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by Natalie Krebs 10.07.2015 130 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Morning News and Stuff

ResponsibleOhio under investigation for submitting fraudulent voter registration forms; Sittenfeld calls for opponents to renounce NRA support; Blue Lives Matter launches billboard campaign; U.S. under fire for Doctors Without Borders bombing

Hey Cincy! Here are your morning headlines.  

• There's potentially more trouble on the horizon for ResponsibleOhio less than a month before voters head to the polls to vote on its ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. The Hamilton County Board of Elections is looking into possible voter registration fraud after the board found that at least four of the registration forms filed by a company on behalf of the super PAC were signed by dead people and two were signed by people currently incarcerated and therefore illegible to vote. The registrations forms were submitted by the Strategic Network, a Columbus company specializing in political campaigns that is headed by Ian James, the man who also serves as executive director for ResponsibleOhio. The board made the decision yesterday to issue subpoenas to James and the other leaders of the Strategic Network. James denies any intentional illegal wrongdoing and claims that his company has a "zero tolerance policy" toward fraud. It’s unclear who filled out and submitted the voter registration forms, but submitting a fraudulent voter registration form is a felony offense. James claims that the group is required by law to turn over every voter registration form it collects, even those that are invalid. 

• Less than a week after the tragic shooting at a Roseburg, Ore. community college, city councilman and U.S. Senate candidate P.G. Sittenfeld issue a statement asking his opponents to renounce their support for the National Rifle Association. The NRA has previously endorsed Republican candidate Rob Portman and fellow Democratic opponent Ted Strickland in its famous rating program where it assigns a letter grade to politicians. In his video statement, Sittenfeld asks that his opponents "no longer chase A+ ratings from the same organization that blocked a universal background check bill following a horrific massacre of five and six-year old children in Newtown." Sittenfeld is trailing behind former Ohio governor and fellow Democrat Strickland, who is widely known across the state and has secured the endorsement from the state's Democratic party. 

• Cincinnati is sitting on some serious cash. At the end of the 2015 fiscal year, the city has $19 million left over, which turned out to be way more than the initial $3.9 million the city predicted to have at the end of June. In a memo to Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Harry Black has requested they should it safe and save most of it but also included a sizable wish list. Many of the items requested are related to law enforcement and crime reduction, which has been a hot topic since Cincinnati has experienced a spike in shootings and Black recently fired of former police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell. Some of the items, which must be approved by the city council, included spending $2 million on a down payment for Cincinnati Police body cameras, $500,000 for police overtime in spots with heavy crime, $200,000 for a witness protection program and $175,000 for a partnership with Hamilton County to a program to support the re-entry of offenders. 

• Surely you've heard of Black Lives Matter by now, the group that has been active for the past few years in bringing attention to the issue of police brutality against African-Americans. Well, a new group has popped up in support of police called Blue Lives Matter and they've launched a national billboard campaign with 14 billboards across the country. The group is hoping to spread awareness and fight what it sees as anti-police rhetoric in the wake of high profile police shootings, including the July shooting in Mount Auburn of Sam Dubose by a University of Cincinnati police officer.

• International aid group Doctors Without Borders appealed yesterday for an independent agency to investigate the bombing of one of its clinics in Afghanistan last Saturday by U.S. special operation forces. The bombing killed 22 patients and medical staff members, including three children, and injured 37 people. The U.S. has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was trying to take out Taliban militants, and did not mean to hit the aid clinic, but U.S. military officials' stories keep changing, which has prompted suspicion from the international community of the U.S.'s mission.   

As always, email me with story idea, comments or general concerns.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 10.06.2015 131 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley touts more money for cops, park plan in State of the City; Council poised to vote on King historic status; area districts push back against charter schools

Good morning folks. Let’s talk about news today, eh?

First off, let me tell you about Mayor John Cranley’s second State of the City speech, which he gave to a crowd of about 700 movers, shakers and awkward journalists (at least one awkward journalist) last night at Great American Ball Park.

The mayor is obligated by the city charter to give folks an update on what he’s up to once a year, and for Cranley that meant talking about economic development deals and balancing the budget, asking city council for $800,000 for new violence prevention measures and promoting his somewhat controversial parks levy, which would create an amendment to the city charter and raise property taxes slightly to give big makeovers to a number of Cincinnati parks.

Cranley also pledged to create a task force to explore ways to reduce childhood poverty and a healthcare initiative to reduce infant mortality in the city. He did all this while making a slightly convoluted metaphor about home runs and base hits and sharing a personal experience with the mythical double rainbow. We’ll be parsing the mayor’s proposals more precisely soon, but in the meantime, that’s the broad overview you need to know.

