Xavier University held a packed town hall discussion last night on the state of Cincinnati 15 years after the police shooting of unarmed black citizen Timothy Thomas and the civil unrest that shook the city afterward.
Thomas was the 15th black Cincinnatian killed by police during the previous three years, and frustrations in the black community over those killings, and deep economic and social isolation, bubbled over in Over-the-Rhine and other neighborhoods around the city.
Even after a decade and a half, the town hall was as timely as ever: Last summer saw the death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose at the hands of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, and events in the past year and a half across the country have brought the issue of racially charged police violence front and center. As evidenced by the sometimes-contentious discussion last night, frustration remains even as Cincinnati has enacted some meaningful reforms in its approach to policing.
Charlie Luken, who was Cincinnati's mayor in 2001, gave introductory remarks to the crowd. Luken admitted that officials at the time were slow to pay attention to the signs of unrest.
“Our community, including me, was slow to grasp the depths of legitimate complaint," he said.
Luken said he doesn't condone violence but also called the unrest in 2001 “part of the American tradition.” He said activism during the unrest led to positive change, a significant shift from statements he made in 2001 when he remarked that “some of them seem to be out here just for the fun of it.”
Activist Iris Roley of the Black United Front argued that the historic Collaborative Agreement that came after the unrest by federal order was a positive step, but that much more work is still needed. For example, Roley advocated for expanded community presence for the Citizen’s Complaint Authority, which handles citizens’ complaints against officers under the city’s police reforms. In 2014, the last year for which data was available, complaints about discrimination rose by 100 percent from the year prior. Complaints about excessive use of force rose 30 percent and firearm discharge allegations rose by 60 percent. Only improper pointing of a firearm complaints went down, by 67 percent. Overall, allegations rose 39 percent over 2013, though those percentages are somewhat skewed by the small numbers involved. Of the 320 complaints filed with the authority, 67 were investigated.
"Children want to know what the people did for them," Roley said of Collaborative Agreement, which she says is still very relevant now. Still, “policing is so huge in the black community. I wish we could think about other things," Roley said, and, "it's more stressful now" because much of police oversight work is done at the city level, and less is in the hands of activists.
Rev. Damon Lynch III, a pastor in OTR in 2001 whose church has since moved to Roselawn, said police issues are just a part of the city’s race problem and that much of the rest of the racial disparity, including huge socioeconomic gaps, haven’t shifted in Cincinnati since 2001.
"Childhood poverty won't start the next civil unrest," he said, suggesting that the economic issues that set up those conditions are the real issue.
Civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein echoed Roley in his analysis that the Collaborative Agreement was a good step and that strategies like problem-oriented policing are better than previous law enforcement techniques even if larger systemic problems keep racial disparities in place.
“The original ask (in 2001) from my clients was addressing economic inequity,” Gerhardstein said of the fight the Black United Front and other activists waged in court over police reforms following Thomas’ death. “You can't sue capitalism. That's a problem."
Cincinnati Police Department District 4 Capt. Maris Harold, meanwhile, maintained that policing in Cincinnati has gotten remarkably better in the last two decades, touting what she calls the data-driven “science of policing,” which she says can result in fewer arrests by targeting the few violent criminals in an area.
“Policing is a paramilitary organization," and thus, all about strategy, Harold said. That strategy before 2001 was, "zero tolerance, arrest everything that moves," Harold said, but, “unless you're an irrational person, you have to realize the strategy wasn't working." She says police have since realized a small number of people commit violence and that to be effective they must narrow in on those individuals.
Black Lives Matter activist Brian Taylor, however, argued that a shift in police tactics can’t mask deeper problems and that the most powerful way to address those inequalities is through street-level activism. If policing is paramilitary, Taylor asked, “Who is the enemy? Racism is institutional, bound to the system on a molecular level." Taylor brought up the fact that officers who corroborated Tensing’s story around the shooting of DuBose this summer are still on the force and what he says are lingering questions around the CPD shooting of Quandavier Hicks last summer in Northside.
