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by German Lopez 08.14.2013
Posted In: News, Police, Health care, LGBT Issues at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
evolution of equality

Morning News and Stuff

Gay marriage still recognized; Ohio could expand, save on Medicaid; death after Taser use

A federal judge on Tuesday extended the temporary restraining order recognizing a gay couple’s marriage in Ohio. As CityBeat covered here, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is expected to die soon, sued local and state officials hoping to have their Maryland marriage acknowledged by Ohio before Arthur’s death certificate was issued. Judge Timothy Black sided with the couple, and he’s now extended the temporary restraining order until December, which should provide enough time for Arthur’s expected death and the remaining legal battle. The judge has made it clear that the order only applies to Obergefell and Arthur.

Ohio could spend less on Medicaid if it expands eligibility for the program, according to a new analysis from Ohio State University and the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. But the expansion would have to come with cost controls that cap spending growth at 3.5 percent to 4 percent, as opposed to the current rate of 7.2 percent. Still, the analysis shows that policies including an expansion can save the state money. Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the federal government is asking states to expand Medicaid to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In return, the federal government would pay for the entire expansion for the first three years then phase down its payments to 90 percent of the expansion’s cost. Typically, the federal government pays for about 60 percent of Medicaid in Ohio.

A Sycamore Township man died yesterday after Hamilton County deputies used a Taser on him during a brief struggle. Deputies found Gary Roell, 59, half-clothed and smashing windows right before they took him into custody. It’s unclear how many times the Taser was used or whether the Taser was the direct cause of death. Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil says the deputies followed protocol, given the violent actions carried out by Roell, who punched a deputy in the face during the confrontation. Still, some groups have been asking police departments around the country to change protocol altogether. A 2012 report from Amnesty International found at least 500 people died in the United States between 2001 and 2012 after being shocked with Tasers during their arrests or while in jail.

The 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll found that higher-income Ohio adults reported better health than those with lower incomes. In 2013, 59 percent of Ohio adults above 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $15,856 for a single-person household, reported “excellent” or “very good” health, compared to only 26 percent of those below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $11,490 for a single-person household. The United Way of Greater Cincinnati is pointing to the results as just one other way life is more difficult for low-income Ohioans. The group intends to get at least 70 percent of the community to report “excellent” or “very good” health by 2020. Only about 53 percent of adults in southwest Ohio currently report such health, according to the Ohio Health Issues Poll.

Hamilton County is still offering its free recycling program for electronic equipment, including computers and televisions, until noon on Oct. 26.

The Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) today sent out a warning to college students asking them to watch out for drugged drinks. OIU provided four safety tips: Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can be drugged, students shouldn’t leave a drink laying around or turn their backs on it, they shouldn’t accept drinks from strangers or someone they don’t trust, and students should watch their friends’ drinks and act if they see anything suspicious. The Ohio Incident Based Reporting System (OIBRS) shows there were 14 incidents of forcible rape with drug as a weapon in 2012, but not all Ohio police departments report to OIBRS, so the numbers are likely understated.

A developer is planning to build 20 apartments in the mostly vacant Schwartz office building on Main Street, along the streetcar’s planned route.

Developers are still working on building apartments above the Fountain Place retail complex, as announced nine months ago.

Another steakhouse is opening in downtown Cincinnati.

Delta is now offering direct flights from Cincinnati to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Jungle Jim’s sold a $1 million Mega Millions ticket.

Watch lab-grown heart tissue beat on its own here.

by German Lopez 08.13.2013
Posted In: News, Police at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sycamore Township Man Dies After Police Struggle

Deputies deployed Taser during confrontation

A Sycamore Township man died overnight after the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office used a Taser to subdue him during a brief struggle.

While responding to a 911 call, deputies found Gary Roell, 59, half-clothed and smashing windows behind a resident’s home, according to the police report. When deputies ordered Roell to the ground, he charged at them and punched one of the officers in the face. The deputies then shot Roell on the back with a Taser to physically restrain and handcuff him.

After he was taken into custody, Roell began having labored breathing, and emergency medical services were called, the report reads. But before ambulances arrived, Roell stopped breathing. Despite attempts by deputies to revive Roell with CPR, he was pronounced dead upon reaching the hospital.

Roell reportedly suffers from bipolar depression and schizophrenia, which can lead to a distorted view of reality. He had apparently stopped taking his medication.

Two key facts remain unknown: whether the Taser led to Roell’s death and how many times the Taser was actually used. Jim Knapp, spokesperson for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, says those issues will be investigated by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Criminal Investigative Section and the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office.

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil says the officers followed protocol, given Roell’s violent behavior and actions.

For some, the question is whether police protocol is correct in the first place. Advocacy group Amnesty International has been asking police departments around the country to scrutinize standards for deploying a Taser.

A 2012 report from Amnesty International found at least 500 people died in the United States between 2001 and 2012 after being shocked with Tasers during their arrests or while in jail. On average, that’s nearly four deaths around the country each month.

But if officers don’t use Tasers, they must resort other non-lethal tools, such as pepper spray or a baton, that require getting closer to a target. That, police experts argue, could lead to more injuries.

by German Lopez 07.26.2013
Posted In: News, Police, Budget, LGBT at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ramundo photo

Morning News and Stuff

Meet Roger Ramundo, city budget cuts could be reduced, AG won't appeal marriage order

Meet Roger Jeremy Ramundo, the man police shot and killed on July 24 after what’s now being called a “life or death struggle.” Police say they first tried to subdue Ramundo, who had a history of mental health problems. But when Ramundo fired his gun once, an officer retaliated by firing two fatal shots into Ramundo’s left back. For family members and colleagues, Ramundo’s death came as a shock; none of them seemed to expect that he could turn violent. Ramundo was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, according to the health care worker who notified police that Ramundo left home with his licensed gun, but he had been refusing to take his medication for either illness at the time of his death.

Budget cuts to human services, parks and other areas could be retroactively reduced or eliminated with higher-than-projected revenues from the previous budget cycle, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced yesterday. When City Council passed the city’s operating budget in May, it had not yet received the full revenue numbers for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. With the full numbers expected to come in higher than originally projected, Council will be able to evaluate options for what and how much can be restored. Human services funding was cut by roughly one-third in the city budget, putting it at 0.3 percent of overall spending — far below the city’s historic goal of 1.5 percent.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine won’t appeal the temporary restraining order that forces the state to recognize a Cincinnati same-sex couple on their death certificate, but DeWine says he’ll continue defending the state’s ban on gay marriage. Lisa Hackley, DeWine’s spokesperson, noted that such restraining orders are normally not susceptible to appeal. Hackley’s explanation contradicts an earlier report from The Cincinnati Enquirer that the order was going to be appealed. Meanwhile, FreedomOhio says it will try to put an amendment legalizing marriage equality on the November 2014 ballot, which CityBeat covered here when the group was still aiming for the 2013 ballot.