• As Cranley was making his speech last night, a group of around 50 gathered at City Hall to protest the looming closure of Cincinnati’s last women’s clinic that provides abortions. City Councilman Chris Seelbach spoke to the group, pledging support for Planned Parenthood and calling on fellow city officials to support the city’s last remaining clinic. A smaller group then marched to Great American Ball Park, chanting and holding signs asking Cranley to show support for the facility and for the pro-choice movement. The mayor, who has said he was unaware of the rally, did not make remarks to the group following his speech.

The Ohio Department of Health last month denied a license renewal for the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn. The clinic is run by Planned Parenthood and has stayed open by order of a federal judge as it awaits the results of an appeal to that decision. Planned Parenthood Southwestern Ohio and legal representatives for Women’s Med clinic in Dayton that faces a similar situation have also sued the state of Ohio over its increasingly strict restrictions on clinics that provide abortions. Should the clinics lose their appeal in federal court, both will shut down. Without a clinic, Cincinnati would become the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to abortion services.

• After a somewhat contentious Neighborhoods Committee meeting yesterday, Cincinnati City Council is expected to vote tomorrow on historic landmark status for the former King Records site in Evanston, the Cincinnati Business Courier reports. That designation could make it much harder to tear down the buildings but could also spark a big legal battle reminiscent of the struggle over the Gamble House, the historic Westwood abode built by the son of one of P&G’s founders. That 170-year-old building was torn down in 2013. The site in Evanston is significant for a number of reasons, one of which is that it’s the place where James Brown made many of his early recordings. One of the two buildings on the site is currently owned by Dynamic Industries, which would like to tear it down. Want to know more about Evanston, King Records and the push and pull between the current owners of the could-be historic site and those looking to preserve the building? We have a story on that.

• A group composed of 43 school districts in Greater Cincinnati, including Cincinnati Public Schools, is pushing back against charter school expansion in the state. The Greater Cincinnati School Advocacy Network recently called for greater accountability for charter schools and changes to the way in which they are funded. GCSAN says charters unfairly drain public money from public school districts while not providing a better alternative for low-income students as they were intended to do. CPS loses thousands of students to local charters each year. The district says it’s not totally opposed to the concept — it sponsors two charter schools itself  — but warns that voters in the district are tired of seeing their money spent on private charter schools that don’t perform well.

The push back comes as charters in Ohio face deep scrutiny over an Ohio Department of Education data fixing scandal, performance issues and questions about oversight. In general, charters in the state have laxer oversight from the ODE and lower performance standards. You can read our story about charters in Cincinnati and throughout the state here.

• How much tax revenue will be created from legalizing marijuana if voters pass a ballot initiative doing so this November? Like most controversial political questions, it depends entirely on whom you ask. The Ohio Department of Taxation estimates revenues somewhere between $133 and almost $300 million could flow from the sale of marijuana. Not surprisingly, ResponsibleOhio, which created the petition drive to get the issue on the November ballot, has higher numbers, saying legalization would create $2 billion in marijuana sales, bringing municipalities and counties more than $554 million in revenue. The state’s estimates vary depending on assumptions about how much of the current illicit marijuana market switches to legal usage.

But ResponsibleOhio says the state erred in considering how many people use marijuana in Ohio and say its number is based on more reliable federal drug usage studies. What’s a few hundred million dollars, though, am I right? ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would legalize marijuana usage and purchase for anyone over the age of 21. The proposal would also create more than 1,000 licenses similar to liquor licenses for the sale of the drug. However, the controversial part of the plan is that only 10 grow sites, all owned by ResponsibleOhio investors, would be allowed across the state. Voters will have a chance to weigh in on the proposal on the November ballot.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 10.05.2015 132 days ago
Posted In: News, Cycling at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
to do_bright ride_photo urban basin bicycle club facebook page

Cincinnati Among Top Cities for Growth in Bicycle Commuting

Commuting by bike increased by 350 percent last year, the third-biggest increase among major cities

You may have seen recent 2014 American Community Survey data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showing that bicycle commuting continues to rise.

Cincinnati has been one of the cities leading the way in that growth, it turns out.

The League of American Bicyclists recently analyzed those ACS numbers and came up with data showing where cycling and bike commuting are biggest and growing fastest. While Cincinnati ranked 31st among the 70 biggest U.S. cities in terms of share of cyclists commuting to work (we’re at just under 1 percent), the number of bike commuters here is growing faster than just about anywhere else in the country.

Bike commuting in Cincinnati increased by 350 percent last year, according to the ACS. That’s more than any other major city besides Detroit, which saw a 403 percent boost, and Pittsburgh, which saw bicycle commuting go up by 360 percent.

Cincinnati easily beat out other Ohio cities, including Columbus (ranked 36th with .8 percent of commutes happening by bike) and Cleveland (ranked 40th with .7 percent).