Audience members had loads of questions surrounding the deeper issues that sparked the unrest in 2001, including socioeconomic inequalities and lack of jobs and educational opportunities in the black community.
Many audience members also decried what they see as the inequitable development of Over-the-Rhine, which came about during the years following the unrest when then-mayor Luken helped put together the Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation. 3CDC and other developers have subsequently spent nearly $1 billion redeveloping OTR, in the process changing parts of the neighborhood from a low-income community into a more upscale enclave.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are today's headlines.
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac unveiled a new crime reduction strategy that would target certain high crime locations in the city. Isaac presented the plan called Place-based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories, or PIVOT, Monday to the City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee. The idea is law enforcement will start to tackle super specific places and try to change the culture at that location. The "place-based" strategy means targeting these locations is as important as targeting people as other new offenders will just take the place of those who are removed from a particular "hot" location. The plan detailed 20 spots across the city in neighborhoods including Avondale, Over-The-Rhine, Walnut Hill and East Price Hill. Many locations are are businesses that are known centers for criminal activity. Isaac the businesses targeted will not necessarily face closure--unless they are non-compliant with police.
• City Council is set to vote on an ordinance today that would help protect workers from wage theft. The ordinance, which was written by Vice Mayor David Mann, would allow the city to cut tax-agreements and force repayment of financial incentives if a business is found guilty of withholding worker wages. Migrant workers are often victims of this because of language barriers and possible undocumented immigration statuses.
• The University of Cincinnati is closer today to moving its law school to riverfront development The Banks. The finance committee of the university's board of trustees has voted to approve that move, which still needs full board approval. Should the board approve the proposal, the university will need to raise funds for a new facility and select a site at The Banks. Discussions about moving the law school to the riverfront have been circulating around the university for at least four years and have taken on more serious potential in the last few months.
• Xavier University tonight will host a town hall discussion on the state of Cincinnati 15 years after the city's civil unrest in Over-the-Rhine and other neighborhoods over the police shooting death of unarmed Timothy Thomas. Thomas was the 15th black citizen shot by Cincinnati police over the course of just a few years, and his death uncovered deep inequities in the city's policing and beyond. While national media has celebrated Cincinnati's historic collaborative agreement, which ushered in big changes to CPD, deep socioeconomic inequalities remain here and police shootings of unarmed black citizens remain a huge issue in other Ohio cities and nationwide. Tonight's discussion will include police reform activist Iris Roley, Rev. Damon Lynch III, Cincinnati Black Lives Matter activist Brian Taylor, civil rights lawyer Al Gerhardstein, and CPD Capt. Maris Harold. It starts at 7 p.m. at Xavier's Cintas Center.
• As Gov. John Kasich hangs out in New Hampshire trying to play nice with his fellow GOP presidential nominees, the Washington Post published a story on his attempted aggressive takeover of Youngstown City Schools. Last summer, Kasich's administration introduced a last minute amendment to an education bill that would put a state-appointed highly powerful executive in charge of the low income-area school district and would offer a cash-bonus charter, private, parochial or suburban schools that took Youngstown students. Kasich's crew made sure the bill and the 66-page amendment sailed through the legislature within a matter of days after they had worked with non-elected Youngstown officials for months to carefully craft the plan. The legislation was only halted by a legal challenge that its speedy passage violated legislative rules. The matter is still pending.
Employers who don’t pay their workers might have new penalties to worry about after Cincinnati City Council’s Feb. 3 meeting.
Council is poised to approve a new ordinance that would allow the city to rescind tax agreements and force repayment of incentives such as grants if a company is caught committing wage theft. The city could also bar a company caught not paying its workers from receiving future city contracts.
Council’s Budget and Finance Committee passed the ordinance 6-0 Feb. 1. Though it doesn’t create any new laws, the ordinance gives the city more options for enforcing existing state and federal anti-wage theft legislation.
Vice Mayor David Mann authored the ordinance, which came about through a push from the Over-the-Rhine based Interfaith Workers Center. Brennan Grayson, director of the IWC, says the ordinance is modeled on similar measures taken in other major cities.
