Oh wow it’s Friday, I saw pretty much the best show I’ve seen in months last night when Mirah played MOTR Pub and I just had a pretty great donut and tons of iced coffee. But this isn’t a baked goods or early 2000s music blog (I wish), so let’s get to the news.
Attorneys for the Greenpeace activists arrested for hanging a banner from P&G’s headquarters in March lost a legal tussle yesterday as a judge ruled jurors wouldn’t be able to take a tour of the crime scene. The defense alleges the activists didn’t damage windows when hanging the banner, and that other windows on other floors have similar damage that pre-existed the protest. The felony charges against the activists hinge on that damage. P&G says the company has made so many changes since the incident, including new security measures, that a tour of the building would only confuse jurors. The judge in the case sided with the company, because nothing is more confusing to jurors comparing windows than some extra security guards milling about. Eight of the nine protesters face felony burglary charges that could land them in prison for more than nine years. A ninth protester made a plea bargain over the summer.
• Imagine this: guidelines from a federal agency are vague and clouded, and local factions on both sides of an argument are using that ambiguity to make political points. Shocker, right? The streetcar funding imbroglio is a white elephant gift that just keeps getting passed back and forth between the mayor, transit advocates and news organizations. First, the mayor said the city may cut streetcar service if the project’s $4 million annual operational funding gap isn’t filled. Advocates for the project objected, saying that the federal grants used to build the streetcar prohibit the city from doing so. Then a Cincinnati Enquirer story last month said the hours would be up to the city, with the Federal Transportation Administration staying out of the mix. But it also suggested that the city couldn’t run it only for special events, as Mayor Cranley suggested on 700 WLW in what he later called an “extreme hypothetical.”
Hm. So, uh, can we just get some numbers up in this? Like, just how many hours a week does the city have to run the streetcar? In its various grant applications to the FTA, the city has promised to run the streetcar 16-18 hours a day, 365 days a year. Is the city tied to that number? The FTA’s response to the controversy doesn't totally clear this up.
“We expect Cincinnati to provide the nature and quality of service that
it proposed in both the TIGER and Urban Circulator grant applications,
which were a consideration in the selection of the applications for the
award of grant funding,” the agency said in a statement responding to recent questions from the Cincinnati Business Courier. Well, huh.
• The clock is still ticking on an effort to establish a co-op grocery store at the site of the former Keller’s IGA in Clifton, but the game is now in overtime. Officials with the group Clifton Cooperative Market announced they’ve signed an extension on a contract to purchase the building on Ludlow Avenue near Clifton Avenue, and now have 90 more days to do so. The group is trying to raise $1.65 million to buy the building by selling shares to community members. So far, they’ve got more than 800 co-op members and $600,000 banked for the project. The market will be an “uptrend” grocery, which I think means $3 bottled sodas, a lot of quinoa and kale as far as the eye can see. I’m not hating. I like all those things.
• Here's an interesting story about the way the city of Cincinnati collects property taxes, and how small-government conservatives passed laws back in the late 90s limiting the amount the city can collect to a specific dollar figure. The results have been a mixed bag at best.
• Cincinnati is one of the worst places in the country for irrelevant political ads, a new study has found. I mean, given the level of non-representation we’re getting out of our federal, state and local politicians and the appalling lack of options we have for most races, I’d say pretty much anything these jokers slap on a billboard is more or less irrelevant. But alas, the study says our ranking is because our market is split between Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana and because candidates in one state often have to buy ads for the whole region.
• The accepted wisdom on millennials is that we’re all entitled Bard College grads working on our Tumblr poetry blogs and being snotty to baby boomers from our perch as lowly Starbucks baristas while we work to save up money to move to Bushwick. We really haven't helped ourselves in this regard, as we're pretty much a generation obsessed with branding ourselves as such. But hey! Did you know that two-thirds of millennials don’t have a bachelor’s degree? Did you know that many grew up facing deep poverty and lack of educational opportunity? This NPR piece gives a little more attention to young folks who you probably won’t see on an episode of Girls anytime soon. It’s a good read.