The city with the top percentage of bicycle commuters is, predictably, Portland, Ore., where more than 7 percent of commutes are taken by bicycle. The city has more than 23,000 cyclists. Oregon is tops in terms of states when it comes to bike commuters, as well. Ohio is well down that list, ranking 36th.

As a bike commuter, I'm excited that I have more company on the roads. You can read the whole League of American Bicyclists report here.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 10.05.2015 132 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cranleyimmigration

Morning News and Stuff

Enquirer story on historic conservation board appears, disappears; Cranley to deliver state of the city address this evening; Kasich zeroes in on New Hampshire, where he trails

Hello all. Hope you enjoyed your weekend. Yesterday was the ideal day weatherwise, so if you stayed inside all day, well, that sucks for you. I went to a pumpkin festival at Lobenstein farms in Indiana, where I got a strange white pumpkin that I believe is probably haunted. I also had the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever eaten and some amazing fried chicken. So I’d say it all balances out. Anyway, none of that is news. This is news.

First — it’s the last day to go register to vote for the November election. Go do that now. Though there aren’t any major public officials to weigh in on this year, there are several very important ballot issues, including changes to the redistricting process for Ohio’s State House seats, whether to create a state-sanctioned,10-farm weed monopoly to legalize marijuana and whether to pass a levy that would provide millions to new park projects. So. Go register. I’ll wait.

Back? OK.

• Over the weekend, The Cincinnati Enquirer posted, then took down, a story about changes to the city’s urban conservator office and Historic Conservation Board, which help decide questions of historic preservation, demolition permits and the like. Basically, these bodies help mediate the push-pull between developers who want to build buildings at maximum profit and community members and historic preservation advocates who want to save old buildings that contribute to the character of Cincy’s neighborhoods.

Lately, there have been shake ups on both the board and with the urban conservator, who was unceremoniously removed from his post in late August. Meanwhile, four of the board’s six members are newcomers who have contributed to Mayor John Cranley’s campaign. Some, including some Over-the-Rhine community leaders, see this as a politicizing of these decision-making bodies and a possible weakening of the city’s historic preservation safeguards to the benefit of developers friendly with Cranley. But others defend the changes, saying rotation on the board is healthy to get fresh perspectives on historic conservation. The Enquirer says it took down the story because it accidentally posted an unedited version a couple days ahead of schedule. You can read the original version, which does contain some errors, in this Facebook post by transit activist and OTR resident Derek Bauman. It will be interesting to read the final version of that story when it finally comes out.

• A group of activists will take to City Hall today to protest the pending closing of Cincinnati’s last women’s clinic that provides abortions. More than 100 people are confirmed for the rally on a Facebook event posted by the group, which says it is protesting to get city officials to express support for abortion rights and opposition to the clinic’s closure. Several Democratic city officials have already expressed support for Planned Parenthood.

The Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, which is run by Planned Parenthood, was denied a license renewal by the Ohio Department of Health last week. It is staying open pending an appeal of that decision, but could close immediately if federal courts find in favor of the state. That would make Cincinnati the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to abortions. The Women’s Med Clinic in Dayton faces a similar situation with the ODH; if both shut down, the entirety of Southwestern Ohio would be without direct access to abortion services. Today’s rally begins at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

• Meanwhile, most city officials will be away from City Hall at Great American Ball Park this afternoon for Mayor John Cranley’s second state of the city speech, where he’ll unveil his priorities for the coming year. Among those priorities is a task force aimed at lifting 10,000 children and 5,000 adults out of poverty. The task force will be expected to deliver a set of action steps by June 30 for that goal. In 2012, more than half of the city’s children lived in poverty. That ratio has gone down to 44 percent since, but it’s unclear why that is. Whatever the reason, city officials say that’s still far too many kids without basic needs. Ohio’s childhood poverty rate is 23 percent and the nation’s is 22.

Cranley will likely talk about other priorities he has for the coming year, including an initiative to raise millions for Cincinnati parks by putting a permanent property tax levy into the city’s charter so the city can issue bonds for capital projects in the parks. Projects such as the Wasson Way bike trail, a redevelopment of Burnet Woods and other money-intensive efforts are on the slate should that levy pass in November.

Here are some quick notes about state and national politics/other news:

• The state of Ohio is getting tons of money for charter schools, despite recent scandals about data-fixing in the Ohio Department of Education and generally lagging performance from those schools. The U.S. Department of Education is awarding eight states money for their charter programs, and Ohio is among them. Despite being the lowest-performing of the eight, the state could receive more than $70 million for the privately run, publicly funded schools, the most of any of the eight states. The story linked above has more information and is definitely worth a read.

