Construction on the $132.8 million streetcar project
restarted yesterday, marking an end to the nearly two-month drama
brought on by Mayor John Cranley’s election and his threats of
cancellation. City Council paused the project for a little more than
three weeks to conduct an audit on its costs, but the legislative body
agreed to restart construction last week after receiving a signed
agreement from the Haile Foundation that the philanthropic group will
provide $9 million over 10 years to help pay for $3.13-$3.54 million in annual operating costs.
An automatic increase on Ohio’s minimum wage at the start of the new year will benefit 330,000 Ohioans, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The higher wages should translate to a better economy for all Ohioans: EPI found the automatic increase will generate nearly $39 million in economic impact and 300 full-time jobs. Since a voter-approved measure in 2006, Ohio has been among several states who peg the minimum wage to increases in the cost of living.
More than 36,000 Ohioans will lose emergency unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed tomorrow following a lack of congressional action, according to left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio. The emergency benefits were passed by Congress at the start of the Great Recession to help those hit worse by the economic downturn, but Congress failed to extend the benefits before it recessed for the holidays despite lingering signs of a weakened economy. Without the extension, Ohioans can tap into just 26 weeks of state-provided jobless aid; federally funded emergency benefits give the unemployed another 37 weeks to find work before losing government assistance.
Here are CityBeat’s top stories of 2013.
The annual review of the two-year state budget could include income tax cuts, said Ohio’s tax chief. The statement follows Gov. John Kasich’s announced push for another income tax cut to help spur Ohio’s slowing economy. The Republican governor signed a state budget that reduced taxes — particularly for the wealthy — earlier in the year, but Ohio’s economy still slowed down in the past few months as the state unemployment rate surpassed the national rate for the first time in years.
With the Ohio Supreme Court’s rejection last week of a
challenge to the state’s federally funded Medicaid expansion,
conservatives are conceding the battle is “over with” for now. Gov.
Kasich pursued the federally funded expansion without approval from the
General Assembly by going through the seven-member Controlling Board,
but Republicans, who largely opposed the expansion of a government-run
health care program from the start, fought against the board’s approval in court.
Gov. Kasich was “stingy” with his clemency powers during his third year in office, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Even though a review found Cintrifuse is a “Lead Applicant with strong position within SW Ohio entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Ohio Third Frontier denied state tax credits for the local startup incubator because, according to the state review group, Cintrifuse maintains an unrealistic goal to scale to 60 tenants in its first year and lacks strategy or process for the incubator services, graduation focus, an adequate staffing plan and a defined tenant award process.
Delta briefly provided very low air fares following a technical error yesterday.
Much to scientists’ frustration, 2014 could be a bad year for the flu after the adaptive virus evolves.
CityBeat met with drummer and instrumentalist Josiah Wolf (Yoni’s brother) at The Comet and spoke to him about Cincinnati, his new projects, upcoming shows and WHY?’s latest albums.
CityBeat: Cincinnati is your hometown. You and Yoni grew up here?
Josiah Wolf: I was born in Philadelphia but came here when I was, like, two. So yeah, I grew up here. I lived here all of my formative years…left when I was around 21.
CB: I saw that WHY? is nominated for the “Indie/Alternative” category for the Jan. 26 17th annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (CEAs). How does it feel to be nominated?
JW: I don’t ever expect to win those things, but it’s nice that we’re on the radar of the city. We were nominated last year too and went down to The Madison. I think [the CEAs] have gotten bigger. It’s cool — it’s kind of a way of getting the music community and art community together.
CB: Do you interact with some of the local bands here?
JW: Uh, never, no. [Laughs] Just kidding. Yeah, I’ve met some good friends here and some good bands here. I’ve met a lot of people through WHY?’s other drummer Ben Sloan — a lot of his friends that he went to school with. They have a collective, The Marburg Collective, and they play at The Comet every Monday.
CB: Aside from WHY?, I know you’ve been working on some other projects, such as Dream Tiger with your wife, Liz. Can you tell me about that?
JW: I’m doing stuff for myself right now that is only in infancy. Some of that might be music I release myself or I might collaborate with Liz on it. Some of it might become WHY? songs. I have a lot of tracks that are in their beginning stages.
CB: So with WHY?, do the members work on music individually and then come together?
JW: Yeah, we do that a lot of the time. Every record is different, though. Like with the last record, Mumps, Etc., Yoni worked on almost all of that by himself. With the Golden Ticket EP, I did all of the music on that. Yoni wrote the songs on the piano and then he sent me the tracks and I put music around it.