• Finally, I can't decide if this fake John Matarese Twitter account is trolling us or not. Or if it's even really fake. John, is that you?
Theoretically, there is no better real estate for a political candidate than the inside of a polling place, where a candidate’s name can be freshly stamped onto voters’ minds as they enter the voting booth. Currently, though, only one politician in Ohio gets access to this potential last-minute plug: Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted.
He says recent voter information signs prominently featuring his name are standard issue for secretary of state. But Democrats say he’s taking unfair advantage of his position.
There are laws against campaigning in polling places, and bumper stickers, buttons or other campaign swag are frowned upon in our temples of democracy the way movie theaters hate it when you try to sneak in some Twizzlers or a bunch of McChicken sandwiches in your pants. (I tried this once and the theater wasn’t too happy. I think you can sneak snacks into the polling places, though.)
So big signs with your name on them are a no-go, unless you’re the current secretary of state, charged with overseeing elections. Then you’re required to draw up informational posters with instructions on how voters can update their voter registration and make sure they’re at the right polling place. These posters can be posted at voting locations. You can also put your name on those things. Real big, if you want to.
Husted definitely wanted to, and did, emblazoning his name and signature on 2-foot by 3-foot posters that his office is now requiring all polling places to post. That has Democrats, including Hamilton County Democratic Chairman Tim Burke, crying foul.
Burke has taken exception to the inclusion of Husted’s name “the size of an oversized bumper sticker” on those posters. Burke is also chair of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, and he fired off an email earlier this week to Husted’s office demanding clarification about the requirement polling places post the posters. The letter contained some not-so-subtle digs as well.
“I am struggling to understand how it is legitimate or fair to create a situation where you will be the only candidate on the ballot in next month’s election to have your name prominently displayed along with the office to which you seek reelection in each polling place,” Burke wrote in the message dated Oct. 7.
Burke also questioned the inclusion of a second, 11-by-17-inch poster that likewise prominently features Husted’s name. That poster, designed by a 5th grade contest winner, has little factual information about voting, Burke says.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Damschroder replied later that evening, saying the posters are a routine task for the secretary of state’s office and that Husted’s name and signature are present to assure voters that the poster is official. Damschroder also pointed out that county board of elections members, such as Burke, have their signatures displayed at the bottom of ballots.
Those signatures are small, however, and are unaccompanied by text spelling out the commissioners’ names. Perhaps they should work on the size and legibility of their autographs.
Let’s not forget the fifth-grade contest winner in all this. Damschroder said polling places aren’t required to post that poster.
“We have simply suggested that boards of elections post the winning design to advance the two-fold goal of encouraging participation in the democratic process, generally, and building civic-mindedness among the next generation of voters,” he said.
If that kid is following along with what’s happening to that poster, she or he is surely getting a lesson about politics as well.
Good morning! Apparently two tuba players are dueling with chainsaws outside our window, or at least it sounds like it. I’m going to try and fight through the distraction to give you the morning news. Today’s update is mostly a politics sandwich, but stay with me here, because things are getting interesting as we speed toward Nov. 4.
Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn will do anything for your vote as he runs for state Senate in a heavily Democratic district encompassing much of Cincinnati — but he won’t do that. I told you yesterday about Winburn’s recent evolutions on issues near and dear to most liberal hearts and minds. He’s pulling for expungements for folks who have marijuana convictions under a now-rescinded Cincinnati law, and though he says he’s pro-life, he recently lost endorsements from right to life groups after he signaled some reconsideration on women’s choice issues.