• U.S. Sen. Rob Portman has raised a big old mountain of cash from Republican donors in his re-election bid. Portman will face either former Ohio governor Ted Strickland or Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld in the general election next year, both of whom trail Portman’s $2 million quarterly fundraising haul significantly. That’s not the whole story, however. Democratic primary frontrunner Strickland is polling dead even with Portman and in some polls surpassing him, despite the fundraising deficit. Many political observers predict the race to be among the most costly in the country as Dems and the GOP battle it out for control of the Senate in a presidential election year. Outside groups are already pouring money into Ohio against Strickland.

• Ohio governor and GOP presidential primary contender John Kasich has called New Hampshire, an early primary state, essential to his bid for his party’s nomination and indicated this weekend that a bad showing there would be the end of his campaign. Unfortunately, he’s also lagging there, dropping from second behind Donald Trump in a poll last month to seventh in a poll taken this month. The guv just opened his campaign headquarters in the state, which has its primary in about four months.

• Probably not a surprise, but Republicans are still fighting over who will replace U.S. Rep. John Boehner of West Chester in his powerful speaker of the house role. Boehner resigned from Congress recently amid infighting over a possible government shutdown by hardline right wing Republicans. His second-in-command, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, seems to be the favorite for the position, but recent slip-ups by McCarthy and an announcement that Utah’s Rep. Jason Chaffetz is also running for the role have increased the uncertainty about who will take the reigns for Republicans, who control the House of Representatives with a large majority.

• Finally, stock up on those solid color neon hoodies now. American Apparel announced bankruptcy today. The company, which sells basic clothing items that are made in America, has lost money every year since 2010. It suffered a blow last year as founder Dov Charney was ousted amid widespread allegations that he engaged in sexual harassment against employees. The company says its retail locations, including the one in Cincinnati, will remain open amid the bankruptcy.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 10.02.2015 135 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jonesrichard-001-300px

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by Kerry Skiff 10.02.2015 135 days ago
Posted In: Literary at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
fountains_mainlibrary

Beyond the Books

Headlines and Deadlines at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's main branch

It was a dim and smallish room I entered for my third library event, and at first I thought I was lost. I was in the main branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and after searching unsuccessfully decided to follow someone, who mercifully led me to the right room. “Headlines and Dead Lines”, the title of the class, promised to teach me about a library database that would research local history, and as the program began, I contentedly settled in for a good history lesson.

The class, taught by Reference Librarian Cindy Hill, mostly focused on Newsdex, a database that holds listings for local Cincinnati history. As I listened, Hill rattled off various fun facts about the system. “It’s the longest-running publicly available database for the Cincinnati area,” she announced proudly. “It’s a really great place to start.” 

According to Hill, Newsdex is often used for genealogies, but also provides information on companies, neighborhoods, historical sites and local events. You can find death notices, obituaries, wedding announcements, murders, addresses, local events and advertisements. The database includes articles from multiple Cincinnati publications, both current and discontinued, like the Cincinnati Post, Times-Star, Gazette, Commercial and the Western Spy. “[Newsdex] has a totally wide-range of newspapers, but it’s not complete,” Hill said. “It’s being updated all the time.”

As I listened to her, I began to see why Hill sounded so excited about the database.  “As far as we know, there’s not another library that’s done this,” she said. “Many of our databases require a library card, but Newsdex is used all over the world…it’s used across this country and beyond.” She added that people from as far away as Japan have requested information from the index, and that local companies and news organizations have also used the site.

Later I talked to Steve Headley, president of the Genealogy and Local History department of the public library, who told me that the database has been around in one form or another for a long time. According to Headley, Cincinnati librarians began to index newspapers into the library’s card catalog in 1927. In 1940 a concentrated effort began to index obituaries, as well as death notices, and in 1990 the system was digitized and named Newsdex. “There is no other real source [like] it, especially for the number of newspapers that it covers,” Headley said.

However, as great as Newsdex is, it doesn’t contain everything. Hill explained one reason is that some people wanted to live private lives, so nothing was printed about them in the paper. “Not everyone can be traced,” she warned. “There were people back then that didn’t want to be out there.” According to Headley, the information might not be indexed yet, since information is added as librarians have time. “The further back you go, the less complete it gets,” he said, “simply because when the librarians were doing the indexing they were using the individual cards, and it was pretty time consuming.”

One thing I appreciated about Newsdex is that it’s easy to use. Instead of having to weed through newspapers pages, Newsdex tells you what paper the article is in, what day it printed and what page it’s on. Then you simply work with the genealogy librarians to get that paper. At the end of the hour, I found myself wishing I had something to research, because I wanted to use my newfound knowledge. Instead of being intimidated by the wealth of information in Newsdex, it amazed me how much local history one city could hold. Cincinnati has so many facts to be discovered, and while I know I could never dig through them all, Headlines and Dead Lines made me want to try.

Did this event sound interesting? Check out similar workshops at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County:

Book a Librarian: Get help with job searches, research or resume writing.
Date with an iPad: Learn the tricks to using this Apple device.
Technology Appointment: Schedule a one-on-one workshop to learn basic computer skills.