CB: How is it different to do your own stuff versus stuff for WHY? or Dream Tiger?
JW: WHY? is kind of Yoni’s band in a way even though we’ve had times of collaboration. It’s my band also but he’s the main guy. Dream Tiger is Liz’s band. [Laughs] In both bands, I kind of take a side role. The difference is working with my brother versus working with my wife. They’re different but both are good in my life. Lately, I enjoy working by myself in a way, as far as coming up with ideas.
CB: You’ll be playing at The Comet on New Years Eve with WHY? for your last show of the year. How do you feel about that?
JW: I love The Comet. It’ll be a fun, low pressure show for us. I’m excited about it. I’d say that intimate shows [are] my preference.
CB: Which of your albums is the band’s favorite to perform? I know at the Fountain Square show this summer, you guys played a lot from Alopecia, which is one of my favorite albums. How do you choose which albums to play?
JW: Right now we’re focusing on the new record, Mumps, Etc. We do most songs from that but, yeah, we do a lot from Alopecia. Some Elephant Eyelash. We don’t really do much Eskimo Snow right now. The Alopecia songs do lend themselves to the live performances better than some of the other ones — they are more exciting songs in a way. For some reason, the Eskimo Snow songs are a little more difficult to pull off live [but] we do a couple.
CB: So Mumps, Etc. came out last year after a three-year break. How would you say the band’s sound has evolved in that latest album? And since then?
JW: That record was mostly Yoni as far as the arrangements go. He didn’t play a lot on it but the rest of us got the parts he arranged and learned them and embellished them a bit. The goal was to get a very clean, large sounding record with minimal instrumentation — not too cluttered. I think we did pretty good with that. When I listen back to the instrumentals, it’s clean, and that’s what we were going for. Nowadays, the newer stuff that we’re working towards is a little more homemade — a little more experimental. We’re trying to get back to some of that stuff and get away from being in a big studio. Next up, we’re going to record more at my house in my basement studio.
CB: And then there’s the September EP Golden Tickets from this year on the Joyful Noise label. It is a described as “a collection of personalized ‘theme songs’ for and about seven specific WHY? fans who were Internet stalked.” Can you tell me a little bit more about that project?
JW: It first came about through our web store three years ago, I believe, right around this time. We had this one t-shirt that was a misprint. All of the other shirts had a certain color but one shirt was gold. It was like a test print. Somehow we came up with this idea: How about we put up a contest online and say whoever gets the golden shirt will have a song written about them. And the first guy who bought the shirt — it was Hunter Van Brocklin, the guy — was sent the shirt and we wrote a song about him. That’s how it started. From there, we did another merch contest and then we kind of got away from the merch contests and did more of a charity after the Japan [tsunami]. We did an auction where whoever gave the most to the benefit got the song written about them that month — that was the golden ticket. So every month, it became a little different.
CB: When the fans found out about their “theme songs,” how did they react? Creeped out? Flattered? Shocked?
JW: Everybody liked it! At least nobody expressed a [creeped out] sentiment. Maybe some people were creeped out [Laughs], but people seemed to like it a lot. People wrote us about it. We were lucky; all of the people we selected were really cool people. If you’re going to put your information out there on social media, we can write a song about it. It’s all public information. We had a good time doing it. Yoni would send me the tracks and I would make the music around it. It was just a fun little project.
Check out WHY?’s website for more information about the band.
Right as we walked through the door, I noticed an eye-catching rainbow display of macarons; row after row of every imaginable color and flavor of the French meringue-based confection. We decided to peruse the bakery during our one-and-a-half hour wait to be seated (during which we spotted Funk musician George Clinton) and I remember practically drooling on the glass at the hazelnut, raspberry, espresso, violet cassis and even Earl Grey-flavored treats.
The petite and airy French macaron (pronounced “mah-kah-rohn” and not to be confused with the coconut cookie, macaroon) is made with egg whites, almond powder, confectioner’s sugar and food coloring. It has a crispy outside, chewy inside and velvety filling. I had only eaten macarons once before then, at a café in Hollywood earlier that week. Getting a box full of them after dinner was almost too good to be true.
Although I was happy to be experiencing them for the first time in Cali, macarons have been a fad in the past few years, popping up all over the place. Foodies among others have been dubbing them the new cupcake (because, you know, Cupcake Wars is a thing and cupcakeries are everywhere).
Upon returning to Cincinnati, I tried to find the city’s Bottega Louie. I wanted to discover a place overflowing with the ubiquitous macaron that is taking bakeries all over the East and West Coast by storm. After doing a few Yelp searches, I first ventured to The BonBonerie on Madison Road, not too far from my apartment. There were only two types of macarons there when I went — salty caramel and pistachio.
