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by Nick Swartsell 09.18.2015 16 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
to do_bright ride_photo urban basin bicycle club facebook page

Morning News and Stuff

Drama over off-duty cop with gun in OTR bar; Cincinnati on C-SPAN; Census has good news for Cincy, bad news for Ohio

Heya! Here’s a quick rundown of the news this morning. Just a few links as you head into your Oktoberfest weekend.Think of it as morning news lite. Goes down easy with no bitter aftertaste.

An armed, off-duty officer was asked to leave Over-the-Rhine’s 16-Bit Bar because he was drinking while carrying a concealed weapon, a violation of Ohio law. The officer complied with no drama, but a fellow officer with him has raised a fuss about the incident, and now there's a bit of a battle going on in social media circles about it. Read more here.

• Uh, maybe don’t jump in the Ohio River right now. Bummer. Toxic algae blooms first found upriver in West Virginia in August have caused local nonprofit Green Umbrella to postpone its annual Ohio River Swim due to health concerns.  Since last month, more blooms have been discovered all along the river. The algae can cause everything from nausea to liver damage in humans and animals, so don’t let the dog in the river either. Double bummer. It’s great swimming weather right now, too.

• If you’re like me, you probably have watched a mind-boggling amount of C-SPAN in your life and this next bit of news about Cincinnati being in the spotlight on that channel seems awesome. But you’re probably not like me because I’m super weird and used to watch the nation’s premier outlet for catching Senate hearings, House of Representatives procedural votes and other thrilling events on the regular. (It was for my job, but still, this is probably why I’m single bee-tee-dubs). Anyway, C-SPAN 2 has oh so much more than that thrilling governmental programming and will be featuring multiple programs about Cincinnati’s history as part of the channel’s Cities Tour. The programs air Saturday at noon and Sunday at 2 p.m., perfectly timed to give you an excuse not to go to Oktoberfest. Who needs the city’s biggest drinking and eating event downtown when you can watch a documentary on William Henry Harrison, am I right?

Good news from the U.S. Census about bicycling. Data released yesterday in the Census’ American Community Survey shows that bike commuters are up in Cincinnati. Though they still only made up less 1 percent of all commutes in 2014, cyclists riding to work have increased by a half percentage point over 2013. We also climbed to 39th from 46th out of 70 cities in terms of percentage of bicycle commuters. Welcome to the club, new folks! See you in the streets.

• Now some bad news from the Census. Data shows that more than 1.7 million Ohioans live in poverty, despite gains in the unemployment rate. That’s 16 percent of the state’s population. This poverty disproportionately affects people of color. Nearly 35 percent of Ohio’s black population and 28 percent of its Latino population lives in poverty, according to the Census’ American Community Survey. Just 12 percent of whites do. Read more about the recent Census data here.

And I’m out. Look for me at Oktoberfest. I’ll be the one double fisting dark beers and brats all weekend.

by Nick Swartsell 09.17.2015 17 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Group calls for Cranley recall; weed legalization group scores legal victory on ballot language; Ohio job market recovering, wages... not so much

Good morning y’all. Here’s the news today.

First off, you should check out this week's CityBeat news feature about how the feds are working with a Cincinnati neighborhood to help preserve diversity and affordability there. I think you'll find it fascinating. As more and more folks discover how cool it is to live in the urban parts of Cincinnati, demand has increased for housing and services in some of the city's coolest neighborhoods. Northside is no stranger to that dynamic, and with new apartment buildings and businesses going in there, the community risks some of the downsides of all that development — a loss of diversity and waning affordability for low- and moderate-income residents. But the Northside Community Council is taking steps to combat those problems with some consulting help from the EPA, of all agencies. Why the EPA? Read more here.

• Cincinnati-based consumer products giant Procter & Gamble yesterday announced plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent over the next half decade. The company will do so, according to P&G Vice President of Global Sustainability Len Sauers, by focusing more on renewable energy and taking innovative steps like generating steam with nutshells and sawdust. The new target is an increase over the company’s previous goal of cutting emissions by 20 percent. The company has cited concern for the environment as one driver for the goal, but, of course, it will also be good for business, they say, cutting costs and making production more efficient. Seems like business stuff can only really be green one way if it’s green the other, if you catch my drift.

• A group pushing to recall Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley will meet later this month in Clifton. The group, started sometime around Sept. 10, currently has about 230 followers on Facebook and about 40 people confirmed to attend its Sept. 29 event at the Clifton branch of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library.  “With the most recent firing of Cincinnati Police Chief Blackwell citizens have had enough of a mayor who has put major corporations above citizen interests,” the group’s Facebook page reads. “Since John Cranley has taken office he has disregarded the public and forced his agenda on the public with no regard for the Democratic process.”

It’s unclear if a mayoral recall is even possible under municipal law. State laws allow for recall elections, but Cranley’s office claims that Ohio Supreme Court decision means that recalls can only happen if city laws expressly make them possible. But the city’s charter is mum on recalls and the matter would probably have to be decided in court. If a court decided that recalls are not permitted under the charter, supporters of a recall effort would have to pass a ballot initiative allowing them first.

• Marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio won a legal battle yesterday after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that ballot language about the group’s proposed amendment to the state’s constitution was misleading. That language was submitted by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, an opponent of marijuana legalization in the state. The court says sections describing how marijuana can be sold, how much marijuana a person can grow privately and the possibility for additional commercial grow sites must be amended to be more accurate. However, the win wasn’t total. ResponsibleOhio supporters were also challenging the title of the ballot initiative put forward by Husted, which contained the word “monopoly.” The court ruled that word can stay. ResponsibleOhio’s proposal has been controversial. It would allow anyone over 21 to purchase marijuana from a licensed distributor, but would limit commercial growth of the crop to 10 grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors.

• While Ohio’s job market is edging back toward its pre-recession levels, wages have remained stagnant, a new report by think tank Policy Matters Ohio says. The state has 0.7 percent fewer jobs than it did in 2007 in contrast to the nation’s 2.5-percent increase in jobs during that time. But the real worry is that the state’s median wage adjusted for inflation, $16.05 an hour, is at one of the lowest levels it’s been in more than three decades. That’s 5 percent less than the national rate. The study highlights a number of continuing problems for Ohio’s economy and says the state’s sluggish economic growth is impacting low-wage earners most heavily.

• Finally, perhaps you watched the reality TV event of the season last night and have some thoughts. Or maybe you skipped the second GOP primary debate in order to preserve your sanity and faith in our fine country. Either way, I’ma tell you about it. A brief rundown: Donald Trump trumped it up and looks to stay in the lead among GOP hopefuls. Former corporate exec Carly Fiorina took the Donald to the mat a few times over Trump’s comments about her face, though, and that was kind of awesome. Dr. Ben Carson continued talking very quietly, entrancing primary voters who like a quiet conservative who says little of substance. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush continued to illustrate why he’s a mystifyingly stubborn presence near the top of the polls, saying his brother GW kept America safe somehow.

And where were our local guys? U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky did manage to stop bickering with the Donald long enough to offer up some substantive thoughts about foreign policy and the U.S. war on drugs, probably scoring some points with the nation’s not-insubstantial libertarian base. Ohio Gov. John Kasich stayed the slow and steady course he’s charted, presenting himself as the pragmatic moderate in a room full of loony ideologues. That might come in handy later, but it makes for boring reality TV at the moment. Anyway, here are some links to articles fact-checking candidates’ statements (that’s cute… as if their statements were in some way designed to be factual at all) and some pundits who said some things about the debate that probably don’t matter at all because the debates are farce and pundits like Dave Weigel’s thoughts on the debates are a farce about a farce. But it’s all a fun game to watch, right? Right.

I’m out! Later. Catch me on Twitter or send me emails about how awesomely surreal our political system is, and your reactions to this horrifying fashion development.

by Natalie Krebs 09.16.2015 18 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cincy searches for a new police chief; Buddy the marijuana mascot hits college campuses; Kasich gears up for second debate

Good morning, Cincy! Hang in there: We're halfway through the week and crawling closer and closer to Oktoberfest this weekend. Here are some headlines to help pass some of the time until your next beer.

City Manager Harry Black, who fired Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell last Wednesday, said he will look high and low, near and far, and leave no stone unturned to find Cincinnati's new chief. Ok, well, he actually said that he will do a national search as well as post the position internally within the next two weeks to find the replacement. Mayor John Cranley has said that he supports the interim Police Chief and former Assistant Chief Eliot Isaac for the job. But the call goes to the city manager, who was given the power to hire and fire the police chief in 2001.

• Better late than never--the streetcars are finally coming. CAF USA, the Elmira, N.Y. company building the cars has said the first car will arrive by Oct. 30. The rest are arriving between the end of this year and early next year. The cars were supposed to arrive mid-September for the opening day, but the company pushed back the date due to manufacturing issues.

• ResponsibleOhio's executive director Ian James and Secretary of State Jon Husted are still going head to head over the Nov. 3 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Ohio. Husted has now claimed that ResponsibleOhio knew about the fraudulent signatures on its initial petition to get the measure on the ballot. James denies this. But Responsible Ohio charging full speed ahead to get the initiative passed. They've recently unveiled "Buddy the Marijuana mascot" at college campus to get the youth vote--a move so wild that they've attracted the attention of Late Show host Stephen Colbert. You can watch his segment here.

