Hey Cincy! It’s news time.
The city of Cincinnati will forgive all but $100,000 of the nearly $300,000 Mahogany’s owner Liz Rogers owes the city for her defunct restaurant, which closed its location at The Banks last September. City Manager Harry Black proposed the plan, which would require Rogers to make $800 monthly payments, in a memo to Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati City Council yesterday. Meanwhile, Rogers announced today that she is planning two new ventures to help her make those payments: a gourmet ice cream business and a food truck. Rogers was given the loan in 2012 to bring her soul food restaurant to The Banks. She quickly fell behind on her loan payments, however, a fact she attributes to a lack of promised amenities, including a new hotel, at the riverfront development.
• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld could face a state investigation into his campaign finances after it was revealed he filed a report for his council campaign fund six months late. The report was due last July, but Sittenfeld didn’t file it until January. The Hamilton County Board of Elections is looking into the violation and could send it on to the Ohio Elections Commission. If the state commission finds Sittenfeld did violate campaign finance rules by turning in his report late, it could assess a fine of $100 for every day the report was late — which would mean Sittenfeld could owe as much as $18,000. Depending on the reasons for the delay, the commission could also decline to assess the fine or fine Sittenfeld a lower amount. The potential investigation could complicate the 30-year-old councilman’s bid for the Senate. Sittenfeld is currently in a primary race against 74-year-old former Ohio governor Ted Strickland for the Democratic nomination. The winner will go on to challenge sitting Republican Senator Rob Portman.
• Christopher Cornell, the Hamilton County man suspected of making plans to carry out terrorist acts in Washington D.C., will keep his access to a phone in the Boone County Jail where he is being held. Prosecutors have tried to keep him from having access to the phone, but a federal judge yesterday ruled that restricting Cornell’s access could keep him from planning his legal defense and also compromise his psychological health. Cornell is currently being held in isolation. So far, Cornell has only used the phone to call his lawyers, his family and, in one instance, the media. Cornell called FOX 19 and spoke to Tricia Macke for an hour, during which he claimed that if he hadn’t been arrested in January, he would have gone to Washington to carry out terrorist attacks. Recorded phone records show Cornell hasn’t used his phone access to attempt to reach out to others who might engage in terrorist acts.
• The Ohio Board of Education could vote soon on eliminating the so-called five of eight rule, which currently requires schools to have at least five of eight specialty staff members including art teachers and librarians. A legislative review board yesterday cleared the possible rule change, setting the board of education for a vote on eliminating the staffing requirements at its next meeting April 13 and 14. The proposed rule change has been very controversial; education advocates and other foes say it will disproportionately affect low-income students, whose districts are often strapped for cash, by allowing schools to eliminate art, music and other classes. Advocates for the rule changes say they want to give schools more discretion on how they spend their money.
• Taxpayers paid $3,400 for Ohio Gov. John Kasich to fly to Washington earlier this month for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, the Associated Press reports. The funds went toward hotel rooms, airfare and parking for the Republican governor and two staff members. That’s perfectly legal, but it also means taxpayers picked up the bill for Kasich to attend a highly partisan event. The speech, in which Netanyahu harshly criticized President Barack Obama for his policy toward Iran, was controversial, playing on a growing divide in Congress and in American politics in general. The GOP invited Netanyahu to speak but didn't give the White House a heads up beforehand. More than 50 top Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, did not attend the address, which was given to both House and Senate members.
• So it’s very little surprise that the University of Kentucky is the team to beat this year in the NCAA basketball tournament. This pretty insightful breakdown from the New York Times’ Upshot blog, however, gives you some nice pointers as to whether you should go with the favorites or pick an underdog. While you’re thinking about March Madness, pick up our issue this week, which has a great preview of all the hoops craziness. Because I’m not a statistician, sports fan or gambler, I always vote for our local teams until they inevitably lose, but hey, one of these years…
• Finally, this is unsettling to me, but maybe I just need to get more comfortable with the glories of late-stage capitalism already. A new company that lets you put your own face on action figures and dolls is coming to Cincinnati. AvaStars, which already has stores in Chicago and St. Louis, will soon open at Kenwood Towne Center. The store will allow children or really anyone for whom selfies are no longer gratifying enough to put their own faces on figurines, as well as appear in a customized video. Like I said, in the age of incessant social media self-branding, there’s something weird about this to me, but hey, I’m trying to be more positive this week, so let’s look at the upsides. This could be huge for a kid’s self-esteem and ability to envision their future — picture a lot more female scientist dolls, maybe, or other possibilities that undermine the constant drumbeat of oppressive normative messages most toys send to kids.
Morning y’all! I’ve been out of the morning news loop working on long-term projects but I’m back and ready to nerd out on some news. So let’s do it.
Twitter is all abuzz this morning with the news that the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority has approved plans to build a bike path on the Oasis Line near the Ohio River on the city’s East Side. That’s big news — as our feature on the potential Oasis path last month explored, completion of a bike trail there brings Cincinnati closer to a network of statewide trails and also makes biking from the East Side to downtown a possibility. SORTA controls the right of way on a set of tracks that will need to be paved for the bike path to be built. The Indiana-Ohio Railway company, however, voiced opposition to the plan, citing safety concerns and plans to expand its business in the area. The company owns tracks running just seven feet from the unused line the bike path would occupy.
• Will Pete Rose get reinstated into Major League Baseball, clearing the way for his induction into the Hall of Fame? It could happen, but the road facing Charlie Hustle is still a long one. Rose recently applied for reinstatement with new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who expressed openness to a conversation about letting Rose back in after taking baseball’s top position in January. Manfred has acknowledged he received Rose’s request but hasn’t tipped his hand about whether or when the hit king might be reinstated. Rose, baseball’s all-time hits leader, received a lifetime ban from baseball in 1989 after he was investigated for betting on the game while he was a player and coach. Rose denied the allegations until 2003, when he publicly admitted he did bet on games.
• Two members of Cincinnati City Council would like to spend $9 million to revamp a 20-acre park in Mount Auburn while also improving the area around the park on Auburn Avenue for pedestrians. Inwood Park sits along Vine Street on the western edge of the neighborhood between uptown and downtown. Councilmen Charlie Winburn and Chris Seelbach would like the city to invest $5 million in the park over the next two budgets in a plan they unveiled before council’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting Monday. The hope is that investment would help increase momentum on new development in the neighborhood, which has just begun to pick up. Developers Uptown Rentals and North American Properties plan to invest nearly $100 million in Mount Auburn in the near future, including the construction of 400 units of market-rate housing and tens of thousands of square feet of office space.
“As we’ve seen with Washington Park, these dollars do more than beautify our neighborhoods,” Seelbach said in a news release yesterday. “Inwood Park will become a destination in Uptown, drawing families, students and neighbors to spend time together, enjoying our city.”