Although there was a limited selection of flavors, I was excited to order the pastries in my hometown and got a few of each. They were alright, but the meringue cookie outsides and filling were a bit thick and the macaron didn’t have its expected airiness. I wanted to find a place that offered a lighter pastry with a wider selection of flavors.
I later went to Aglamesis Bro’s in Oakley Square, one of my favorite ice cream parlors, to continue my search. Some of their reviews mentioned macarons. However, they didn’t have them when I went. I left with some black raspberry chocolate chip ice cream, so the outing wasn’t a total letdown.
I then attempted to go to the S&J Bakery and Café in Findlay Market on a Sunday, but was just a little too late. It was closed. Based on Yelp reviews, the macarons are good there (and are actually sold there) so I unfortunately missed out and need to go back.
The French Crust Café on Vine came up on Yelp under the “macaron” search and seemed promising, being a French café and all. There were reviews about desserts, such as pumpkin and chocolate mousse, topped with a macaron. Upon looking at the menu on the website, though, I didn’t see the pastries listed as separate items for purchase and decided to pass.
However, the one place that stuck out to me in the Yelp search — that I’ve been meaning to try for ages and ages, not just for the macarons but for the food in general — is Taste of Belgium in Over-the-Rhine. It’s a local favorite when it comes to brunch and desserts. I finally paid the bistro a visit over the weekend and, for the first time, felt like I was in a West Coast bakery.
I instantly spotted the macarons, which took up an entire shelf. There were eight holiday flavors — Rum Raisin, Sticky Toffee, Sugarplum, Eggnog, Gingerbread, a very decorated Candy Cane, Cinnabun and Snow Ball (Coconut).
I ordered a box of them and my sister and I ate them before we even got our brunch. We really couldn’t help it, seeing as to how they’re so pretty and bite-sized. These macarons were similar to the ones I had at Bottega Louie; they were slightly crunchy, had just the right amount of chewiness and were filled with the perfect amount of ganache.
While I’m not usually into fads, this is one that I’m glad is spreading within our constantly evolving city. It might have taken me a few months, but I can finally say that I’ve found the trendy yet timeless confections I’ve been craving. And it just so happened to be in time for the holidays, in very appropriate festive flavors.
When Ohio’s minimum wage automatically increases by 10 cents to $7.95 per hour at the start of 2014, roughly 330,000 workers will receive raises across the state, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
That could be good news for all of Ohio: EPI found the minimum wage increase will benefit the rest of the state through nearly $39 million in economic impact and 300 new full-time jobs.
“Ohio workers and the Ohio economy will both benefit from this raise for our lowest-paid neighbors,” said Amy Hanauer, executive director of left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement. “The employees who benefit will turn around and spend money in our communities, stimulating growth here.”
The automatic increase is a result of a constitutional amendment approved by Ohio voters in 2006 that hiked the minimum wage to $6.85 per hour and pegged it to rises in the cost of living.
Ohio isn’t alone in the increase, however. Policy Matters estimates 10 other states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and New Jersey — automatically increase their minimum wages each year to keep up with inflation.
The nationwide minimum wage hikes “will generate over $619 million in new economic activity and support creation of 4,600 new full-time jobs as businesses expand to meet increased consumer demand,” according to Policy Matters.
The projections come at a time progressives are working on the national stage to increase the federal minimum wage, which, at $7.25 per hour, is becoming increasingly irrelevant as Congress fails to keep up with many states’ minimum wage expansions.
President Barack Obama’s Fair Minimum Wage Law would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015 and — perhaps most importantly — ensure the minimum wage increases each year to keep up with the cost of living. The left-leaning National Employment Law Project estimates the hike would help 30 million Americans and help grow the economy.
Opponents argue a minimum wage increase, especially one as
rapid as Obama’s proposal, would burden businesses with considerably
higher labor costs. They argue companies would drop
employees or raise prices to cope with higher expenses.
Advocates typically tout a minimum wage hike as a matter of basic fairness. They claim the federal minimum wage would be $10.55 per hour today if it kept up with inflation.
A federal judge on Monday ordered Ohio authorities to recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates. Although the ruling was narrow, many advocates of gay marriage argue the merits of the judge’s decision indicate a broader problem with Ohio’s marriage laws following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling against a federal anti-gay marriage law. The judge’s ruling came just three days after another federal court struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban on similar constitutional grounds.
