keeps extra pork out of the budget. Democrats, however, have accused the mayor of playing politics, noting that the city administration's $375 million operating budget still came in omnibus form. Several, including Democratic Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, have said that amounts to ignoring the majority of council.

A standoff over Cranley's capital budget and Democrats' unfunded priorities led to speculation that Cincinnati might undergo a partial government shutdown, but today's deal and subsequent vote effectively funds the city's government when the current budget expires June 30.

City Hall was less successful in making a decision about streetcar operations today, however. City Council couldn't agree on either of the two operating bids presented by the Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority, meaning that SORTA itself will now make the call. That means the agency will probably select the cheaper turnkey solution, in which a management company will be able to hire outside employees instead of using SORTA's union workers. That bid came in at $4 million for the first year of operations, under the city's maximum of $4.2 million. A union-friendly management bid came to $4.7 million. SORTA says it legally cannot enter into a contract for which it does not have funding.

by Nick Swartsell 06.17.2015 113 days ago
at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Big day at City Hall; questions about Fairfield pool arrests intensify; state GOP nixes proposed fracking taxes

Hello Cincy. Let’s talk about the news today. It's going to be a crazy one with lots of action, or inaction, at City Hall.

Speaking of that: Mayor John Cranley had some choice words about Democrats on council as he took to WLW this morning to discuss the budget. Cranley explained his reasoning behind splitting up council's suggestions for the capital budget into separate ordinances, a move council Democrats have called “overtly political.”

“This is a real breakthrough — to be able to say we’re going to bring more transparency to these votes so we can isolate spending,” Cranley said. He then took some shots at council’s five Democrats. “Someone’s gotta play the heavy. Someone’s gotta say, ‘We can’t just pay for everything.’ Someone has to put them on adult supervision.”

Cranley’s comments come as council and City Hall are poised for a knock-down, drag-out battle over the city’s budget. Today’s council meeting should be very interesting — originally, council was expected to pass the city's financial plan today, but the political wrangling between Cranley and council could mean that key parts of the budget plan won’t pass at council's meeting. That has set off worries from some that the city could face a partial government shutdown. The city has until June 30 to pass its budget, but Democrats have expressed confidence a deal can be reached in that time.

Questions continue about a series of arrests June 9 at a Fairfield pool that some say amount to racially charged excessive use of force by police. Fairfield police pepper sprayed and arrested Krystal Dixon, 33, and members of her family after Fairfield Aquatic Center staff said the family refused to leave the facility. Staff members have said the family was asked to leave because one of the children didn’t have swim trunks. Dixon said she had trunks for the child, but that staff insisted they leave anyway. Police arrived and the incident quickly devolved into a tussle between officers and several pool-goers. Two adults, including Dixon, were arrested on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. A 12-year-old girl was charged with assault and a 15-year-old was charged with resisting arrest as well. Both were charged with disorderly conduct. Video of the arrests shows the police pressing Dixon's 12-year-old niece against a patrol car. Dixon and her supporters say the incident happened because she and her family are black. Forest Park faith leader Bishop Bobby Hilton has called the incident police brutality and said that the girl suffered broken ribs and a broken jaw at the hands of the officers. Police dispute this and say the officers acted appropriately. Dixon was in court today and will have a pretrial hearing on her charges July 8.

• The building that currently houses the Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine could soon be a new theater for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. The building is one of a number of locations that have been considered for the CSC, which has outgrown its current rented location on Race Street. The city’s 2016 budget has set aside $200,000 toward renovations of the location on 12th and Elm streets. The Drop Inn Center, which has been renamed Shelterhouse, will now be two locations — a women’s shelter in Mount Auburn that opened last week and a men’s shelter that will open in the fall in Queensgate. Cincinnati City Council approved the move last year.

• Speaking of shelters moving out of downtown: Plans and graphics have been released for the luxury hotel that will occupy the former Anna Louise Inn building in Lytle Park. Eagle Realty, the real estate arm of Western & Southern Financial Group, purchased the property from Cincinnati Union Bethel after protracted legal battles. CUB had operated a shelter there for more than 100 years. The Anna Louise Inn is now located in Mount Auburn.

• Cincinnati’s Metro bus ridership is falling. The question is why. Ridership on the city’s public bus system fell 5.7 percent between January and April 2015, SORTA data shows. That’s troublesome to the transit authority. Most of the drop has come from lagging numbers on suburban express routes, including those going between downtown and Madeira, West Chester and Anderson Township. The falling numbers are tough because SORTA has considered asking taxpayers for more money next year in the form of a sales tax increase so it can expand service. Could this year's relatively low gas prices have played a role? I don't know, but it seems like a fair question to ask, considering many of the routes with falling ridership serve areas where tons of people also own cars they can drive if they chose. Meanwhile, it’s not all doom and gloom. The transit agency’s Metro Plus initiative between downtown and Kenwood has increased in ridership by more than 10 percent. Metro Plus mimics light rail by running more often and more quickly by virtue of fewer stops.

• Did controversial former attorney Eric Deters take a bunch of swag from a local restaurant? That’s what a recently filed lawsuit says, but Deters denies it. Deters was leasing out a building in Independence, Kentucky to Angelo’s Family Restaurant. The restaurant told Deters that it couldn’t pay the rent anymore and was closing. Its owners allege that Deters then locked up the doors to the building and sat on $10,000 worth of the restaurant’s stuff. Deters says the restaurant owes him $400,000 on the lease and that he’s just locked the building up until he and the restaurant settle up. The Angelo family, however, charge that Deters has sold, given away, or consumed their property — restaurant stock and equipment — and that they didn’t violate the terms of their lease.

• In state news, GOP state lawmakers have eliminated a tax on oil and natural gas drilling proposed by Gov. John Kasich from the state’s budget. The taxes on fracking-derived oil and natural gas have been a big priority for Kasich, as it was designed to help plug holes in the budget left by his proposed income tax cut. Twenty percent of the taxes collected would have also gone to counties in Ohio in which fracking takes place. Lawmakers cut that proposal, saying there wasn’t enough time to reach an agreement about it. They’ve instead pledged to create a task force to look into the idea later. The Ohio General Assembly is expected to vote on the budget this week. It must be passed by June 30, when the current fiscal year budget expires.