A number of wage theft cases have been documented in Cincinnati and across Ohio. Between 2005 and 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor seized more than $6.5 million in wages construction companies shorted 5,500 Ohio workers laboring on public projects.
This summer, CityBeat wrote about immigrants who were initially shorted wages for their construction work on a fraternity near the University of Cincinnati. The workers were eventually able to gain back thousands of dollars in unpaid wages with the help of IWC.
Migrant workers are especially vulnerable to wage theft, often due to vulnerabilities that arise from limited language proficiency or, sometimes, their undocumented status.
“It’s no secret that people who don’t speak English are viewed as not being in a position to complain,” Councilman Wendell Young said at the budget and finance meeting.
Young would like to see additional measures that involve the city’s newly created Office of Economic Inclusion in wage theft-related issues.
Tenants of several Cincinnati low-income apartment complexes will see relief from the starkly sub-standard conditions found in those buildings after a court decision today.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Beth Meyer ruled that five buildings with more than 600 units of affordable housing owned by New Jersey-based PF Holdings company will be placed in receivership with a third party, effectively keeping it from collecting rent from tenants and the more than $5 millions it gets annually from the Department of Housing and Urban Development until repairs are made. Those funds and repairs will be handled by court-appointed receiver Milhaus Management, a property management company requested by U.S. Bank Wilmington Trust, which holds mortgages on the properties.
CityBeat in March reported on conditions at The Alms Apartments in Walnut Hills, one of the properties placed in receivership. Tenants in that building suffered from lack of heating, plumbing problems, insect infestations and other substandard conditions. In November, the roof collapsed on another PF Holdings-owned building, the Burton in Avondale, due to heavy rains and lack of maintenance. All told, that building had more than 1,800 municipal code violations, city inspections late last year found. The total cost of fixing the buildings is more than $3 million, according to court filings.
Tenants at those buildings and others owned by the company organized to demand better conditions in their buildings with the help of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless and the Society for Legal Aid of Greater Cincinnati. Advocates and tenants say the company "willfully" hid conditions in the buildings and failed to do basic maintenance. They hailed today's decision as a step in the right direction.
"Finally, after a year of fighting, residents should start to see improvements soon," the Homeless Coalition said in a statement. "We still have a ways to go and a lot of work to do to ensure these buildings become what they should have always been, but today we took a major step forward at saving these invaluable affordable homes."
Trouble at the PF Holdings properties has come as the Greater Cincinnati area and many other areas around country face historic shortages of affordable housing. Federal guidelines say housing should cost no more than 30 percent of a household’s monthly income. However, 11 million people in the U.S. pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing, and that’s expected to swell in the coming years as rental markets across the country continue to heat up.
Good morning all. With the Iowa caucuses today, it seems like a good time to talk politics, and we’ve got a bunch of local political stories to touch on. Let’s get to it.
Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is running neck and neck in with an opponent in the upcoming March Democratic primary, according to a new poll, but it’s not Ted Strickland. In a recent survey paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party, about 10 percent of 1,138 Ohio Democrats said they would vote for Price Hill resident Kelli Prather, an relatively unknown candidate who has never held elected office before. That’s the same proportion of support that Sittenfeld received in the poll. Strickland received 61 percent of the vote in the poll.
Sittenfeld’s campaign has shrugged off that poll, saying it’s biased and designed by the Democratic Party to support Strickland — who the party has endorsed — in the primary. Sittenfeld has raised a good deal of money from some notable donors, but has yet to catalyze much needed statewide recognition. Prather, meanwhile, has received little news coverage or other attention. She’s an occupational therapist whose harrowing experience as a victim of gun violence in 2004, when her husband shot her, inspired her to run for office, she says. Sittenfeld and Prather will debate in Cleveland Feb. 22. Strickland has declined to attend that event.
