Sen. Marco Rubio (Republican)
It took a book deal and 16 years for the Florida senator to pay off his student loans. In a 2012 speech, Rubio revealed he just paid back his school loans: “When I graduated from law school, I had close to $150,000 in student debt.” Rubio graduated from the University of Florida in 1993, and earned his J.D. from the University of Miami in 1996. The year prior was his first year in the Senate and he served in the Florida House from 2000-2008.
What’s up with the campaign?
With Scott Walker out of the race and Jeb Bush unable to gain any momentum, Rubio appears to be the most electable establishment candidate. Despite much of Rubio’s agenda, he has the appearance of a rational candidate by sharing the top of the polls with Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson.
In a world where no other career politician in the Republican field can make any noise, the Florida senator is virtually the right-wing’s only option for a seasoned politician to capture the White House.
Rubio has been slowly crawling up in the polls with debate performances ranking from middling to great. Right now, he’s a distant third behind Trump and Cruz and is only a few points above bottom-tier candidates like Chris Christie.
Voters might like:
● He’s easily the best speaker amongst the Republican candidates. Rubio isn’t going into government with obstructionism like Cruz, and he isn’t bombastic like Trump. Maybe some other establishment candidates would be better presidents, but Rubio is the establishment’s best shot at winning and not letting the Executive Branch fall to the hands of more controversial Republicans, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
● Rubio is a conservative’s conservative. He says he’ll cut gas taxes, increase military spending and opposes an increase to the minimum wage. There’s also the obligatory lines of regulations killing business. Rubio does not bring a lot new to the table, but this by-the-book Republican is easy for voters to wrap their head around.
● Remember Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” attitude? Rubio brings positive energy to the Republican platform. Cruz is more of a firebrand and even on the left with Sanders, a lot of rhetoric is doom and gloom. Rubio’s youthful appearance and positive attitude could set a tone for conservative values that can potentially attract new member to the party. He also speaks Spanish and fills in a demographic gap for the GOP.
...but watch out for:
● Rubio is seen by the far-right as a “traitor” on immigration policy. One of his immigration policy proposals is amnesty to illegal immigrants who do not have criminal records. Liberals might see this as a positive, but considering Rubio’s right-wing approach to virtually every other issue, it’s hard to imagine anyone from the left supporting him just for this issue. Latinos do lean more socially conservative, however immigration isn’t their top priority.
● Since running for president, Rubio has missed about one-third of his senate votes. His attendance record on the senate floor is the worst among Republicans and worse than Clinton’s and Obama’s attendance when they each ran for president. He even missed the vote on the $1.8 trillion spending bill last year. Rubio has been very outspoken about being annoyed with Washington, which begs the question: Why is he running for president?
● The Florida senator plans on increasing military spending by $1 trillion over the next 10 years. Rand Paul and fiscal conservatives ask the legitimate question of how he can be conservative and want to increase federal spending so dramatically. The military already soaks up 53 percent of all federal spending, and Rubio hasn’t addressed how he plans to pay for the dramatic increase.
One of Rubio’s priorities is cutting taxes for families. You can read his full plan here. However, the major cuts especially for the wealthy raises concerns on raising the debt.
Marginal Tax Rate
0 – $75,000
0 – $150,000
$75,001 – $150,000
$150,001 – $300,000
Marco Rubio supports a major conventional
ground war against the Islamic State in Iraq. It isn’t clear on whether he
wants an invasion of Syria or not.
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.
CityBeat was on-board for all the fun of the seventh annual ShipRocked cruise, sailing from Miami to Costa Maya, Mexico last week. The cruise provides a unique experience for diehard rock fans to get up close and personal with their favorite bands on the high seas.
ShipRocked is made up of a tight-knit group of fans called “ShipRockers” They are divided into two categories: Survivors who have endured previous ShipRocked cruises, and first time cruisers called Newbs.The ShipRocked group of friends stays in touch with each other year-round through a Facebook forum where cruisers can support each other and reminisce about their amazing cruise experiences.
Diehard Shiprockers start a day early on Sunday night at the official pre-party at the Clevelander Hotel in South Beach, where fans saw performances by The Dead Deads and a surprise acoustic performance with Joe Hottinger and Lzzy Hale from Halestorm.
Halestorm kicked off the party playing “Apolcolyptica” off their new album, Into the Wild Life, and continued to play their hits for an hour as the Norwegian Pearl sailed away from Miami.