I walk through this park all the time and think it’s pretty epic. The motion met with mixed reactions from the rest of the budget and finance committee, who are hesitant about the expenditures without reviewing the plan with the Parks Department and considering other uses for the money.
• Gov. John Kasich met Monday with the Ohio Taskforce on Community-Police Relations to discuss the group’s ongoing work. Kasich convened the task force in December in the wake of controversy over the shooting deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers, including Tamir Rice in Cleveland and John Crawford III in Beavercreek. The 18-member group made up of lawmakers, experts, law enforcement professionals and community leaders held four listening sessions across the state, including a marathon five-and-a-half hour session in Cincinnati March 9. Now, the task force must compile the hours of expert testimony and community input into a report with recommendations for policy changes, which is expected to be released April 30. In the meantime, Kasich dropped by the meeting Monday to hear initial thoughts from the task force members.
One member, Oregon, Ohio Police Chief Michael Navarre, said that all of his training has informed him to shoot in dangerous situations, and that "there is a huge gap between what community and police want," according to Gongwer news service. Kasich has said changing training and procedures for officers could be one outcome of the task force’s work.
• Finally, are you following this crazy story about New York millionaire and property magnate Robert Durst? You should be. Durst is suspected in three murders over the span of nearly two decades, including that of his wife, one of his best friends and a neighbor. The thing is, he’s been a suspect for years and was even acquitted on grounds of self-defense for one of the murder charge even after he admitted to dismembering the man he killed. The HBO series Jinx has chronicled Durst and the suspicions against him, and, incredibly, Durst was arrested in New Orleans just before the show’s finale to face charges in L.A. for one of the murders. There are so many things to unpack about this situation — how money changes your relationship to the justice system, the weird looking glass of true-crime TV and real law enforcement colliding, Durst’s own strange background and on and on. Anyway, the whole story is worth reading up on and I’m sure we’ll be searching for answers to the questions Jinx raises for years to come.
That’s it for me. Tweet me (@nswartsell). Email me (email@example.com). Say hey when you see me at Findlay Market. Whatever you gotta do to give me those news tips or your thoughts on the weird world of true-crime docu-dramas.
Some interesting national/international coverage for Cincinnati.
The Onion's Weekender edition for March 15 — the special travel issue — spotlights "Cincinnati in Just 300 Days" on its cover. However, it somehow overlooked publishing the itinerary. Check out the comical cover here.
Meanwhile, the latest issue of The Economist — in its Prospero arts section — has a legitimate feature on the just-concluded MusicNow festival, featuring an interview with its founder, Bryce Dessner.
After this anniversary festival is over, Mr Dessner plans to take full stock of what it has achieved before deciding which direction to take with future programmes. "I always saw it as a ten-year thing so I'm not sure what happens next," he says. "What I do know is that we'll continue to champion cutting-edge, progressive programming and hope that people will continue to be inspired by that."
Read more here.
Ilene Ross: As a food writer, I get to spend a lot of time with chefs. Sometimes it’s work-related, and sometimes it’s not. Chef Jimmy Gibson and I meet for coffee regularly to catch up on world news, local gossip and of course food ideas. The surroundings aren’t fancy, our coffee shop of choice is Jimmy’s “office,” the back hallway off the kitchen at Jimmy G’s, but the coffee is good and strong, and the company is sublime. Thursday was off to a wonderful start.
Spring was in the air, so after a two-mile walk in Ault Park, I decided that lunch should be something fresh and light in order to match the mood of the weather. I’ve been meaning to give the new juice place in Hyde Park, The Weekly Juicery, a try. I ordered Two Roots and a Fruit — carrot, ginger and apple juice — and the teensiest salad comprised of jicama and kale I have ever seen in my life. I left feeling sticker shock at the $17 price tag and still starving. For the same price, I’ll stick to the lunch tray at Jean-Robert’s Table.
I love having friends in from out-of-town so I can show off our locally owned restaurants. On Saturday night I took a Chicago native to Nicola’s for dinner, and of course Chef Joel Molloy’s cuisine wowed the socks off of him. We had the Scallops with spiced fumet, celery root and scallions, the Roasted Beet salad with avocado, black quinoa and goat cheese, the Butternut Squash Tortelloni with speck and fregolotta, the Short Ribs with sunchoke, shiitake mushroom and sunflower seeds, the Duck with wild rice, lavender and sweet potato, and the most delectable pistachio sfoglia. The service was exceptional, and my friend was dually impressed. I, naturally, needed to be rolled home.
My friend Kelly is the consummate party giver. From her son’s first birthday party — an elaborate backyard shindig which turned out to be her own surprise (for us!) wedding — to opening up her home during a snowstorm for all to be wined and dined, every day for Kelly is a celebration of family, friends and love. Sunday was no exception. Afternoon Tea at The Cincinnatian is a truly elegant affair complete with pots of perfectly brewed tea, delightful little sandwiches, scones, pastries, Devonshire cream and of course cocktails. Yesterday, Kelly decided to get a group of her best girlfriends together to “take tea,” and thankfully I was included. It was the perfect way to relax and unwind after a busy weekend with a great group of ladies.
Nick Swartsell: My girlfriend and I went to Music NOW Saturday night, but we forgot to eat dinner beforehand so we just had some beers and ate a ton of that fancy chocolate they sell at Music Hall because you can do that kind of thing when you're grownups at a big grownup event and one of you is wearing a tie.
Jac Kern: I went to a friend's St. Patrick's Day party and tried a bunch of homemade Irish favorites: beef and potato stew made with Guinness, Irish soda bread, corned beef sliders, grasshopper brownies (they're green, OK?), plus plenty of Jameson. I think it's a definite sign of adulthood when you trade in kegs of green Bud Lite for a Celtic-inspired dinner (also when you're partying in West Chester), but don't worry, I still got pretty drunk. Sláinte!
Jesse Fox: I went to Chicago this weekend to see my friend’s band The Orwells play and I consumed a lot of strawberry vodka and High Life on Friday evening. On Saturday I went to The Chicago Diner for my only proper meal that weekend. I got the vegan Poutine, a chocolate and peanut butter milkshake and a Titanic BLT burger. The poutine was incredible and I kind of wish I would have just got two orders of that because the burger, although super filling, didn't have much flavor for being something made up a variety of grains and veggies.
Rebecca Sylvester: If you're 30-plus and want late night pizza but know you're going to have night terrors if you call Adriadico’s, there is a respectable solution for you: flatbread at Zula. They have a late-night “flatbread” menu (flatbreat is adult for pizza). I recommend the Bulgarian Feta. :)
Cross: A friend’s housewarming party in Pleasant
Ridge led my girlfriend and me to stop by Gaslight Café on the way, where we were met by many
people in full St. Paddy’s Day party mode. Gaslight has a super neighborhood
feel and the locals were plenty welcoming even if they were mostly shouting and
unabashedly dancing in very near proximity to our table. A girl asked us if her cell phone
was left at our table. It wasn’t but she found two quarters on the floor and a
guy with her asked me to hand him the green man suit sitting in the corner of
the booth, which I gladly passed along. Our burgers were pretty straightforward but I
tried an onion ring and it was better than I expected. Probably shouldn’t have
waited 15 or so years between eating them.