• Gov. John Kasich will take the stage again tonight for the second GOP debate on CNN. Things have changed since the first Fox News debate a few weeks ago. Then, Kasich barely made it into the top eight contenders to debate with front runners Donald Trump, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. This time around, Kasich didn't have to sneak into the debate. According to recent polls, Kasich has moved from the tail end to the middle. He's still way behind leaders Donald Trump and Ben Carson, but he's ahead of Walker, who has taken a rough tumble from the top to Kasich's former position. Some speculate that Walker, who turned Wisconsin into a right-to-work state, might launch some attacks at Kasich for backing off an anti-union movement, but the main target will still probably be Trump. 

• Trump isn't just the target of fellow GOP contenders. Tuesday morning, conservative group the Club for Growth launched a series of advertisements attacking Trump calling him "the worst kind of politician." It seems the group has some issues with statements Trump has made on supporting higher taxes on capital gains, healthcare and rejecting cuts to Social Security and Medicaid, which could ultimately be helping Kasich climb the polls. According to a Politico story on Monday, some Wall Street executives are afraid of a Trump presidency and have instead shoveled money towards Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kasich.

My email is nkrebs@citybeat.com, and I'd love to hear from you!


by Nick Swartsell 09.15.2015 19 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

GE to Cincy: It's not you, it's the GOP; families of those killed by police to rally in Cincy; Ohio, Kentucky pretty miserable, study finds

Good morning all. Here’s what’s going on in the news on this amazing fall day. No, seriously, it’s pretty much ideal outside right now so take a minute to go outside for a smoke break or to get some coffee or do some jumping jacks or pull ups on a street sign or something. I’ll wait.

OK. Back? Here we go. Maybe you’ve heard about the fact that our fair city was a’courtin one heck of a catch recently, but came away heartbroken. The object of our affection is really, really rich, into engineering and science stuff and already has a pretty close relationship with us. But when we tried to take that relationship to the next level, we were spurned because our elders have some conflicting political viewpoints. 

I’m talking about the fact that General Electric won’t be locating its corporate headquarters in Ohio at least in part because four high-level GOP politicians in the state oppose renewing the authority of the federal Export-Import Bank, which underwrites loans for companies that do lots of exporting. GE, which already has more employees in Ohio than any other state, does more exporting than any other company here. U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, both hailing from the Cincinnati area, as well as Ohio Gov. John Kasich and tea party firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan from Urbana all oppose the so-called Ex-Im Bank, saying that the private market could do a better job financing the corporate export game. 

It’s a little like having your crush over to your house when you’re a teenager and then your dad starts talking about the constitution while wearing a Gadsen flag T-shirt, only there are like, four dads and your crush employs thousands upon thousands of people. Hard to know who to root for here. On the one hand, I feel like corporations should get federal money exactly never and shouldn’t be throwing their political weight around. On the other hand, well, tea party nuttiness. Other politicians, including most Democrats in the state, support the Ex-Im bank, which is the flip side ideologically of what you’d think it would be. Kind of a lame situation all around.

• Western & Southern Financial Group President and CEO John Barrett discussed the company’s plans for a whole corner of downtown Cincinnati yesterday at a gathering for real-estate professionals. Barrett outlined plans for new restaurants, rooftop bars and other attractions in the area around Lytle Park in downtown’s southeastern corner, near where the company’s headquarters are located. Among the attractions will be a luxury hotel in the building that formerly housed the Anna Louise Inn, a women’s shelter, for more than 100 years. Western & Southern’s real estate arm, Eagle Realty, purchased that building after protracted legal wrangling with Cincinnati Union Bethel, which runs the shelter now located in Mount Auburn. I could tell you more about the awesome swanky rooftop bars and glitzy restaurants planned for the area, but I’d rather just pose a question: Since when does the CEO of a corporation, even one who’s been in the neighborhood since 1901, get to plan what a big chunk of the city looks like? I could go further but I’m just going to leave that right there because I’m a reporter and we don’t actually have opinions.

• Will the media be allowed to continue covering a trial involving a racially charged confrontation in June between police and pool-goers in Fairfield? That’s up for debate. A 12-year-old and 15-year-old are charged in Butler County Courts with resisting arrest in connection with that incident. The 12-year-old is also charged with assaulting an officer, and the 15-year-old with disorderly conduct. Attorneys for the juveniles have requested that press be barred from the ongoing court proceedings. The incident caught national attention after cell phone video emerged of the family in question being asked to leave the pool and subsequently being arrested. They and their supporters say police used inappropriate force during that incident and that their removal stems from the fact they are black. They’ve asked that charges against the children be dropped. Fairfield Police, however, say they were justified in their use of force and will be proceeding with the charges against the children.

• A meeting yesterday of Cincinnati’s Fraternal Order of Police yielded a vote of confidence in CPD’s interim chief Eliot Isaacs. That’s a big turnaround from the meeting's original purpose, which was to express no confidence in now-ousted chief Jeffrey Blackwell. Isaac is an insider with the department, having spent more than 25 years with CPD. Officers within the department had said morale was at a very low point due to communication issues, outdated equipment and low staffing. Those complaints came as controversy swirled around Blackwell, who garnered praise for his approach to community relations but criticism for his handling of internal affairs within the department. Blackwell’s supporters maintain he was fighting impossible headwinds within CPD as a chief hired from the outside against the wishes of incoming mayor John Cranley.

• Local families of those killed in police shootings will rally this Saturday at the University of Cincinnati, then march to the spot in Mount Auburn where Samuel Dubose was shot and killed earlier this summer. That rally will start at 6 p.m. in front of the UC police center at 51 W. Corry St. The families of Samuel Dubose, Samantha Ramsey, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III are expected to attend and address the crowd before marching.

• Finally, are you happy right now? Like, actually happy? According to a new study released by finance website WalletHub.com, the chances you answered yes to that question are much lower here in Ohio or Kentucky than in many other states. Wallethub’s recent ranking of happiest and least-happy states did not look favorably on the Tri-state. Ohio ranked 43 out of the 50 states plus Washington D.C. and Kentucky ranked 49. Ouch. At least Indiana ranked a little higher at 38. The study took into account depression rates, sleep surveys, suicide rates, average work hours, income growth, unemployment rates and other factors to give a rough indication of the happiest places in the U.S. Number one? Utah, of all places. Number two was Minnesota, somehow, which you’ll have to ask CityBeat reporter Natalie Krebs about, since she hails from the land of cold-ass winters and weird accents. Just kidding Natalie, I’m sure it’s great up there.

by Natalie Krebs 09.14.2015 20 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Red Bike turns 1; Music Hall renovators announced; Police union to vote on interim police chief

Happy Monday, Cincy! Hope everyone had a great weekend. Here are your morning headlines. 

• The Cincinnati Red Bike program celebrates its one-year anniversary tomorrow, and it's had a great start. In the past 12 months, the bike share program has blown the lid off of initial first year projections. It has logged more than 87,000 rides, 69-percent more than initial predictions,  and membership is at 1,330, 42-percent more than predicted. Stations were expanded out to Northside and northern Kentucky earlier than planned due to its popularity, and it now has 50 stations, 20 more than when the program launched. Best yet, the Red Bike hasn't lost a single bike! Red Bike officials say this kind of growth into the second and third year isn't expected, and some stations — like the ones in Northside and Uptown — aren't being used as much as they'd like. But that's not stopping the program from celebrating. In addition to throwing itself a birthday bash at Taft's Ale House in OTR, bike rentals will be only a dollar on its anniversary tomorrow. 

• Officials from the city and the arts community this afternoon will reveal the group that will be renovating Music Hall. The 2 p.m. press conference will include details about the crew that will help with the $125 million project. The historic building is in dire need of repairs and updates, as duct tape holds the carpet in place in some areas, old hemp rope is still used behind the scenes, buckets are set up to catch leaks and narrow passageways and doors make staging difficult to get through the 137-year-old structure, officials say.  

• The Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police is expected to issue a vote of confidence for Interim Police Chief Eliot Isaac today. Isaac was promoted to assistant police chief in July and received this quick bump up in ranks after City Manager Harry Black fired former Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell last Wednesday. Isaac is a 26-year veteran of the CPD and had been serving as captain since 2004 before being promoted to assistant chief this summer. 

• City Manager Harry Black's memo released last Wednesday, the day Blackwell was fired, cited low morale, frequent absences and described Blackwell as too self-promotional, among the reasons why the police chief was fired for cause, but the Enquirer is questioning whether his community-focused policing approach played a part in his dismissal. Blackwell's approach to working with kids in the community through programs like the Right to Read program and a recently launched pilot program that would extend hours in community centers has been cited as a model for police stations by some outside of Cincinnati but possibly shook the city's confidence in him during a recent spike in shootings. 

• The great recession has robbed many Ohio young people of valuable formative career experience, resulting in a rise in poverty even as unemployment goes down, according to a report detailed by the Columbus Dispatch. Employers are more hesitant to hire workers with less experience or transient work histories, which is what a lot of young people who emerged during the recession have on their resumes. Instead jobs like the ones at call centers and manufacturing, which have historically gone to young less skilled workers, are going to older workers. By some estimates, 30,000 16- to 24-year-olds are without a job and not in school.

That's all for now. Email me story ideas at nkrebs@citybeat.com.

by Nick Swartsell 09.11.2015 22 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 01:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
screen shot 2015-07-30 at 10.12.49 am

Report: Dubose Shooting "Entirely Preventable"

Report says UC officer made tactical errors, recommends reassessment of UC police mission.

An internal review released today by the University of Cincinnati finds that the July 19 shooting death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing was "entirely preventable" and resulted from tactical mistakes made by Tensing. The report also says Tensing made misleading and untrue statements about that incident.