Last night during a debate with state Senate opponent Democrat Cecil Thomas, Winburn made the case that he’s “an independent thinker,” willing to listen to his potential Democratic constituency but also able to use clout gained with the GOP as a long-time member of the party and reformed hard-core right winger. But one place he’s not bending: same-sex marriage rights. While Thomas, who was once opposed to gay marriage, has changed his tune on the issue, Winburn’s staying put on that one. “Let me be clear about what I believe,” he said during the debate. “I do not support gay marriages. Period.” Tell us how you really feel, Charlie.
• Former Mahogany’s owner Liz Rogers has a new deal she wants the city to think about. Rogers, who recently threatened the city with a lawsuit if it didn’t forgive a $300,000 debt she owes on her former restaurant at The Banks, now wants the city to cut that debt almost in half and suspend payments until July 2016. Rogers has proposed paying $800 a month for 12 years, interest free, to pay back the loan. City Manager Harry Black has passed the proposal along to City Council for a final decision.
• There’s another big development project happening in Walnut Hills. Developers Model Group are working with the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation on a $9 million project to renovate 3 buildings along East McMillan Street in the neighborhood. The buildings will house about 7,200 square feet of retail space and 30 market-rate apartments. The aim is to attract residents interested in urban living who can’t afford or don’t want to pay downtown or Over-the-Rhine prices.
• Who’s trolling over tolling? Was the head of the OKI, the region’s planning office, being overly provocative when he said yesterday that drivers who avoid the crumbling Brent Spence Bridge are “realists?” Those opposed to tolls on the bridge, who call themselves by the equally provocative name "No BS Tolls," say OKI head Mark Policinski should publicly rescind his statement about the safety of the bridge, calling it “unacceptable” and calling him out for fear-mongering. Policinski says he’d didn’t say the bridge was going to collapse tomorrow, just that reports show it is degrading. The battle rages on.
• It’s one of the most-watched 2014 races in the country, and yesterday the clash came to Northern Kentucky. A big throng of supporters, along with a healthy group of national press and local press, came out to hear Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s Democratic candidate for Senate, make her pitch to the area. Grimes came to Newport yesterday to talk about two of the region’s biggest concerns: the aforementioned Brent Spence Bridge conundrum and the burgeoning heroin crisis. Grimes slammed her opponent, Senate Minority Leader and 20-year incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell, saying he didn’t have a plan for either issue. She promised she could secure funding for a replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge by closing some of the state’s corporate tax loopholes. She also pledged to use some of that money to hire more law enforcement officers and fund drug treatment programs.
McConnell’s campaign shot back against Grimes’ speech. McConnell said he has floated the idea of rolling back state rules that require companies working government contracts to pay the prevailing wage in an area. The campaign says the savings from that move could be used for the bridge. He’s also laid out plans for increasing the number of counties under scrutiny as drug trafficking areas, though he hasn’t mentioned Northern Kentucky specifically.
A recent poll commissioned by the Louisville Courier Journal put Grimes ahead by two points in the race, though other polls have her trailing McConnell.
• Finally, the Greater Cincinnati area ranks lowest in the region, and very low nationally, in terms of public transit and job accessibility. It’s very hard for people to use public transit to get to their jobs in Cincinnati, according to a new University of Minnesota study. The area came in 41st out of 46 cities, well below Columbus (27), Cleveland (26), Indianapolis (38), Pittsburgh, (22), Louisville (36) and Detroit (34). Bummer.
New York City Vice Mayor Richard Buery is in Cincinnati today and tomorrow touring the city’s groundbreaking community learning centers. He’s in town to glean best practices from CPS as New York Public Schools ramps up its own community learning center program.
"What Cincinnati does, that they have probably done better than any other city, certainly better than New York at this time, is not just to have a collection of great community schools, but to have a system of community schools," Buery said to reporters in New York Monday. "I want to see what it means for a city to build a system of community schools. What did that take in terms of the political will, in terms of how different city agencies and the private sector have to work together."