While on board, fans saw live music everyday from 1 p.m. until 2 a.m. These fans go from show to show with no nap in sight to see all of the bands perform live. Every band performed two to three shows while on-board to give each person a chance to see every show. Bands included Halestorm, Five Finger Death Punch, Seether, Nonpoint, HellYeah, Stitched Up Heart, Red Sun Rising, Helmet, 10 Years, Avatar, We Are Harlot, Doll Skin, The Dead Deads, and many more.
Besides the non-stop Rock, other activities also take place, like Deck Wars, where fans competed against each other with members on Nonpoint band teams. Some activities were canceled due to the high winds at sea, but there was always something to do between your favorite band performances. Whether you started your day with Rock & Roll yoga, participated in scavenger hunts or tried your hand at late night karaoke.
Cruise ships in general are pretty fancy, so you really never get over the sight of dudes with mohawks and huge tattoos sipping beverages and eating their four-course meals on fine china.
On Tuesday, Avatar performed as the sunset over day two. Avatar was the most fan-requested band to be added to the ShipRocked lineup and the Swedes did not disappoint. Their high energy show kicked off a night of music that included We Are Harlot, Seether and an on-fire set by HellYeah on the deck that may have been the loudest of the week.
Band members can be seen all throughout the boat taking photos and talking to fans. All bands also participate in meet and greets, where fans can meet and take a photo with their favorites on Tuesday and Thursday.
The cruise pulled into Mexico on Wednesday and cruisers could disembark for a beach-party option in Costa Maya, where Like a Storm led beach wars and fans could relax with an open bar on the beautiful Mexican sandy beaches.
One of the highlights of Wednesday night was seeing The Stowaways perform. The Stowaways were assembled by Danny Hill with guitar axe throwers like Dave Ellefson of Megadeth/Metal Allegiance, Oli Herbert from All That Remains and Bumblefoot. The band pulled in as many artists onboard as possible and practiced for many hours on Monday and Tuesday to pull off a show that highlighted everyone on stage. Special tribute was made to Scott Weiland and there was also an all-hands-on-deck finale tribute to Lemmy Kilmister and Motorhead.
There were weather issues that forced the cruise to move live performances scheduled for Thursday indoors. Five Finger Death Punch was one of the cruise headliners that was supposed to close out the whole event on the pool deck stage. In true ShipRocked family fashion, when the storm rolled in the band stepped up immediately and said they would play two back to back shows inside the Stardust Theater so that all fans could see the final show. The band played until 2 a.m. to make sure everyone could close out the party in true Metal fashion.
For Amy Harris' photos from 2016's ShipRocked, click here.
From a dark studio strung to the brim with Christmas lights comes a
music that seems as if it could have originated in an Indian temple, yet it
resonates with the charm of American Folk music. A barefoot guitar player taps
his foot on a pedal as he strums along flawlessly next to his bandmate, who is
playing an instrument of his own creation — a sitar with some strings and a
bell removed, frets added and a homemade capo fashioned out of plastic rollers
and a piece of a lampshade.
As Dawg Yawp plays its song “I Wanna Be a Dawg” in WNKU’s Studio 89, the duo
emits a powerful sound that blends together traditional Folk instruments with
electronic elements. Their John Cage-esque ability to reinvent new ways to play
music (minus slapping a dead fish on a piano) sets them apart from any other
folk artist. It’s the perfect combination of worldly and psychedelic.
“It sounds amazing to sit there and listen to all of the different elements
coming together,” says WNKU’s sound engineer Matt Moermond as he watches a
video of the performance on his iPad. “They did big things this year. Their new
music has even more of an electronic side with a lot of samples and layers.”
The video is part of the station’s promotion of local music. Dawg Yawp is one of
the artists that has been featured as the station’s Local Discovery of the
Month, an honor that has also been spotlighted other Cincinnati-based artists
such as Jeremy Pinnell, Multimagic and The Yugos.
Moermond remarks on how the Local Discovery videos — all filmed in Studio 89 — have
become viral on social media. With the help of sharing and instant viewing on
Facebook, a WNKU video of a Jeremy Pinnell performance has had more than 13,000
Along with the monthly spotlight, WNKU plays a song by a local artist at least once
an hour. However, it isn’t just music from Cincinnati. For WNKU, local means as
far as their radio signal goes out. Artists from areas nearby Cincinnati, such
as Columbus and Indianapolis, can also enjoy being aired on the station.