 

 
 
by Staff 10.02.2015 135 days ago
Posted In: Arts, bikes, Benefits, Comedy, Culture, Concerts, Fun, Events, Music at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ac3_classicalmusic_thepelleastrilogy_quinnwharton

Your Weekend To Do List (10/2-10/4)

Bengals, Sunflower Festival, HallZOOween, Motoberfest, musicals and more

FRIDAY

Louis conducts LOVE FORBIDDEN

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra rules when it comes to mashing up live music with images. But this week, the orchestra takes on a more formidable challenge: performing Arnold Schoenberg’s symphonic tone poem Pelléas und Mélisande with visual accompaniment of projections and video created by innovative young director, production designer and visual artist James Darrah.“This is nearly 40 minutes of continuous music, so it’s more like a cousin of Lumenocity,” says CSO Music Director Louis Langrée. He had not seen any of Darrah’s previous productions, but Langrée knew of his work with the San Francisco Opera and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. And there was another connection.Last year, Darrah staged Don Giovanni for the Milwaukee Symphony, where Isaac Thompson, an alumnus of the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, served on the artistic operations staff. In January, Thompson assumed the position of the CSO’s director of artistic operations. He arranged for Langrée and Darrah to meet, and in May the two artists sat down in Langrée’s East Walnut Hills home to discuss potential projects. Read the full feature here. Love Forbidden opens Friday and continues Saturday at Music Hall. More info: cincinnatisymphony.org

Motoberfest
Photo: Provided
Break out the bike for MOTOBERFEST

Formerly known as the Queen City Mods and Rockers Rally, “Motoberfest” is a weekend celebration of café and vintage motorcycles and scooters themed around Cincinnati’s German brewing heritage. The festival features motorcycle stunt shows, an opportunity to show off your ride in a judged bike show, group rides, art shows, live music, brewery tours and more for bikers and bike-enthusiasts. 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursday; 6 p.m.-midnight Friday; 8 a.m.-midnight Saturday. $30 all-access pass. Various venues around OTR. More info at motoberfest.com.

 
Watch people sing about cannibalism in SILENCE! THE MUSICAL
Of course you know The Silence of the Lambs, the creepy movie about “Hannibal the Cannibal.” It was a big hit in 1991 with Anthony Hopkins as the brilliant, manipulative serial killer and Jodie Foster as the young FBI cadet who recruits him to help her catch a different psychopath. Well, wouldn’t you know that someone turned it into Silence! The Musical, an award winner at the 2005 New York International Fringe Festival? It’s become a cult favorite, and the parody-loving folks at Falcon Theatre have landed it after several years of hot pursuit. Bon appetit! Through Oct. 10. $15-$20. Monmouth Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 513-479-6783, falcontheatre.net


The Kentucky Wool Festival
Photo: Provided

Buy some yarn at the KENTUCKY WOOL FESTIVAL

The Kentucky Wool Festival: a celebration of sheep and the fleece we shear off them. Wander through tables of crafts with local pottery, accessories, homemade soaps and candles and wooden items of every kind. Stop by the wool tent for demonstrations of combing, wet felting, sheep shearing and Turkish spindling. Then grab a chocolate-dipped pie and check out the Queen City Cloggers and other live entertainment all weekend. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. $5; free for children younger than 5. 48 Concord Caddo Road, Falmouth, Ky., kywoolfest.org.

Reckless Kelly
Photo: Provided
Austin's RECKLESS KELLY plays Southgate House Revival

All things Austin, Texas, have been coming to a head the last few years in the music world. Always a great music town, the scene has blown up to almost too-big proportions, with the South By Southwest festival growing to seemingly unsustainable levels. Reckless Kelly, however, has been walking the streets of Austin since the band migrated there from Idaho in the late 1990s. At the heart of the group are brothers Willy and Cody Braun, who grew up in a family of musicians that included their bandleader father, who fronted a Western Swing outfit. In essence, Reckless Kelly is a Roots music band that almost perfectly fits the mold suggested by the Americana genre tag. Read more about the band in this week's Sound Advice. See Reckless Kelly with Noah Smith Friday at Southgate House Revival. More info/tickets: southgatehouse.com.


SATURDAY
HallZOOween
Photo: Kathy Newton
Watch animals eat pumpkins at HALLZOOWEEN

Kids and animals alike are in for a special treat during the Cincinnati Zoo’s HallZOOween festival. This family-friendly Halloween celebration features trick-or-treat stations for the kids, costumed characters, a Hogwarts Express train ride and special pumpkin playtime for elephants, otters, meerkats and more. Bring your own treat bag to stuff with goodies and hunt for the Golden Frisch’s Big Boy. Two golden Big Boy statues will be hidden around the zoo each weekend; whoever finds them wins a special zoo/Frisch’s prize package (with tartar sauce). Follow clues on the zoo’s Twitter page: #BigBoyClue. Noon-5 p.m. Select Saturdays and Sundays in October. Free with zoo admission ($18 adult; $12 child/senior). Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.