Cincinnati has gotten a lot of attention for its community learning centers, including write-ups in the The New York Times, NPR and other national publications. The centers, usually established in low-income neighborhoods, contain a number of services for the whole community — dental and vision clinics, mental health therapists, after school programs and more. The city started with eight learning centers and now CPS has them in 34 of its 55 schools.
The model has led to increased cooperation between the city, the school system, neighborhoods around the schools and private enterprise. Last month, the city announced a partnership between Powernet, a Cincinnati-area tech company, and CPS to provide free wireless access to the neighborhood of Lower Price Hill around Oyler School, one of the city’s most recognized community learning centers in one of the city’s most low-income neighborhoods. The school is the subject of a documentary film, called simply Oyler, following the school and neighborhood’s progress.
City leaders expressed excitement about the visit.
“It never hurts to be aware that mighty New York City is here to see some of the good things happening in Cincinnati, especially with our school system,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said today. Sittenfeld said Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black will meet with Buery on Thursday.
Buery is in town with Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. The UFT represents more than 300,000 teachers in New York City.
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio was one of four mayoral candidates to visit Cincinnati last summer at Mulgrew’s invitation. He made bringing Cincinnati’s model to New York City a major talking point of his campaign, saying it had “unlimited potential.” DeBlasio wants to model 100 schools in the city after Cincinnati’s learning centers.
Hey all. Check out what’s going on right now.
Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn is having a lot of changes of heart lately, all of which surely have nothing to do at all with him running for state Senate in a largely Democratic district. Winburn recently softened his stance on abortion (he once was a hardliner, now he says he wouldn’t interfere with women’s rights, which has caused pro-life groups to pull support for him) and the streetcar (he voted against it last year, but now says “a streetcar is not a bad situation” if it’s part of a larger regional transit plan). He’s also floated a proposal that would allow Cincinnatians with convictions under the city’s harsh anti-marijuana law, passed by Winburn’s state Senate opponent Cecil Thomas in 2006, to seek expungements for those convictions. Winburn seems to be expunging some of his own previously held right wing convictions and drifting more to the center. But, as the Business Courier reports, he’ll need to pull out some even more adept political maneuvers should he make it to the statehouse, where the GOP rules.
• Closing statements in the trial of Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter should wrap up today, leaving the case to the jury. It’s been a dramatic 21 days in court for Hunter and the state’s prosecutors, who allege she committed nine felonies, including forging documents, improperly using a court credit card and intervening on behalf of her brother, a court employee fired after allegedly punching a juvenile inmate. Hunter’s attorney says the case is designed to drive Hunter from the bench because she has tried to change the juvenile court system. Though the charges against her carry a maximum penalty of 13 years in prison, prosecutors have indicated they will not ask for jail time for Hunter.
• It’s still unclear whether a Noah’s Ark theme park run by Northern Kentucky religious group Answers in Genesis slated for Williamstown, Kentucky will get state tax credits. Job listings for the park currently stipulate potential employees sign a statement of faith, provide a statement affirming they’ve been saved and affirm that they believe in creationism. That’s a direct conflict with state policies that stipulate employers who receive state money can’t engage in discriminatory hiring practices. Attorneys for the park say the job listing is for parent organization Answers in Genesis, which does not receive state money, not the theme park, which is a separate entity and which they say will abide by all state and federal policies around the tax credits. Kentucky’s Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet sent a letter to the group warning that their tax credits are in jeopardy due to the listing. Officials for the religious group say they’re still discussing the matter with the state.
• If you’re nervous about driving across the Brent Spence Bridge, you’re a “realist,” according to the leader of the region’s planning authority. Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments head Mark Policinski says recent maintenance reports detailing the bridge’s deteriorating condition are a wake up call. There has been a lot of controversy about what to do with the 51-year-old bridge, which Kentucky officials say is obsolete but still structurally sound. It will take $2.5 billion to replace the span.