On Saturday, Aug. 8, the Blues Fest welcomes genre heavyweights Tab Benoit and Tommy Casto & the Painkillers (Friday performer Fish toured with Benoit and Castro last year on the Six Strings Down Tour), as well as Shawn Holt and the Teardrops (former backing band for the late, great Magic Slim; Holt is Slim’s son), to the Main Stage.
Tickets are available for just $20 each day or $33 for a two-day pass. Click here to get yours now. And click here to keep an eye on the schedule as the organizers announce more performers. Many of the local acts slated to appear at the festival will be determined at the 2015 Blues Challenge, which takes place June 7 at Germania Park.
One of my favorite Cincinnati artists is Rondle West, whose "assemblage sculptures" round up all manner of strange found objects (often toys) and adheres them, sometimes like appendages, to the surfaces of "host" objects. They can look like something ready to start walking or like shelving that has been attacked by miniature aliens. The finished work often has a monochromatic, other-worldly appearance.
I was hopeful his association last year with Miller Gallery would lead to a large, dramatic, high-profile one-person show, but it didn't. Now, the 2014 piece "My Date With Barbie" has turned up in an unexpected but welcome place, the front window of Electronic Arts at 1428 Race St. It's just the right touch of creative weirdness needed for an OTR store window, and it's great to look at its pinkness as other buildings reflect on the glass and add their own richness to the view. Definitely worth a visit.
A controversial effort to legalize the growth and sale of marijuana is one step closer to the November ballot. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today approved ResponsibleOhio's ballot summary language, or the description of its proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize pot but restrict growth to 10 sites owned by the group’s investors across Ohio.
“We are very happy with today’s news,” said ResponsibleOhio Spokesperson Lydia Bolander in a news release. “Voters deserve a thoughtful conversation on this important issue, and we are eager to continue this conversation in the coming months.”
DeWine initially rejected the group's ballot proposal over quibbles with its summary language. ResponsibleOhio tweaked its proposal, and now the initiative is ready for the ballot.
The group built its ballot initiative in the mold of Ohio’s successful 2009 casino legalization effort. Opponents, including other pro-marijuana groups, say that like the casino amendment ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would create a state-ordained monopoly on marijuana farms that mainly benefits the group’s investors. Other critics, including many conservative statewide officials, say the plan will increase drug use and crime.
In response to criticism from other pro-marijuana activists, ResponsibleOhio last month announced it was changing its proposition to allow private growth of small amounts of marijuana.
The group says its proposal will decrease the black market for weed, alleviate some legal injustices, save law enforcement money and increase tax revenues.
“Marijuana prohibition has failed,” Bolander said. “Black Ohioans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white Ohioans. Patients are denied access to treatments that could ease their suffering. And the state is wasting $120 million each year to enforce these bad laws.
Local ResponsibleOhio investors include basketball hall of famer Oscar Robertson, philanthropist Barbara Gould and venture capitalist Frank Wood. Cincinnati attorney Chris Stock is also involved with the group, helping draw up the language for the ballot initiative. Three of the proposed 10 marijuana farms would be in the Greater Cincinnati area.
Next, ResponsibleOhio will need to finish collecting the more than 300,000 signatures required to put the amendment on this year’s statewide ballot. The group has until this summer to do so.
Selena Reder, a former contributor to CityBeat's visual arts coverage, has curated the current Figurative Folklore exhibition at the City of Covington's gallery at 2 W. Pike St. It's devoted to six artists whose figural work tells a strong narrative. Particularly noteworthy at the show is the work of two artists who do three-dimensional work.
Ken Page brings a sense of fun an visual playfulness to his "Hole in the Wall," a sculpture that is like a small wall shelf. On that shelf a boy — carved and painted — has apparently cut a circle out of the painted "brick" wall behind him and is attempting to "roll" it away. It is not a kinetic piece, thus the necessity for those air quotes as the sense of movement is illusory. It's quite well done.
The absolute standout of this show is Stephanie Cooper — who has six pieces, some quite large. These are wood sculptures with added elements. I hate to call them carvings, as that implies folk art and these use folk art as a reference point to build from.
Her "He Who Sups With the Devil Needs a Long Spoon" features a dapper, well-dressed man at a dining table (he looks a bit like Ronald Reagan) holding a spoon. You can hand-crank the spoon to get some movement. And "Hermes" — a large piece with a height of 76 inches — is a scary wooden figure from whose head sprouts a tangle of twigs and roots, like a bird's nest.
Her other contributions, too, are good.
This show is on display through March 27. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. You may find a note on the door to call a city employee to come and unlock the place (a number is provided), but it's worth it. And the employee's office is just a short distance away — I waited at most five minutes for her arrival.
The Contemporary Arts Center will open its renovated lobby to the public Saturday after a members preview Friday night. The $1.1 million upgrade includes a new lounge area, a much-needed cafe and overall artsy facelift.
Local architecture and design firm firm FRCH Design Worldwide reimagined the interior space, which was under construction since Jan. 6.
The CAC's updated lobby features more seating and gathering spaces, a relocated welcome desk and, yes, more art. Previously exhibited mostly upstairs, artworks will now be displayed around the ground-level. Of course, the museum's excellent gift shop is still a part of the lobby, just more centrally located now.
Collective CAC, the museum's new cafe, comes courtesy Dustin Miller and Dave Hart of local favorite Collective Espresso. Located where the gift shop used to be in the corner of the lobby, Collective CAC will serve signature coffees along with breakfast, lunch and dessert items, plus beer and wine. Visitors can sit at communal tables or grab a drink at the bar.
The new CAC gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Monday, closed Tuesday and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday. Collective CAC will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday.
The CAC celebrated its 75th anniversary in May 2014.
For some musicians, their 9-to-5 is little more than a means to an end. Pizza and guitar strings don’t pay for themselves, after all. Others take pride in their work, both on stage and in the “real world,” but view them as two parts of a whole.
But for Jess Lamb, her twin identities as a musician and teacher are deeply intertwined. She works hard in both professional avenues and has put a large amount of effort into maintaining them, even during her post-American Idol influx of activities. It’s a balancing act with some unexpected complications that she is still learning to walk gracefully. But for Lamb, there is no other choice.
“I think that the public has seen me as a teacher and I don’t want my name to be tainted by this other persona, this other career, this other life. So I don’t want to be slosh drunk. I don’t want to be like Jim Morrison in my experimenting with life. But at the same time there’s a whole other vibe with playing in venues, playing in bars and it is very different from the teacher thing,” Lamb explains.