The I-71/MLK Interchange yesterday moved closer to its $107.7 million funding goal when Ohio’s Transportation Review Advisory Council gave preliminary approval to Gov. John Kasich’s transportation plan, which will use $3 billion raised through Ohio Turnpike revenues to fund infrastructure projects around the state.

The Ohio Supreme Court will review whether anti-gambling opponents of racinos have standing to sue. Among other issues, critics argue that Kasich’s legalization of video lottery terminals didn’t represent an actual extension of the Ohio Lottery, which is why the state claims it was allowed to legalize the gambling machines without voter approval. The state’s Supreme Court says it will decide the issue after it rules on a similar case involving privatized development agency JobsOhio.

Democrats are voicing uncertainty about whether Republicans will actually take up a Medicaid expansion bill in September. Republican legislators rejected the expansion in the state budget, but they’ve said they will take up the issue in the fall. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion, which is funded mostly through federal funds from Obamacare, would insure half a million Ohioans and save the state money over the next decade.

Charter schools’ big challenge: finding space to house their facilities.

An Ohio gun group raised $12,000 to buy George Zimmerman a gun or security system.

Drivers, beware: Hackers could soon be crashing your cars.

Drinking coffee has been linked to a 50 percent lower risk of suicide.

by Hannah McCartney 07.25.2013
Posted In: Guns, Gun Violence, Police at 04:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)
ramundo photo

The Unexpected Death of Jeremy Ramundo

Thirty-two-year-old shot by police in Clifton was mild-mannered, acquaintances say

Who was Roger Ramundo?

First of all, those who knew him called him by his middle name, Jeremy. On Wednesday, July 24, Jeremy was shot and killed by a Cincinnati Police Officer in what the CPD is describing as a violent, “life or death struggle,” with a mentally ill, violent and heavily armed man. Those who knew Roger Jeremy Ramundo, however, remember him very differently.

Thirty-two-year-old Jeremy lived in a Clifton gaslight home with his mother, Peggy, and he liked to eat on the patio at neighborhood bar Arlin’s Bar and Grill, the same place where he lost his life in a struggle with police just blocks away from his home.

An acquaintance of the family, who asked to remain unnamed, described Ramundo as a gentle, bright and mild-mannered young man with good social skills.

Ramundo formerly worked up the street at Bruegger’s Bagels, where current CityBeat arts & culture editor Jac Kern worked with him from 2007-2008. “I always knew him to be a kind, gentle person,” she says, recalling his fondness for discussing politics and attentive listening skills.

According to Kern, Ramundo was in a car accident years before that left him with debilitating vision and hearing problems. He had also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, both of which he’d been prescribed medications for.

But nobody, it seemed, suspected he’d be the type of person to be involved in a deadly police shootout. The Cincinnati Police Department today held a press conference on the incident, during which Cincinnati Police Interim Chief Paul Humphries described the actions of the five officers involved in the shootout as by-the-book, even heroic.

What Humphries accounts began as an argument between Ramundo his mother at their home on Thrall Avenue, a few blocks from Arlin’s, which escalated shortly after Ramundo refused to go to his doctor’s appointment, according to a 911 call made by a health care representative from the medical facility where Ramundo’s appointment was scheduled. According to the health care representative, Ramundo’s mother called her looking for help, explaining he’d become belligerent following her requests to go to his appointment. She said he had been willfully not taking his psychiatric medications, although it’s unclear for how long.

In the 911 call, the health care representative says Peggy told her Ramundo had begun threatening her, saying that if she called the cops, there would be a “bloodbath.” She saw him take off up Ludlow Avenue and said on the phone call she believed he was carrying his registered gun, a Sig Sauer .40 caliber pistol, and guessed he might be on his way to his go-to hangout spot.

Officers Jayne Snelling and William Springer followed the mother’s tip and found him sitting on the back patio at Arlin’s. 

An Arlin’s bartender named Jocelyn was working that day and recalls Ramundo coming in somewhat agitated. “He was asking about his glasses,” she says. “He seemed frustrated about losing them, and he had me call another bartender to see if they were here somewhere. After that, he asked for a glass of water, walked outside and that was that."

Jocelyn continued: “I’m in total shock. He was just a sweet kid,” she said, although she couldn’t remember seeing him in the bar for about three months prior.

In total, five CPD officers were dispatched to the scene, two of whom have had past positive experiences with Ramundo, including Officer Snelling and Officer Bryan Gabel, who later fired the shots that killed him.

The physical struggle began after peace-making efforts failed, Humphries says. Officers reported they saw Ramundo reaching toward his waistband, where he held his pistol.

Gabel was the first to make physical contact with Ramundo, trying to “control his arm,” according to Humphries. That led the other officers to become involved in a scuffle that shortly thereafter prompted Officer Kelly Jackson to deploy a five-second Taser sting to Ramundo’s back, which they say sent Ramundo to the ground.

Jackson again deployed her Taser onto Ramundo’s back, which, according to Humphries, had little to no effect after the initial five-second deploy. On a third attempt, the Taser failed to work, according to Humphries, at which point Jackson signaled another officer to deploy another Taser.

Snelling attempted to do so, but mistakenly Tased another officer in the struggle, who was on top of Ramundo’s back. Gabel allegedly saw Ramundo raise his gun, when he fired his first and only shot. Officer Reginald Lane had taken the Tased officer's spot on top of Ramundo, attempting to subdue him and retrieve his gun. That's when Humphries says all five officers saw him trying to bring the gun up again, this time aimed toward the officers.

Gabel fired two shots into Ramundo’s lower left back. He died in the hospital three hours later.

Humphries says Ramundo was also carrying two magazines, mace and a folding knife.

His mother, the acquaintance says, is an outspoken advocate on mental health issues, particularly Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), on which she’s published a book. Peggy “always spoke preciously” of Jeremy, the acquaintance notes.

Bipolar disorder, when untreated, can cause those affected to experience “mood episodes,” which, in severe cases, sometimes result in impulsive, violent behavior. An estimated 2.3 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder.

by German Lopez 07.03.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, Police, Infrastructure at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Qualls asks for quick chief search, Ohio highway rank drops, Dems OKed abortion "gag"

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is calling for a quick police chief search following a bout of local violence during the past few weeks. In a memo to City Manager Milton Dohoney, Qualls argues a police chief replacement is necessary to clamp down on crime, particularly gun and gang-related violence. She asks the city manager to report to City Council on the hiring search in early August and have a full replacement ready by the end of the summer. Former Police Chief James Craig recently left Cincinnati to take the police chief job in Detroit, his hometown.

Ohio dropped from No. 13 to No. 25 in a state-by-state ranking of highways. The report from the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, looked at highway conditions and cost effectiveness. Among the findings: About 22.73 percent of Ohio’s bridges were deemed deficient in 2009, down from 24.51 percent in 2007. Twenty states reported more than one in four bridges as deficient — a threshold Ohio barely missed. Despite Ohio being relatively worse off, the nation as a whole improved in major categories, according to the report: “Six of the seven key indicators of system condition showed improvement, including large gains in rural interstate and urban interstate condition, and a reduction in the fatality rate.”

