Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey met with great success when they created next to normal, winning several Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama. They didn’t strike gold with their next show, If/Then, onstage locally for just a week in a touring production — but I found it to be a very satisfying, if complex work. (Read my Curtain Call interview with Kitt and Yorkey here.) Elizabeth is recently divorced and trying to decide what path to take next. She asks herself musically “What If” she takes this path or that — and this show lets us follow her down two divergent threads, one toward a successful professional career as a city planner in New York, the other in a happy marriage with kids that doesn’t quite turn out as she imagined. Her stories are presented in overlapping narratives, since some moments and events are quite close. It requires paying close attention, but it’s definitely worth the effort. It’s made all the easier by a very strong cast — including Jackie Burns in the leading role, Broadway veteran Anthony Rapp as Lucas, one of her close friends (he originated the role on Broadway Lucas and played videographer Mark in the original cast of Rent back in 1996) and Tamyra Gray as Kate, who pushes Elizabeth in a different direction. The show’s inventive staging, using video and fluidly moving set pieces, is also a fine example of contemporary theater design. Definitely worth seeing. Onstage through Sunday.
In BlackTop Sky at Know Theatre, Ida’s view from an asphalt-paved courtyard surrounded by the housing project where she lives isn’t pretty. The 18-year-old yearns to escape, but her avenues are limited. The safe, predictable route is with Wynn, her boyfriend, a hardworking auto mechanic. Then there’s Klass, an all-but-inarticulate homeless man who settle on two park benches. Ida is caught between these two poles. This is a show about lives that are pretty dead-end. Nevertheless, Christina Anderson’s script has its moments, especially with Kimberly Faith Hickman’s purposeful staging of 34 distinct scenes, several of them entirely wordless. Anderson writes with occasional lyricism and feeling, but desperation underlies these sad stories. That being said, the telling holds out a promise of change. That’s an important if not altogether entertaining message. Onstage through Feb. 20.
Also at Know, the fourth outing of Serials gets under way on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. They’ve dubbed this one Thunderdome 2 – Beyond Thunder, meaning that each evening two of the five shows will be voted out by the audience, to be replaced by two new shows at the following session. Serials 4 features some writers and directors who entertained audiences in previous iterations of Serials. But several new talents have entered the fray, and the Know staff tells me, “There are some seriously strong story pitches this round!” They feel that the “gentle competition” of Thunderdome leads to stronger writing and a better audience experience. Writers who take the challenge must leap quickly into their narratives; if they lag behind, they’ll be struck by a thunderclap and end up in the audience at the next round. Subsequent episodes are set for Feb. 22, March 7 and 21 and April 4.
Finally: If you’re tuned in to the Super Bowl on Sunday evening, keep an eye out for a 30-second commercial for Gold Star Chili. It was shot locally, featuring 15 Cincinnati actors at several Gold Star locations. Ensemble Theatre’s Lynn Meyers did the casting for it, so you’ll see some familiar faces often featured on local stages.
That investigation didn't find any fetal tissue sales at the organization's Ohio clinics, but DeWine did announce that it appeared as if Planned Parenthood was violating state law by contracting with a company that autoclaved, or steam-treated, fetal tissue and then dumped it in landfills.
However, in an investigation published yesterday by Columbus WBNS-10TV, Lanny Brannock, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection, says intact fetuses were not disposed of in landfills there. What's more, Brannock says Ohio investigators never spoke to anyone at the facilities nor visited them during the course of their investigation.
“It is illegal to landfill any human tissue in Kentucky, and by law it’s required to be incinerated," Brannock said. "We have no knowledge of any human tissue going into Kentucky landfills."
The investigation also shows that the state contracts with the same disposal company, Kentucky-based Accu Medical Waste Services, Inc., to dispose of medical waste. That contract includes state prisons, where inmates occasionally suffer miscarriages.
Morning all. Here’s what’s up in the news today.