Before Idol, Lamb’s work as a musician and an ESL teacher were more easily separated. Nowadays, with the added exposure that Idol has brought to her and her late-night performances around town, she has had to go to greater lengths to protect the sanctity of both. A shot of Jameson may not be thrown back with the same careless abandon as a few months prior and photo ops are utterly devoid of the counter-cultural staples of, say, a middle finger or devil horns. This isn’t to say that Lamb was or is a reckless partier at night and a quiet bookworm during the day.
Rather, what happens at night can bleed into the daylight hours and her work in one aspect of life can’t compromise the other. She has to take into account who her new audience members may be and how they learned of Lamb. Being a teacher requires maintaining professionalism at all times. When a teacher is shown on national television, keeping that even-headed mentality all day and all night becomes even more important.
Considering all the time that Lamb has spent on her music after her Idol run, some may wonder why she doesn’t put the teaching on hold for the time being. Between the Idol recaps she does regularly for Fox 19 since leaving the show, the myriad interviews, the residencies at Japps in Over-the-Rhine and Jags in West Chester (as well as other shows), the studio work and all the other opportunities that have arisen, finding time for teaching is pretty much impossible at this point. In fact, Lamb has cut down her teaching work to roughly four hours a week, doing basic lesson planning and similar activities. But she still carves out time for her teaching for a very important purpose.
“I don’t do it for the money, it’s not sustaining me. I do it for my spirit. It’s for something that feels important, I don’t know that what I’m doing all the time feels important,” Lamb says.
She views being a teacher and an entertainer as two professions with two different contributions to society. Music and teaching both give something back to the community at large, but she feels that teaching impacts the public on a much larger scale. While singing in a smoky bar reaches a small amount of people, teaching has a much larger reach.
Ultimately, Lamb is a musician and teacher in equal measure. At this point, the music is taking more of her time, but she is determined to not let it take all of it.
“I don’t want to cancel out one or the other with a teacher persona that’s too square or a Rock star persona that’s too crazy and unstable,” Lamb says.
For Lamb, finding a mix of her two professions and passions is an ever-present struggle. When Idol rocketed her music to the forefront, she has had to constantly work to balance it out with activities that are equally as fulfilling. It hasn’t been an easy process by any means but one that she sees as absolutely necessary.
Just don’t be offended if she turns down a shot of whiskey next time you run into her in the Main St. district.
Nick Grever is checking in periodically with Cincinnati-based American Idol contest Jess Lamb about her post-Idol life. Check out previous "Beyond Idol Chatter" posts here. Visit jesslamb.com for music, show dates and more.
Good morning y’all. It’s the end of the week and the sun is out. Those are both good enough reasons to keep this news update short, so just the facts for you today.
Starting on a somber note, officials continue to investigate the death of Cincinnati firefighter Daryl Gordon, who fell down an elevator shaft while responding to a fire at an apartment building in Madisonville yesterday. Gordon was a 30-year veteran of the department. Two other firefighters and four residents where hurt in the blaze, which broke out early yesterday morning. Investigators are still trying to piece together exactly what happened to Gordon.
• Will you be able to walk around The Banks with an open beer in time for the Major League Baseball All Star Game in July? It’s looking increasingly possible. The Ohio House passed a bill allowing the creation of so-called “open container districts” this week. The proposed law could allow cities to designate specific areas where people can drink a cold one right out on the sidewalk. But the timeline is tight for would-be All Star Game revelers. The bill still has to go to through the state Senate and get Gov. John Kasich’s autograph. After that, the city could rush through designations for specific districts but would have to wait 30 days for them to take effect. The race is on.
• Three men who have wrongfully spent the past 18 years in prison may soon walk free thanks to efforts by the Ohio Innocence Project, which is based at University of Cincinnati’s College of Law. The Innocence Project announced yesterday that a Cuyahoga County Judge has thrown out the convictions of Derrick Wheatt, Laurese Glover and Eugene Johnson based on new evidence. The three will be released on bond and get a new trial. Their incarceration stems from the 1995 murder of Clifton Hudson, Jr. in Cleveland. Wheatt, Glover and Johnson who were nearby, were eventually arrested for the crime and convicted on the testimony of a single 14-year-old eyewitness. That witness later recanted her testimony and other evidence surfaced casting doubt that the three had a role in the crime.
• Ever been in a situation where you have to spend extended amounts of time the same room with someone who is competing with you for the affections of your crush? That’s probably how former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld will feel tonight when both attend and speak at the Ohio Democratic Party’s annual dinner. The two are currently going head to head in the party’s primary for the chance to take on incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman. Making things especially uncomfortable is the fact that Sittenfeld had signaled he wouldn’t continue with campaign if Strickland entered the race. But the city councilman gained some good fundraising momentum and has decided to stay in the contest. Most of the higher-ups in the Democratic party have backed his more experienced foe, but Sittenfeld has said he’s in it to win it. I really hope someone seated them at the same table.
• I mentioned a couple days ago that the Ohio House was mulling a fetal heartbeat bill that would ban abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That bill has now passed the House thanks in part to local state representatives Jonathan Dever of Madeira and Paul Zeltwanger of Mason, who both voted for the proposed law. The bill will now make its way to the state Senate, where it faces skepticism from some moderate Republicans. They say the bill wouldn't survive an inevitable legal challenge. Some supporters of the measure, however, say bring it on — they see the ensuing legal battle as a way to challenge the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision prohibiting abortion bans.
• Let's jaunt next door to the great state of Indiana where Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed into law yesterday a measure that prohibits the government from restricting religious freedom unless absolutely necessary. Critics of that bill say it could allow businesses to refuse service to people, including LGBT individuals, based on the business owner's religious beliefs. Pence says the bill will do no such thing, but that hasn't stopped backlash from forming. A number of businesses, including the NCAA, and even some religious groups have expressed reservations about the law, which takes effect in July. OK, let's leave Indiana now.
• News is happening in national politics. So much news. Well, really, political quasi-news that probably doesn’t actually make a difference but that we should pay attention to anyway because politicians are technically our employees and they haven’t really done that great of a job lately. One of the more interesting, and probably meaningless, stories on that front right now is that powerful Republicans in key primary states are saying that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who is so far the only presidential candidate to officially announce his campaign, has no chance of winning. A poll of 100 influential Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire found that not one thought Cruz had a chance at the nomination, let alone prevailing in the general election. That’s important because those states are big in the primary game. Winning them signals to other delegates and funders around the rest of the country that you’re a serious contender.
• The other big story in national politics is that the most powerful, and many would say infamous, Democrat in the Senate will retire after his current term. Sen. Harry Reid, who is currently the Senate minority leader, has been a thorn in the side of nearly every Republican in Congress. Reid is a bare-knuckle brawler of a legislator who pulled out just as many nasty tricks during his time as Senate majority leader as his counterpart in the House, Republican John Boehner has. Reid’s 10-year turn as majority leader ended last November when Republicans took control of the Senate, but he’s continued to be a force there. The 75-year-old’s term ends next year. Republicans are rejoicing, seeing a rare opportunity to take Reid’s seat as one of Nevada’s two Senators.