Ohio Democrats now criticizing the state budget’s rape counselor restriction voted for the measure in a separate House bill on June 16. The “gag,” as Democrats now call it, prevents publicly funded rape counselors from discussing abortion as a viable medical option for rape victims. “Democrats supported the bill to fund rape crisis centers and we were led to believe that this offensive language gagging rape counselors would be fixed in the budget,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern told the Associated Press through a spokesperson. “It was not.” Democrats voted against the state budget that actually encoded the measure into law.

On July 11 at Fountain Square, anti-abortion group Created Equal plans to use a jumbo screen to show a graphic video containing footage of aborted fetuses and their separated limbs.

Three more statewide online schools — known as “e-schools” — are coming to Ohio following approval from the Department of Education. Proponents of e-schools call them a “valuable alternative” to traditional schooling. But some education experts and studies have found e-schools often perform poorly.

Mason is having some success using private-public partnerships to attract high-tech companies.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol says “pilot error” caused the stunt airplane crash that killed two at last month’s Dayton Air Show.

BBC explains why phones sometimes feel like they’re vibrating when they’re not.

New contact lenses give telescopic vision.

Fireworks would likely look boring in space.

by German Lopez 06.20.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Taxes, Police at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Texting while driving eludes police, parking lease stalled, Ohio tax code still complex

Even though it’s now illegal under local and state law, texting while driving often eludes punishment in Greater Cincinnati. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department has issued no tickets so far to vehicular texters, while the Cincinnati Police Department has given out 28, with only four going to teenagers. Although almost everyone acknowledges the dangers of texting while driving, police say it’s very difficult to catch texters in the act, especially since most of them claim they were just making phone calls.

Otto Budig, board chairman of the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, apparently told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the Port Authority won’t sign the parking lease until it gets assurances about city funding. City Council considered pulling $100,000 from the Port Authority while putting together the budget for fiscal year 2014. Now, Budig says the Port Authority wants some sort of financial assurance, perhaps as part of the parking lease, that the city won’t threaten future funding. The city announced Tuesday it had signed the lease, but some opponents, including Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, are still looking for ways to repeal the plan.

A Policy Matters Ohio report found the state’s tax code remains complicated under the Ohio Senate budget plan and the budget actually added tax breaks, despite earlier promises of simplification from House and Senate leaders. Meanwhile, Mike Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, says the General Assembly will take up tax reform later in the year. The Ohio Department of Taxation says the tax breaks will cost Ohio nearly $8 billion in fiscal year 2015, and Policy Matters says many of the exemptions, deductions and credits are wasteful.

Commentary: “Republican Medicaid Opposition Ignores Ohio’s Best Interests.”

JobsOhio topped a ranking from Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) that looks at government agencies’ “unrelenting commitment to undermining the public's right to know.” IRE mocked JobsOhio and the state Republicans for making it increasingly difficult to find out how the agency uses its public funds. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, have also criticized Republicans for blocking a public audit of JobsOhio, which was established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators in 2011 to eventually replace the public Ohio Department of Development. JobsOhio’s supporters argue the agency’s privatized, secret nature allows it to move at the “speed of business” to better boost the economy.

The Cincinnati Museum Center is looking to ask Hamilton County residents to renew its operating levy in May 2014, even though the museum promised in 2009 that it wouldn’t do so. The museum argues circumstances have changed, with Union Terminal crumbling and in need of about $163 million in repairs. When the museum originally made its promise against more operating levies, it was expecting to make repairs through a capital levy, but Hamilton County commissioners dismissed that idea. Hamilton County commissioners will have to approve the operating levy before it goes on the ballot.

An Ohio bill would ban anyone under the age of 18 from tanning at a salon unless a doctor gives permission for medical reasons. This is the third time Ohio legislators have proposed measures against indoor tanning in recent years.

Personhood Ohio, the anti-abortion group trying to ban abortions in Ohio by defining life as beginning at conception, is fundraising by selling assault rifles.

Here is a map showing how green Earth is in the most literal terms.

We now have an explanation for why everyone is so nice and loving to CityBeat’s Hannah McCartney: A study found people are mostly mean to their unattractive coworkers.

Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Submit your questions here and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or know anyone willing to participate, email glopez@citybeat.com.

by German Lopez 05.14.2013
Posted In: Anna Louise Inn, Streetcar, News, Police at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Police chief leaving to Detroit, council scrutinizes streetcar, Anna Louise Inn sold

The city confirmed today that Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will be leaving Cincinnati to take a job in Detroit. During Craig’s time, the city experienced a significant drop in crime. City officials praised Craig for his attempts to forge better ties between the Cincinnati Police Department and local communities, particularly by establishing the External Advisory Committee, a group of active local community members and business leaders that gives advice on the police department’s policies and procedures. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the city will begin a nationwide search for Craig’s replacement tomorrow.

Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB) is selling the Anna Louise Inn to Western & Southern for $4 million, and CUB will be relocating the Inn’s services to Mount Auburn. Many Anna Louise Inn supporters are taking the sale as a sign Western & Southern won, while others are glad the extensive legal battles are finally over. The sale came after years of Western & Southern obstructing the planned renovations for the Anna Louise Inn through court battles and other legal challenges, which CityBeat covered here. In a Q&A with The Cincinnati Enquirer, Western & Southern CEO John Barrett reflected on the events, saying his company took the “high road” throughout the controversy — a claim many Anna Louise Inn supporters dispute.

City Council grilled Dohoney yesterday over fixing the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget gap and whether paying for the cost overruns to save the project is worth it. Supporters of the streetcar pushed questions and comments that touted the streetcar project’s return on investment, which was further supported by Dohoney’s testimony and previous studies from HDR, a consulting firm, and the University of Cincinnati. Opponents suggested the cost overruns were too much and the project, which now stands at $133 million, is too expensive. A final decision is expected by the end of May. The streetcar project’s funding comes from the capital budget, which can’t be used to fix the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit because of limits established in state law.

The city and county governments are clashing over the city’s hiring policies for companies bidding on the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD) construction projects. The city’s laws require construction firms to have apprenticeship programs, which the city says promotes job training on top of employment. But the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners claims the requirements aren’t feasible and put too much of a strain on companies. Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune questioned why the city’s policy only applies to MSD and not other local government agencies.

The Duke Energy Garden is the latest addition to the Smale Riverfront Park.

A Catholic teacher union will not support Carla Hale, a gay Columbus-area teacher who was fired after she named her girlfriend in an obituary for her mother. Hale says she was fired over her sexuality, but the Catholic Church says she was fired for revealing a “quasi-spousal relationship” outside of marriage. The Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage, which means all gay couples are in a non-marital relationship under the Church’s desired policies.

The Internal Revenue Service scandal, which involves IRS officials unfairly scrutinizing conservative groups, is now nationwide. Previous reports pinned the practice on a Cincinnati field office, but numerous IRS offices around the country, including one in Washington, D.C., were found to be guilty of the practice in documents acquired by The Washington Post.