• As the sagas in Ferguson, Mo. and Beavercreek continue to unfold, issues around law enforcement, violence and race have gotten increasing attention. The latest case to come to light involves two people in Hammond, Indiana, near Chicago, who are suing police for alleged use of excessive force. The two say an officer shattered a car window and tazed passenger Jamal Jones during a routine traffic stop Sept. 26. Jones and the driver, Lisa Mahone, who are black, allege the officers violated their civil rights. The officers say they saw Jones reach into the back of the car multiple times and were afraid he had a weapon. Two children were in the back seat of the car, one of whom filmed the episode with a cellphone, capturing the officer smashing the window.
• Finally, we all get a little weird sometimes about our favorite entertainers. But this is next level: Someone paid $37,000 for a pair of Willie Nelson’s braids the singer clipped from his head in 1983. No word who the bidder was. All I can think about is that it’s going to take a lot of Willie Nelson impersonator gigs to make a profit on those 30-year-old locks.
Hey all! Morning news time. The first bit of news I want to hit you with — today is the first day of early voting in Ohio. From here on out until the Nov. 4 election, you can vote on any weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will also be weekend hours starting Oct. 25. So. Go vote. Early voting was slated to start last week, but the U.S. Supreme Court put a stay on a ruling by a lower court that would have expanded voting hours across the state. Instead, Ohio gets the more restricted hours drawn up by the GOP-led Ohio General Assembly and administered by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
• A group of activists protesting the police shooting of John Crawford III in Beavercreek has been camped out in the lobby of the city’s police department for 24 hours now. About 15 members of the Ohio Student Association, a progressive activist group, spent the night in the station. They’ve indicated they won’t leave until they are granted a meeting with Beavercreek Police Chief Dennis Evers. The group is asking for a meeting by Wednesday.
• Hey! Do you want to get married in a former women’s shelter? How about staying the night in a luxurious room that once provided comfort and stability for someone fleeing an abusive relationship or life on the streets? Western & Southern has just the ticket. The company has long been planning on turning the former Anna Louise Inn next to Lytle Park into a luxury hotel, and now those plans are coming into focus. W&S CEO John Barrett last Tuesday discussed the ongoing planning, saying the company envisions the building as a 106-room ultra luxury hotel that can serve as a destination place where well-to-do folks can have weddings and other special events. Awesome.
• Over-the-Rhine’s Chatfield College, a private Catholic institution specializing in two-year degrees for first generation college students, is undertaking a $3.4 million renovation project on two buildings in the neighborhood. The move comes as the college prepares to grow, making goals to go from 300 to 900 students over the next five to seven years. The buildings along Central Parkway will be renovated in a way that preserves their historic character, school officials say, as well as allowing the school to accommodate more students.
• Kentucky’s got 99 problems, but a bridge ain’t one, apparently. A decade’s worth of maintenance reports for the crusty ole Brent Spence Bridge, which carries I-75/71 across the Ohio River, show that its condition has been declining for years. The last report scored the bridge a 59 out of 100, the equivalent of a C- on the system’s rating scale. Yet the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, which has official responsibility for the span, has spent just $1 million in repairs on the bridge in the past three years, as concrete crumbles and rust gathers. The official reason: The state is waiting for the 51-year-old obsolete bridge to be replaced or majorly overhauled. A replacement will cost $2.4 billion. Meanwhile, a group of powerful business and political leaders in the state calling themselves “No BS Tolls” (get it? Brent Spence? BS? Haha) have banded together to oppose one of the most likely funding options to raise all that money — toll roads. Both federal and state governments have repeatedly signaled that government funding is not available to replace the bridge.
• Now that we’re in Kentucky, let’s revisit the state’s nail-bitter of a Senate race. A new poll says Republican incumbent and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is now trailing challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, by two points, 44-46. Those results from the Bluegrass Poll seem like a big deal, but keep in mind other recent polls show McConnell with a slight to significant advantage. Translation: This race looks to be going to a photo finish. Grimes’ isn't exactly popular in the state. Nearly half of respondents to a recent poll think she's just an Obama crony. But even more than that said they want someone other than McConnell. Grimes' poll bump comes after her campaign dumped tons of money into new TV ads across the state, including some rather goofy ones where she lectures McConnell on how to hold a gun. The race looks to be one of the most expensive Senate contests in history.