The report, prepared by an outside investigative company called Kroll, utilizes witness testimony, Tensing's body camera footage and other evidence to reconstruct the events that led up to DuBose's shooting death.

While the report finds that Tensing's initial stop of DuBose for a missing license plate was lawful, it also says that Tensing subsequently engaged DuBose in a way that created an escalating situation as DuBose refused to produce a driver's license or exit his vehicle.

Using a frame-by-frame breakdown of Tensing's body camera footage, the report demonstrates that Tensing reached into DuBose's car even when DuBose posed no threat to him. It also shows that Tensing's arm was not caught up in the car's steering wheel, as the officer claimed, and that DuBose's car did not start moving until after Tensing shot him in the head.

The report issues a number of recommendations to prevent future incidents, including testing officers involved in fatalities for drugs and alcohol. Many of the report's recommendations involve further training to prevent the mistakes Tensing made at the moment of the stop, but a few also address the wider problems with UC's policing in neighborhoods around the university. The first two recommendations concluding the report suggest UC and the city of Cincinnati consider limiting campus cops' ability to patrol off campus and also reassess the entire mission of the campus police force.

"Kroll’s preliminary assessment of the UCPD is that, while it does many things well, as a Department it lacks the experiential skill sets necessary to perform all of the operational requirements of urban policing," the report reads, "which requires the training and experience to not only conduct routine traffic stops, but also to investigate serious crimes, engage diverse multi-ethnic communities, and patrol areas of the city not affiliated with the university or its mission."

DuBose's death occurred in an isolated corner of Mount Auburn, about a mile from campus. Questions about off-campus policing come as the university has beefed up its police force and increased the number of tickets it gives. As it has done so, disparities in who gets those tickets have widened. UC police records show that 62 percent of the 932 tickets given by UC police through July this year went to black motorists. In 2012, blacks got 43 percent of UC police tickets. 

Ray Tensing has been indicted on murder and manslaughter charges in connection with DuBose s death. His trial was scheduled for next month, but has been postponed until an as-yet-unannounced later date.

CityBeat will update this story as more information becomes available.

by Nick Swartsell 09.11.2015 23 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Report on Dubose shooting to be released today; NKY theater to become brewery; 2016 is important because judges are old

Good morning y’all. Here’s a brief rundown of the news today before you head off for your weekend.

At a news conference this morning, the Cincinnati Fire Department released a report on the March 26 death of FAO Daryl Gordon, the 54-year-old who was killed after falling down an elevator shaft while responding to a fire in Madisonville. That report reveals that other firefighters wrote a warning on the door to that elevator shaft just minutes before Gordon fell. “Do not enter, open shaft,” the black scrawl on the white door reads. Officials with CFD believe thick smoke and dim lighting conditions may have prevented Gordon from seeing the warning. He was in the building about 10 minutes, working to rescue some of the 29 residents who were eventually removed from the structure. Gordon’s death was the first for CFD in seven years. The department plans to use the report released today to review its operating procedures and avoid a similar accident in the future.

• Another important report is coming down the pike today. The University of Cincinnati Police Department will release its initial findings in the investigation into the police shooting death of Samuel DuBose by UC officer Ray Tensing. The shooting happened after Tensing pulled DuBose over for a routine traffic stop. When
DuBose refused to exit his car and turned the key in the ignition, Tensing shot him in the head. DuBose’s car then rolled for more than a block. Many, including Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, have called the shooting inexcusable, but Tensing and his attorneys argue he acted in self defense and felt he would be dragged by the vehicle. Tensing is charged with murder in the incident and will stand trial later this year.

• An historic theater in Northern Kentucky could soon become another area brewery. Bellevue City Council yesterday approved a proposal by Cincinnati-based developer Kent Hardman to convert the 73-year-old Marianne Theater in Bellevue into a unique entertainment venue that just happens to brew beer as well. Hardman wants to retain the theater’s stage and screen to show movies and stage live shows. This kind of setup has seen big success in other parts of the country, including my former home of Austin, which has the Alamo Drafthouse, a theater where you can drink. They also serve great food. If developers find a way to bring chicken wings into the NKY plan, I’ll be there every week.

• The latest GOP polls from the early presidential primary state of Iowa are about what you’d expect on first glance, with some surprising details once you dig in. According to the Quinnipiac University poll released today, Ohio’s guy, Gov. John Kasich, aka K-Dawg, aka Big Queso, (OK I’ll stop now) is in fifth place with 5 percent of the vote. That’s surprising considering Kasich hasn’t really been focusing much on Iowa and because other polls in past months have had him down around 2 percent of the vote. That ascendancy is the good news for him, however. The bad news is he’s in a three-way tie for fifth and he and the rest of the GOP field are being dominated by a real estate Svengali with a bad hairpiece. Yes, Donald Trump is still on top, followed by former doctor Ben Carson. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush round out the top four. A surprise at the bottom of the list is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who leads Iowa’s next door neighbors and was at one point the front runner in the GOP’s Random House sweepstakes-style contest for president. What a mess.

• Hey, so check this out. Did the above 2016 rundown give you a headache? Are you daunted by the fact we have well over a year of this garbage we have to pay attention to before the election? Are you ready to throw in the towel?

Well, here’s a brief illustration of why all this stuff matters. As Democrats and Republicans tussle over which of their problematic candidates will fight the other party’s problematic candidate in a gross-out battle of yawn-inducing personal attacks, political back-flipping and the like, multiple perches on the U.S. Supreme Court might be at stake. That’s right. Our judges are aging, with three in their 80s, and the next president may well get to appoint a significant number of replacements as they retire. Given the huge role the nation’s highest court has played in recent issues (see: same-sex marriage, abortion, affordable housing, affirmative action, etc.) and the fact that presidents usually choose a judge who roughly agrees with them ideologically, that’s super-terrifying.

So, you know. Pay attention. Vote. All that good stuff.

by Nick Swartsell 09.10.2015 24 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City Hall ruckus; UC campus featured in NYT Mag; Clinton comes to Columbus

Heya, Cincinnati. Let’s talk about news, because, oh dang, we’ve got a lot to discuss.

As we noted yesterday morning, Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black has fired police chief Jeffrey Blackwell, replacing him with CPD Assistant Chief Eliot Isaac, a 26-year veteran of the department. The firing took place quickly and was announced at the same time a 35-page report on Blackwell’s shortcomings was released. The reports, which you can read here and here, are alarming.

But Blackwell’s abrupt firing sparked something that can only be described as a deeply embarrassing shitstorm at City Hall.

You can read more about that here, but here are the cliff notes: Blackwell’s supporters crammed into Council chambers to speak during the public input session of Council’s regular meeting, only to find they had no place to sit due to a large number of chairs reserved for CPD officers. City Council members complained they did not have time to read the study on the climate within CPD, which was conducted by the city manager, before learning of Blackwell’s termination. The input session was disorganized and chaotic, sometimes degenerating into complete disorder as Mayor John Cranley and individual council members verbally sniped at each other. Cranley had at least a few members of the public removed from the chambers for talking over him and drew boos from the crowd when he was perceived as talking down to opposing council members like Yvette Simpson and Chris Seelbach.

Some on Council, including Charterite Kevin Flynn and Democrat Vice Mayor David Mann, expressed sadness that the situation had come to firing the chief, but said the report — which found 82 percent of the nearly 500 officers surveyed had very low morale and contained testimony from three officers about favoritism, retaliation and vanity by the chief — left no other option. Others, however, including former CPD officer Wendell Young and Simpson had deep misgivings about the process by which the firing took place, decrying what they say is a lack of transparency and professionalism.

Black and Cranley pushed back against those assertions, saying the climate assessment was a careful, methodical effort undertaken over the course of months.

Blackwell himself showed up to the meeting, but did not speak before Council. He left shortly after arriving, a group of supporters and media trailing him. He suggested he would file a lawsuit against the city, called out members of the media he felt had been unfair to him and stressed that he loved the people of Cincinnati.

The dismissal, the subsequent tumult and City Hall and the fact that Cincinnati is once again searching for a new police chief — its third in four years — all made national headlines.

An interesting side note: While considering the until-yesterday unseen evidence against Blackwell, it’s informative to remember past struggles CPD has had with leadership. Here are some articles about former chief Thomas Streicher from back in 2009, published in your favorite Cincinnati weekly. Streicher, who it seems ruled CPD with a harsh, sometimes arbitrary fist, was never removed from his post but instead retired in 2011.

• Phew. So that happened. What else is going on? Well, the New York Times Magazine apparently thinks the University of Cincinnati’s campus is pretty enough to feature it in a big photo essay, highlighting a number of the uptown campus’ buildings designed by famous architects. The photo feature’s title — Cincinnati Starchitecture — is cringe-worthy, but the photos are pretty nice. EDIT: In my morning haziness and rush to give you all the news stuff, I missed this much more substantive article about UC's efforts to build top-notch architecture in a bid to compete for students that, uh, ran with the above photo essay. Oops. My bad. That's much better, New York Times.

• Here we go again: Is House Speaker and West Chesterite John Boehner on his way out as the top dog in the House of Representatives? Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina, has once again fired warning shots over Boehner’s bow, saying that the speaker’s position on a number of issues could trigger a revolt from conservatives in the House. Earlier this summer, Meadows introduced a measure in the House that hammered Boehner on his leadership and, if voted through, would strip him of his position. That measure hasn’t been taken up for a vote, but there are methods by which conservative members of the House could take it up, Meadows recently said, noting that he and other far-right conservatives are watching the speaker closely.