Headline from The Columbus Dispatch: “Man who killed wife, then self: ‘I couldn’t take her mouth anymore.’”

The brain catches grammar errors even when a person doesn’t realize it.

by German Lopez 05.06.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Police, Republicans at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
downtown grocery

Morning News and Stuff

Parking hearing today, police chief may go, tea party planning against GOP

The First District County Court of Appeals heard arguments over the city’s parking plan and emergency clause powers today, with both sides making similar arguments as before — except this time the city acknowledged it will probably have to move forward with layoffs because the city only has a few weeks remaining before it has to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. The city claims it can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation, such as the parking plan, by eliminating a 30-day waiting period and the possibility of a referendum, but opponents argue the wording in the City Charter doesn’t justify terminating referendum efforts. If courts side with opponents, the city’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port Authority, which CityBeat covered here, will likely appear on the ballot in November, forcing the city to lay off cops, firefighters and other city employees instead of using the parking plan to help balance the budget.

It’s looking more and more likely that Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will take the top police job in Detroit, despite Cincinnati officials asking Craig to reconsider. Previously, Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, pushed city officials to do more to encourage Craig to stay, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said Craig’s motivations may be personal because his family resides in Detroit, a city that is in desperate need of a turnaround.

Ohio’s tea party groups are preparing to either split from the Republican Party or punish Republican leaders for recent actions, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Tea party groups have been particularly upset with Gov. John Kasich’s endorsement of the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here and here, and Ohio Republicans’ election of Matt Borges, who once lobbied for a gay rights group, as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. Since the 2010 elections, tea party groups have kept political footholds in some areas, but they have consistently lost favor with voters.

In case you missed it, here was CityBeat’s news coverage for the current week’s issue, which went online late because of Internet issues:

A portion of the Ohio House budget bill would make it more difficult for out-of-state students to vote in Ohio by forcing public universities to decide between extra tuition money and providing documents that students need to vote. Republicans say the rule is meant to lower tuition and prevent out-of-state students from voting on local issues they may know little about, but Democrats, backed by university officials, say the rule suppresses college-going voters, who tend to support Democrats over Republicans.

Ohio Senate President Keith Faber said there is no substantial Republican support in the Ohio House, Ohio Senate or governor’s mansion for so-called “right to work” legislation. The lack of support for the anti-union laws, which prevent unions and employers from making collective bargaining agreements that require union membership, may be linked to 2011’s voter rejection of Senate Bill 5, which would have limited public unions’ collective bargaining and political powers. S.B. 5 was one reason unions, including the Republican-leaning Fraternal Order of Police, supported Democrats in 2012.

Despite security concerns in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon, Sunday’s Flying Pig Marathon had a record 34,000 participants.

Ohio gas prices are trending up this week.

Now on Kickstarter: Genetically modified plants that glow.

by German Lopez 04.23.2013
Posted In: News, Voting, Budget, Police at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

House budget bill may suppress student voters, tax plan favors wealthy, police chief may go

An amendment in the Ohio House budget bill last week would make it so universities have to decide between providing voting information to students or retaining millions of dollars in out-of-state tuition money. The amendment would make it so universities have to classify students as in-state — a classification that means lower tuition rates — when providing documents necessary for voting. Republicans claim the measure is “common sense” because anyone voting for Ohio’s elections should be an Ohio resident. But the amendment has provoked criticism from Democrats and universities alike, who say universities are being thrown into the middle of a voter suppression scheme.

An analysis from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio found the tax plan currently working through the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature favors the wealthy. The analysis also claimed there’s little evidence the across-the-board tax cuts suggested would significantly help Ohio’s economy. The plan still needs to be approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Council members are asking Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to remain in Cincinnati instead of taking a job in Detroit, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. didn’t seem convinced that much can be done. Dohoney said Craig’s hometown is Detroit, a city that has suffered in recent years as the local economy has rapidly declined.

Democratic Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald is running for governor, and he will make Cincinnati one of his first stops for his campaign kick-off tour. FitzGerald is challenging Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014, who has held the governor’s office since 2010. A recent poll found Kasich in a comfortable position with a nine-point lead on FitzGerald, but many respondents said they don’t know enough about FitzGerald to have an opinion on him.

Greater Cincinnati home sales hit a six-year high in March, with 2,190 homes sold. The strong housing market, which is recovering from a near collapse in 2008, is widely considered by economists to be a good sign for the overall economy.

But Ohio’s venture capital investments dropped to a two-year low, according to data from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

The Ohio EPA and Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District are partnering up to provide a $250,000 grant to help purchase equipment to screen, clean and sort glass — an important part of the recycling industry.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Cincinnatians to forgo lunch on April 24 to take part in the Greater Cincinnati Day of Fasting. The event will let participants “experience a small measure of the hunger that is a part of many people’s daily lives,” according to a press release from Sittenfeld’s office. Participants are also being asked to donate money to the Freestore Foodbank. A ceremony for the event will be held on April 24 at noon in Fountain Square.

The U.S. Senate is moving toward approving bill that would allow states to better enforce and collect online sales taxes.

Mars One is calling all applicants for a mission to colonize Mars in 2023.

The sport of the future is here: combat juggling:

by Andy Brownfield 12.26.2012
Posted In: Courts, Governor, News, Police at 03:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
simon leis

Leis to Stay on Public Payroll

Retiring sheriff will take visiting judge job in 2013

Outgoing Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis is retiring after his current term and Jim Neil will replace him on Jan. 6, 2013, but that doesn’t mean Leis is done with public life.

The lawman best known for the raid of the Contemporary Arts Center over an allegedly obscene Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and his prosecution of pornographer Larry Flynt will begin serving as a visiting judge in 2013, according to letters first published by The Enquirer.

Before being appointed sheriff, Leis served as a Hamilton County Common Pleas judge from 1982 to 1987. Prior to that he was Hamilton County prosecutor for 12 years.

The letters dated May 1, 2012 and Oct. 22, 2012 indicate that Leis wrote Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to let her know he was retiring and was interested in being assigned as a visiting judge.

Visiting judges are in charge of all of the cases other judges are assigned but can’t get to due to full dockets. Leis will be paid the standard visiting judge rate of $60.68 per hour.

Since Leis last served as judge 25 years ago, O’Connor is requiring him to shadow another judge for a day or so to get back up to speed. Leis has kept his law license current since becoming sheriff.




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by Nick Swartsell 09.11.2015 32 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 01:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
screen shot 2015-07-30 at 10.12.49 am

Report: Dubose Shooting "Entirely Preventable"

Report says UC officer made tactical errors, recommends reassessment of UC police mission.

An internal review released today by the University of Cincinnati finds that the July 19 shooting death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing was "entirely preventable" and resulted from tactical mistakes made by Tensing. The report also says Tensing made misleading and untrue statements about that incident.

The report, prepared by an outside investigative company called Kroll, utilizes witness testimony, Tensing's body camera footage and other evidence to reconstruct the events that led up to DuBose's shooting death.