Carol, the drama about a romance between a younger and older woman in 1950s New York that was filmed in Cincinnati last spring, may have its premiere in May at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France.
Variety, which closely follows the film industry, yesterday published a speculative report about what may be appearing at this years Cannes, the world's most important film festival. It said, in part:
"Looking to represent North America in competition are [Todd] Haynes’ Carol, a 1950s lesbian love story starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and [Denis] Villeneuve’s Sicario, a south-of-the-border crime drama starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin. Slots may also be reserved in the official selection for Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, a science-fiction chase thriller starring Adam Driver and Michael Shannon, and Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees, a suicide drama starring Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe."
Based on a novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, Carol has impeccable credentials for Cannes. The director is Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I'm Not There), a producer is Christine Vachon, and it stars Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett and Oscar-nominee Rooney Mara. The film came here with the assistance of the Greater Cincinnati and North Kentucky Film Commission.
This year's Cannes Festival occurs May 13-24. The full official-selection lineup will be announced April 16.
Two shows on local stages are dealing with top-of-mind issues of race and urban living, one at the Cincinnati Playhouse, the other at Ensemble Theatre.
Last evening the Playhouse opened its production of Tracey Scott Wilson's Buzzer. Wilson is a playwright who's not afraid to get at prickly issues of contemporary life (read more here), and that's what she does in this piece that could be set in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine. (It's actually in New York City, but that doesn't make it less relevant.) Jackson returns to his onetime childhood neighborhood, once neglected and now trendy; he's black, girlfriend Suzy is white, and so is Jackson's troubled friend Don, out of rehab yet again and needing a place to stay. Their triangle is a toxic mix with a troubled past that's exacerbated by life in a neighborhood where black and white relations are strained. The Playhouse is offering talkbacks after each performance to discuss issues raised, and there will be a panel discussion focused on OTR's housing challenges here in Cincinnati on Saturday evening at 6 p.m. My take: This show is more about personal relationships that aren't entirely honest, even though there is constant conversation about "no secrets." The actors in this tense drama are vividly real, unpredictable and vulnerable; you'll feel like they're people you know. (Through April 19.) Tickets: 513-421-3888
The second show that's heating up conversations about race is ETC's staging of Dominic Morisseau's award-winning play, Detroit ’67 (reviewed here). While the story has a historical setting — the story of family aspirations and disappointments unfolds against the backdrop of the Motor City's race riots almost 50 years ago — it almost feels ripped from current news stories about unrest stemming from police brutality in Ferguson, Mo. Five actors portray some colorful and occasionally humorous characters from the era involving the family dynamic between a brother and sister who differ about making ends meet in a challenging environment. Motown tunes from the ’60s are the soundtrack for a story that's often painful but ultimately hopeful. (Through April 5.) Tickets: 513-421-3555
Know Theatre opens Hearts Like Fists tonight at its Jackson Street stage in Over-the-Rhine. Adam Szymkowicz's comic-book-inspired action adventure has some fine local actors as the Crimefighters, female superheroes who are out to stop Dr. X, on a mission to murder happy couples in their sleep using a deadly serum that goes straight to the heart. When the show was staged in New York in 2012, the New York Times called the show's comic hybrid of parody and punches "madcap" and "hysterical." That's what Know will be striving for, through April 25. Tickets: 513-300-5669
If you are interested in seeing actors, singers and dancers who are on their way to professional careers, you might want to catch Senior Showcases from the drama and musical theater programs at UC's College-Conservatory of Music. The drama majors, readying their piece for trips to Los Angeles (for potential TV work) and New York City, will perform today at 2 and 7 p.m. at Patricia Corbett Theatre. (Admission is free.) The triple threats graduating from the musical theater program offer their showcase twice on Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m. as they prepare to shine for Broadway producers and casting agents in New York next week. Admission is free but reservations are required: 513-556-4183.
Planning ahead? The popular touring production of The Lion King returns to Cincinnati where it's been a big hit twice, in 2003 and 2007. The magnificent musical about good overcoming evil and youth finding maturity opens on Tuesday for a four-week run at the Aronoff Center. (Through April 26.) Tickets: 513-621-2787
Music! Plays! Events with alcohol! Acrobats and Classical music! Gorilla suits!
FRIDAY 27MUSIC: SEBADOH
ONSTAGE: CIRQUE MECHANICSThe Cincinnati Pops presents Cirque Mechanics, an innovative show featuring aerialists, trapeze artists and contortionists performing alongside orchestral favorites from composers like Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Copland, Ravel and more. In a press release, conductor John Morris Russell describes it as a mix between Cirque du Soleil and the steampunk scene, with a huge titanium infrastructure placed before the orchestra that serves as the canvas for the entertainment. Additional fire performers, jugglers and magicians will also be at the event. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $25-$99; $10 children. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatisymphony.org.
EVENT: ART AFTER DARK AT THE CINCINNATI ART MUSUEM
The theme of this art-meets-cocktail-party event is “Cherry Blossom Bash.” Check out the museum’s Japanese art collection with hourly docent-led tours, and enjoy live music from The Happy Maladies (6:30 p.m.) in the Great Hall. Sushi and drinks available for purchase. 5-9 p.m. Free. Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, Eden Park, cincinnatiartmuseum.org.
ONSTAGE: PETER AND THE STARCATCHERIn Rick Elice’s loopy script (based on Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s novel about Peter Pan’s backstory), wordplay abounds, sometimes blowing by faster than the typhoon that comes upon ships on the way to Rundoon with three orphan boys to be sold into slavery. But this ensemble cast can manage wind speed as they narrate and perform the hilarious show — sometimes individually, sometimes together — but even more so as they race through delirious reinvention of the fairytale. Everything is performed both obviously and imaginatively, from levitating (at the close end of a seesaw plank) to a storm at sea to flying (with just the suggestion of motion, no wires — no “real” taking flight). Amusing costumes, a star field of 200 incandescent light bulbs and buckets of stage magic make it possible. Peter and the Starcatcher continues through April 4. $30-$85. Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mt. Adams Circle, Mount Adams, cincyplay.com.
Streets don’t get much meaner than those of Belfast back in 1971 as the British army all but occupied the territory, caught up in what amounted to terroristic street fights between Catholics and Protestants with few truly innocent bystanders in the middle. Everyone took sides, no matter how reluctantly. Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell), an anonymous soldier in the British army, trains hard but is no standout. Hook looks for all intents and purposes like a young Liam Neeson or a baby-faced soldier-boy of few words (think Clint Eastwood) who is simply waiting for the opportunity to prove himself in the theater of battle. And he certainly gets his chance when his unit, under the command of a rather green lieutenant (Sam Reid), receives orders to back up local police in a neighborhood search for weapons. Opens Friday. Read full review here.