• More drama within the Democratic Party: A candidate to replace outgoing State Rep. Denise Driehaus in Ohio House District 31 says the local party is sidelining him over a research paper he wrote in 2009 while he was a student at Yale University. Candidate Ben Lindy says Hamilton County Democrats might take away his party rights — access to voter files and mailing information, lower postage rates and other benefits of being part of the Democratic Party — because the paper is now being used in anti-union arguments in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. That paper was published by Yale Law Journal in 2011 and is currently being used by anti-union groups in a case that could seriously undermine organized labor. Lindy says that’s not fair.
Hamilton County Democrat head Tim Burke has said he doesn’t want to totally marginalize Lindy but that the content of that paper is “bothersome.” In the research, Lindy found that public schools in New Mexico with mandatory union membership had higher SAT scores, but also lower graduation rates, than schools where collective bargaining arrangements weren’t mandatory. Lindy says in the paper that the results suggest collective bargaining arrangements for teachers actually hurt low-income students. He’s stuck by that particular research, but says that overall he supports unions and opposes efforts to restrict union dues collection in the current Supreme Court case. But he also points to other Democrats who have beliefs outside the party, such as those who are pro-life, and says he doesn’t deserve to be drummed out of the party for his position.
• Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman will step down from his job as county government’s top appointed official in September, he told county commissioners Friday. Sigman has served in the role — in which he helps set county budgets and oversees economic development plans — since 2011. He’s recently had a rocky time in the position, however, having been removed from oversight of riverfront development The Banks by county commissioners after he made statements suggesting that the county should consider working with another developer. Initially, commissioners considered firing him over those statements.
• Here’s a break from politics for a business story: Will local giant corporation Procter & Gamble split up? There’s a buzz going around financial analysts and others in the business world that it could, or should, happen as the company sees slow sales growth. It might be too large to grow any more, some experts say, and should consider splitting the company up. While the company has made some progress under new CEO David Taylor, lack of major progress could cause stockholders to push for the split-up, something that has happened at more than 300 other large companies in the last five years. Proponents of that course of action at P&G say it would allow the resulting companies to better focus on particular sectors of P&G’s business. However, others say the company’s sales problem exists across all its various enterprises and wouldn’t be solved by breaking them up. Already, P&G has sold off 100 smaller brands that were not as successful as its core products.
• And now, back to politics. Two political action committees supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he vies for the GOP presidential nomination saw a significant slowdown in fundraising in the second half of last year, recently released financial disclosures show. Super PACs New Day for America and New Day Independent Media Committee, both of which were formed to tout Kasich’s bid, saw about $6 million in contributions from July to December last year. That’s little more than half the $11.7 million those PACs took in in the first half of the year. Much of that money came from big donors with ties to large corporations.
Under campaign finance rules, Super PACs have no contribution limits but cannot coordinate directly with candidates’ campaigns. Kasich’s fundraising has trailed other candidates in the heated primary race. Similar super PACs for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio raised $30 million last year, for instance. The PACs supporting Kasich have seen an uptick in fundraising, however, in the last couple weeks, as primary season starts in earnest. Kasich hopes some of that support pays off in Iowa tonight, where he’s trailing far-right candidates like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in polls of Iowa’s staunchly conservative caucus-goers.
That’s it for me. Enjoy this warm weather while it lasts, eh?
Hey hey all! Here’s what’s going on around town today.
The University of Cincinnati is hosting a two-day national conference on race and policing starting today. The conference comes in the wake of the July 19 police shooting of Samuel DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing. DuBose was unarmed when Tensing stopped him for a missing front license plate. Tensing ended up shooting DuBose and has been indicted on murder charges for his death. The conference will feature panels and talks by national experts on policing and race issues as well as talks by Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, former Cincinnati City Manager Valerie Lemme and others. Sessions on police profiling, challenges to trusting law enforcement, gun policy and other issues will also be offered. A UC student group called UC Students Against Injustice, meanwhile, has planned a protest of the event, calling it a “PR stunt” in light of what they say are failures by the university to make substantive changes following DuBose’s death.