While the report finds that Tensing's initial stop of DuBose for a missing license plate was lawful, it also says that Tensing subsequently engaged DuBose in a way that created an escalating situation as DuBose refused to produce a driver's license or exit his vehicle.

Using a frame-by-frame breakdown of Tensing's body camera footage, the report demonstrates that Tensing reached into DuBose's car even when DuBose posed no threat to him. It also shows that Tensing's arm was not caught up in the car's steering wheel, as the officer claimed, and that DuBose's car did not start moving until after Tensing shot him in the head.

The report issues a number of recommendations to prevent future incidents, including testing officers involved in fatalities for drugs and alcohol. Many of the report's recommendations involve further training to prevent the mistakes Tensing made at the moment of the stop, but a few also address the wider problems with UC's policing in neighborhoods around the university. The first two recommendations concluding the report suggest UC and the city of Cincinnati consider limiting campus cops' ability to patrol off campus and also reassess the entire mission of the campus police force.

"Kroll’s preliminary assessment of the UCPD is that, while it does many things well, as a Department it lacks the experiential skill sets necessary to perform all of the operational requirements of urban policing," the report reads, "which requires the training and experience to not only conduct routine traffic stops, but also to investigate serious crimes, engage diverse multi-ethnic communities, and patrol areas of the city not affiliated with the university or its mission."

DuBose's death occurred in an isolated corner of Mount Auburn, about a mile from campus. Questions about off-campus policing come as the university has beefed up its police force and increased the number of tickets it gives. As it has done so, disparities in who gets those tickets have widened. UC police records show that 62 percent of the 932 tickets given by UC police through July this year went to black motorists. In 2012, blacks got 43 percent of UC police tickets. 

Ray Tensing has been indicted on murder and manslaughter charges in connection with DuBose s death. His trial was scheduled for next month, but has been postponed until an as-yet-unannounced later date.

CityBeat will update this story as more information becomes available.

by Nick Swartsell 09.09.2015 34 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
jeffrey blackwell

UPDATED: City Manager Fires Police Chief Blackwell; Chief Promises Lawsuit

Harry Black cites communication, morale issues; chief's supporters call controversy political

UPDATE: Supporters of fired Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell took to the steps of City Hall Cincinnati City Council chambers to voice their opposition to the chief's dismissal by City Manager Harry Black. Former chief Blackwell himself appeared at Council's public input session, though he was not invited to speak before Council. Afterward, he told reporters outside the chamber that he would file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, saying he didn't learn why he was being fired from the city and that he still hasn't seen the reports released today about his performance.

Dozens crowded into Council chambers and signed up to speak in favor of the chief. At times, the public hearing got contentious, with Council members and Mayor John Cranley verbally sparring with each other.

Simpson said Blackwell was escorted from CPD HQ after firing. "If this is justified, give this man, Council, the public, the chance to read [the report against Blackwell]," Simpson said. That report had been released just hours earlier.

Councilmembers Simpson, Wendell Young, P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach, while acknowledging the seriousness of the charges against Blackwell, said they took deep issue with the way in which he was dismissed. They pointed to the fact they didnt' find out the firing was happening until this morning and that the swearing-in for the interim chief, Eliot Isaac, was taking place immediately after the public hearing.

The tense atmosphere was perhaps exacerbated by rows of chairs reserved for police officers and their families, leaving community members standing toward the back of the room. At times, the mayor took a strong, almost antagonistic approach to public commenters and his critics on Council. At one point, Cranley scolded Councilwoman Yvette Simpson for raising her voice and cut her off, saying her allotted six minutes were up. Later in the meeting, after several warnings, Cranley had a few members of the public removed by officers for interrupting while he was speaking.

Some Councilmembers, including former Cincinnati Police officer Young, questioned the appearance the large group of CPD officers in the room presented, saying it heightened tensions.  City Manager Harry Black then dismissed many of the officers until the public hearing concluded.

Cranley and Black admonished Councilmembers and the public not to rush to judgement, and to read the report detailing the allegations against Blackwell. Cranley called the evidence against Blackwell "overwhelming" and said that anyone reading the report would conclude that Black "made the right choice."


City Manager Harry Black announced this morning that he has fired Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell due to "lack of sufficient and proper communication, particularly within the command staff, coupled with a consistent and pervasive disregard for the chain of command," according to a 35-page memo the city released today. That memo contained testimony from CPD officials alleging poor leadership from the chief.

The city also released a department climate assessment that says a lack of communication, leadership and technology has contributed to low morale and has put the department at risk of high rates of officer attrition.

Black announced that Assistant Police Chief Eliot Isaac, a 26-year veteran of CPD, will be the interim police chief.

You can read the climate assessment here and the memo here.

Among the allegations against Blackwell in the report, which includes statements from CPD Specialist Scotty Johnson and Public Information Officer Tiffany Hardey, are charges that Blackwell has been verbally abusive and retaliatory toward officers, that he has been unavailable during critical moments in recent months, that he played favorites in assigning overtime, that he spent too much time self-promoting, including taking selfies at the funeral of murdered CPD officer Sonny Kim and that he used his perch as chief to get free tickets to sporting events.

Blackwell has been embattled for months. Early this summer, severance documents between Blackwell and the city came to light, though these were never signed by the chief and he asserted he was staying on the force. More recently, Cincinnati's Fraternal Order of Police announced a Sept. 14 meeting, and union leadership said officers would take a vote of no confidence in Blackwell.

Blackwell’s critics say the Cincinnati Police Department's critical staffing, communication and morale issues have festered this summer as gun crimes rose, the department dealt with the shooting death of officer Sonny Kim and other difficult circumstances challenged the department.

But the chief’s supporters, including some council members and other public figures, say he’s done a fantastic job during a difficult time in the city and that his potential ouster is political in nature. They point to the fact that when he was campaigning for mayor, Cranley asked then-City Manager Milton Dohoney not to hire a chief until the election was finished so the newly elected mayor could have a say in the hiring. Dohoney hired Blackwell despite this request. Blackwell’s supporters say Cranley would like to oust Blackwell and install his own choice for police chief.

by Nick Swartsell 07.30.2015 75 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 08:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Photos: Response to Samuel Dubose Shooting Indictment

Hundreds took to the streets in peaceful remembrance of Dubose and to protest his death

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters yesterday announced that University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing has been indicted by a grand jury on murder charges for the shooting death of 43-year-old Cincinnati resident Samuel Dubose. Deters also released body camera footage of the shooting at a news conference yesterday.

Hundreds took to the steps of the Hamilton County Courthouse, and later to the streets of downtown, following the announcement. Tensing was arraigned on those charges this morning. He plead not guilty and is being held on a $1 million bond.

Audrey Dubose speaks to reporters immediately after the announcement of an indictment for officer Ray Tensing in the shooting death of her son Samuel Dubose.
Photo: Nick Swartsell
Body camera footage shown to reporters at a news conference shows Ray Tensing shooting Samuel Dubose within minutes of a routine traffic stop.