SATURDAY 28EVENT: OVER THE MOON VINTAGE MARKET Rustic vases, crocheted tops, paint-chipped mirror frames and more will flood the Over the Moon Vintage Market this weekend. Shop a variety of vendors as you peruse various booth displays for vintage and urban goods, including primitives, furniture, garden items, artisan jewelry and unique feminine and bohemian style clothing. 4-9 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Free. Agner Hall at Lawrenceburg Fairgrounds, U.S. 50 and Hollywood Blvd., Lawrenceburg, Ind., facebook.com/overthemoonvintagemarket.
MUSIC: ELLIOTT BROOD WITH YOUNG HEIRLOOMS
When a band’s sound gets tagged as “Death Country,” you know something special is afoot. And Canadian trio Elliott Brood lives up to its advance billing in every conceivable way. Utilizing guitar, banjo, ukulele, bass pedals, kazoo, harmonica, keyboards, percussion and a sampler in acoustic and electric contexts, Elliott Brood has reimagined rootsy Country, Bluegrass and Folk in a twangy and bracing manner that suggests Old 97’s and legitimately deserves the designation of Canadiana.The trio’s latest triumph is Work and Love, released late last year to rapturous reviews, many of which cited it as the trio’s best album to date. No need to plan a long trip to see Elliott Brood; the best of the Great White North is coming your way. Free. MOTR Pub, 1345 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, motrpub.com.
EVENT: POP-UP CINCY CONCEPT CAMP
POP-UP CINCY, a monthly pop-up organization founded by local artist and designer Catherine Richards, invites creative thinkers and makers to participate in the second Concept Camp at an unused storefront in Corryville. Participants will brainstorm with peers from various sectors about effective ways to take their ideas from concept to completion in this one-day event. The space will feature an “idea wall” to pin project outlines and receive feedback from participants, as well as the opportunity to connect with those whose skillsets might help accelerate your plan. Work session: 1-4:30 p.m. (sign-up required); celebration: 5-7 p.m. Free. 3501 Burnet Ave., Corryville, facebook.com/popup.cincy.
CLASS: HOW TO BUILD A RAIN BARREL
Spring is slowly showing itself as the winter and its accursed snow melt away. As you plan to plant petunias, sunflowers, vegetables and more, consider the task of watering and the best practices to save money, go green and store water for a hot summer so your plants (and your wallet) won’t suffer. The Civic Garden Center hosts a DIY class on how to build and use your own rain barrel to collect free rain water to use for the garden. 1:30-3 p.m. Saturday. $10; free for Civic Garden Center volunteers. 2715 Reading Road, Avondale, civicgardencenter.org.
COMEDY: DC BENNY
Like his peers Jimmy Shubert and Rocky LaPorte, D.C. Benny is a talented veteran comic who received a nice boost by competing on last season’s Last Comic Standing. Well-known in the New York and L.A. comedy scenes, Benny has also written and performed extensively for various TV projects. He also functions as the producer and head writer for Jim Breuer Unleashed on Sirius/XM satellite radio. On stage he mixes jokes with storytelling, peppering them with several original characters. Showtimes Thursday-Sunday. $15-$17. Funny Bone on the Levee, Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., funnyboneonthelevee.com.
ONSTAGE: DETROIT ’67
Detroit ’67, making its regional premiere at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati this month, is not something to smile about — but it might be possible to feel good about the “tryin’,” even though 48 years later the backdrop of this story feels eerily familiar, perhaps leading us to ask if America will ever rise above such racially driven conflicts. The details behind the story of Chelle (Zina Camblin) and Lank (Bryant Bentley), a sister and brother hoping to build a secure future, are this: In late July 1967, more than 10,000 citizens of Detroit rioted. Police had raided a blind pig — an unauthorized after-hours hangout very much like the one Chelle and Lank have established in their family’s basement — where more than 80 patrons, all African-American, had gathered to celebrate the return of a Vietnam veteran. Detroit '67 continues through April 5. $18-$44. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, 1127 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, ensemblecincinnati.org.
SUNDAY 29FILM: MOON DUST Detroit-based painter Scott Reeder’s new Moon Dust is a sci-fi feature film with a one-and-a-half-hour running time. Moon Dust is about the denizens of a run-down tourist resort on the moon (called Moon World) who struggle to maintain enthusiasm at a time when the hip, wealthier travelers have all gone to Mars. With its deadpan tone, frequently improvised dialogue from non-professional actors (including Reeder, himself) and eccentric production design featuring color-saturated, patterned or monochromatic sets and oddball costumes and hairstyles, it very much is the work of a visual artist. 2 p.m. Sunday. Free. Cincinnati Art Museum’s Mary R. Schiff Library & Archives, 953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, cincinnatiartmuseum.org.
CHARITY: CINCINNATI GORILLA RUN
This Sunday don’t be surprised to find downtown resembling a scene from Planet of the Apes. Hundreds of runners dressed as our endangered primate relatives will be participating in the Cincinnati Gorilla Run 5K presented by The Gorilla Glue Company, which aims to raise money for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund. Gorillas found in the African mountains are close to extinction, and the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund is working to expand the program’s wildlife health and research center in Uganda. Registration closes at 5 p.m. March 28. Race opens at 9 a.m.; run starts at 11 a.m. $99.95 first-time gorillas; $40 and up for returning gorillas; $15 kid gorillas. Montgomery Inn Boathouse, 925 Riverside Drive, East End, cincinnatigorillarun.com.
ATTRACTIONS: MUMMIES OF THE WORLD
The Cincinnati Museum Center’s new once-in-a-lifetime exhibit, featuring real mummies and artifacts, some dating back as far as 4,500 years, is in its final weeks. Discover how mummies are created, where they come from and who they are in an immersive, multi-media display. Through April 26. Non-member exhibition-only tickets: $19.50, $17.50 senior, $12.50 child. Cincinnati Museum Center, 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate, mummies.cincymuseum.org.
Today, whenever the terms “remake,” “reboot” or anything like that pop up in terms of film or TV, people automatically assume the worst thing imaginable. While I won’t deny the fact that there have been several remakes that have been pointless, there have been a lot of remakes that have been very good and, in a lot of cases, have improved on a few aspects.
Now, I’m not claiming that the 10 I’m listing off are “better” than the original. Instead, these films (listed by release date in chronological order) are evidence that a remake is not an automatic seal of sucking.
The Magnificent Seven (1960, John Sturges)
I’m sure some of you saw this coming given what my first "Reel Redux" was about, but none the less this is still a pretty good film. A remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, this version doesn’t do too much different from the original film but it is still holds up through its fine acting, amazing music score and story.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964, Sergio Leone)
Another remake of a Kurosawa film, this time a remake of his film Yojimbo. In this film you see the foundations of Eastwood’s most famous screen persona, many of Leone’s trademarks and an awesome final duel. A good stepping stone for anyone wanting to get into Spaghetti Westerns.