Hey all. Morning news time.
Attorneys on both sides of the tense, dramatic trial of Juvenile Court Judge Tracie are making their closing statements this morning. Hunter is accused of backdating documents, improperly using a court credit card and intervening in disciplinary action against her brother, a court employee who allegedly struck a juvenile inmate. Hunter’s supporters say she’s a victim of a political witch hunt; her opponents say she thinks she’s above the law. The courtroom saw fireworks last week as attorneys, those watching the proceedings and even the judge in the case all lost their cool at various points. Closing arguments, which could stretch into tomorrow, look to be equally dramatic. After they're over, it's up to a jury to decide what to make of the spectacle.
• Bond Hill charter school Horizon Academy is drawing scrutiny for its use of work visas to bring in foreign teachers. The school is run by Chicago-based Concept Schools, which uses visas to employ 69 math and science teachers, about 12 percent of its work force, in Ohio. That’s much higher than most schools, which mostly use the visas to attract language specialists. Seven foreign-born teachers currently teach at Horizon in Bond Hill. The H-1B visas the school uses are designed to allow highly specialized workers to live in the U.S. for up to six years. Critics charge that there are plenty of qualified math and science teachers living in Ohio who could fill those jobs and that Concept is engaging in a kind of cronyism. But the school says it has brought the teachers to Ohio legally and that recruiting from Turkey is necessary to get the highest-quality instructors. Since 2005, the school has brought 454 teachers to Ohio from Turkey and surrounding countries. Concept has been the subject of a number of investigations in Ohio, including one at one of its schools in Dayton over alleged misconduct and falsification of attendance records.
• City officials have delayed presenting a proposal that would charge Over-the-Rhine residents $300 a year to park in the neighborhood, but Mayor John Cranley’s fee idea is still alive. The proposed fee, which would be the highest residential parking fee in the country, would fund at least some of the streetcar’s $4 million annual operation costs. Officials were set to present the idea to City Council’s Neighborhoods Committee today, but negative response to the idea from some council members, including Vice Mayor David Mann, triggered a delay. City officials say they’ll take the feedback into account and float a modified version of the idea in a couple weeks.
• Two Cincinnati-area nonprofits serving homeless veterans will get $3 million from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Sen. Sherrod Brown announced last week. The Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries Rehabilitation Center and Talbert House both received about $1.5 million to provide health, transportation and financial planning services to Hamilton County veterans and their families who are homeless or may become homeless. A study by the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio counted 175 homeless veterans in Hamilton County in 2013.
• Thousands of DUI convictions could be in question after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday that drunken-driving defendants can challenge the results of breathalyzer tests by requesting accuracy data for specific breathalyzer machines. Defendants can request the data from the Ohio Department of Health, which provides the machines to law enforcement agencies across the state. Some have charged that the Intoxilyzer 8000 (which sounds more like something that gets you drunk rather than something that measures your drunkenness, but I digress) is inaccurate. Some Ohio judges won’t allow results from the machine to be used as evidence. The ODH has pushed back against the ruling requiring it release accuracy data, saying it presents a formidable and expensive requirement that will be impossible to fulfill. Defense attorneys pushing for the ruling, however, say collecting and releasing the data from the machines should be cheap and easy. CityBeat covered the situation here in June.
• House Speaker John Boehner’s Democratic challenger (yes, he has one) is under few illusions about his chances against the powerful, Butler County-based Republican rep. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t trying. Miami University professor Tom Poetter is crisscrossing the district knocking on doors and lambasting Boehner for his role in last year’s government shutdown, his opposition to the much-debated unemployment benefits extension and other issues. Polls show Boehner with a very comfy lead, and he’s looking right past the election and predicting he’ll remain House speaker.