• Cincinnati activists and legal experts are in Ferguson, Mo. offering advice and warnings as a commission wraps up a report on last year’s civil unrest over the police killing of unarmed 18-year-old Mike Brown there. Community activists Iris Roley and Pastor Damon Lynch III, as well as attorney Al Gerhardstein, were all instrumental in pushing for Cincinnati’s collaborative agreement, which arose from similar unrest here following the 2001 police shooting of an unarmed black man named Timothy Thomas. The three addressed the Ferguson Commission, which is set to release a report with recommendations for ways to improve law enforcement oversight and police-community relations. The group admonished the commission to actively and tirelessly work on the issue, instead of just publishing their report and moving on. You can read more about their advice to Ferguson here.

• Finally, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is in Columbus today making a campaign appearance at a “Women for Hillary” organizing event. She’ll focus on issues facing women at that event, including the pay gap, reproductive rights, parental leave and other issues. Clinton is seen as the frontrunner in the Democratic primary, though self-professed socialist Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has been gaining in the polls, drawing big crowds to rallies around the country. Clinton thus far has been hobbled by questions around her use of a private email address during her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State. She recently addressed that controversy, apologizing for her use of a separate email address to conduct official government business but maintaining that she did not break any laws while doing so.

That’s it for me. Find me on Twitter or shoot me an email with news tips, bad jokes or suggestions for cool fall road trips.

by Nick Swartsell 09.09.2015 25 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
to do_smale riverfront park-courtesy cincinnati parks

Noon News and Stuff

CPD chief Blackwell fired; Cranley's park proposal loses big supporter; deputy Rowan County clerk will issue marriage licenses

Good morning all. Let’s get right to the news.

It’s a big day at City Hall, and so the morning news today is all about what's going on with city government.

First, a breaking story. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black announced today that he has fired Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell. He’s named current CPD Assistant Chief Eliot Isaac to the role of interim chief. We’ll update shortly.

Meanwhile, there will be a show of support for former chief Blackwell today at 12:30 p.m. outside City Hall. The group We’ve Got Blackwell’s Back organized that event in response to a looming Sept. 14 Fraternal Order of Police meeting where union leadership says there will be a vote of no confidence by officers. Blackwell’s critics say the Cincinnati Police Department has critical staffing, communication and morale issues that have festered this summer as gun crimes rose, the department dealt with the shooting death of officer Sonny Kim and other difficult circumstances challenged the department. But the chief’s supporters say he’s done a fantastic job during a difficult time in the city and that his potential ouster is political in nature. They point to the fact that when he was campaigning for mayor, Cranley asked then-City Manager Milton Dohoney not to hire a chief until the election was finished so the newly elected mayor could have a say in the hiring. Dohoney hired Blackwell despite this request. Blackwell’s supporters say Cranley would like to oust Blackwell and install his own choice for police chief.

Blackwell’s firing might have some consequences for the city. Yesterday, the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice told the city it would relocate its 2016 and 2017 conventions if Blackwell were removed from his post unjustly. That could cost the city $1 million, a letter from the organization cautioned. Blackwell is a member of NABCJ.

• Council might refer to committee a parental leave plan suggested by council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson. That plan would allow up to six weeks of parental leave for city employees. The first two weeks would come out of the employee’s accrued leave. The next four are covered by the city at 70 percent of the employee’s salary. The plan would cost the city an estimated $140,000 a year. It’s in line with state practices and similar leave plans passed by cities like Dayton.

The proposal, which Seelbach and Simpson have been developing since this spring, looked like it might have competition from another parental leave plan put forward by Mayor John Cranley recently. Seelbach and Simpson expressed consternation over that proposal, saying they weren’t invited to participate in drafting the competing plan or even notified of the press conference at which it was announced. That plan would have let employees take the same six weeks off, but would have had city workers borrowing time off from future leave time instead of having it covered by the city. It seemed like a showdown was brewing over the two plans, but Cranley has signaled his support for Simpson and Seelbach’s proposal, saying its costs are reasonable and admitting their plan mirrors best practices elsewhere in the state.

• Mayor Cranley’s tax levy proposal for making capital improvements to the city’s parks got a victory and a loss yesterday. The Hamilton County Board of Elections unanimously certified the ballot language for the initiative, despite legal challenges alleging that the language was misleading. Meanwhile, long-time parks advocate and former Cincinnati vice mayor Marian Spencer pulled her endorsement of the project. Spencer cited the fact that the measure would become part of the city’s charter, a permanent change, instead of subject to democratic review. She called that “bad policy.” She also said the language of the charter amendment doesn’t guarantee that attractions built with the money raised by the levy will be free and open to the public. She cited the Smale Riverfront Park carousel as an example. Users must pay to ride that attraction. Finally, Spencer echoed other charter amendment opponents in pointing out that under the proposal, the mayor and the parks board will have full control over what is built with the estimated $5 million a year the levy will draw in. City Council will have no say in the projects. Spencer was a co-chair of the campaign before she jumped ship; she appeared with Cranley at the news conference announcing the proposal.

Quick hits:

• Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus might run for Hamilton County Commissioner against Republican Greg Hartmann in 2016. If she wins, that could shift the balance of power on the currently Republican-led body.

• A deputy clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky has said he will issue same-sex marriage licenses even if the head county clerk, Kim Davis, orders him not to. Davis went to jail over a federal contempt of court finding last week because she refused to administer marriage licenses despite a court order.

• Kentucky state tax credits for a low-income housing development in Covington will stay despite protests from some city officials and business owners there.

Phew! That’s a lot of big stuff. That’s all for me today, but stay tuned for more info on City Council and other news going on throughout the city. Follow me on Twitter for updates.

by Nick Swartsell 09.09.2015 25 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
jeffrey blackwell

UPDATED: City Manager Fires Police Chief Blackwell; Chief Promises Lawsuit

Harry Black cites communication, morale issues; chief's supporters call controversy political

UPDATE: Supporters of fired Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell took to the steps of City Hall Cincinnati City Council chambers to voice their opposition to the chief's dismissal by City Manager Harry Black. Former chief Blackwell himself appeared at Council's public input session, though he was not invited to speak before Council. Afterward, he told reporters outside the chamber that he would file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, saying he didn't learn why he was being fired from the city and that he still hasn't seen the reports released today about his performance.

Dozens crowded into Council chambers and signed up to speak in favor of the chief. At times, the public hearing got contentious, with Council members and Mayor John Cranley verbally sparring with each other.

Simpson said Blackwell was escorted from CPD HQ after firing. "If this is justified, give this man, Council, the public, the chance to read [the report against Blackwell]," Simpson said. That report had been released just hours earlier.

Councilmembers Simpson, Wendell Young, P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach, while acknowledging the seriousness of the charges against Blackwell, said they took deep issue with the way in which he was dismissed. They pointed to the fact they didnt' find out the firing was happening until this morning and that the swearing-in for the interim chief, Eliot Isaac, was taking place immediately after the public hearing.

The tense atmosphere was perhaps exacerbated by rows of chairs reserved for police officers and their families, leaving community members standing toward the back of the room. At times, the mayor took a strong, almost antagonistic approach to public commenters and his critics on Council. At one point, Cranley scolded Councilwoman Yvette Simpson for raising her voice and cut her off, saying her allotted six minutes were up. Later in the meeting, after several warnings, Cranley had a few members of the public removed by officers for interrupting while he was speaking.

Some Councilmembers, including former Cincinnati Police officer Young, questioned the appearance the large group of CPD officers in the room presented, saying it heightened tensions.  City Manager Harry Black then dismissed many of the officers until the public hearing concluded.

Cranley and Black admonished Councilmembers and the public not to rush to judgement, and to read the report detailing the allegations against Blackwell. Cranley called the evidence against Blackwell "overwhelming" and said that anyone reading the report would conclude that Black "made the right choice."


City Manager Harry Black announced this morning that he has fired Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell due to "lack of sufficient and proper communication, particularly within the command staff, coupled with a consistent and pervasive disregard for the chain of command," according to a 35-page memo the city released today. That memo contained testimony from CPD officials alleging poor leadership from the chief.

The city also released a department climate assessment that says a lack of communication, leadership and technology has contributed to low morale and has put the department at risk of high rates of officer attrition.

Black announced that Assistant Police Chief Eliot Isaac, a 26-year veteran of CPD, will be the interim police chief.

You can read the climate assessment here and the memo here.

Among the allegations against Blackwell in the report, which includes statements from CPD Specialist Scotty Johnson and Public Information Officer Tiffany Hardey, are charges that Blackwell has been verbally abusive and retaliatory toward officers, that he has been unavailable during critical moments in recent months, that he played favorites in assigning overtime, that he spent too much time self-promoting, including taking selfies at the funeral of murdered CPD officer Sonny Kim and that he used his perch as chief to get free tickets to sporting events.

Blackwell has been embattled for months. Early this summer, severance documents between Blackwell and the city came to light, though these were never signed by the chief and he asserted he was staying on the force. More recently, Cincinnati's Fraternal Order of Police announced a Sept. 14 meeting, and union leadership said officers would take a vote of no confidence in Blackwell.

Blackwell’s critics say the Cincinnati Police Department's critical staffing, communication and morale issues have festered this summer as gun crimes rose, the department dealt with the shooting death of officer Sonny Kim and other difficult circumstances challenged the department.