Hundreds rallied in the pouring rain at the Hamilton County Courthouse following the grand jury's decision to indict officer Ray Tensing for the murder of Samuel Dubose.
Photo: Nick Swartsell
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell speaks with a protester outside the Hamilton County Courthouse. CPD investigated the Dubose shooting. Tensing was a University of Cincinnati officer.
Photo: Nick Swartsell
Samuel Dubose's son, Samuel Vincent Ramone Dubose, speaks to protesters outside the Hamilton County Courthouse.
Photo: Nick Swartsell

Organizer Alexander Shelton speaks to protesters during a rally remembering Samuel Dubose.
Photo: Nick Swartsell

Protesters kneel in the middle of Central Parkway during a march remembering Samuel Dubose.
Photo: Nick Swartsell

Protesters march outside the Hamilton County Courthouse
Natalie Krebs
A protester marches away from the Cincinnati District 1 police station.
Natalie Krebs
Protesters proceed down Central Parkway during a march remembering Samuel Dubose
Photo: Nick Swartsell

Marchers participate in a prayer following a rally remembering Samuel Dubose.
Photo: Nick Swartsell

Protesters hold hands in prayer outside the Hamilton County Courthouse
Natalie Krebs


by Nick Swartsell 07.23.2015 82 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Protesters Demand Deters Release Dubose Shooting Video

Family, friends demand transparency in investigation of police-involved shooting

A group of about 30 gathered outside Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters' office today to demand release of tapes showing events that led up to the death of Samuel Dubose, who was shot and killed by University of Cincinnati Police July 19 in Mount Auburn following a traffic stop for a missing front license plate. Many of those attending were family or friends of Dubose.

"We are not going away," said his cousin, Ebony Johnson, as she stood outside the prosecutor's office with a license plate. "We are not going anywhere until we get satisfaction and our cousin can rest in peace. I'm sure he's not at rest, because we're not at rest. The sooner this investigation is done and justice is served, we can rest and you won't hear any more from the Dubose family."

The Cincinnati Police Department has finished its probe into the shooting, but Deters says he’ll hold much of that evidence, including multiple videos of the incident, not releasing it to the public despite public records requests from local media, including CityBeat. University of Cincinnati officials indicated a willingness to release those videos during a news conference yesterday, but Deters says making that evidence public would jeopardize the chances of a fair trial for the officer involved, should charges be brought against him. Deters released a statement soon after the protest saying the law is on his side.

"If you do not want to look at the law and just use your common sense, it should be clear why we are not releasing the video only a few days after the incident occurred," the statement said. "We need time to look at everything and do a complete investigation so that the community is satisfied that we did a thorough job. The Grand Jury has not seen the video yet and we do not want to taint the Grand Jury process.  The video will be released at some point -- just not right now.”

Deters plans to wrap up his investigation sometime next week and present his findings to a grand jury. University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing shot and killed 43-year-old Dubose after a traffic stop initiated because Dubose didn’t have a front license plate. Dubose was driving on a suspended license. According to the official police line of events, Dubose struggled with Tensing over his car door and attempted to drive away. Tensing shot him at that point and then fell to the ground, sustaining minor injuries from Dubose’s car, officials say. Since that time, information has trickled out about the killing, though not nearly enough for Dubose’s family, friends and activists who have staged a number of protests demanding answers about the death of Dubose, who was the father of 13 children.

Protesters outside the Hamilton County Prosecutor's office demand release of evidence in Samuel Dubose shooting
Nick Swartsell

Nygel Miller says he was a friend of Samuel Dubose's from childhood. "We want justice," Miller says. "We want the release of those tapes. We want the officer charged. We want him removed from his duties. We want the officer to be talked about the way our young black men have been spoken about by this prosecutor."

Recently, Deters has been embroiled in controversy over his statements calling people his office prosecutes “soulless” and “thugs" after unrest on July 4 that resulted in items being thrown at police officers and the beating of an Indiana man by several men near Fountain Square.

Meanwhile, protests around Dubose's death have been peaceful so far. But tension is mounting, some say, fueled by distrust in a grand jury system that has failed to indict several officers who have shot unarmed black men in places like Ferguson, Mo. and Beavercreek, Ohio. The tension has an especially profound history in Cincinnati, which suffered days of civil unrest following the 2001 police shooting of unarmed Timothy Thomas. Though Cincinnati Police have undergone reforms since that time, instituting a nationally renowned plan called the Collaborative Agreement, pain remains here. Thirty-one people have died at the hands of police since 2000 in Cincinnati, including three high-profile deaths this year.

"I'm not sure I can continue to hold the anger down," said State Sen. Cecil Thomas, who evoked memories of 2001 at the rally today. "I'm urging him. Release the tapes and let the evidence speak for itself. ... We need that to bring the beginning of some closure to the family."

Thomas pointed to cases in places like Beavercreek, where John Crawford III was shot in a Walmart by Beavercreek police Aug 5, 2014. Officials refused to release security tapes of the incident for months afterward, though the Crawford family and their attorneys were allowed to view them. A grand jury convened by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine declined to indict Crawford's shooter, Officer Sean Williams. Thomas said that, given those events, it's hard for some in the community to believe justice will be served in Dubose's case.

"We want to make sure that the grand jury sees those tapes, unedited," Thomas said. "Right now there's a tremendous amount of distrust as to whether they're going to do the right thing. The prosecutor that was dealing with the Beavercreek situation was assigned from this office here. That begs the question — will this same prosecutor be assigned here if there is an indictment? We have to keep the pressure on, but we're going to be peaceful."
by Nick Swartsell 07.07.2015 98 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Officers Charged with Covering Up Accident for Controversial Cop

Sgt. Andrew Mitchell, involved in the 2011 shooting of David "Bones" Hebert, was allegedly removed from crash scene by other officers

Two Cincinnati Police Officers have been charged in the cover up of a car accident involving a third officer, Sgt. Andrew Mitchell. Mitchell was the same officer who shot and killed local musician David “Bones” Hebert in Northside in 2011, according to a source within the department.

According to court documents filed Saturday, Mitchell was off duty and driving his personal vehicle, a Honda Odyssey, on West McMicken Avenue in Fairview at 5 a.m. when he ran into a pole. Afterward, Officers Jason Cotterman and Sgt. Richard Sulfsted concealed Mitchell from witnesses, helped him get home and did not fully investigate the accident, according to charges pending against them in Hamilton County Municipal court.

Sulfsted was the supervisor on duty at the time. 

Both Cotterman and Sulfsted face multiple counts of obstructing justice and dereliction of duty. They’re expected in court July 16. Mitchell faces charges in relation to the accident, including reckless operation of a motor vehicle.

“Resulting from an internal Cincinnati Police Department investigation, three Cincinnati Police officers have been arrested and had their police powers suspended pending the outcome of court proceedings, which are now underway,” City Manager Harry Black said in a memo released today.

The memo reveals that the incident was reported to CPD’s internal investigation unit the next day, and that law enforcement officials and prosecutors have reviewed the case for months.