The Thing (1982, John Carpenter)
Yes, believe it or not there are some good horror remakes, and this was one. John Carpenter’s remake of the Howard Hawks-produced The Thing from Another World ups the ante with the suspense and gore. This is not for the faint of heart. But it’s more than just a gore-fest — it’s a film with amazing suspense and atmosphere.
Little Shop of Horrors (1986, Frank Oz)
This music adaptation of the Roger Corman B-movie is a genuine delight and definitely improves on a few aspects of the original, mainly the special effects. That glorious Audrey II puppet is a testament to how great practical effects can be. Also, Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops is a perfect voice for Audrey II.
Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise)
This classic Disney animated musical actually has a lot in common with the 1946 French surrealist adaptation by Jean Cocteau. Both beasts have a similar design, both feature a castle of human servants that are also appliances, and both have a Gaston equivalent. But of course the animated version does do a few things differently, mainly musical numbers, funny side characters and, of course, being a cartoon.
Homeward Bound – The Incredible Journey (1993, Duwayne Dunham)
Here’s another Disney remake that proved its worth. A remake of the 1963 movie just called The Incredible Journey, this renditions seems to hold up for anyone because of the animals. All three have distinct voices and personas that make us love and root for them.
The Birdcage (1996, Mike Nichols)
A film by the late Mike Nichols and starring the late Robin Williams is a remake of a French-Italian film called La Cage aux Folle. With the combined comedic charm and brilliance of Williams and Nathan Lane, it’s no wonder why Nichols had a hard time holding his laughter during some of the scenes. My words won’t do it justice — you just have to watch.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003, Peter Jackson)
If we’re loosely defining the term remake, Jackson’s fantasy trilogy is technically a remake of Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (1978) and Rankin/Bass’ Return of the King. If you’ve seen those animated films then you can see why Jackson’s are usually the preferred versions. Jackson's films create an epic fantasy environment, they have an amazing film score and feature some awesome battle sequences.
3:10 to Yuma (2007, James Mangold)
Many hold the original 1957 film as a classic and it is, but Mangold’s version doesn’t try to duplicate it. Instead he goes the action route, and it does not disappoint. The gunfights are stunning throughout the film. Also, the chemistry between Christian Bale and Russell Crowe is stunning, and it also has a great villain performance from Ben Foster.
True Grit (2010, Ethan & Joel Coen)
My first two listed were westerns and so we end with two westerns. The Coen Brother’s version of the manhunt of Tom Chaney is truly phenomenal. The Coens stay close to the tone and style of Charles Portis’ original book by sticking to the dryer tone, keeping it less romanticized and “Hollywood.” And it features some trying fantastic performances from everyone.
Last night before photographer Roe Ethridge's FotoFocus Lecture at Cincinnati Art Museum, FotoFocus' Artistic Director Kevin Moore announced the organization is co-presenting a two-day symposium on photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's work with the Contemporary Arts Center on Oct. 23-24.
It will mark the 25th anniversary of CAC's presentation of The Perfect Moment, the retrospective of Mapplethorpe's work that prompted conservative elements — led by then-Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. — to pursue criminal charges for alleged obscenity. (Some of Maplethorpe's work in the show was sexually graphic.) A Hamilton County jury cleared the museum of all charges.
Specifics for the symposium have yet to be announced, although indications are speakers from around the country will be invited. Also not yet announced is what, if any, works by Mapplethorpe will be shown and in what context.
Information should go on on the FotoFocus site when firm.
A terrified-looking local 2-year-old has become something of an Internet sensation over the past week. In a funny photo with a cute story-turned-viral image, Quincy Kroner posed with two friendly looking garbage men in front of their truck (as he held his own mini garbage truck toy).
Pictured: Internet gold.
Dad and Northside resident Ollie Kroner, who’s no stranger to CityBeat, posted the photo on Facebook, saying, “Quincy's been waiting all week to show the garbage men his garbage truck. But, in the moment, he was overwhelmed in the presence of his heroes.” The photo was shared by friends and family, then their friends and so on until the image appeared prominently on Tumblr, Imgur, Awkward Family Photos, Huffington Post and ABC News.
Despite the sudden fame, Quincy continues to live a low-profile, tiny human life. Read more here. (Worth noting is the writer’s choice to drive home the point that “it started with a sticker chart” and to include the comment "Garbage men get swole as hell and are generally the greatest people around.")
Stock footage provider Dissolve created a “faux” TV trailer using only stock video, and it appears only slightly more generic that a CBS fall lineup.
Just in time for Mad Men’s final season premiere, AMC paid tribute to the show with a bench resembling the Don Draper silhouette logo that has become so iconic. The bench — which I really need them to mass-produce — was unveiled in front of the Time-Life building, which Sterling Cooper & Partners has called home in Mad Men universe since Season Four. Jon Hamm was profiled in GQ’s April issue, and the show’s leading man shared some advice given to him from a guy who knows what it’s like to portray an iconic TV character and then, suddenly, not — Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston.
"It's hard, man," Cranston told him. "It's hard to let it go. It'll hit you a couple of different ways at different times."
But before you get depressed thinking about all of Mad Men joining Walter White and the other characters in the big TV set in the sky, there’s still a whole (OK, half) season of Mad Men to obsess and drink over, starting April 5.
Serena Williams made her own 7/11 video a la Beyoncé.
Almost as good as the original and how cute is it when she stops dancing to let that old man walk by? Definitely needed more azz, though.
Goodbye Zuckerberg, hello Luthor! Jesse Eisenberg lost his curly locks to embody his upcoming role as Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Check out his TRANSFORMATION (he just shaved his head) here.
The cast of Pretty Woman the movie’s 25th anniversary with a reunion on the Today Show. While it has been quite a few years since the last good hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold movie, don’t count on a sequel. They say there will never be a Pretty Woman 2. At least some things are sacred.
With that being said, of course there’s new remake news this week.
Fox announced that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will return as Mulder and Scully in the network’s limited-series reboot of The X-Files.
The John Candy classic Uncle Buck is also getting a TV remake. Mike
Epps and Nia Long are set to star in the ABC comedy. (This isn’t the first time
Uncle Buck is getting the TV
treatment — there was a short-lived series of the same name in 1990). Until
then, go downtown and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face.
Some movies are getting turned into TV shows while some television series are getting reworked for the big screen. Finally, the Entourage movie trailer is here.
Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory? Reddit user Euchrid_Eucrow posted an in-depth analysis on the Barenaked Ladies song “One Week” (yes, you’re reading all of this correctly) in the Fan Theories subreddit. S/He argues that that song — an upbeat Pop-Rock earworm full of random bits of early-Millennium pop culture — is about a man who killed his girlfriend and is slowly going mad as he stays in a room with the corpse. Internet!
Here’s Sarah Jessica Parker throwing fifty shades of shade at Tom Hanks at a hockey game.
Forget Resting Bitchface —
Carrie Bradshaw’s got a very active bitchface.