But the chief’s supporters, including some council members and other public figures, say he’s done a fantastic job during a difficult time in the city and that his potential ouster is political in nature. They point to the fact that when he was campaigning for mayor, Cranley asked then-City Manager Milton Dohoney not to hire a chief until the election was finished so the newly elected mayor could have a say in the hiring. Dohoney hired Blackwell despite this request. Blackwell’s supporters say Cranley would like to oust Blackwell and install his own choice for police chief.




by Nick Swartsell 10.02.2015 50 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Will the Freedom Center get a charter school?; Sheriff Jones won't run for Boehner's seat; Vatican clarifies on Kim Davis visit

Hey all! Here’s a brief news rundown for your Friday. Let’s get to the weekend already.

Is a charter school coming to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center? It could happen, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Carpe Diem is a charter sponsored by Cincinnati Public Schools that operates out of Aiken High School. The school has expressed interest in opening up another CPS-sponsored charter in the Freedom Center, though nothing official has been planned yet. The charter’s CEO has said he’d be interested in having the school open as soon as next fall, though CPS has yet to make a decision about whether it wants another charter, saying such a school would need to perform as well or better than traditional public schools in the city. CPS currently sponsors two charters. Charters in Cincinnati and Ohio in general have a mixed record over the past decade, with some performing as well or better than public schools while many others have lagged and been shut down for performance issues or ethics violations.

• What’s the most Instagramed spot in Ohio? It’s the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, according to a review of social media data by travel website busbud.com. The site looked at which attractions in every state generated the most hashtags on the popular, Facebook-owned image-posting social media app. The zoo joins the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the White House in D.C. and the Space Needle in Seattle as one of the most popular spots for ‘gramming in the country. I would have guessed Washington Park, but yeah. Pretty cool for the zoo.

• Apologies in advance for fans of Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, because I have some disappointing news for you. The staunchly anti-immigrant sheriff, who has gained a national profile due to his aggressive stance on conservative issues and appearances on talk shows discussing those views, won’t be running for U.S. Rep. John Boehner’s congressional seat. As we reported last week, Jones had indicated he was interested in campaigning for the spot, which Boehner vacated Friday after years of fighting with congressional conservatives as speaker of the house. But Jones has since announced that, while Congress could “use someone like him,” he’s better off staying in Butler County.

• A Chicago-based investor in ResponsibleOhio’s plan to legalize marijuana in the state has backed out, according to the group. Meanwhile, Youngstown-based Brian Kessler, whose father invented the Hula-Hoop, is in to take his place. Kessler is now one of the 22 investors who have gone public about their role funding ResponsibleOhio’s drive to pass an amendment to the Ohio constitution that would legalize marijuana and create 10 constitutionally mandated grow sites across the state. The identity of another 30 investors has not been made public by the group.

• So everyone got all riled up about the Pope’s visit with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis last week. Now the Vatican is clarifying that meeting... kind of. Davis, you’ll remember, refused to issue marriage licenses even in the wake of this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the country. Davis was eventually found in contempt of court and went to jail for her refusal on religious grounds to issue the licenses. Fast forward a bit. Davis recently revealed that when the pope was here in the U.S. a couple weeks back, she was granted a 15-minute visit with the religious leader. This was something of a shock to many progressives, who were still applauding Pope Francis' statements before Congress on climate change and income inequality. Many, of course, took the visit as a signal that the pope agreed with Davis on her stand. Now, however, the Vatican is saying that the visit was requested by Davis and doesn’t mean that the pope supported her point of view or her actions. Annnnnd… that’s about all the church said. So. Hm.

• Finally, you’ve certainly already heard about the horrific school shooting in Oregon yesterday, but it seems strange not to mention it in a news round up. So here’s a story with what we know so far. As your humble morning news blogger, can I suggest we simply pause to feel for those involved and not instantly begin fighting about this? No? OK.

That’s it for me. Twitter, email, etc. You know what’s up.

by Nick Swartsell 10.01.2015 3 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

City passes paternity leave plan; Denise Driehaus to run for county commish; state passes "ban the box" legislation

Hey hey! Good morning Cincy. How’s it going? Here’s what’s up in the news today.

Yesterday the city officially announced the results of a long-awaited study about disparities in the companies it hires to take on taxpayer-funded projects as well as several measures it plans to take to address those inequities. According to the Croson Study, only about 2.7 percent of the city’s contracts went to black-owned businesses and only about 6.2 percent went to businesses owned by women. This despite the fact that black and women owned businesses in the city have the capacity to do 20 percent of that work, the study says. You can read more about the study and the city’s proposed solutions, which include race and gender-based contracting requirements, in our online story yesterday. City contracts represent more than $1 billion in spending, and city officials say getting that pie split up more equitably could go a long way toward addressing the deep economic inequalities in the city.

• Cincinnati City Council yesterday passed legislation that gives all city employees six weeks of parental leave after they have or adopt a baby, including 28 days at 70 percent of their pay. Council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson proposed the new paternity leave policy, which the city administration estimates will cost about $225,000 a year. Council voted 7-2 to pass the proposal. Seelbach, Simpson and other backers say the slight cost to the city is worth it, saying it’s the right thing to do and that it will help the city recruit the best and brightest employees. Council members Kevin Flynn and Amy Murray voted against the measure, in part because they believe leave offered to employees should be decided through negotiations with the city employees union.

• One of Cincinnati’s iconic but currently empty churches will be born again as an event center, developers say. Towne Properties, which has its headquarters in a portion of the building, will redevelop the former Holy Cross Monastery, which overlooks the city from its lofty perch in Mount Adams, turning it into an upscale space for weddings and other events.  The church has been empty since 1977, and Towne has owned it since 1980. The developer has been puzzled over what to do with the property, considering a hotel or office space for the building. But none of that worked out on paper and so the historic 12,000-square-foot church, built in 1873, has remained empty except for some pretty amazing art exhibits that have popped up from time to time there. I remember seeing Shinji Turner-Yamamoto’s beautiful Global Tree Project at the monastery back in the day. It’s an incredible place.

• Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus has officially announced she’s running for Hamilton County commissioner against sitting Republican commish Greg Hartmann next year. Driehaus, a Clifton resident with a long history of service in local and state politics, is prohibited by term limits from running for another stint as state rep. Hartmann first got the commissioners job in 2008 when he ran unopposed for the post, replacing outgoing commish Pat DeWine. Before that, he mounted an unsuccessful bid for Ohio Secretary of State.

• The Ohio General Assembly yesterday passed so-called “ban the box” legislation that strikes questions about prospective employees’ criminal records from public job applications. The state struck a similar question from its job applications in June, but now an application for any public job in Ohio won’t have questions about an applicant’s criminal history. Proponents say that will help ex-offenders get a new start and decrease the chances they’ll end up in prison again. You can read about the ban the box effort in our in-depth feature story on the subject published in June.

• Finally, in national news, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is raising nearly as much money as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the two duel it out in the Democratic primary for the 2016 presidential nomination. Sanders raised $26 million in the last fundraising quarter to presumed frontrunner Clinton’s $28 million. That’s kind of crazy because Sanders is an independent, not a Democrat, and he’s been running around for years telling people he’s a socialist. Not exactly the most obvious path to the White House. Clinton, meanwhile, is named Clinton and has the vast fundraising network of her former president husband Bill and plenty of backers from her time as a senator. But then, when the top GOP contender for the presidential nomination is Donald Trump, all the rules we all thought were well understood and set in stone go flying out the window.

That’s it for me! Email or tweet at me and let me know if Washington Park is open to us commoners (aka the public) today. You know what I'm talking about if you passed by yesterday.

by Nick Swartsell 09.30.2015 3 days ago
Posted In: News at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

City Unveils Efforts to Address Contracting Disparities

Croson Study reveals that minority and women owned businesses receive few contracts, have capacity to do much more

City of Cincinnati officials today unveiled the final draft of a long-awaited study of gender and racial disparities in the city’s contracting practices, as well as ordinances that might address some of those inequalities, including race and gender based requirements for contractors.

The so-called Croson Study shows that between 2009 and 2013, black-owned businesses were awarded only 2.7 percent of the city’s contracts, totaling about $5 million, despite blacks making up more than 45 percent of the city’s population. Businesses owned by women fared only slightly better during the study’s time frame, getting only 6.2 percent of the city’s contracts. Eighteen percent of busineses in Cincinnati are owned by blacks, and nearly 30 percent are owned by women.

Mayor John Cranley cast the report as a positive step toward more equitable contracting for the city.

“We’re finally here after a long amount of hard work,” Cranley said during a ceremony today at City Hall featuring a wide array of about two dozen city officials, faith leaders, members of the business community, activists and others. “We have a lot of great things happening in the city, but we’re not perfect, and, clearly, the city’s procurement process has not reflected the diversity of our city.” 

Councilman Wendell Young also praised the study, but sounded a much more somber note.

“Since we’ve confirmed what we already know, how hard are we willing to work to address the problems?” he asked. “It’s true that the city of Cincinnati is making great progress. It’s also true that a significant part of this community is not feeling that progress. Cincinnati has many distinctions that we’re not proud of."

Young citing the city’s sky-high infant mortality, childhood poverty and black unemployment rates.

“Today we’re at the point where we have the road map and the confirmation. From today on we find out if we have the political will, the ability, the skill and whether the work we do can make a difference. We won’t be the first, but we’re going to find a way to make this work. And if we can’t do that, heaven help us all.”

The report also revealed that 70 percent of the city's $1.2 billion in prime contracts went to a small group of businesses, a fact that many on city council found disturbing.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman said that fact should make not just minority and female-owned businesses angry, but anyone who has competed for a city contract.

"That's one hell of a country club," he said.

Cranley touted steps the city has already taken toward diversifying its contracting, including recently establishing the city’s new Department of Economic Inclusion and making changes to its Small Business Enterprise (SBE) program. But he also said the Croson Study and its suggestions are huge parts of the solution.