Hamilton County Democratic Party’s executive commission last night voted not to censure Ben Lindy, a candidate to replace Denise Driehaus as state representative. But the party also had strong words about a paper Lindy authored that is currently in being used in a legal attack against teachers’ unions. Controversy erupted last week when party leaders found out that the paper, which Lindy wrote while studying at Yale University, is currently being used by anti-union groups in a pivotal U.S. Supreme Court case that could endanger collective bargaining arrangements for labor groups. Lindy says he supports unions and doesn’t agree with the suit. He’s facing other Democrats, including fellow Hyde Park resident Brigid Kelly, in the party’s primary to run for Ohio's District 31 state representative seat.
• I love going to Findlay Market, but like a lot of people, one of the big challenges I have is that I can’t get quite everything I need there. But that could change soon. Owners of current Findlay vendors Fresh Table are planning a new micro-grocery just across from the historic market. In addition to having a lunch counter, the store will feature hygiene items and other products that will help round out Findlay’s offerings. The store aims to serve people of all incomes and should be open by September, according to owners Meredith Trombly and Louis Snowden.
• A recent study shows that Cincinnati ranks favorably among the country’s biggest 100 cities when it comes to prosperity, but that it lags well behind when it comes to extending that prosperity beyond whites. The city ranked 18th in a Brookings Institution study released last week when it came to prosperity, but 81st in racial economic inclusion. We've checked out that study in-depth here.
• A men’s rights group whose leader has in the past advocated for rape legalization has cancelled plans for rallies around the world, including one near Cincinnati. Return of Kings, which was founded by 36-year-old Roosh Valizadeh, had planned numerous get-togethers for its so-called “tribesmen” this Saturday at 8 p.m. across the United States and as far away as Australia. Valizadeh has authored blog posts on the group’s website calling for women to be stripped of the right to vote and for rape to be legalized on private property. Valizadeh cited safety concerns for the cancellations. Feminist activists in Cincinnati called that “ironic,” saying that ROK represented the only threat to peoples’ safety in the area and that the group perpetuates rape culture.
• In the wake of its second student suicide in as many months, Cincinnati Public Schools is expanding its anti-suicide efforts. The push comes as community leaders highlight a crisis in teen suicide in the region, especially in its black communities. CPS has sent home suicide prevention guidelines and resources for parents. Meanwhile, faith leaders and others in those communities are working on long-term strategies to address that crisis.
• Finally, another night, another presidential primary debate. This time it was Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton who tussled. Their past debates have been markedly civil compared to the Republican primary debates’ circus-like atmosphere, but the gloves have finally come off.
That meant lengthy (and annoying) semantic debates about the words “progressive” and “establishment” that mirror similar ideological pissing contests within the Republican Party. Unencumbered by flagging third candidate former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sanders and Clinton were able to really go at it. But sandwiched in between the jabs traded back and forth there was some substance to the discussion.
Clinton came out well ahead on foreign policy, her home turf issue — she was U.S. Secretary of State, after all — with Sanders tripping over whether North Korea had one or multiple dictators. Seriously, man? Sanders, however, seemed to gain an upper hand on domestic issues around the economy, which is really the core of his campaign. He was able to land some substantive blows against Clinton when it came to her support from financial industry bigwigs, calling her out for donations and $100,000 speaking fees she’s received from big banks and other financial institutions. Sanders says should be more regulated by government.
Clinton called those questions an “artful smear” of her campaign, though she balked at promising to release transcripts of paid speeches she gave to those financial institutions, saying only that she would “look into it.” I say “I’ll look into it” when there is no chance in the world I’m going to do whatever it is I’m supposed to be looking into, but that’s just me.
And I’m out. Hit me on Twitter or via email.
A group of so-called "men's rights" activists led by a blogger who once advocated the legalization of rape has cancelled a word-wide series of meetups, including one near Cincinnati.
