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by Nick Swartsell 04.15.2016 20 days ago
Posted In: News at 04:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Developer Asks Historic Conservation Board to Delay Dennison Demolition Vote

Request comes as controversy swirls around proposed demolition

Attorneys for Columbia REI, LLC have asked the city's Historic Conservation Board to delay a vote on their request to demolish the Dennison building at 716 Main St. downtown.

The demolition request is on the board's upcoming Monday meeting agenda, but the developers have asked the board to table it and reschedule the vote.

That request comes after the city's Urban Conservator Beth Johnson issued a report yesterday that rejected the developer's claim thatit  cannot reuse the building and that restoring or preserving the building with result in a negative financial return.

Historic preservation advocates and affordable housing activists both have rallied around the building, which was designed by noted Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford's firm and, until five years ago, contained 114 units of single-room occupancy affordable housing. The Cincinnati Preservation Collective, the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, City Councilman Chris Seelbach and others held a press conference today outside the building decrying attempts to tear it down and calling for more affordable housing in the central business district.

The Dennison was the last of more than 20 downtown buildings containing such housing. The building was slated for redevelopment by Model Group for 63 units of permanent supportive housing to be operated by The Talbert House in 2013. However, that project fell through and the building was purchased by Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation affiliate CBD Holdings for $1.3 million that year. 3CDC then sold the building to Columbia, owned by the influential Joseph Automotive Group family, for $740,000 a month later. In filings to the Historic Conservation Board, attorneys for the Joseph family have indicated they purchased the property at least in part out of concern that supportive housing would devalue other properties it holds in the area.

It is unclear when the vote on the building will be rescheduled. Preservation activist Derek Bauman called the request by Columbia "shenanigans" and wondered if the vote would be rescheduled for a less-convenient time.

Columbia says the building is decrepit and unsafe, and says it would like to use the land it occupies as part of a large-scale development that would provide office space for an as-yet-undetermined Fortune 500 company.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.15.2016 21 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
rob portman

Morning News and Stuff

UCPD chief pushed traffic stops, misled investigators; Uptown could get major development project; Ark Park employees must sign religious statement

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

• A report released yesterday by the University of Cincinnati says that former UCPD chief Jason Goodrich pushed for aggressive traffic stops as a tactic for boxing out criminals from the neighborhoods around UC, then lied about that to investigators after the shooting death of unarmed black motorist Sam Dubose by UCPD officer Ray Tensing. Those enforcement techniques created what Goodrich reportedly called a “no fly zone,” which Dubose was in when he was pulled over for not having a front license plate in Mount Auburn. Goodrich and Major Timothy Thornton left UCPD in February. Tensing is scheduled to stand trial in Hamilton County Courts on murder and manslaughter charges in October.

• Cincinnati’s Urban Conservator Beth Johnson issued a report yesterday saying that developers seeking to tear down 716 Main Street, an 1892 structure built by the architecture firm of noted Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford, have not presented enough evidence to make their case. Owners Columbia REI, LLC — owned by powerful Cincinnati family the Josephs — have caused controversy with their request for permission to level the building, which sits in a historic district downtown. Johnson’s report notes that the owners seemed to have purchased the building with the intent to tear it down, and that there are other economically feasible uses for the structure that the owners didn’t consider. In documents Columbia filed with the Urban Conservation Board, which will decide the fate of the building Monday, the owners said they bought the building because they were concerned that planned permanent supportive housing there would decrease the value of other properties the group owns in the neighborhood. Columbia holds several parcels of land on the block, many of which also once held historic buildings. Columbia leveled some of those structures in the late 1980s, promising new buildings in their places, though today most of the parcels are parking lots. Columbia says it’s interested in using those plots, plus the Dennison’s, to build a headquarters for an as-yet-undetermined Fortune 500 company.

• Speaking of big developments, Clifton Heights may soon get a huge one. Developers M-G Securities, Nassau Investments and Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corp. are proposing a $75 million project at Vine and McMillan Streets on a now-vacant plot of land just west of Vine and south of Calhoun Street. That development could include a 195-room extended-stay hotel, 130 apartments, 350-400 space underground parking garage and an outdoor community area. The developers are calling it a potential gateway to Uptown neighborhoods.

• Are you a believer? You’d better be if you want to work for Northern Kentucky’s upcoming Noah’s Ark-themed park Ark Encounter. Workers seeking to fill the 300-400 food service and other jobs at the park will have to sign a form professing their Christian faith, founder Ken Ham says. That’s controversial because the park has wrangled with the state of Kentucky over a tourism sales tax rebate worth up to $18 million. It looks as though the park may get to have its cake and eat it too, receiving that tax break while also stipulating religious beliefs for its employees.