The study makes several suggestions for improvements in the city’s contracting process on four different monetary levels, from under $5,000 to more than $250,000, on both the prime contract and subcontract levels. Some recommended solutions are based on race and gender categories, while others are neutral.

On the subcontracting level, Cincinnati City Council will consider ordinances which create a Minority Business Enterprise program and a Women Business Enterprise program, allowing such businesses to compete with each other for certain set-aside contracts.

On the much larger prime contracting level, businesses will be given points on some bids if they are at least 51 percent owned by minorities or women.

Some council members, including Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, want the city to go farther in ensuring better equity in awarding contracts at the $1 billion prime contracting level. Both Simpson and Councilman Chris Seelbach offered pointed questions about what more could be done at the prime contracting level to ensure a greater piece of that large pie goes to minority- and women-owned businesses.

The city usually awards prime contracts to companies, which then hire subcontractors. City Manager Harry Black pointed out that the city will make requirements for businesses winning prime bids as to the level of minority subcontractors they should hire. Businesses winning contracts with the city of more than $50,000 will be required to subcontract 17 percent black-owned businesses for construction work and 14 percent black-owned businesses for other services, and 14 and 16 percent businesses owned by women for those categories respectively.

One recommendation made by the Croson Study that the city has not yet considered is ending so-called master agreements, or contracts with companies that can be used by multiple city departments on separate projects and which can be subject to multi-year renewals without re-bidding.

“The city should eliminate the use of master agreements and follow the competitive bidding standards for all contracts,” the study states in its conclusion.

One point that every city official agrees upon, however, is that minority- and female-owned businesses are up to the task of doing more projects on taxpayers' behalf.

The study shows that black-owned businesses in the city have the capacity to take on up to 20 percent of the city’s contracts. Businesses owned by women see a similar capacity gap: The report shows female-owned businesses have the ability to tackle another 20 percent of the city’s contracts.

“To all my colleagues here, please do not use the word ‘capacity,’ " Smitherman said.

Though the report is clear, the details involved in increasing minority contracts awarded by the city are complex. Part of the complication comes from the legal realities around what the city can and can’t do to increase minority contracting.

The Croson Study gets its name from a U.S. Supreme Court case, City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson, in which the Virginia city was sued by a contractor over its contract diversity initiatives. The Supreme Court ruled Richmond’s setbacks of contracts for minority businesses unconstitutional and set a standard of strict scrutiny, the highest legal standard, for municipal contracting diversity programs.

That means that cities risk lawsuits if they don’t demonstrate a very clear need to enact gender- or race-specific contracting guidelines and cannot show that those guidelines are narrowly tailored to address disparities without discriminating against other businesses.

Cincinnati has already been through such a lawsuit in 2004, when Cleveland Construction Company unsuccessfully sued the city over its contracting diversity policies. The company claimed that the city’s Small Business Enterprise (SBE) program, which was used in part to score the bids from Cleveland and other companies, created unconstitutional racial and gender classifications and violated its rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment. An initial decision from the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas agreed with that claim, and the city amended the race- and gender-related parts of its SBE program. The case went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which eventually ruled in favor of the city.

The Croson Study offers some protection from future lawsuits, say city officials and representatives from Mason Tillman Associates, which conducted the 338-page report. The report quantifies the extent of Cincinnati’s contracting diversity problems and puts forward recommendations, many poised to be passed by council, that are tailored to address them.

“It gives us a legal basis to do what we need to do to be a city that will work for everybody and not just for a few,” Cranley said.

by Natalie Krebs 09.30.2015 4 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Campbell County Schools superintendent retires after domestic violence charges; child poverty still a problem for Cincy; Kim Davis meets the Pope?

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

• Campbell County Schools Superintendent Glen Miller abruptly announced his retirement after he was charged with domestic violence. Miller has been on paid administrative leave since he was arrested last Wednesday night at his Erlanger home after his daughter called 911 to report that he has struck his wife in the head and neck. Miller told police his wife's injuries were a result of an accident, but his story didn't quite match his wife and daughter's versions. He was booked into Kenton County Detention Center and charged with domestic violence that same evening just after midnight and released the following afternoon. Miller has been superintendent of Campbell County Schools for four years. His retirement will go into effect November 1. In the meantime, Associate Superintendent Shelli Wilson will be placed in charge of the district. 

• Cincinnati State is considering a partnership with private testing and consulting firm Pearson to attempt to boost its enrollment and retention rates. The college seems to have hit a rough patch. Current enrollment is just below 10,000, 10 percent lower than a year ago, it faces a state-mandated tuition freeze and president O'dell Owens recently departed after tensions with the board of trustees. Cincinnati State is reportedly discussing a 10-year contract with Pearson that would give the company control of its $550,000 marketing and recruiting budget in exchange for 20 percent of students' tuition recruited above the college's quota of 4,000. If it goes through, this contract would be the first for the New York-based company, which earns much of its revenue through K-12 standardized test preparation. Given the college's not-so-great reputation for relying heavily on test scores, the college's faculty senate has urged the administration to wait on the contract until the results of spring recruitment are in. 

• Child poverty is down in Cincinnati, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, but the rate is way above state and national averages. According to the survey, child poverty is down to 44.1 percent from 51.3 percent in 2012, but it's double the national average of 21.7 percent and near double the state average of 22.9 percent. City Health Commissioner Noble Maseru has suggested targeting the poorest zip codes first to begin to further bringing that number down, but no concrete plan has been put in place. 

• Infamous Rowan County clerk Kim Davis apparently secretly met with Pope Francis. According to Davis's lawyer, officials sneaked Davis and her husband, Joe, into the Vatican Embassy in Washington D.C. last Thursday afternoon where the Pope gave her rosary beads and told her to "stay strong." During his first visit to the U.S., Pope Francis did not publicly support Davis by name but instead stated that "conscious objection is a right that is a part of every human right." Davis spent time in the Carter County Detention Center for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She and her husband were conveniently already in Washington D.C. to accept an award from conservative group, the Family Research Council. 

• Cincinnati is a travel hotspot, or at least, "on the verge of a hip explosion," according to Forbes Travel Guide. According to the magazine, Cincinnati has a hilly landscape much like San Francisco's without the San Francisco prices, and the newly gentrified, or "revitalized," Over-the-Rhine is like Brooklyn before the hipsters took it over. Other reasons the third-largest city in Ohio makes "the perfect weekend getaway" include Skyline cheese coneys, a ton of German beers and Kentucky whiskeys to choose from and a "surprisingly impressive array of luxury hotel options." 

That's it for today! Email is nkrebs@citybeat.com, and I'd love to hear from you!            

by Nick Swartsell 09.29.2015 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sen. Mitch McConnell

Morning News and Stuff

Study finds gender, racial disparities in city contracting; Mount Auburn clinic will stay open pending appeal; Ziegler Park plan presented in OTR

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

A study covering the last five years of city of Cincinnati contracting found that the city hasn’t hired nearly as many minority and women-owned businesses as it should for taxpayer-funded jobs. The 338-page study on racial disparities, called the Croson Study, was conducted by outside researchers with public policy research firm Mason Tillman Associates. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black said in a memo yesterday that the study reveals a “demonstrated pattern of disparity” in city contracting. He says ordinances are being drafted by the city administration to address those disparities. The study suggests both race and gender neutral fixes as well as those that rely on race and gender preferences. The latter are legally dicey: The city could face lawsuits over race and gender preferences in hiring, even if it has evidence that its current methods for ensuring equity in its contracting practices aren’t working.

• Cincinnati’s last remaining women’s health clinic that provides abortions will stay open as it appeals a decision by the Ohio Department of Health denying it a license. The Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn lost its license under a new state law slipped into this year’s budget that gives the ODH just 60 days after an application is received to renew a clinic’s license. In the past, it has taken the ODH more than a year to do so for the Cincinnati clinic. Planned Parenthood, which runs the facility, is suing the state over the law, which it says presents an undue burden on women seeking abortions. The Mount Auburn clinic would have to close Thursday if not for the appeal. If it shuts down, Cincinnati will become the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to an abortion provider. Another clinic in Dayton faces a similar situation, and if it also closed down, only seven clinics would remain in the state, and none would remain in Southwestern Ohio. A rally supporting Planned Parenthood is planned for 11 a.m. today at the Mount Auburn location.

• Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank has agreed to pay more than $18 million to settle claims it engaged in discriminatory lending practices against minorities seeking auto loans. A federal investigation into Fifth Third’s lending practices through car dealerships found that the bank’s guidelines to dealers left a wide latitude of pricing discretion for loans. That discretion led directly to more expensive loans for qualified black and Hispanic buyers than were given to qualified white buyers, according to the feds. Minority car buyers paid an average of $200 more than white buyers due to those discrepancies, according to the investigation. The question is whether those dealers were more or less uniformly charging minorities slightly more than white buyers, or if some dealerships charged minorities a lot more and others played by the straight and narrow. Fifth Third points out that it didn’t make these loans itself, but merely purchased them from the dealers. The bank maintains it treats its customers equally. The bank will pay another $3.5 million in an unrelated settlement over deceptive credit card sales practices some telemarketers with the bank engaged in, according to federal investigators.