• One of the region’s most iconic and beloved museums had a banner year in 2015. The Cincinnati Museum Center, housed in historic Union Terminal, had its second-busiest year since it opened in 1990, attracting nearly 1.5 million visitors last year. And it saved the best for last: It also had its single busiest month in December, when 224,000 people streamed through its doors. Museum officials credit popular temporary exhibits like the Lego-themed “The Art of the Brick” and “Mummies of the World” — along with the center’s permanent exhibits — for the success. The good news for the museum comes as Union Terminal prepares to undergo an extensive two-year restoration.
• Yesterday we told you Cincinnati City Councilman and aspirant to the U.S. Senate P.G. Sittenfeld was holding a news conference in Columbus to announce a big idea on gun control, a key issue for his Senate campaign. Well, here are the deets — Sittenfeld wants to pass an amendment to the Ohio constitution that would allow cities to make their own gun laws, meaning that places like Cincinnati could pass tighter restrictions on guns as long as they were within the scope of state and federal laws. The amendment would also allow cities like Cleveland to reinstate bans on assault weapons that were overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2006. The drivers behind Sittenfeld’s call for the amendment are two-fold. One, he used yesterday’s announcement to criticize Republican lawmakers who recently expanded the places concealed carry license holders can have their guns to include places like college campuses and daycare facilities. He’s also made the move to further illustrate differences between himself and his primary opponent, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Sittenfeld has drawn attention to past pro-gun votes by Strickland.
• Online voting registration may soon be an option for some Ohioans, but only for those with a valid Ohio driver’s license. Legislation setting up online registration not requiring signed paperwork is making its way through the Ohio state house and has bipartisan support. Lawmakers are hoping to get the bill passed in time for it to go into effect before the Oct. 11 deadline for the November election, but some conservative groups say it should be held until 2017 so online security issues can be vetted to prevent hacking. The Ohio House of Representatives is next to vote on the bill, which would go into effect 90 days after it is passed.
• One in four children under the age of six is food insecure in Ohio and the state is 38th in the country when it comes to childhood poverty, a new study says. The Ohio Children’s Defense Fund conducted the study, which found that 653,000, or 24 percent, of Ohio kids don’t get enough to eat. That sets poor children up for learning and development challenges that can linger for years, the organization says. OCDF says efforts like school lunch programs and other initiatives that help low-income people are vital to fixing that problem, and has pushed lawmakers to do more to expand those programs.
• Finally, did Ohio Gov. John Kasich shine in his first
Trump-less debate last night? Well, not so much, but he also didn’t crash and
burn either. Kasich mostly ignored addressing traditionally hard-right primary
voters in the debate’s host state Iowa, which has a Feb. 1 primary looming.
Instead, he spent much of his time sending a more pragmatic and even friendly
message, a move pundits think is calibrated to woo New Hampshire’s less ideologically-hidebound
conservatives set to cast their own primary vote Feb. 9. Kasich again tried on
the compassionate conservative routine last night, pulling out his best lines
about the ways biblical scripture have informed his stance on the need to help the needy. Kasich also said that speedy action would have been the best response to the ongoing crisis with Flint, Mich.'s lead-polluted water scandal.
If you just read the blurb above about childhood poverty, know about the lead crisis in Sebring, Ohio, are familiar with the state's economic performance or the way Kasich’s
administration deals out food stamp work waivers, that probably sounds a little
disingenuous. But then, welcome to the world of politics. By comparison, the
rest of the GOP field had a pretty rowdy night, even absent Trump. U.S. Sens
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, along with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, tangled over
immigration, which is shaping up to be a huge issue among xenophobes, err, I
mean GOP primary voters. Most of the other candidates faded into the
background, with Cruz and Rubio getting the most airtime — 13 minutes of
speaking time a piece. Kasich came in at a respectable 9 minutes, though mostly
avoided tangling with or being addressed by the other candidates. Trump,
meanwhile, still leads in the polls despite skipping the debate in protest.
Hey all. Here’s the news today.