• U.S. Sen. Rob Portman had a nice visit yesterday with President Barack Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but says he’s still not going to push for a confirmation hearing for him or vote for him if there was one. Portman said he was impressed with Garland, but that Obama should not be allowed to nominate a Supreme Court justice in “a very partisan year, and an election year.” That’s an echo of talking points from other Senate Republicans, including Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said he will not hold a vote on Garland. Democrats have hit the GOP hard on what they say is a highly unusual, obstructive maneuver. The court has been down a justice since conservative firebrand Antonin Scalia passed away earlier this year.

• So, yeah, Democrat presidential primary contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debated last night, and as predicted in this spot yesterday, the gloves came off. There was shouting. There was tension. Memories of the cordiality of the first debate were nowhere in mind. As expected, Clinton lit into Sanders on gun control, his weakest topic among liberals. Sanders blasted Clinton on her relationship to Wall Street. You get the picture. This was the last scheduled debate for the two, giving both time to take a breather and work on some new material before the primary fight ends this summer. You can read more about the debate here.

I’m out. Laterrrr.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 04.14.2016 21 days ago
Posted In: News at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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City Report: Don't Demolish the Dennison

Urban conservator's report finds insufficient evidence for destroying historical hotel building

In the latest development on the ongoing drama surrounding the fate of the Dennison Hotel, which will be decided during a meeting on Monday afternoon, the city's urban conservator today sided with preservationists in recommending the Historic Conservation Board not allow the historical structure to be torn down

The city staff report, written by Urban Conservator Beth Johnson, refutes Dennison owners the Joseph family of the Joseph Auto Group's claim that they cannot reuse the building and that restoring or preserving the building with result in a negative financial return.

Some of the evidence the report cites is a lack of attempt by the owner to sell or lease the building to another buyer who might be able to restore or use the property; documents from the Joseph family that indicate it bought the property with the intention of demolishing it for redevelopment; and a structural engineering report that found the building could still be used for residential purposes after minor structural updates. 

The family purchased the building located at 716-718 Main Street in 2013 in part to block plans to turn the building into affordable housing, according to documents the family's legal team submitted to the Historic Conservation Board. 

The Historical Conservation Board is set to review the group's application for a certificate of appropriateness on April 18 at 4 p.m. The Joseph family says it would like to build an office complex for a Fortune 500 company where the building currently sits and on surrounding property it owns, though there is no agreement in place for any company to move there at this point. 
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.14.2016 21 days ago
Posted In: News at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Report: Former UCPD Chief "Untruthful"

Chief Jason Goodrich pushed aggressive traffic stops, then misled investigators, outside review says

The University of Cincinnati today released an independent report on its police personnel with details that give further context to the departure of its former police chief, Jason Goodrich.

The report by consulting company Exiger suggests Goodrich pushed for more traffic stops around UC and that he and UCPD Major Timothy Thornton were later "untruthful" about their knowledge of those stops. Stops increased by 400 percent during the year leading up to the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose by UCPD officer Ray Tensing, the report reveals, and those stops have been heavily disproportionate toward blacks.

"Five interviewees said that, at the start of Goodrich's tenure, he held one-on-one meetings with each UCPD officer," the report reads. "During these meetings, the Chief described his approach to proactive policing — namely, the areas around campus should be viewed as a 'box,' and UCPD would use traffic enforcement to 'stop' and root out anyone carrying drugs or guns, and individuals with warrants, in those zones. They were, according to the chief, to be effectively 'no fly zones,' through which, via excessive traffic enforcement, criminals would not want to drive."

In February, Goodrich and UCPD Major Timothy Thornton resigned from UCPD for then-undisclosed reasons. UC has promised a full slate of reforms to its department following DuBose's shooting death. The school fired Tensing, who is now charged with murder and manslaughter.

"In our initial interview, Chief Goodrich indicated that he was unaware of both the extent of, and motivation for, this substantial upsurge in stops," the report reads. "As Exiger learned from other interviews, the Chief had made similar assertions to several senior UC administrators at various times following the shooting. These assertions — both to Exiger and the administrators — could not be reconciled with interviews that Exiger conducted of sworn UCPD members, or with documents that Exiger had received by request pursuant to the Assignment. Exiger viewed this seemingly conflicting information as sufficiently troubling to bring the matter to the attention of the UC Administration, including the UC General Counsel."

After those revelations, the company set up interviews with UCPD personnel in late February. In those interviews, the report says, Thornton was also untruthful.

"During one of these first interviews, Major Timothy Thornton, Chief Goodrich’s second-in-command, made statements mirroring those of the Chief — that is, denying knowledge regarding the extent of, and motivation for, the sharp rise in traffic stops during the Chief’s tenure."