Gov. John Kasich’s plan to get Ohio’s economy moving again: more tax cuts. But the policy announcement — unsurprising, coming from a Republican — comes on the same year Ohio’s economy slowed down even after Kasich and the Republican legislature passed tax cuts that heavily favored the state’s wealthiest.
Believe in Cincinnati saved the streetcar, argues The Cincinnati Enquirer. The group was formed shortly after Mayor John Cranley won the November election and threatened to halt the $132.8 million streetcar project for good. But the threats inspired a groundswell of streetcar supporters, ranging from concerned businesses to residents. And before City Council agreed to continue the streetcar project, Believe in Cincinnati in just eight days gathered 11,300 petition signatures for a charter amendment restarting the project. CityBeat covered the group in its infancy here.
Cincinnati ranked No. 2 for highest child poverty out of 76 major U.S. cities in 2012, according to the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Cleveland and Toledo also made the unfortunate top five, CDF found.
Overtime pay at the Metropolitan Sewer District exceeded $2 million for the third consecutive year in a row, but the number falls below the accepted standard of less than 10 percent of total payroll. MSD Director Tony Parrott says overtime allows the agency to keep staffing numbers in check but still responsive to unexpected situations. Still, the overtime estimate arrives at a time Hamilton County commissioners are raising sewer and water rates to comply with federal mandates.
Cincinnati will tap into a state program for a major demolition blitz in 2014. The city plans to knock down 240 blighted and condemned buildings next year — far higher than the typical annual rate of 70.
Eight historic buildings in Cincinnati, including Memorial Hall, on Dec. 20 received roughly $6 million in state tax credits for projects totaling $71 million.
Rhinegeist Brewing plans to begin canning its craft beer in January.
Humans were getting the flu as far back as the year 1510, but it’s completely unknown if dinosaurs suffered from similar illnesses.
Cincinnati ranked No. 2 for highest child poverty out of 76 major U.S. cities in 2012, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) of Ohio said Friday.
The numbers provide a grim reminder that more than half of
Cincinnati’s children lived in poverty in 2012, even as the city’s urban core began a nationally recognized revitalization period.
With 53.1 percent of children in poverty, Cincinnati
performed better in CDF’s ranking than Detroit (59.4 percent) but worse
than Cleveland (52.6 percent), Miami (48 percent) and Toledo (46
percent), which rounded out the top five.
The data, adopted from the U.S. Census Bureau, also shows Ohio’s child poverty rate of 23.6 percent exceeded the national rate of 22.6 percent in 2012, despite slight gains over the previous year.
“When three of the top five American cities with the highest rates of child poverty are in Ohio, it is clear that children are not a priority here,” said Renuka Mayadev, executive director of CDF of Ohio. “Significant numbers of our children do not meet state academic standards because their basic needs are not being met.”
With the contentious streetcar debate over for now, some local leaders are already turning their attention to Cincinnati’s disturbing levels of poverty.
Mayor John Cranley on Thursday told reporters that he intends to unveil an anti-poverty initiative next year. A majority of council members also told CityBeat that they will increase human services funding, which goes to agencies that address issues like poverty and homelessness, even as they work to structurally balance the city’s operating budget.
Outside City Hall, the Strive Partnership and other education-focused organizations are working to guarantee a quality preschool education to all of Cincinnati’s 3- and 4-year-olds. The issue, which will most likely involve a tax hike of some kind, could appear on the 2014 ballot.
Beelistic Tattoo on Short Vine presents its second annual Holiday Art Show Friday. The exhibit features works by local and national tattoo artists on sale for $25 or less. In addition to browsing artwork, guests can enjoy free craft cocktails and book future tattoo appointments. Bring a donation of toys, clothing, books or $5 to benefit the Children’s Home of Cincinnati.
The festive fun continues along Short Vine with more art on display at Gallery 77, Popp=d Art and Bogart’s, drink specials at Dive Bar, shopping at Vursa Limited, music at Mio’s Pizzeria and more. Beelistic’s party kicks off at 5 p.m. and continues until midnight (or until the art sells out).
Rabbit Hash’s annual Christmas Parade takes place Saturday at 4 p.m. Cajun Jazz group Lagniappe will inject a little Southern flair at the holiday party that follows. Swing by the General Store, drink a little something to warm you up and frolic with the famous Rabbit Hash dogs!
Former Cincinnati Ballet members Joseph Gatti and Adiarys Almeida return to the city and company for holiday classic The Nutcracker. This family-friendly production opens Friday, runs all weekend and continues through Dec. 29. Read our interview with the couple here.