In the wake of a big municipal water scandal, Cincinnati officials are pushing for tests on some of the city’s water. You’ve probably seen the huge headlines about Flint, Michigan, where a change in water sourcing triggered the corrosion of pipes and caused some of the city’s residents to be exposed to unhealthy, even toxic, levels of lead. There is evidence that state officials knew about that corrosion and did nothing, which has led to a major controversy. Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman yesterday asked for testing following revelations that some 16,000 properties served by Greater Cincinnati Water Works get their water through lead pipes.
Smitherman says the city has a “moral duty” to make sure lead contamination isn’t happening through the city’s water supply. Replacing lead the lead pipes could cost $82 million, but many are on private property, so the city would be expected to split the cost with private owners. Smitherman’s suggestion, which will be discussed Monday in the Law and Public Safety Committee he chairs, drew response from City Manager Harry Black and other officials reassuring the public that Cincinnati isn’t in Flint’s position and that the water here is safe. Regular tests are conducted on sample households in the city, and 95 percent of households tested have very low or no lead in their water, according to Black.
• The last hospital in Cincinnati that performed abortions when fatal birth defects are detected in fetuses has ceased that practice. Mothers carrying fetuses that cannot survive outside the womb were able to obtain abortions at Christ Hospital, but now will now need to go a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic or leave the city for the procedure due to a change in hospital policy. The hospital performed 14 such procedures in 2015 and 18 in 2014. The new policy now allows abortions only when a pregnancy is a threat to the life of the mother, a policy followed by the city’s other major hospitals. The change comes following revelations that Christ and other hospital weren’t properly reporting the procedures to state officials, which led to a push from the Ohio Department of Health for the data.
• Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is pushing his proposals for new gun control laws today in Columbus. Sittenfeld, who is challenging former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in the Democratic primary for the chance to try and unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, has made gun issues a keystone of his campaign. Sittenfeld is proposing an amendment to the state’s constitution to make firearms harder to obtain for those who might use them for violence. Several gun control advocates are joining him at a news conference at the statehouse, where he’ll announce the details of his proposal.
• Back to women’s health: The Ohio Senate yesterday passed a bill that would strip state and some federal funds from Planned Parenthood because the women’s health provider performs abortions. That bill now has to go back to the state House, which will approve minor changes the Senate made. The bill came after filmmakers Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, released a video purporting to show Texas Planned Parenthood officials offering to sell fetal tissue. However, that video was heavily edited, the organization says, a contention that a grand jury in Texas agreed with. That jury declined to bring charges against Planned Parenthood, instead indicting the filmmakers on felony records-tampering charges. Pro-choice advocates have blasted Ohio’s legislation, pointing out that it stems from the now-discredited activist video and that the government funding in question never went for abortions, instead funding vital women’s healthcare services. The House is expected to pass the legislation, which will then go to Gov. John Kasich for approval.
• Finally, as you probably already know, Donald Trump has decided to boycott tonight’s GOP presidential primary debate unless moderator Megyn Kelly is removed. Trump really, really doesn’t like Kelly, but anyway. Should Trump pull out of the debate for certain, he might draw a bunch of viewers away from the circus… I mean, uh, debate. But he might also give an opportunity for other candidates, including Ohio. Gov. John Kasich, to have more speaking time. Trump has dominated the debates so far, mostly with the kinds of rhetorical gushes that have hard-right GOP voters enthralled and leave others scratching their heads. There’s a chance that in his absence, a more substantive debate might occur, one that allows Kasich to showcase his long experience as a career politician. That could be a vital opportunity, as it’s definitely make or break time for candidates like Kasich facing down the Iowa primary just days away and with New Hampshire voting just about a week later. Trump leads in both of those states.
Accelerate Great Schools, a nonprofit made up of business leaders, educators and philanthropists, will be giving a grant of $128,000 to help aid a partnership between CPS and the nonprofit TNTP (formally The New Teacher Project) in developing a better hiring system for its principals. It will also give a grant of up to $1.3 million to help St. Francis de Sales in Walnut Hills and St. Cecilia School in Oakley to implement a blended learning model next school year with the help of the nonprofit Seton Education Partners, which works with disadvantaged students in Catholic schools.