Sunflower Festival
Photo: Gorman Heritage Farm
Pick your own sunflower at the SUNFLOWER FESTIVAL

This annual festival, hosted by Gorman Heritage Farm, includes all the fun of fall with a few twists. Jump on a mule-drawn wagon ride through the sunflower fields. Don’t just pick a pumpkin; fling it from a pumpkin launch. Gather your own bouquet of sunflowers, or wander a corn maze, get your face painted and meet the animals on this working farm. Food trucks will be available both days and local crafts highlight homemade products. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $8 adults; $5 kids; free for 2 and younger. Gorman Heritage Farm, 10052 Reading Road, Evendale, gormanfarm.org.

Weekend of Fire
Photo: Provided
Kick up the spice at Jungle Jim's WEEKEND OF FIRE
A great hot sauce can really put the right kick in your dish, and that’s what Jungle Jim’s Weekend of Fire is all about. Whether you consider yourself courageous enough to test the hottest varieties available or if you can’t stand anything beyond “mild,” Weekend of Fire has that sauce you’ve been dreaming of — along with rubs, salsas, snacks and any other edible you can kick up a notch. More than 55 vendors and 300 mouth-watering samples from around the country await your taste buds, with prizes going to fest favorites. Game booths and contests will keep the weekend spirit burning strong. And the very brave can face off in the Arena of Fire, where aficionados battle it out to see who can eat the hottest fiery food. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. $10. Jungle Jim’s Oscar Event Center, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com. 

'Light Strikes'
Photo: Rob Wolpert
LIGHT STRIKES closes at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center

To celebrate the opening of the new Kennedy Heights Cultural Campus annex in September, the Kennedy Heights Arts Center debuted Light Strikes, an exhibition of large-scale installations within its newest 9,000-square-foot gallery; it closes Saturday. Two artist collectives — Intermedio and Team B — as well as three individual artists — Sean Mullaney, Karen Saunders and Rob Wolpert —created site-specific installations to fill the vast room with light-based artwork. Some of the work is interactive and, according to curator Jonathan Sears of PAR-Projects, one of the main goals for the show was to balance the way each artist uses light to help viewers travel through the space. Closing reception: 7-9 p.m. Saturday. Free. 6620 Montgomery Road, Kennedy Heights, kennedyarts.org.

'Extremities'
Mikki Schaffner
Incline Theater presents EXTREMITIES — a bit more serious than their standard fare

This will be a test. Following a sold-out summer of musicals, the Incline Theater turns to far more serious fare with William Mastrosimone’s searing and controversial drama about the victim of an attempted rape who gets the upper hand on her attacker and contemplates vengeance. It’s not the kind of show that Cincinnati Landmark Productions is known for, but they’re hoping to broaden horizons and attract new audiences. Farrah Fawcett redefined herself as a serious actress on Broadway with this show and repeated the role of Marjorie in the 1986 movie version. Will Cincinnati audiences turn up? We’ll see. Through Oct. 18. $23-$26. Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, E. Price Hill, 513-241-6550, cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com

CCM takes on David Edgar's PENTECOST

Theater programs at our universities in Greater Cincinnati often produce shows that not only offer educational opportunities for students, but also expose us to works we have lost track of or missed. David Edgar’s Pentecost is such a work, and it accomplishes what Richard Hess likes to do — challenge audiences. The head of the drama program at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music is directing Pentecost at Patricia Corbett Theater Thursday-Sunday. “There is theater that lets you escape by making you forget,” Hess says, “and there is theater that makes you escape by going deeper into yourself. Pentecost is one that takes you in.” Read a full review of the play here. Pentecost is staged Thursday-Sunday at CCM's Patricia Corbett Theater. More info/tickets: ccm.uc.edu.

Weeki Wachee Mermaids
Photo: Provided
See some magic at the Newport Aquarium with the WEEKI WACHEE MERMAIDS
Mermaids are no longer a myth — they are a limited-time attraction at the Newport Aquarium. Watch the graceful and finned Weeki Wachee Mermaids as they swim underwater with sea creatures daily inside the aquarium’s tanks. The Weeki Wachee Mermaids, a classic roadside attraction from Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida, have been swimming for more than 60 years, delighting visitors with simple magic. Through Oct. 12. Free with admission. Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., newportaquarium.com

Celebrate Nigeria at NAIJA FEST
The Nigerian Association of Greater Cincinnati Area presents Naija Fest, a celebration of Nigeria’s independence. This year marks Nigeria’s 55th year as a free country, and this fest highlights the art and culture of the country with Nigerian dances, music, food and fashion. Noon-10 p.m. Saturday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.