• Last night, representatives with 3CDC, the city and planning firm Human Nature held a presentation and listening session unveiling their plans for a revamped Ziegler Park. Their $30 million proposal includes revamped basketball courts, a new pool in the northern section of the park and a quiet, tree-lined green space above a new parking garage across the street. Ziegler sits along Sycamore Street across from the former School for Creative and Performing Arts on the border of Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton. An Indianapolis developer, Core Redevelopment, is currently renovating the SCPA building into luxury apartments. This change, along with others in the rapidly developing neighborhoods, has spurred increased concerns about gentrification in the area. Some who are wary of the park say the proposed renovation could play into a dynamic where long-term, often minority residents in the neighborhood are made to feel unwelcome or even priced out. 3CDC officials say they’ve taken steps to make sure neighborhood wishes for the park are honored. Last night’s meeting was the final of four input sessions the developer has undertaken.

• It’s not often you get two different Zieglers in the news, but today is one of those days. The Cincinnati Visitor’s Bureau has hired a new national sales manager who will focus on marketing to the LGBT community. David Ziegler will head up the group’s pitch to LGBT groups, which CVB has already made strides on. The visitor’s bureau has been working with area hotels to get them certified as LGBT-friendly and has worked to bring LGBT conventions and meetings to the city.

• Finally, after House Speaker John Boehner’s abrupt exit last week (which you can read more about in this week’s news feature out tomorrow), you might be concerned for his squinty-eyed Republican friend in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell represents Kentucky and also holds the most powerful role in the prestigious legislative body, ushering through waves of conservative legislation.

But that’s where it’s tough for McConnell: Republicans in the Senate have a very slim majority that isn’t adequate to pass things beyond a Democratic filibuster or presidential veto. McConnell has taken a beating over this in the past from tea party radicals like Sen. Ted Cruz in much the same way Boehner did in the House, leading many staunch conservatives to call for his head next. But it’s unlikely the 74-year-old McConnell will be toppled the way Boehner was anytime soon, this Associated Press story argues, due to the nature of the Senate and McConnell’s strong support from his more moderate GOP colleagues.

by Natalie Krebs 09.28.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WWE Boehner

Morning News and Stuff

Boehner resigns and slams fellow Republicans; Health Department denies Planned Parenthood license; Kasich targets Iowa

Good morning, Cincinnati! There was a lot going on around the city this weekend, and I hope everyone got out and enjoyed something, whether it was Midpoint Music Festival, Clifton Fest or the "blood" supermoon eclipse last night. Here are today's headlines. 

• In case you were distracted by having too much fun this weekend, Speaker of the House and West Chester native John Boehner announced his resignation on Friday. Boehner met with Pope Francis on Thursday and apparently that night before going to bed told his wife that he'd had enough. Boehner has served as House speaker for five years and declined to say what he has planned next at the news conference on Friday.  

Boehner then spoke to CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday where he assured the nation that there will be no government shutdown and fired some shots at uncompromising Republicans, like Texas Senator Ted Cruz, calling them "false prophets." Boehner was facing a potential vote that would remove him from his position so the House could pass a bill that would include a provision that would defund Planned Parenthood, an uncompromising demand that conservatives are making in order to pass the budget. The move hasn't sat well at all with Boehner. "Our founders didn't want some parliamentary system where, if you won the majority, you got to do whatever you wanted. They wanted this long, slow process," he told CBS. More coverage on Boehner's resignation to come this week in CityBeat.

• Speaking of shutting down Planned Parenthood, Cincinnati could potentially become the largest metropolitan area without an abortion clinic. State health officials denied licenses to the Planned Parenthood in Mount Auburn and the Women's Med clinic in Dayton. Both clinics were unable to find a private hospital to create a patient-transfer agreement with as required by a recently passed Ohio state law and requested an exemption from the Ohio Department of Health. The move could shut down the last two abortion providers in southwestern Ohio and reduce the number of surgical abortion providers in Ohio to seven. There were 14 in 2013. Both facilities have 30 days to request a hearing to appeal the denial, and Planned Parenthood has already said it plans to. 

• Former Cincinnati Police Capt. Gary Lee will run for Hamilton County sheriff. Lee, who was with the Cincinnati Police Department for 33 years, will run against Democratic incumbent Jim Neil. During his time with the CPD, Neil worked in the vice unit, special services section, and was District 1 captain.

• Gov. John Kasich is targeting the Feb.1 Iowa caucuses in the wake of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's departure from the presidential race. Kasich has most recently focused on finishing strong in New Hampshire, which has a history of favoring more moderate Republicans, but now has shifted his focus to Iowa where he hopes a strong finish can help him in the Michigan and Ohio primaries. Kasich is reportedly following a strategy used in 2012 by then-Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who did win New Hampshire and the Republican nomination, but ultimately lost the election. 

• NASA says it will reveal a major finding about Mars this morning. The space agency is keeping quiet about what exactly it found, but I'm hoping it's Martians. The Guardian thinks it could have to something to do with finding evidence of water on the planet, and they have more evidence to back up their prediction. Either way, it'll be exciting. 

• Didn't stay up late to watch last night's supermoon eclipse? It was pretty awesome, but congratulations on getting more sleep than many other Cincinnatians. If you missed out or just want to relive the experience this morning, you can check out some pretty cool photos here. 

That's all for now. Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com with any story tips.   

by Natalie Krebs 09.24.2015 10 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
news1_protester_7-9 copy

Morning News and Stuff

Cincy community college president steps down; Wright State University to host presidential debate; Ohio senate introduces bill to defund Planned Parenthood

Good morning, Cincy! Here are your morning headlines. 

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College President Dr. O'dell Owens has stepped down to become the medical director of the Cincinnati Health Department. Cincinnati's health commission approved Owens' appointment Tuesday night, and he stepped down Wednesday evening after he reportedly felt like tensions between him and the college's board of trustees made it to difficult for him to continue. Provost Monica Posey will serve as interim president of the college and the school will launch a nationwide search for a permenant replacement. The position of medical director has been open since July 1 when Dr. Lawrence Holditch retired. 

• Wright State University in Dayton is set to host the first presidential debate next fall. The school has already created a website for the much-anticipated event that will take place almost exactly a year from now on September 26, 2016. Many details, such as the format of the debate or number of candidates that will participate, are still uncertain at this time. But if you're wondering how much time left until this action packed event down to the second, the debate's official website includes a countdown. Just 368 days, 10 hours, 34 minutes and 8 seconds to go (ed. note: that's now 368 days, 10 hours, 29 minutes and 16 seconds left to go, errr... 15 seconds... 14... ah)... 

• Need a new job? Ride-sharing service Uber will double its workforce next year by adding 10,000 news drivers to Ohio, including 3,000 in Columbus, which currently has 2,500 registered drivers. Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger has called the addition a "monumental task," and State Legislators are considering a bill that would make transportation regulations for Uber. In the meantime, Uber will start hosting recruitment events over the next few months. This announcement bring me one step closer to selling my car. Now, if only Cincinnati could attract Car2Go to come here, I'd be set. 

• Republican Senate President Keith Faber has introduced a bill to divert government funds from Planned Parenthood. A similar bill was introduced into the House in August. The move comes after the release of controversial footage recorded by anti-abortion activists that shows a Planned Parenthood official describing how the group benefits from selling fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood claims it has broken no laws and that the video is heavily edited. But it had lead to a push by Republicans across the country to defund the health clinics.

• More local Muslim leaders have spoken out against GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson's comments the former physician made saying he wouldn't support a Muslim president. Carson, who is a Seven-Day Adventist, told Meet the Press on Sunday that he would not advocate for a Muslim as president. Roula Allouch, an attorney who chairs the Council on American-Islamic Relations told the Enquirer she questions Carson's ability to run for president after making "very bigoted remarks," which shows a lack of basic knowledge of the Constitution and Islamic relations. Carson addressed his comments during his visit to Sharonville on Tuesday claiming they were taken out of context.                   

Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com. I'm out for today!
by Nick Swartsell 09.23.2015 11 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

No fed money for CPD body cams, but some for extra cops; should Burnet Woods change?; Kasich schmoozes on late night TV

Hey hey! Here’s what’s going on around the city today.

The Cincinnati Police Department won’t get federal money to supply officers with body cameras, but that won’t stop CPD from equipping its officers with the technology. The department has planned on purchasing the cameras for months, and the issue became even more urgent after footage from a body camera worn by University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing revealed that he more than likely acted improperly in the shooting death of black motorist Samuel DuBose at a routine traffic stop in July. UC police are required to wear the cameras. CPD officers aren’t yet, but that will change. The city says its goal is to begin equipping officers with the cameras by next May. Meanwhile, CPD will get help from the feds in other ways. Yesterday, the city announced the department will get a $1.9 million federal grant to add 15 more officers for three years.

• Do you like Burnet Woods? Or does it scare you? If you’re like the author of this editorial, it’s probably the latter, though you've only been there once so maybe give it another try. One of the oft-mentioned projects that could be funded by a proposed property tax levy to fund improvements to the city’s parks is a revamp of the urban forest just north of UC’s campus. That’s not surprising; in the past, Mayor John Cranley, who is pushing the tax proposal, has called the park “creepy” because… well, basically, because it has too many trees. He’s described his vision for the park as something akin to Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine, which underwent a multi-million renovation in 2011. I just want to be a contrarian voice here: Don’t change the woods. They’re lovely. I’m in there at least a few times a week, and I always see other folks there running, fishing, riding their bikes — all the things the mayor and others who want a revamp say they wish people did there. Having a densely wooded area in the midst of such a bustling set of neighborhoods is wonderful. What’s more, it doesn’t seem to impact crime in any way. If you’re curious, here are reported crimes in Burnet in the last year. Notice anything? Yeah, there was like, one.