The make-up of the seven-month-old nonprofit's leadership leans heavier on the side of business leaders and philanthropists than on educators. Some have questioned the motives behind the group, wondering if they're actually most interested in promoting the charter schools in the city. The group's initial plan for the money when it launched last May had $15 million going toward creating charter schools that would partner with CPS or the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Good morning all. Here’s what’s up in the news today.
Could downtown get a grocery store? It’s looking more like a possibility after the Greater Metropolitan Housing Authority’s board voted yesterday to negotiate a potential partnership to redevelop a former CMHA office building on Central Parkway between Race and Vine streets. The developers, Kingsley + Co. and Anchor Properties, envision a $28 million project featuring a 40,000-square-foot grocery store and other retail space, a four-level parking garage above that and three floors of office space. The Kingsley/Anchor project will be at least 51 percent minority-owned, according to its proposal to the housing agency. CMHA says it has moved operations to Western Avenue in the West End, no longer uses the building on Central Parkway and is looking to find ways to have it generate revenue it can use to redevelop affordable housing around the city. Leadership with the housing authority says putting affordable housing on the site would require zoning changes and is not requiring such housing in proposals from developers. The neighborhood around the site has lost 73 percent of its affordable housing since 2002, according to a recent report.
• This is cool news: A large foundation and a group of 50 donors have stepped up to fund admissions to Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Center downtown for the next three years. The Johnson Foundation pitched in $75,000, and the donor group, called The 50, each put in $3,000 to raise another $150,000. Those who paid for memberships to the museum will now get exclusive discounts and free admission to some of the museum’s special programs and events, but the museum itself will be free for all to attend.
• If you read this spot regularly, you remember I told you about Peter Santilli, the conservative online radio personality from Cincinnati who went to Oregon to join the militia occupation of the federal Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Well, Santilli has gone and gotten himself arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on felony charges there. Anti-government protesters, including Nevada rancher and militia leader Ammon Bundy, have led that protest, which began shortly after the new year. Bundy and four other militia members were also arrested yesterday in an earlier incident with the FBI that resulted in the death of a sixth protester after a shoot-out with authorities. Few details have been released about that incident, including who fired first and what led to the confrontation.
• Ohioans like booze, if you didn’t already know. And 2015 was a record year for the sale of the stuff, apparently, with residents in the Buckeye State spending more than $1 billion on liquor last year. We apparently have a particular soft spot for whiskey. Among the most popular spirits: Jack Daniels, which sold more than 379,000 gallons here, and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey, which both sold nearly 300,000 gallons.
• Finally, let’s go to our neighbors to the west for some uh… pretty interesting comments from an Indiana lawmaker. Woody Burton, a Republican state rep. from Whiteland, invoked convicted child pornographer and former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle, psychopathic killers and individuals with weight issues when fielding questions about proposed legislation that would expand civil rights for LGBT Hoosiers during a town hall meeting. Burton argued that a person’s LGBT status is “behavioral” in the same way and shouldn’t be protected by the law for that reason.
“If I pass a law that says transgenders [sic] and homosexuals are covered under the civil rights laws, then does it say anywhere that fat white people are covered?” he said, reflecting that he has been picked on in the past for his weight. Yikes. Hundreds of academic studies over the years have led the American Psychological Association and other experts to deem LGBT status part of the normal spectrum of human experience, and there is evidence that gender expression and sexual preference is genetic.
Anyway, I’m out. Hit me on that Tweeter thing or via good old fashioned email.
Options for housing in one of Cincinnati’s most popular neighborhoods are becoming more diverse but also less affordable for the city’s lowest-income renters, a new study shows.
Xavier University’s Community Building Institute on Jan. 25 released a housing inventory commissioned by the Over-the-Rhine Community Council of the housing stock in the quickly developing neighborhood.