WNKU’s Assistant Program Director Liz Felix sees playing local music as the
convergence of the station’s mission.
“Ultimately our mission is two-fold: play awesome music that’s not necessarily
exposed anywhere else and tying into the local community,” Felix says. “Playing
local music is both of those things together, and I think that’s what exciting
Both Felix and Moermond say they are blown away by the quality of recordings
they receive from local artists. So much so, that it is difficult for them to
pick who they will feature each month because there are so many great artists
to choose from.
“This is music that I would have no problem telling other people in the record
industry, ‘Here are the great bands from Cincinnati,’ and I think they would
stand up against any national release,” Felix says.
The local artists featured monthly are chosen from the pool of local artists
already being played on WNKU. The station also looks for artists who are
actively releasing new music and who may be familiar, but not too widely known.
“It is extremely important that we play the local artists and support the local
scene,” Moermond says. “That’s one of the main reasons that we’re here. It
gives bands a voice that they may not otherwise receive in broadcast. We were
the first ones to ever air Walk the Moon.”
Local artists can submit their music to WNKU in order to be played. Moermond
says when he is listening to local music submissions, he looks for quality.
While quality production is a requirement for airtime on WNKU, he says this
does not mean that music has to be expensively produced, as there are ways to
make quality recordings within your home.
Moermond also explains that local music submission should clearly be marked as
local recordings. The station receives so many submissions a day, it is easier
to find local music that is marked as such.
Aside from submissions, Moermund and Felix say they try to attend shows
throughout Cincinnati at least a few nights per week to stay in touch with the
local music scene and discover new artists. They enjoy artists who present
lively, energetic performances no matter how small or large the crowd. Both
agree it is as much fun as it is necessary to be in tune with the local music
The vibrant scene also gives them a unique sampling of the many local artists
making great music.
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.
Some bars just know how to bring a little intellectual fun to a night out. From classic trivia nights to unique arcade games, these places have it all. So pull up a chair, order a drink and get geeky.
The Famous Neons Unplugged – For trivia nerds
eclectic place has one of the best trivia nights in town, along with one of the
best drink selections as well! They offer 10 rotating drafts, 135 craft bottled
beer and in-house vintage beers in addition to domestic favorites. For those
who like to mix it up a little, Neons creates specialty cocktails every day. For now, their cozy and homey
interior will keep you warm through the winter, but be sure to check out their
string-light-lit back patio in the warmer months — you can even bring your pets
along for the ride! Monday nights are trivia nights at Neons and if that’s not
enough excitement for you, they even have giant Jenga to play.
208 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-827-9361, wellmannsbrands.com/neons. $.
Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Tours – For history nerds
anything of a history buff, you’re going to love these tours through the pre-Prohibition-era
breweries of Cincinnati. Not only will you get to explore the historic
buildings, you’ll also get tours of the cellars and underground tunnels that
were at the heart of the Cincinnati brewing scene decades ago. Some of the
places featured on this tour include the Sohn/Cliffyside Brewery (opened in
1846), the Hudepohl Brewery (founded in 1850) and the Christian Moerlein
Brewery, which is among the top 5 largest pre-Prohibition breweries in the
country. Explore the beer-stained history of the Queen city with these
16-Bit Bar+Arcade – For video game nerds
than 50 classic arcade games from Donkey Kong to Pac Man, this throwback bar is
one of the geekiest places in the city. The best part? If you drink, you play
for free! The bar even continues its ’80s and ’90s theme into their “old
school” and “new wave” cocktails. Drinks like the Hulk Hogan (vodka + lemonade
+ original bomb pop popsicle), the Cheech Marin (Espolon Reposado tequila +
lime + agave nectar + orange zest + salt) and the Pam Anderson (Malibu rum +
peach vodka + cranberry juice + pineapple juice + lime juice + grenadine) will
keep you juiced up and ready to beat high scores all night. And if you haven’t
had enough by the time you leave, they even sell nerdy apparel to suit your
1331 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-1616, 16-bitbar.com/cincy. $$.
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.
But 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.
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.
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 more than $800 million of public and private money into OTR and downtown, 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.”