 • Efforts to develop the riverfront in Northern Kentucky will get a big boost from state grants. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Gov. Steve Beshear have awarded the city of Covington nearly $4 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants, the city announced yesterday. That money will be used toward a $10 million walking and biking path along the Ohio River along with other upgrades to the area. A total of $5.4 million in CMAQ grants will go to Northern Kentucky, according to the a news release by the city.

• North College Hill Mayor Amy Bancroft has resigned, citing acrimony between herself and the City Council in the municipality just north of Cincinnati as one of many reasons for her departure. Bancroft said the atmosphere in city government “borders on harassment and bullying” and that the workplace is a “toxic environment.” At least one city council member has fired back at those accusations, saying that it’s the city administration led by Bancroft that has caused the toxic environment and that council merely sought transparency from the administration. Bancroft was appointed to the position after the previous mayor Daniel Brooks left the position. Brooks had served as mayor for three decades. Bancroft was up for election this fall, but will not register as a candidate. Besides the tumultuous atmosphere in city government, Bancroft said she was resigning to spend more time with her family.

• OK, so I know you’ve been waiting. It’s time for your daily update on Gov. John Kasich. Last night he appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers and joked about his dance moves, his low polling numbers and the fact that he’s a Steelers fan and is still somehow governor of Ohio. Not really much new here on the policy front, or in terms of campaign strategies. But Meyers did give Kasich props for running what he called a “reasonable” campaign in the midst of the Trumps and Cruzes getting all crazy-like. It’s yet another moment in which Kasich is working hard to sell himself as the plain-speaking moderate who is friends with the working class average Joe and Jane. Again, many of his tax policies and attempts to bust up public unions might suggest otherwise, but in a field where folks like former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker can get drummed out of the race for not being conservative enough, you have to take what you can get when it comes to “reasonability.” Walker and Perry bailing on the primary hasn’t seemed to help Kasich much yet, but only having to duel, like, 13 other people instead of 15 probably can’t hurt.

• Finally, the Pope is hanging out in America. It’s a big deal. He said some stuff about climate change and income inequality. Conservatives are angry. Etc. You’ve heard this one already so I’ll just stop there.

I’m out! Twitter. Email.  You know how it goes.

by Natalie Krebs 09.22.2015 12 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Ben Carson comes to Cincinnati; Hamilton County Sheriff's Department gets body cams; VW gets caught cheating

Hey Cincinnati! Has everyone recovered from all the beer and brats consumed during Oktoberfest? No, not yet? I haven't either. But it was worth it, right? While we take that slow road to recovery, here are today's headlines. 

• GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson is making his first public appearance this morning in Cincinnati after his controversial remarks that a Muslim should not be president and that Islam goes against the U.S. Constitution. Carson, who will be rallying in Sharonville this morning, disappointed Muslims everywhere when he told NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday that he "would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation." The Cincinnati office of the Council on American Islamic Relations recently stated that Carson should probably read the Constitution a little closer. Carson, a devout Seven-Day Adventist and retired neurosurgeon, is currently a close second behind Donald Trump in polls for the GOP nomination. He will speak at the Sharonville Convention Center to rally support in the Ohio presidential primary, which takes place on March 15, 2016. 

• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's son, Pat, will be running for the one of the two empty seats on the Ohio Supreme Court next year. The younger DeWine is a Republican and currently on the 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals. He is also a former Hamilton County judge. There is no announced Democratic contender yet. Two current justices are retiring next year because they have hit the mandatory age limit of 70. 

• The U.S. Department of Justice will give the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department a grant for just under $140,000 to purchase body cameras. The grant requires a 50/50 match with department funds, a "robust" training and was part of a $23 million program to get body cameras in 73 other agencies across the country.  

• The Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board is considering a recommendation to put Cincinnati's Heberle School on the National Register of Historical Places. The school, located in the West End, was build in 1929 as an elementary school to serve and aid the low-income population in the area. It was one of the schools developed during the Progressive Movement in the 1920s to fix some of the social issues caused by the industrial revolution. The board will review the property on Friday to decide whether to pass it along to the State Historic Preservation Office. 

• Last weekend was a great time to celebrate all things German, but probably not the best time to buy a certain German-made car. Volkswagen is in big trouble for cheating after U.S regulators found that some of its 2015 diesel cars were equipped with software that gave false emissions data. The company revealed today that the problem is not just in its U.S. cars, but also in 11 million of VW cars worldwide. In the two days since the scandal erupted, VW's stock has dropped 20 percent and the company has told U.S. dealers to halt the sale of some 2015 diesel models. The problem looks like it will be a hefty cost to the German automaker. VW has set aside $7.3 billion to cover the cost of fixing the cars and could face fines of up to $18 billion from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

• Pope Francis will be making his first visit to the U.S. today after wrapping up his time on the Cuban beaches. The Pope will be here until next Sunday and then will visit Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. He will reportedly give a speech to Congress addressing climate change, a move that is throwing off some Republicans lawmakers, like Rep. Paul Gosar, a Catholic from Arizona, who support one and not the other. Gosar plans to boycott the speech. 

That's all for today. As always, my email is nkrebs@citybeat.com.

by Nick Swartsell 09.21.2015 13 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Noon News and Stuff

Rally remembering police shooting victims draws 100; did weed legalization effort create a biz tax loophole?; Kasich cuts a rug

Good morning all! Hope you're recovering from your Oktoberfest weekend. CityBeat's news team did the Hudy 7k (not the 14k because we're weak), which is basically an Oktoberfest pre-game that involves running some miles and then drinking free beers and eating free cheese coneys and goetta sliders at 9:30 in the morning. It's a good way to get all limbered up for the world's second-largest Oktoberfest, and also a great way to completely incapacitate yourself for an entire Sunday.

Anyway, here’s what’s up today.

• About 100 people, including the families of several unarmed people killed by police in Ohio in the last year, rallied Saturday on the campus of University of Cincinnati to remember Samuel DuBose and protest his death.
DuBose, who was unarmed, was shot July 19 during a routine traffic stop about a mile from campus in Mount Auburn by former UC police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing has since been charged with murder for that shooting. The rally ended with a march to the spot where DuBose was shot. A break-off march down Calhoun Street near UC’s campus resulted in four arrests. Video of that march seems to show a Cincinnati Police officer using a Taser on one marcher. Police have not released the charges against the four arrested during the march.

• By now, you’re probably familiar with ResponsibleOhio, the marijuana-legalization group that has landed an amendment to the state’s constitution on the November ballot. But did you know that the amendment as written might provide a state business tax loophole for businesses involved in selling marijuana? Some business tax experts say the inclusion of the word “local” in a clause within the amendment proposal would allow businesses related to the marijuana effort to forego paying state taxes on flow-through income. The proposal’s 10 grow sites, which would be owned by investors, would have to pay a flat tax on their earnings as set forth by the amendment. So would any marijuana retail stores that spring up from the legalization effort.

The ballot language also stipulates that such businesses would also have to pay any local taxes associated with doing business. But there’s the rub: former Ohio tax commissioner Tom Zaino says “local” in that context can be read legally to exclude state taxes. ResponsibleOhio says skirting those taxes isn’t the intention, and that it included the language to make sure businesses pay all applicable tax obligations, not just municipal ones. The initiative would allow anyone over 21 to purchase marijuana, but it has caused controversy due to the fact that it would only allow 10 grow sites around the state owned by the group’s investors.

• This has been all over my social media feed, mostly posted by angry Cincy natives. What do you think about this opinion piece from a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter who recently moved here from Florida? I have my own feelings, which I guess I can sum up by saying it’s kind of a bizarre and tone-deaf thing to publish. Who comes to a city and after five months calls oneself and one’s cohort “giants in a place that needs us?” Also, who calls entertainment places “nightclubs” these days? I dunno.

There are consistently more rad things going on in this city than I can make it to in any given week. I mean, if I went to all the cool stuff Chase Public and the Comet alone do in a given seven-day stretch I’d be exhausted, and that’s just in Northside. That’s all beside the point, though. The article’s apparent focus (it’s kind of all over the place) is that the city needs to find ways to attract more young professionals, especially minority young professionals. To which I would counter that is not the city’s biggest problem. We have enough young people, especially young people of color, coming up in the city who need more support. Transplants are welcome, but we can’t remake the city according to their wishes when we have a ton of people born and raised here who aren’t getting the opportunities their potential deserves. So yeah, let’s focus on that and then maybe we can build a new nightclub for the YPs who don’t want to pay Austin prices for their next vocational adventure.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich can dance if he wants to, and he did just that Saturday night in Michigan after a GOP conference in which he made a distinctly working class pitch to Republican primary voters. Kasich danced to a Walk the Moon song for about 10 seconds, and, honestly, the results were… not disastrous. He looked slightly cooler than your dad at a wedding reception but less cool than like, someone who can actually dance. That’s a good place for a presidential candidate to be, I guess. Kasich wasn’t exactly setting the floor on fire, but it also looked like he didn’t really care that much about it, which is the true key to dancing.

If Kasich's tax policy was as inoffensive as his moves, well, Ohio would be a better place, that’s for sure. Kasich finished third in a straw poll in Michigan behind U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Not a bad showing, but Kasich has serious ground to make up before the state’s March 8 primary. The Ohio guv continues to poll low nationally, getting around 2 percent of the vote compared to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s 24 percent.

That’s it for me. Email or tweet at me with your best pitch for a new nightclub in Cincy. My vote? A Miami Vice-themed dance club at The Banks called Sax on the Beach where DJ Kasich spins your young professional 80s soft rock favorites.