The study, which uses Census data from 2000, found that the most affordable housing (units costing about $400 for a one bedroom) had decreased by 73 percent, going from 3,235 units in 2000 to just 869 in 2015. After that decrease, such affordable housing now accounts for about 22 percent of the neighborhood’s housing stock.
The study also found that since 2000, the number of occupied housing units in the neighborhood had increased and that many of those units — some 70 percent — were affordable to people making less than the area median income of about $71,000 for a family of four.
Community council members say the study’s finding of plentiful middle class housing and remaining subsidized units demonstrates that OTR is inclusive.
“This shows that we are still very diverse,” OTR Community Council President Rylan Messer told WCPO. “But the big question is, what are the next 10 to 20 years going to look like now that we have this data? If we wake up 20 years from now, and this is a predominately Caucasian, upper-middle class neighborhood, we will have failed miserably. ”
Other community council members, as well as Liz Blume, director of study authors CBI, echoed the sentiment that the neighborhood has housing stock for a diverse group of residents.
Some of the lowest-cost units gone from OTR belonged to Hart Realty, run by former affordable housing magnate Thomas Denhart. In 2001, following the civil unrest in OTR and changes to the way the Department of Housing and Urban Development assessed fair market rents for Section 8 buildings, Denhart declared bankruptcy and got rid of properties containing about 1,000 of the 1,600 affordable units he controlled. But Hart's bankruptcy in and of itself didn't eliminate all those units from the neighborhood's supply of lowest-income housing. Reports from the time show that some of Denhart's properties sold quickly and that between 60 and 70 percent of those units stayed occupied for some time after the bankruptcy, often with HUD tenants. It's hard to know how many low-income tenants eventually trickled out of OTR due to the bankruptcy, but it's far less than the 2,356 low-income units CBI found the neighborhood lost in the last decade and a half.
Questions around the large drop in the neighborhood's most affordable housing remain, and some residents say the change has been difficult. Angela Merritt, who works with Over-the-Rhine Community Housing and lives in affordable housing on East Clifton Avenue, says the shifts she’s seen in the neighborhood over the last decade have taken some adjustment and that OTR’s transformation could be more equitable.
“It’s just about making the change for everyone,” she says. “I don’t think it’s for everyone, and it should be.”
Over the summer, CityBeat shared the story of residents who have had to leave the neighborhood due to rising prices and new development.
OTR has seen rapid change in the past decade, mostly through the efforts of the Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation, founded in 2003 by then-mayor Charlie Luken and city business leaders. At the time, there were more vacant buildings in the neighborhood and much of the housing there was affordable, much of it subsidized for low-income residents.
3CDC has poured almost $1 billion of public and private money into OTR, including an expansive remodeling of Washington Park and intensive residential and commercial development efforts along the southern stretch of Vine Street in what has become known as the Gateway Corridor.
CBI's area median income includes incomes from all over Hamilton County. But the neighborhood's median household income is different. Overall, it's about $15,000 a year, according to Census data, though that number has risen quickly in the southern portions where development has occurred most heavily. In the tract containing southern Vine Street, median income is nearly $40,000 a year. In the northern Census tracts, it remains around $10,000 a year.
The southern section of OTR has seen the biggest shift in housing. According to the CBI study, more than half of the housing stock in the area around Vine and Main streets south of Liberty Street is affordable only to those making more than 60 percent of the area median income, or about $43,000 a year.
Those changes are now moving north of Liberty Street as well, the study suggests, though those areas still have a majority of housing affordable to people who make under 60 percent of the area median income. More change is headed for the area north of Liberty Street as development springs up around Findlay Market, Rothenberg Elementary and other locations.
New shifts in housing aren’t just about numbers, some who live in the neighborhood say, but also about the way the neighborhood feels and how newcomers and long-time residents interact.
“It’s all about how humble you are,” says Merritt, who lives north of Liberty Street, of newer residents. “It’s been somewhat of an adjustment because the lower-income people feel like new people are trying to take over. But we all need to learn how to deal with each other, no matter what class you are.”