• The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review same-sex marriage cases in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Lower courts ruled against bans on same-sex marriage in those states, and without review by the nation's highest court, those rulings will stand. That means the number of states recognizing same-sex marriage will rise from 19 to 24.
• Finally, here's a pretty neat NPR piece about women and their roll in the roots of computer programing. Though it's a field dominated by men in many ways today, many of the field's important early innovators were women.
Hey all! It’s rainy and gloomy, but it’s also Friday, so there’s that. Grab a cup of your morning brew of choice (no beer or liquor just yet, please; let's maybe wait until at least noon for that) and let’s talk about the news.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation has released new information about the Aug. 5 police shooting of John Crawford III in a Beavercreek Walmart. The documents show that at least three other people proceeding Crawford had picked up and carried the unpackaged pellet gun Crawford had with him when he died. The reports also indicate at least one employee expressed concern about Crawford carrying the pellet gun because it was hard to tell if the weapon was real or not. The documents also reveal that the officers did not identify themselves as police, and that the officer who shot Crawford, Sean Williams, is not the one who gave alleged orders for Crawford to put the weapon down. However, the police story that officers shouted those orders is corroborated by at least three other witnesses in the documents, though the length of time they say police gave Crawford to comply with those orders varies from one to two seconds to five or more, depending on the witness. An Ohio grand jury declined to indict Williams in Crawford’s death, but the Department of Justice is investigating the case.
• Lincoln Heights fire fighters are back at work this morning after a lapse in the municipality’s insurance police left the department, as well as the village’s police force, off the job yesterday. The police department is still not back at work, and emergency calls for law enforcement are being handled by neighboring municipalities.
• Speaking of law enforcement: The University of Cincinnati has named a new police chief. Jason Goodrich, currently police chief for Lamar University in Texas, will become UC’s new director of public safety on Nov. 1. Goodrich has also been a police captain at Vanderbilt University as well as a chief at University of Indiana Southeast and Southern Arkansas University.
• A Cincinnati-area brewery is one of crowdfunding site Kickstarter’s most popular projects. Braxton Brewing Co. raised $30,000 in just 35 hours from funders on the site. The project set a single-day fundraising record for breweries on Kickstarter. Part of the boost probably came from the really cool Rookwood beer steins they're offering backers. I don't even really drink beer (I'm more of a whiskey guy) and I want one of those. Although one of those steins filled with Wild Turkey would probably mess me up real good. Anyway, Braxton is looking to open in Covington this winter.
• Walnut Hills has been quietly changing for a while now, stacking new development and rehab projects. Here’s an article about an upcoming rehab of a historic building on Madison Road and Woodburn Ave. that local group Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation hopes will spark more development in the area. It’s a preview of what may lie ahead for the neighborhood, one of Cincinnati’s first suburbs and, more recently, one of the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods.
• Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rolled into Cincinnati yesterday to chat with The Cincinnati Enquirer, making his case for why Kentuckians in the Greater Cincinnati area should vote for him. His pitch is basically that voters should keep him in power because he’s, well, powerful, and could run the Senate if it flips to Republicans in November. Give him power because he’s powerful. Got it? Good. On more substantive issues, McConnell was wishy-washy, providing few details or practical policy ideas on the state’s heroin epidemic or the crumbling, highly trafficked Brent Spence bridge linking Ohio and Kentucky. Oh yeah, and he said Congress can’t get anything done because Democrats are bad, and that if he’s reelected and Republicans take the Senate he’ll run a smoother ship. Or, again, give him power because he could be powerful. He also wants to lower corporate taxes as a way to fix the gap between the wealthy and everyone else. Because giving the wealthiest, most powerful interests in the country a break on taxes is exactly what low and middle income people need. Give them power, because they’re powerful. Got it.