Morning all. Are you as disappointed with the soggy gray awfulness outside as I am? Over the past few days I’ve been tuning up my bike, getting ready for spring. My plan was to get it out today and ride to work instead of walking. But this morning has been more kayak commuting weather, and since I don’t own a kayak, I’m working from home. Bummer. Anyway, let’s move on to news. This is the weekly City Council update edition, where I tell you about all the zany stuff our council members got up to yesterday.
First, council passed a resolution supporting marriage equality in the state of Ohio authored by Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay elected official.
“The protection and equality we want is no different than what everyone wants," Seelbach said, highlighting the ways in which his life with his partner are the same as any married couple’s. Seelbach also drew attention to the continued court battles being waged by Cincinnatians against Ohio’s gay marriage ban. Among them is Jim Obergefell, whose case against Ohio’s gay marriage ban will be tried in the U.S. Supreme Court next month. Obergefell is seeking to be listed on his late husband John Arthur’s death certificate. The two were legally married in Maryland.
“Our city could have fought us, as our state continued to do, but instead our city stood on the side of love with a message that is resoundingly clear: We welcome, accept and love everyone,” Obergefell said in a written statement read by a representative from LGBT rights group Why Marriage Matters.
Six council members voted for the resolution, with Councilman Charlie Winburn voting against it and two, P.G. Sittenfeld and Amy Murray, absent from the meeting for unrelated reasons. Winburn applauded Seelbach’s advocacy for the issue, but said he didn’t agree with its premise. Winburn has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage. Cincinnati joins several other Ohio cities, including Dayton and Columbus, in supporting marriage equality.
• More council stuff: our esteemed deliberative body yesterday rejected
another stab at a parking plan for Over-the-Rhine that would have
created 400 permitted spots around the neighborhood. The plan would have
cost residents in the area $109 a year, plus $5 each for guest permits.
Some council members, including Seelbach, said the
price is still a bit too high and probably not necessary to generate
the revenue needed. “I think we’re close,” Seelbach said. “This is close
to what we would support. But the annual permit at $109 is the highest
Vice Mayor David Mann said he expected the plan to pass.
“This continues to be a work in progress,” Mann said. “We’re very open to changes as we implement and see how it works … but I think it’s time to do something. It’s been in and out of committee for three months.”
• Council also named a whole block of Colerain Avenue in Camp Washington after John "Johnny" Johnson, who has been working at Camp Washington Chili in the neighborhood for a mind-boggling 64 years. That's pretty cool. The restaurant, which I have patronized many a late night after various shows, has received national accolades for its chili, which is awesome. Johnson's uncle started the restaurant in 1940, and he began working there in 1951after coming here from Greece.
• The road is long and difficult and every step is studded with obstacles. No, I’m not talking about an underdog team in the NCAA tournament, nor the plot of a Tolkien novel. I speak of the streetcar, which is facing yet another round of drama this week involving contracts for who will operate the transit system. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, tasked with finding employees to operate the streetcar, must choose between two types of bids: those from companies that will manage SORTA’s union employees and those that will hire their own. Democrats on council want SORTA to go the former route and consider only bids that rely on employees from the Amalgamated Transit Union, of which most of SORTA’s employees are members. A past effort by council to get more details about the bids in relation to this wish drew sharp rebuke from the Federal Transit Authority, however, which said that any attempt to change SORTA’s bid process could result in loss of federal funds for the streetcar. The feds provided more than $45 million for the nearly $150 million project.
"If confidentiality is not maintained,” wrote FTA attorney John Lynch in a Monday letter to SORTA, “that presents risks to the process and increases potential exposure to protests and legal action from the proposers. The council's proposed changes to the procurement process could be perceived as giving preferential treatment to one contractor over another."
Now a new motion proposed yesterday by most of council’s Democrats would direct SORTA to only consider bids in which SORTA employees are used to run the streetcar. That motion needs two more votes and isn’t binding — it’s asking, not telling, SORTA to hire ATU employees. That motion also leaves maintenance personnel out of the equation, which is important because that’s a sticking point in negotiations between SORTA and the ATU on what using union workers would look like. The two are tangling over a few specialized maintenance positions that require particular electrical engineering training. The ATU says whoever does those jobs should be union members; SORTA says it has the right to hire outside workers for those positions. Phew. So there you have it. Bids for operating the streetcar are due at the end of the month, and SORTA’s board will vote to award the contract in July.
• Here’s a completely unsubstantiated, unscientific observation: People named “Woody” seem much more apt to support legalization efforts for marijuana. First there was Woody Harrelson, and now we have Taft Broadcasting Co. Development Director Woody Taft. Taft and his brother Dudley are among the funders of an ongoing effort by ResponsibleOhio to get an Ohio constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana on the November ballot. The Tafts are just a couple of the big names in town who have invested in the legalization scheme, which would legalize production and sale of marijuana but limit commercial cultivation to 10 legal growers. That dimension of the provision has raised ire from other pot legalization advocates. ResponsibleOhio has modified its proposal to allow for home growth of small amounts of weed, but those growers would not be allowed to sell their products.
The Tafts would be part owners of a marijuana cultivation farm proposed in Butler County should the ballot initiative pass.
“Our current laws are archaic and cruel to the people in Ohio who need medical marijuana,” Woody Taft said in a statement sent out by the pro-marijuana group.
• Finally, eight protesters were arrested outside House Speaker John Boehner’s Washington office yesterday. No, they weren’t up in arms about his continued efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or his moves to stymie Democrats’ immigration reform agenda. Nor were they there staging an intervention for Boehner’s all-too-evident tanning bed addiction.
Instead, they were all riled up about the fact that Boehner and other congressional Republicans haven’t moved fast enough on a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. The House was set to vote on the bill way back at the beginning of the year, but some moderate GOPers balked at the ban because it required a woman to report her rape or incest to law enforcement in order to qualify for an exception to the proposed law. Members of the Christian Defense Coalition, who were the protesters praying outside of Boehner’s office, say his failure to push that bill through is a “betrayal” of the pro-life cause. Boehner’s office shot back that he’s the most pro-life speaker in history, which seems a hard claim to fact-check considering abortion was illegal for much of our country’s history.
That’s it for me. Tweet me. Email me. You know the drill.
Former Cincinnati-based (now Austin, Texas headquartered) band Heartless Bastards have announced the release of its fifth album, Restless Ones, on the Partisan Records imprint on June 16. It’s the band’s first new full-length since 2012’s acclaimed Arrow, the group’s debut for Partisan. (The band took local group Wussy on tour after Arrow's release.)
The Bastards, who recently opened some arena concert dates for Rock music legend Bob Seger, also announced a string of tour dates beginning in June that will bring them back to Cincinnati for a two-night stand at Woodward Theater. The band plays the newly remodeled/reopened Over-the-Rhine venue June 25-26 with opener Craig Finn (frontman for The Hold Steady).
A limited number of tickets for the Woodward shows are available starting today at noon through a special songkick.com presale. Click here for details.