SUNDAY
Watch the BENGALS take on the Chiefs
Fresh off an epic back-and-forth battle on the road against the division-rival Ravens, the undefeated Who Deys return to Paul Brown Stadium to host Kansas City. Can Andy Dalton and all his cool skill players score on the Chiefs’ D? Will Kansas City be angry after getting whomped by the Packers on Monday Night Football? Will Adam Jones do anything crazy? There’s only one way to find out — play the game! 1 p.m. Sunday. $40-$270. 1 Paul Brown Stadium, Downtown, bengals.com.

Tannahill Weavers
Photo: Provided
The TANNAHILL WEAVERS are one of vintage Celtic music's greatest torchbearers
If you are a fan of Celtic music, this week’s visit by Scotland’s greatest purveyors of the traditional sound, Tannahill Weavers, is a serious must-see event. The group formed in 1968 in Paisley, Scotland (near Glasgow) and has since become an international ambassador for the Scottish-slanted brand of Celtic music. While certainly dependent on the traditions of the centuries-old music (using classic instrumentation like bagpipes, bouzouki, flutes, bodhran and fiddle), the Weavers are also often lauded for injecting their translation of the sound with a dose of modern vitality — not quite on par with, say, the Punk-fueled Dropkick Murphys, but there is often a distinct Rock & Roll spirit behind the group’s approach and live energy. Tannahill Weavers are one of vintage Celtic music’s greatest torchbearers and deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as contemporary legends like The Chieftains. 7 p.m. Sunday. $12; $15 day of show. Molly Malone’s Covington, 112 E. Fourth St., Covington, Ky., 859-491-6659, covington.mollymalonesirishpub.com.

Tri-State Antique Market
Photo: Provided
Buy something cool at the final TRISTATE ANTIQUE MARKET of the season
The final Tri-State Antique Market of the season takes over the Lawrenceburg Indiana Fairgrounds with more than 200 antiques and vintage-only dealers. From estate jewelry and Civil War tintype to 19th-century primitives and Pop Art, everything must be at least 30 years old and out of production. It’s a show for collectors and casual shoppers alike. 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. $3. US 50, Lawrenceburg, Ind., queencityshows.com/tristate

SuicideGirls Blackheart Burlesque
Photo: Provided
The SUICIDEGIRLS get sexy at the 20th Century Theater
Avid Instagram users might recognize SuicideGirls as the adult lifestyle brand that catapults pierced and tattooed models to social media fame (or you just might be a member of their online community), but the company also produces a burlesque show, which will be making a stop here in Cincinnati. Their tongue-in-cheek humor, choreography and provocative tributes to pop culture and music all combine to make it unlike any other burlesque act you’ve ever seen. As VICE called it, “Comicon meets burlesque nerd orgy.” 18 and up. 8:15 p.m. Sunday. $25-$85. 20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Road, Oakley, suicidegirls.com.  

'Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel'
Photo: Provided
The Cincinnati Pops tackles the SOUNDS OF SIMON AND GARFUNKEL
The Cincinnati Pops frequently perform Pop music — they take on live orchestrations of popular film scores, bring in celebrity guests (like Seinfeld’s and Broadway’s Jason Alexander in March 2016) and collaborate with musical groups like Pink Martini. This weekend, they’re going Folk and performing the Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel. Guest vocalists and guitarists AJ Swearingen and Jonathan Beedle perform a tribute to the duo, covering songs like “Mrs. Robinson,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Cecilia” and other hits. 7 p.m. Sunday. $20-$90. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatisymphony.org.

Photo: Mikki Schaffner
The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company stages CYRANO DE BERGERAC
Edmond Rostand’s play, like its hero, seems to have fallen unexpectedly from the moon. Cyrano de Bergerac was a surprising instant hit in Paris late in 1897. Its premiere received an hour-long standing ovation, and it was subsequently performed for 200 consecutive nights. The heroic comedy about the romantic swordsman and poet was an anomaly in late 19th-century France, when literature was rife with realistic tales by the likes of Émile Zola and Alexandre Dumas, fils. Read the full review of Cincy Shakes' production of Cyrano here. Cyrano de Bergerac is staged at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through Oct. 3. More info/tickets: cincyshakes.com.

'Fear the Walking Dead'
Photo: Justin Lubin, AMC
Watch the finale of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD
The military moves out, the dead begin to gain numbers and our survivors work to keep their families — and bodies — from being ripped apart. And your prayers have been answered: a new episode of Talking Dead follows the finale. Season Finale, 9 p.m., AMC.