Return of Kings founder Roosh Valizadeh, 36, wrote on the group's website that all meetups, which had been scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday across the U.S. and as far away as Australia, would be cancelled due to safety concerns for men who might attend.
"I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to
attend on February 6, especially since most of the meetups can not be
made private in time," a statement on the website says. Cincinnati's meetup was scheduled to take place near I-75 on Sharon Road near a gas station.
The supposed meetups caused anger, and sometimes fear, in many communities, including Cincinnati. Pushback across the country appears to have triggered the cancellations. Local feminist activists here set up strategy meetings for the best way to protest the group, which has published articles with titles such as "Women Should not be Allowed to Vote" and "Make Rape Legal on Private Property."
Roosh says that article was satire, but activists say his group represents a toxic and dangerous movement. Local activist group the Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective called the cancellation "ironic," since Valizadeh's group threatens the safety of women and members of the LGBT community.
“The Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective embraces a culture of consent," Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective member Abby Friend said in a statement today in response to the events' cancellation. "Return of Kings (ROK), the group planning the now-cancelled Saturday pro-rape rally, is a blatant representation of the problems inherent in a culture that casually accepts sexual harassment, sexual assault, homophobia and rape."
As the economy continues to rebound from the Great Recession and as interest in urban living continues to build, many cities across the country are seeing a rebound in their fortunes. But who benefits from this resurgence?
A new study from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program released last week seeks to provide some answers to that question in 100 cities around the country by measuring economic activity in each from 2009 to 2014. Cincinnati’s results in that study are simultaneously promising and troubling.
The Queen City ranks squarely in the middle of those 100 cities when it comes to overall economic growth. But there’s more to the picture than just raw economic activity. The Brookings study also considered prosperity: that is, the degree to which increases in economic activity benefit individuals; and inclusion, which is defined by how much that prosperity extends across different groups of people.
Cincinnati ranked well on those two measures — 18th and 19th, respectively. But there are some caveats to those rankings. What’s more, the city ranks near the bottom of the list — 81st — when it comes to racial inclusion in economic prosperity.
What does each category measure? Brookings' prosperity ranking considers productivity, average annual wage and the standard of living in each city. Inclusion measures the median wage, relative poverty — or poverty measured by the percentage of people below 50 percent of the area median wage — and employment rate in each city. The study’s racial inclusion research considered those factors for non-white groups in each city.
It’s worth noting that economic inclusion is actually trending downward in many cities across the country and that a high ranking doesn’t mean cities are necessarily headed in the right direction. Eighty of the 100 cities in the study saw wages fall. Fifty-three saw relative poverty rise. Cincinnati’s relatively high ranking on the inclusion list comes even though median wages here have fallen in the past five years by 1.4 percent and are still below the levels they were at in 1999. There’s good news, too, of course: The number of jobs and standards of living are up and relative poverty here fell from its Great Recession peak in 2009 through 2013. But that number began rising again in 2014.
Thus, overall inclusion in Cincinnati post-recession can be described as a mixed bag at best, though we’re clearing faring better than many other major cities.
That is, except for one very important category. The most troubling numbers for Cincinnati come from the study’s ranking of how economically inclusive cities are by race. Here, the city is at the bottom of the heap, though it should be noted that five other Ohio cities — Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown, Dayton and Akron — are ranked even lower. That begs a question for another day: Why are Ohio cities so economically segregated? Statewide policy probably plays some role, but there might be other factors at play.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati's ranking is low for a very simple reason: because wages here are going down for blacks and up for whites, while poverty levels in the city do the inverse.
Median yearly wages for non-whites in the city fell from $25,081 to $24,202 between 2009 and 2014, even as wages for whites rose from $32,714 to $35,295. That’s a 3.5 percent drop compared to an 8 percent gain. What’s more, relative poverty among non-whites in Cincinnati rose from 33 percent to 37 percent in that time period, while poverty for whites fell from 27.5 percent to 25.7 percent. Poverty for non-whites in Cincinnati increased by 4 percent and decreased for whites by nearly 2 percentage points.