Nothing says happy holidays like a booze cruise! Enjoy some of Greater Cincinnati’s finest — from beer to views — on the Christian Moerlein Brew Ho Ho Ho Dinner Cruise Saturday. Attendees will board the boat at 6 p.m. and set sail from BB Riverboats 7-9:30 p.m. The night includes a four-beer tasting, buffet, music from a live DJ and a souvenir Moerlein pint glass. Adult tickets are $55, $26 for sightseeing only. Book the cruise here.
Enjoy a Christmas Carol-inspired brunch this Sunday at Orchids at Palm Court’s Dickens Brunch. English favorites like roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, mince meat pie and figgy pudding accompany brunch classics, including an omelet and waffle bar. Sunday is the last chance to try the Dickens Brunch, which runs 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Find more information here.
It's the final weekend for most holiday shows, and there are lots of good choices. I'm ranking today's listings according to the laugh-o-meter, starting with the most hilarious:
City Council yesterday decided Cincinnati will get a streetcar after all. After securing the six votes necessary to overturn a mayoral veto, Mayor John Cranley conceded that the $132.8 million streetcar project will restart following a two-week pause. It was a surprising journey for the project, which largely seemed like the underdog ever since the new mayor and council took office earlier in the month. In the end, the project gained its sixth vote from Councilman Kevin Flynn after the philanthropic Haile Foundation signed onto contributing $900,000 a year for 10 years to help underwrite part of the streetcar’s annual operating costs.
Advocacy group FreedomOhio yesterday announced it has enough signatures to place same-sex marriage on Ohio’s 2014 ballot. The group declined to tell Cleveland.com exactly how many signatures it had collected so far, but the organization says it’s aiming to collect 1 million before the July filing deadline. At the same time, FreedomOhio released a poll that found Ohioans are still split on the issue of same-sex marriage. But the poll also found that a good majority of Ohioans support FreedomOhio’s gay marriage legalization amendment, which provides exemptions for religious groups.
Gov. John Kasich yesterday signed a bipartisan Medicaid overhaul bill that seeks to control costs by establishing an oversight commission and a target for spending growth. The legislation also sets a focus on health care outcomes to ensure quality standards in the government-run program. Both parties pursued the bill to tamp down on health care costs that have been taking up more of the state’s budget in the past few years.
A new report from the state attorney general’s office found nearly half the businesses who received state aid in 2012 did not fulfill their end of the deal in terms of producing new jobs and other promises.
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.4 percent in November, down from 7.5 percent the month before. But the number was well above the 6.8 percent rate from November 2012, indicating a decline in job growth in the past year.
Police arrested the mother of a 3-year-old for falsification and the mother’s boyfriend for accidentally shooting the child on Tuesday.
Today is Homeless Memorial Day, a day meant to commemorate those who died in 2013 while experiencing homelessness. The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is gathering at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of 14th and Elm streets to honor the occasion.
Bike Share plans to come to Cincinnati next summer and allow residents to rent out bikes around multiple parts of town.
Miami University is the second most efficient university in the nation in terms of delivering a good education for relatively low cost, according to a study from U.S. News and World Report.
Cincinnati’s housing market marked 29 consecutive months of increased sales last month with a 5-percent rise. The measure indicates the local economy is recovering after the Great Recession crippled housing markets around the nation.
A new product that claims to translate dogs’ thoughts to human speech is bogus.
After today, Morning News and Stuff will take a vacation until Dec. 26. Happy holidays!
Cincinnati will serve as the backdrop for yet another film come spring 2014 as Director Todd Haynes shoots his upcoming film Carol around the city. Starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, the film is based on the book (also known as The Price of Salt) by Patricia Highsmith. While Carol takes place in 1950s New York City, the entire movie will be shot in Cincinnati.
This locally filmed movie is another win for the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission, the organization that brought George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and other stars to Cincinnati to shoot The Ides of March in early 2011. And while #ClooneyWatch may be over now, there will be plenty of star-spotting when Carol production picks up next year. And come to think of it, #RooneyWatch has a nice ring to it…
Director Todd Haynes’ past work include 1998’s Ziggy Stardust-inspired glam Rock drama Velvet Goldmine and the 2007 Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There — which also starred Cate Blanchett.
Highsmith’s 1952 publication was a groundbreaking piece of fiction as it deals with a lesbian romance, and the story bucked tradition in gay fiction by giving the couple a positive ending. It’s safe to say Blanchette and Mara will be portraying the lovers.
Follow GCNKFC for more updates on this and other films (including Emilio Estevez’ upcoming horse racing film Johnny Longshot, which begins shooting in Cincinnati next summer.)