The accident and subsequent cover-up charges raise questions that have yet to be addressed as Cincinnati Police continue their investigation, including the nature of Mitchell’s activities that night along West McMicken Avenue, his fellow officers’ motivations for the alleged cover-up and why Mitchell has remained on the force following other questionable situations in his past service.

Police haven't responded to multiple requests for comment on the charges, and a voicemail box for CPD's public information office is full, according to an automated message. CityBeat has filed public records requests for more information on the incident.

Mitchell's shooting of Hebert in 2011 was controversial, causing a number of protests and investigations in Cincinnati. The shooting also led to a 2012 wrongful death lawsuit against the Cincinnati Police Department. That lawsuit claimed Hebert was complying with instructions given by an investigating officer when he was shot and killed by Mitchell in Northside. The suit also claimed excessive force was used and that Mitchell “acted intentionally, recklessly, wantonly, and with deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of Mr. Hebert.”

Mitchell shot Hebert after officers responded to a 911 call around 3 a.m. alleging that Hebert had robbed and assaulted an intoxicated man with a pirate sword. Hebert was located sitting on a sidewalk on Chase Avenue about 10 minutes later. During subsequent questioning, officers say Hebert drew a knife and moved toward an investigating officer, causing Mitchell to believe the officer’s life was in danger. Mitchell shot Hebert twice, killing him.

Independent and police investigation into the shooting found that responding officers, including Mitchell, got too close to Hebert and did not have a plan for engaging him, a violation of CPD procedure. Reports show that responding officers barely spoke with each other about the situation before engaging Hebert. Despite the fact he didn’t follow procedures, three internal investigations cleared Mitchell of wrongdoing. 

That wasn’t the only controversial incident involving Mitchell, however. In January of 2008, he was the subject of a civil rights suit after he allegedly used a taser improperly against a teenager. Mitchell allegedly tased Christopher Bauer from his police cruiser after he asked Bauer to stop. However, the teen was wearing headphones and a hoodie and didn’t hear the command. Bauer’s suit says he fell face forward and sustained substantial injuries during the incident. Mitchell was eventually placed on a 40-hour suspension after exhausting appeals within the department’s disciplinary system.

CityBeat will update this story as more information becomes available.
by German Lopez 02.04.2014
Posted In: News, Science, Police, State Legislature at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City to add more cops, evolution “debate” today, Winburn considers State Senate race

Mayor John Cranley, Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and other city officials yesterday announced a police plan to put more cops on the streets, focus on “hot spots” of crime, restart the gang unit and reach out to youth. Blackwell acknowledged more cops alone won’t solve or prevent the city’s heightened levels of violent crimes and homicides, but he said changing the level of enforcement through new tactics, such as hot spot policing, could help. A lot of research supports hot spot policing, although the practice can sometimes backfire, as “stop and frisk” did in New York City, if it targets minorities.

Bill Nye the Science Guy today will debate Creation Museum owner Ken Ham. The debate will focus on evolution, which is overwhelmingly supported by science, and biblical creationism, which has no scientific evidence to support it. The debate will be streamed live here.

Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn is considering a run for the Ohio Senate. Winburn would run in the heavily Democratic 9th Senate District. So far, there are two likely Democratic opponents: former Councilman Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Dale Mallory. The seat is open because State Sen. Eric Kearney, the Democratic incumbent, is term limited.

Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel might get two Democratic opponents in this year’s election: Sean Feeney, a North College Hill resident who already filed, and potentially Paul Komerak, a member of the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s executive committee. If both Komerak and Feeney run, they could face off in a Democratic primary.

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved tax credits for Tom + Chee to entice the grilled cheese and tomato soup chain to keep its headquarters downtown as it expands nationally. Councilman Kevin Flynn questioned whether tax breaks should be given so leniently, but other council members argued the tax deals keep jobs in the city.

City Council might structurally balance the budget and fix the underfunded pension system to stabilize Cincinnati’s bond rating.

The Ohio Senate is still mulling over ways to repeal Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. CityBeat covered the standards in greater detail here and here.

Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper wants to reform how the state picks outside law firms to avoid appearances of pay-to-play that have mired Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine. A previous Dayton Daily News investigation found firms lobbying for state assignments contributed $1.3 million to DeWine’s campaign.

Attorneys for the Ohio inmate next scheduled for execution asked for a stay to avoid a “lingering death” similar to the 26-minute, seemingly painful execution of Dennis McGuire. CityBeat covered McGuire’s execution and the concerns it raised in further detail here.

Enrollment in Ohio’s public colleges and universities dropped by 2 percent in the latest fall semester.

Ohio gas prices ticked up at the start of the week, but the lowest average was in Cincinnati.

Scientists claim space-grown vegetables are safe to eat.

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by German Lopez 02.03.2014
Posted In: News, Police, Mayor at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
cpd more cops

City Unveils Plan to Add More Cops

Proposal shifts enforcement to overtime, hot spots and youth outreach

City officials on Monday announced a new public safety initiative that promises to put more cops on the streets, focus on “hot spots” of crime, restart the gang unit and do more to reach out to youth.

The comprehensive plan comes after a rough start to the year, with homicides and violent crime ticking up even as the weather remains cold.

Among other initiatives, the plan will add more cops on the ground through new hires, more overtime and a new recruit class — the first since 2008.

“The message to people is that help is on the way,” Mayor John Cranley said.

The plan will come at higher costs to an already-strained operating budget. Cranley said the Cincinnati Police Department set aside nearly $1 million for the proposal through June, while the remaining $5.6 million should be funded in the city’s $370-plus million operating budget.

When asked whether initiatives like the one announced Monday will hurt the budget, Cranley reiterated his long-standing position that public safety takes top priority in the city budget.

Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said the refocus intends to prevent, not just solve, crimes. He acknowledged more cops alone won’t end the citys crime problem, but he argued increasing the level of evidence-based enforcement — through new tactics supported by more cops on the streets — could make a difference.

Cranley and Blackwell cautioned the results might not be immediate, but they said it’s an important step to stop levels of crime local residents are clearly unhappy with.

Hot spot policing carries a high level of empirical support. In two different studies from Rutgers and the Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands, researchers argued the strategy doesn’t always displace crime; it can also prevent crime by deterring and discouraging future incidents in hot spots and surrounding areas — what researchers call a “diffusion” of benefits.

But the concept also needs to be executed carefully. In New York City, “stop and frisk” became a fairly unpopular type of hot spot policing after some reports found the strategy targeted racial makeups in neighborhoods more than levels of crime.

Of course, better policing isn’t the only way to combat crime. As two examples, lead abatement and ending the war on drugs could prevent violence by reducing aggression and eliminating a huge source of income for drug cartels.