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here's your daily round-up of headlines:
At a Monday evening meeting of the Hamilton County Improvement District, city and county officials agreed that fixing the troubled Western Hills Viaduct is beyond their budgets. The bridge connecting the city to the West Side is in bad need of replacement and will cost a hefty $280 million, according to plans developed by the Ohio Department of Transportation. What's also unclear is whether the city of Cincinnati or Hamilton County actually owns the structure, and so far the two are tacking the issue together. At the meeting, Mayor John Cranley suggested using federal freight money that the commuter bridge could qualify for if it has a freight component to it and said he believes urban cities and counties are not getting their share of state and federal transportation funds. Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune agreed with the mayor and said he hopes to have a potential funding source for the project next week.
• A report released late Monday night found more than 2,300 units of low-income housing have been lost in Over-The-Rhine since 2002. The report was commissioned by the OTR Community Council to figure out how much the neighborhood has changed since the most recent push for revitalization. It was conducted by Xavier University’s Community Building Institute. The report also found that more than 70 percent of the housing was still for households earning less than $71,200, the region's median income and that about 39 percent of the occupied units were subsidized by the government or had income-restricted rents.
• Is Flint's water problem heading to Ohio? In the town of Sebring, Ohio, located 60 miles south of Cleveland, tests have shown levels of lead and copper in the water so high that officials closed schools on Monday for further testing. Officials also issued a warning to some of the town's 4,000 residents last Thursday night advising children and pregnant women to avoid drinking the water. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency told a local news station that smaller, older distribution lines with lead pipes were the culprit and that they are working with the city to clear up the issue.
• In a turn of events for Planned Parenthood, a grand jury in Houston cleared the health clinic and abortion provider accused of mishandling and profiting off of fetal tissue in its clinics of any wrongdoing. Instead, it indicted the two pro-life activist who made the video footage that landed Planned Parenthood in trouble with Republican lawmakers across the U.S. in the first place. The grand jury indicted Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleidan on charges of tampering with a governmental record and attempting to purchase human organs and also charged activist Sandra Merritt with tampering with a governmental record after the two posed as employees of a medical research company trying to buy fetal tissue and secretly filmed a meeting with Planned Parenthood representatives.
The city of Cincinnati could soon seize seven buildings in Over-the-Rhine and one in Avondale if the owner doesn't make costly repairs by March 15. Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Jerome Metz declared the eight buildings "public nuisances" after previously requesting that the buildings' owner, Washington, D.C.-based 2414 Morgan Development, LLC, repair 11 of its buildings by Dec. 17 of last year. The developer has since repaired three of the buildings to meet the approval of city inspectors, but city officials argue the rest of the structures still contribute to neighborhood blight and pose safety hazards for the public and firefighters. The seven buildings located in OTR north of Liberty Street.
• Also in need of repairs: Cincinnati's parks. What do they need exactly? Well, they have years of deferred maintenance, but the Cincinnati Parks Board has been very slow to produce a detailed account of the state of the city's parks and the price of all the repairs required. City Council appears ready to approve an additional $4 million for repairs, but it's unclear what repairs the money would be going toward. Park leaders say it's too small of an amount to repair some of the parks in the worst shape, but they're also not just going to hang onto the money to do fund a series of projects. Meanwhile, Mayor John Cranley and advocates for the failed parks levy in November are still sore from their election loss. Cranley has claimed the $55 million that would have come from the levy could have covered all the deferred maintenance in the city's parks.
• Errors the city has made in calculating estate tax payments will cost it more than a half-million dollars. The office of Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes has discovered the city owes $614,514 in tax payments to the county. David Nurre, the auditor's assistant financial director, said in a letter to the city that the money will be subtracted from property tax money the county owes the city. The loss will add to the estimated $13 million deficit the city is facing for fiscal year 2017.
• A analysis of the report card data released by the Ohio Education Policy Institute last week by consultant Howard Fleeter found big differences between college- and career-readiness for low-income and high-income districts. It discovered more than a 23-point percentage gap for four-year graduation rates between districts whose economically disadvantaged students made up less than 10 percent of the population and those whose disadvantaged populations were 90 percent or higher. The analysis was requested by the Ohio School Boards Association, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.
• I haven't seen the Oscar-nominated Carol yet, but I know Cincy's super excited about it because it was filmed here. Apparently, the city could see more celebrities like Cate Blanchett show up as the city works hard to attract filmmakers. A University of Cincinnati Economics Center study estimates that the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission has generated more than $54 million for the metro area's economy and created 8,800 jobs. The study also found that productions in 2014 and 2015 received $11.8 million in tax credits, footed by taxpayers.