What that means is that the economic gaps already present in Cincinnati are rising. There have been efforts to address this — new development aimed at low-income residents in neighborhoods like Avondale, for instance, and the city's recently created Department of Economic Inclusion.
Beyond all the numbers, though, the continuing disparity is causing a great deal of frustration in the community, as this week's Xavier University town hall discussion on race relations in the aftermath of the 2001 civil unrest showed. As Brookings' study shows, the deeper economic issues many panelists and community members highlighted at that forum are real and growing.
Good morning all. Here’s a quick rundown of the news today.
Cincinnati City Council yesterday passed an ordinance that would punish employers who don’t pay their workers, making Cincinnati the first city in the state to do so. We told you about that ordinance earlier this week. The law would allow the city to better enforce federal and state prohibitions against wage theft, revoke tax incentives and other deals and also allow it, in certain cases, to bar a company caught stealing wages from future city contracts. The ordinance has received praise from progressive groups, and city officials say they’ve received requests for copies of the ordinance from other cities like Columbus.
Victims of wage theft, faith leaders, advocates with Cincinnati’s Interfaith Workers Center and even representatives from contracting groups spoke before the vote, encouraging Council to pass the legislation. The decision wasn’t without some controversy, however, as Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn moved to amend the language of the ordinance to stipulate that it apply only to those who are working legally in the U.S.
"Wage theft is wrong," Winburn said, but claimed the proposed legislation would "discourage undocumented workers from going through proper channels."
That brought about a flurry of resistance from other Council members.
"It's not even a question of immigration," Councilman Kevin Flynn, a Charterite, said. Flynn said the ordinance is simply about the city not doing business with companies that steal from employees.
Vice Mayor David Mann, who authored the ordinance, refused to accept the amendment. The law passed 7-2.
• Now that the cat’s out of the bag about a potential $680 million in under-scrutinized spending by Cincinnati’s Metropolitan Sewer District over a nearly 10-year period, officials with both the city and the county are scrambling to place blame. Both Hamilton County Commissioners and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley have called for extensive auditing of the MSD. The sewer district is run by the city but owned by the county, and both say the other is to blame after revelations that a big chunk of a federal court-ordered $3 billion sewer upgrade has been done without competitive bidding for contracts and with little oversight outside the department. Cranley has said that the misspending has taken place “right under the noses” of county commissioners, while commissioners claim they’ve been trying to get better control of the sewer district’s spending for years. Cranley also pointed to former City Manager Milton Dohoney, who gave former MSD Director Tony Parrot a huge degree of latitude in purchasing decisions in 2007.
• The Hamilton County Board of Elections voted yesterday to move its headquarters from downtown Cincinnati to a location in Norwood. The county’s lease on its current headquarters on Broadway is set to expire this year, and BOE officials say the new location is more central to the entire county. However, many have decried the move, including Mayor Cranley. Having the BOE headquarters, where early voting takes place, close to the county’s transit hub is vital for low-income voters, Cranley says. If the headquarters moves to Norwood, another early voting location should be setup near Government Square, Metro’s downtown hub, the mayor says. Two bus routes serve the proposed location in Norwood, though BOE board members point out the location has a lot of free parking. Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou, who sits on the BOE’s board, pointed to the unanimous decision by the four-member, bipartisan BOE board and said Cranley should “mind his own business” in response to the mayor’s criticism. This isn’t the first time a proposed move by the BOE has caused controversy. In 2014, it looked to move its headquarters to Mount Airy, though that plan was later scrapped.
• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has coordinated closely with conservative right-to-life activists as he targets Planned Parenthood, a new investigation shows. DeWine exchanged congratulatory text messages and emails with the president of Ohio Right to Life. The group has also offered to share talking points and press materials with the AG and advisors to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Officials with the organization say it’s not unusual for high-level state officials to be in touch with lobbyists and activists. “I’m not going to apologize for who my friends are,” pro-life lobbyist Mike Gonidakis told the Associated Press. But progressive groups and some government watchdogs have cried foul, saying the relationship between the AG and pro-life group is far too cozy.
• Here’s an interesting look by the Associated Press at the business costs of an anti-gay-rights backlash currently going on in Indiana’s state government. Generally conservative chamber of commerce members and state lawmakers there have become increasingly nervous about the state’s business prospects as the state fails to pass legislation banning discrimination against the LGBT community. The perception that Indiana is a place hostile to gays could hurt the resurgence of cities like Indianapolis, business leaders fear.
• Finally, thousands of Uber drivers plan to protest fare cuts by the company by disrupting Sunday’s Super Bowl in San Francisco. As many as 9,000 drivers are expected to congest the streets around Levi’s Stadium there as they decry changes to Uber’s policy that drivers say have left many of them making less than minimum wage. Smaller protests have already popped up in San Francisco and New York City, where on Feb. 1 coordinated demonstrations drew about 1,000 drivers each.
It’s the 15th century, and remnants of the Middle Ages hang over Europe as it unknowingly waits for the Renaissance. In the dim candlelight somewhere in Spain shines an altarpiece painted to depict the lives of St. Peter and Jesus Christ along with images of the Virgin Mary and other saints. With its impressive strokes of paint and gold and silver leaf, Lorenzo Zaragoza’s “Retablo of St. Peter” is remarkable to behold.
More than 600 years later, the altarpiece rests under the skilled hands of Cincinnati Art Museum’s chief conservator Serena Urry. With only the clack of museum visitor’s shoes disturbing the quiet peace, the setting resembles the serenity of the piece’s original home.
Zaragoza’s piece has stood the test of time, more or less. While it has been admired by thousands of Cincinnati Art Museum visitors since the museum purchased the piece in1960, it was taken off exhibit in 2010 due to its poor condition. It is now back on exhibit through April 24, as visitors can watch Urry bring the retablo to life again through cleaning all 18 of its panels.
It’s a two-in-one exhibit, giving visitors an insider’s look at the work done
by the museum’s conservation department while they view and learn about the
piece. Established in 1935, the museum’s conservation department is one of the
oldest in the country. Since then it has grown from one part-time paintings
conservator to four professionally trained conservators, each of whom have their
own specialization in paintings, paper, textiles or objects. The department is
in charge of conserving the museum’s entire collection (with the exception of
works that are on loan to the museum).
Urry proposed the exhibit because the retablo needed to be treated before it
could go back on view in the galleries. However, this is no small task — the
retouching is not expected to be complete for another few years. On view in the
exhibit is only the first step of the process: cleaning and consolidating.
Urry says determining the full condition of a piece of art before beginning its conservation treatment is the hardest part of conserving art. The two most important tenants that guide painting conservation are reversibility, which ensures that nothing will be done to the work that cannot be removed later, and dissimilarity, which means suing conservation materials that are not found in the original painting.
Of course, Uri’s conservation efforts are not the first for the retablo. With a piece of art this old, it is common for there to be many years of retouching — the first effort to conserve the retablo may have occurred around the early 1500s. It is believed that the central sculpture of St. Peter was created to replace the original lost piece.
Urry’s work includes using a variety of solvents, hand tools and a hot air gun to remove the effects of older retouching campaigns, such as discolored varnish and wax. This includes a layer of wax added by the Art Museum in 1960 to contain flaking. Since then it has become clouded with dust and grime, and the wax tinted to match the gold leaf of the painting has discolored to a greenish metallic hue.
After cleaning, painting conservation also involves structural treatments, such as modifying or replacing the canvas, its lining and stretcher. There may also be surface treatments done to conserve paintings, such as filling losses of paint, toning the fillings and adding layers of varnish.