 
 
by Rick Pender 10.02.2015 135 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
stage door -

Stage Door

Sex and its various outcomes

Sex is pretty much a constant presence in life as we know it, and it’s often a driving force in plays, taking on many shapes and outcomes. That’s particularly the case with two shows that just opened locally, Laura Eason’s new play, Sex with Strangers, at the Cincinnati Playhouse on its Shelterhouse stage through Oct. 25, and William Mastrisimone’s 1982 script, Extremities, at Cincinnati Landmark Productions’ Incline Theatre, through Oct. 18.

Eason’s script is about two writers who seem as opposite as can be — he’s an arrogant 28-year-old blogger (Nicholas Carrière as the charming and ebullient Ethan) whose writing about sexual conquests has been turned into a best-selling book, while she’s a serious, introspective novelist, 39, (Nancy Lemenager as introverted and self-conscious Olivia) who’s given up because of bad reviews and weak sales of her first book more than a decade earlier. But they end up together in a Michigan B&B due to a snowstorm (and some serious interest on his part in meeting her) and they discover a powerful mutual attraction that’s also driven by aspiration and envy of one another’s careers. Eason writes great contemporary dialogue, and director KJ Sanchez keeps things hurtling along down a road of desire and tentative trust. It seems evident that things could go off the tracks, but when they do there’s some more interesting sparks — and a lot of conversation about the state of writing and literature today. While the show’s title is titillating and they are strangers who steam things up — repeatedly — it’s really the title of his blog, and a past that he might or might not want to move beyond. There’s both humor and real emotion to be appreciated in this finely crafted production. Tickets: 513-421-3888

Mastrisimone’s off-Broadway script from three decades ago (Extremities also became a 1986 movie starring Farrah Fawcett) comes at issues of sex and attraction from a far more serious and brutal angle. It’s a significant a departure for Cincinnati Landmark, best known as a producer of safer, more mainstream fare, musicals and classical comedies. Raul (Will Reed) has been stalking three young women who share a house. He bursts in on Marjorie (Eileen Earnest), who we meet lounging around in a state of undress; he overpowers her, knowing her roommates won’t be back for hours. But she turns the tables on him, and when Terry (Katey Blood) and Patricia (Rachel Mock) return, they find Marjorie menacing and torturing her foul-mouthed attacker, hogtied and imprisoned in a large fireplace. They are shocked by her violent turn, and their perspectives — Terry is shocked and fearful, while Patricia is pragmatic and overly analytical — provide various takes on the situation and its potential resolution. Their four-cornered battle unfolds in harsh, often unhinged arguments about motives, likely outcomes and fears. Some of these feel a tad dated in 2015, but that does not diminish the story’s power. Earnest’s searing performance as Marjorie and Reed’s manipulative portrait of an intelligent, twisted man she insists on calling “The Animal” fuel the pounding pulse of this production of Extremities, staged by Tim Perrino. You’re never sure how the battle will end, and that makes for good theater. Tickets: 513-241-6550

CCM Drama head Richard Hess calls David Edgar’s Pentecost the British equivalent of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Both are big-cast plays, stuffed full of language and contending philosophies. The discovery of a 13th-century mural in an Eastern European church threatens to upset the world of art history, but it also lights the match on conflicts that go well beyond — to geopolitics, religion, history and more. It’s a heady script, with 26 roles speaking multiple languages, utterances that audiences have to intuit, just as the characters need to try to grasp one another’s motives. Read more about Pentecost in my recent Curtain Call column. Like most CCM productions, this one (at UC’s Patricia Corbett Theater) has a short weekend run; the final performance is a matinee on Sunday. Pentecost is an important play, an essential experience for serious theatergoers. Tickets: 513-556-4183

One more interesting piece of theater this weekend, inspired by Titus Kaphar’s Vesper Project at the Contemporary Arts Center, a multi-part installation in which paintings are woven into the walls of a 19th-century American house in New England, the home of a mixed-race family. His exhibit there involves a true/false backstory and familiar/unfamiliar environments. The massive exhibit invites conversation, and that’s what writer (and occasional CityBeat contributor) Stacy Sims has created after several discussions with the artist. She invited five local actors to work with her to respond to the piece, and the result, RETRACED: A theatrical conversation with the Vesper Project, will be performed three times this weekend at the CAC on Sixth Street in downtown Cincinnati, at noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday and at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Sims says, “While I have a strong idea of how the actors will move in and out of the space and intersect with each other, each of their individual stories will be deeply informed by their own personal narratives of race, power, privilege and home.” Performances are free with gallery admission.

This weekend is your last chance to see the Cincinnati Playhouse’s beautiful production of The Secret Garden, NKU’s rendition of the comedy Moon Over Buffalo and New Edgecliff Theatre’s well-acted staging of Frankie and Johnnie in the Clair de Lune.

Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 10.01.2015 136 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
driehaus

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 09.30.2015 137 days ago
Posted In: News at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_cityhall_jf052

City Unveils Efforts to Address Contracting Disparities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

 

 

 
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