• Finally, speaking of Congress, wealth and power, here’s a Brookings Institution piece on just how many of our U.S. House members come from humble means. Spoiler alert: not many. There are 435 House members overall, and the article finds five who come from something other than a wealthy background. Here’s a quick takeaway: The median yearly income for an incoming House member in 2012 was $807,013. The median income for Americans overall is about $45,000.
While Congress has been wrangling back and forth for months about raising the federal minimum wage, the City of Cincinnati is doing what it can to encourage businesses to pay their employees enough to get by.
The Cincinnati Living Wage Employer Initiative will officially recognize employers paying their employees at least $10.10 an hour, the same hike congressional Democrats have been pushing in the House and Senate. The program looks to reward businesses and nonprofits that take the step, providing a website, cincinnatilivingwage.com, where consumers can check to see which businesses pay employees a fair wage.
Though the program is voluntary, the hope is that positive recognition and consumer pressure will encourage businesses to pay employees a wage that allows them to be self-sustaining.
“Although the city of Cincinnati cannot legislate a higher minimum wage–that’s left up to the state–we do feel we have a crucial role to play in creating a culture of living wage employers,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld at an Oct. 2 news conference announcing the initiative, which he’s helped push.
“Cincinnati cannot wait on Congress to take action,” he said. “But our local businesses and organizations can raise their minimum wage voluntarily and immediately, and individuals can make conscientious consumer decisions about spending their money with those employers.”
So far, four organizations, including the city, are listed as partners in the initiative. One is Cincinnati-based Grandin Properties, whose CEO Peg Wyant appeared with Sittenfeld at the Oct. 2 announcement.
Another is Pi Pizza, which is opening its first store in Cincinnati downtown at Sixth and Main Streets on Oct. 13. The company, based in St. Louis, has paid non-tipped workers at its seven locations in Missouri, Washington DC and elsewhere $10.10 an hour for five months. The company looks to employ about 100 people in Cincinnati.
Pi Pizza CEO Chris Sommers estimates about 75 percent of those employees will be hourly and not working for tips, meaning they’ll benefit from the wage boost. Sommers said the increased payroll costs are more than balanced by reduced employee turnover rates and increased productivity.
“We did it without raising prices, and we did it after extensive quantitative and qualitative analysis to make sure we could pay for it and that we could still grow and expand to cities like Cincinnati,” Sommers said of the wage boost.
He encouraged other businesses to make a similar commitment.
“If Pi Pizza can do it, you can do it,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s good for business–more people walking around, with not only more money to put gas in their cars, more money to get their cars fixed, but also more people to buy pizza. And that’s important, right?”
Boosting the minimum wage has caused a deep debate in the United States. Proponents, including President Barack Obama, who called for the boost to $10.10 during this year’s state of the union address, say that low-wage workers don’t make enough to survive easily or raise families, boosting dependence on government programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. Opponents, however, including Republicans in Congress like House Speaker John Boehner, say that it will cost businesses more and stifle job growth. Republicans also say that most low-wage jobs are held by high school students, part-time workers who aren’t trying to sustain themselves independently or raise families.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data, however, show that two-thirds of minimum wage workers are over the age of 19. Sommers said that few, if any, of the 107 employees at a recent orientation for Pi Pizza’s Cincinnati location were young students.
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25, though 23 states, including Ohio, have a higher minimum. The highest wage in the country is in Washington State, where employers must pay adult non-tipped workers at least $9.87. Ohio’s minimum wage is currently $7.95, which will increase to $8.10 in January, thanks to a 2005 constitutional amendment that pegs the state’s minimum to inflation. Even at this new state minimum wage, however, a worker working 40 hours a week will still gross less than $17,000 a year. At $10.10, the same worker would earn $21,000– enough to put a family of three just above the federal poverty level.
“While even the higher hourly wage will leave some people vulnerable, the extra earned income represents the difference between people being able to sustain a basic existence or not,” Sittenfeld said.