“All of the paintings in a multi-piece work like this should be worked on together to ensure consistency,” Urry says. “The gallery space gives me an opportunity to have all of them on view as they are conserved.”
Hey hey Cincy! How are you all on this fine spring morning? Wait, it’s early February? Guess I better change out of these jean shorts and put the slip-n-slide away. Bummer. Be right back.
OK, where were we now? News. Right. Let’s get to it.
Last night Xavier University held a packed town hall discussion 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. Here’s my story about that ahead of a more in-depth dive later. I also live tweeted last night’s event and you can find quotes from panelists on my feed.
• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has proposed a new measure aimed at increasing pedestrian and bicyclist safety, according to a news release sent out this morning. Sittenfeld’s proposed motion, which would ask the city to identify the area’s most dangerous intersections for non-car-drivers and present options aimed at mitigating the dangers there. Sittenfeld says his motion, which comes in the wake of a hit-and-run accident that killed a popular Cincinnati cyclist in Anderson last week, has support of the rest of Council. As a cyclist and a walking commuter, I very much hope the city follows through on this.
• A visit by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in East Price Hill has some members of the immigrant community and their advocates on edge. Agents with ICE showed up yesterday morning at an apartment complex that houses a few Central American immigrant families, and now some in the community fear the visit is the precursor to a larger raid by the agency tasked with enforcing America’s immigration laws. Late last year, the Obama administration announced it would begin more strictly enforcing those laws and deporting undocumented families who arrived after 2014. Several states have already seen raids from the agency.
• Cincinnati’s Metropolitan Sewer District spent hundreds of millions of dollars over nearly a decade without necessary city oversight, city documents and officials say, much of it through contracts to third parties for work it didn’t put up for competitive bids. The spending has its roots in a policy shift started in 2007 that gives large amounts of control to MSD director without proper oversight from city officials outside the department, according to this Cincinnati Enquirer story. City Manager Harry Black has vowed to change the way the department operates so that spending is more transparent and accountable.
• Welp, we’ve talked a lot about how Ohio Gov. John Kasich has his hopes pinned on New Hampshire as he chases the GOP presidential nomination. But then Iowa happened. Specifically, Republican young gun U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio didn’t do that terribly in the state’s caucus, the first contest in the country where primary voters pick their favorites for their party’s nominee. Rubio finished third behind surprise winner U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and real estate hustler Donald Trump.
Consensus among political pundits is that Cruz and Trump are unelectable, but that Rubio could consolidate support from establishment GOP power players, putting him in position to surge ahead in polls. That’s got political talking heads going all crazy like this (only replace “Ru-fi-o!” with “Ru-bi-o!”), which could make their punditry a self-fulfilling prophecy in places like… you guessed it… New Hampshire. Kasich has been doing markedly better in that state, which he has identified as his make-or-break stand. He’s scooped up the vast majority of newspaper endorsements there and is polling a strong third behind Trump and Cruz. But that could change if Rubio-mania continues. So will Kasich go on the offensive against the Florida senator, who has some pretty big weak spots in terms of his congressional attendance record, his personal finances and other issues? We’ll see. Primaries in New Hampshire are Feb. 9.
• Here’s a brief, but important presidential election update: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky suspended his presidential campaign this morning so he can focus on his Senate re-election bid. Once though to be a big contender this election, Paul’s less interventionist foreign policy ideas and criminal justice reform domestic policy ideas have failed to gain traction in a GOP primary race full of war-loving ideologues convinced a wave of illegal immigrants is coming to rob us blind. Go figure.
• Finally, we’ve seen a lot of journalism about how much the various presidential campaigns are raising in contributions, which PACs and Super PACs are spending millions on those candidates, and the like. But under-covered until now has been the little-known but completely vital pizza primary. How much has your choice for president spent on pizza? Spoiler alert: Ohio’s big queso Kasich hasn’t spent much dough on the cheesy stuff.
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.