This story was updated to include more information from the city managers memo.

by German Lopez 02.03.2014
Posted In: News, Police, Drugs, 2014 election at 08:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
jeffrey blackwell

Morning News and Stuff

City to add more cops, bill enables needle exchanges, Portune drops gubernatorial bid

Mayor John Cranley, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell and several other local leaders expect to announce a $1 million plan to add more cops, including a new recruit class, to help fight a local rise in homicides and violent crime. Besides the additional officers, the plan will also restart a unit focused on gangs and put more emphasis on "hot spots" of potential crime. The announcement follows a rough start to the year that's already experienced higher-than-normal levels of violence. CityBeat will cover the announcement in further detail as the news breaks.

A bill in the Ohio legislature could enable more clean needle exchanges. The bill wouldn't supply state or federal funding, but it would let any local health authority establish a syringe-exchange program without declaring a health emergency. Although some conservatives take issue with providing needles to drug users, officials say the program in Portsmouth, Ohio, cut countywide hepatitis C rates, nearly eliminated the number of needles found in parks and on sidewalks, and provided addicts a legally safe resource for help. CityBeat previously covered attempts to establish a local needle-exchange program in further detail here.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune on Friday officially dropped his long-shot bid for governor. Although Portune received a lot of attention from local media, he never mounted a credible campaign and drew harsh criticisms from fellow Democrats, who accused Portune of complicating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald's campaign against Republican Gov. John Kasich.

While some in the media focus on the horse race and fundraising goals, political scientists say partisan ties, national politics and the state of the economy play a much bigger role in deciding elections.

Southwestern Ohio should expect light snow today and a winter storm tomorrow.

Young women who take the HPV vaccine are not more likely to have sex or take part in unsafe sexual practices, a study from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found.

Denver Broncos fans yesterday got a taste of what it's like to support the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.

Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent drug overdose.

January birthed a few cute zoo animals.

A study found 1,300 airborne microbes in Beijing's smog.

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by German Lopez 01.07.2014

Morning News and Stuff

State cuts hit local budget, police explain homicides, Democratic primary heats up

If it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments, Cincinnati might not face an operating budget gap in 2015. The city has lost roughly $26 million in annual state aid since 2010, according to city officials, while the budget gap for 2015 is estimated at nearly $21 million. The reduction in state aid helps explain why Cincinnati continues dealing with budget gaps after years of council-approved spending cuts and tax hikes. Still, some council members argue Democratic council members should stop blaming Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature for the city's problems and face the reality of reduced revenues.

Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department yesterday explained the local increase in homicides to City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee. Police officials said gang-related activity, particularly activity related to the Mexican drug cartel that controls the heroin trade, is to blame for the spike in crime in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati. In particular, it appears disruptions in criminal organizations and their territories led to turf wars and other violent acts. Police also cautioned, "Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature."

The Democratic primary election for governor heated up yesterday after Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune called Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald's commitment to blacks "appalling" in an email obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Prominent Democrats at the state and local level responded to the criticisms as more evidence Portune shouldn't continue to run and threaten Democrats' chances of a clean gubernatorial campaign. Portune announced his intention to run last week, despite calls from top Democrats to stay out of the race.

Cold weather led many area schools to close for another day. For developing weather information, follow #cincywx on Twitter.

The weather also slowed down streetcar construction.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld: "Five Lessons From Cincinnati's Little Engine That Could."

The Cincinnati Board of Education chose its veteran members to head the school board in 2014.

Cincinnati-based Citigroup, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Humana and U.S. Bank gained perfect scores in the Human Rights Campaign's index for gay-friendly companies.

About 34 percent of Ohio third-graders could be held back if they do not improve their scores on the state's reading assessments. The chairs of the Ohio House and Senate's education committees argue the aggressive approach is necessary to improve the state's education outcomes. But the National Association of School Psychologists found grade retention has "deleterious long-term effects" both academically and socially.

Kentucky is spending $32 million for substance abuse treatment to tackle the heroin epidemic.

Ohio Democrats named a new executive director for the state party: Liz Walters. The Silver Lake, Ohio, native began her political career with the Girl Scouts when she worked for the organization as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

Typically allies on other issues, liberals and the scientific community disagree on genetically modified crops.

A pill normally taken as a mood stabilizer could help people acquire perfect pitch.

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by German Lopez 01.06.2014
Posted In: News, Police, Guns at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
jeffrey blackwell

Police Explain Local Increase in Homicides

Gang-related activity driving increase in violence, according to police

Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department testified in front of City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee Monday to address the local increase in homicides.

The city’s homicide rate hit 25 per 100,000 residents in 2013, compared to the U.S. rate of 4.7 per 100,000 in 2012, following a spike in homicides in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati, according to police statistics.

“The concern has been the sheer number of homicides we experienced in 2013 and the number of juvenile victims we had this year,” said Assistant Chief Dave Bailey.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman also highlighted the high levels of black-on-black crime, which Chief Jeffrey Blackwell agreed are unacceptable across the country.

“My fear is that my son, who’s African-American … is going to be killed by another African-American,” Smitherman said. “That’s what those stats are saying.”

The key driver of the increases, according to police, is gang-related activity, particularly activity involving the Mexican drug cartel that controls the heroin trade.

“If our theory is correct, most of these homicides involve narcotic sales, respect and retaliation,” Bailey said.

Chief Blackwell explained the increase in homicides appears to be particularly related to disruptions in criminal organizations and their territories.

“Criminal territories have been disrupted, and we’ve seen an increase in turf wars and neighborhood situations between young people,” he said. “Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature.”

Councilman Kevin Flynn asked what council could do to help remedy the situation.

“We are significantly short of police officers, so we desperately need a recruit class,” Blackwell responded. “We need to improve our technology platform here in the police department.”

Blackwell cautioned that there’s not a direct correlation between more police officers and less homicides, but he said another recruit class could help the city meet basic needs.

Flynn claimed council is very willing to meet those needs, given the importance of public safety to the city’s prosperity.

“If we’re not safe and we don’t have the perception that we’re a safe city, none of the rest of the great things we do as a city are going to help,” he said.

How council meets those needs while dealing with fiscal concerns remains to be seen, considering Mayor John Cranley and a majority of council members ran on the promise of structurally balancing the city’s operating budget for the first time in more than a decade.

City officials have vowed to avoid raising taxes and cutting basic services, which makes the task of balancing the budget all the more difficult. Advancing promises of more spending for the police department further complicates the issue, even if it’s politically advantageous in a city seriously concerned about public safety.

Cincinnati Police will hold several town hall meetings in the next week to hear concerns from citizens. The meetings will span across all local districts:
• District 2: Jan. 7, Medpace, Inc., 5375 Medpace Way.

• District 3:
Jan. 8, Elder HS Schaeper Center, 3900 Vincent.
• District 1 and Central Business District:
Jan. 9, River of Life Church, 2000 Central Parkway.
• District 5:
Jan. 13, Little Flower Church, 5560 Kirby Ave..
• District 4:
Jan. 14, Church of the Resurrection, 1619 California Ave.

Correction: The local homicide rate for 2013 was 25 per 100,000 residents, contrary to the 15.5 per 100,000 rate cited by police officials to City Council.