UC says it released the report in the name of transparency.

"Look across the country, around the world at what's happening here and the places where there are police-community relations problems and the way police agencies are responding," UC Vice President for Safety and Reform Robin Engel said, according to 12 News. "Look at Chicago, look what's happening in these places, that doesn't have to happen here. If there were mistakes then we need to understand what they were and we need to correct those problems and work with out community to make sure that we are policing in a way that they want to be policed. We need to move forward and are very transparent in a collaborative way. That's what we're trying to do here at the University of Cincinnati."

Goodrich joined UCPD in October of 2014. He previously worked as chief of police for Lamar University. Before that, he worked in Vanderbilt University's public safety office. Thornton joined the force in February 2015 and had also previously worked for Lamar University.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 04.14.2016 22 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
bill hayes copy

Ohio House Approves Bill Protecting Religious Expression in Public Schools

Bill would prevent teachers from marking off students' answers based on religious beliefs

The Ohio House passed a bill on Wednesday extending students' abilities to express themselves religiously in public schools. The bill will continue onto the Senate.

Students' religious expression is limited to non-instructional times like lunch periods and after-school activities. HB 425 would permit religious expression in the classroom and on exams and homework assignments, going so far as to prevent a teacher from punishing or rewarding a student's response that is based on his or her religious beliefs. 

Rep. Bill Hayes, a Republican from Harrison Township, introduced the legislation back in January. He says the bill is simply to clarify what is permitted for religious expression in public schools. 

"It seems that many school administrators, school boards, teachers, parents and even students are sometimes confused about the extent to which they may engage in religious expression in the school setting," Hayes said. "HB 425 seeks to address that very problem and respond to it."

Hayes previously introduced the same bill during the last legislative session, but the session ended before it made it to the House floor for a vote.

Rep. Michael Curtin, a Democrat from Columbus, brought up concerns about the bill from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, the only organization to testify against the bill in front of the House's Community and Family Advancement Committee in February. 

The ACLU said the language of the bill is too broad, possibly forcing teachers to have to choose between obeying the law and enforcing academic standards in the classroom. 

"If the assignment is on biology, human evolution, et cetera, and a student writes a paper on intelligent design or the Earth being 10,000 years old," Curtin said, "does the instructor have the ability to flunk that student for his paper being out of context?" 

Rep. Stephanie Howse, a Democrat from Cleveland, disagreed that public schools should be required to accommodate students' religious beliefs to the bill's proposed extent.

"When we send our children to public schools, it's an expectation and a right that each of our children receive an unbiased education," Howse said. "It is upon this educational foundation that our children can build their values and choose a route of expression." 

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.14.2016 22 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
clinton

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar budget stalls; Covington named most underrated Kentucky spot; House likely to miss budget deadline

Good morning all. Here’s a quick look at news today.

Do we have a streetcar budget yet? Not quite. Cincinnati City Council this week came so, so close to nailing down a first-year operating budget for the transit project, but stumbled in the last yard before the end zone yesterday in what can only be described as a headache-inducing last-minute meltdown. (I know because I’m one of the ones who ended up with a headache from watching it go down). The issue? Councilman Kevin Flynn, who joined the 6-2 vote for the $4.2 million first-year budget in committee, balked in the final voting yesterday, citing concerns about where contingency and startup funds for the project are sourced from in the budget. Flynn indicated that if his concerns are addressed, he’ll vote for the budget. Meanwhile, the budget passed 5-4, but Mayor John Cranley threatened to veto it. So back to committee it goes so Council can hammer out what will likely be the final details. The budget is due to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority at the end of the month. The streetcar is expected to start operations sometime in September.

• Council also wrangled just a bit over a motion to ban city-funded travel to North Carolina and Mississippi, both of which have recently passed laws many say are anti-LGBT. Those laws allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals and also stipulate that trans individuals must use restrooms assigned to their physical gender traits, not their identified genders. The ban wouldn't cover emergency travel to those states — say in case of a hurricane or terrorist attack — but would otherwise keep city officials and employees from going to the state. The legislation also asks city administration to begin courting companies to move to Cincinnati that have indicated they'll leave the states in question over the anti-LGBT laws. The motion, introduced by Councilman Chris Seelbach, passed 7-2. Councilmembers Charlie Winburn and Amy Murray voted against the travel ban.

• Quick. Name the most underrated place in Kentucky. Did you save Covington? You win… something. Anyway, travel website Thrillist.com agrees with you, giving props to the city’s bourbon bars, historic districts and art galleries. It also praises the Roebling Suspension Bridge and calls Covington a… hipster enclave… whatever that is. Of course, the first thing the site mentions is the wonderful view of Cincinnati, and the last thing it suggests is grabbing a slice of Goodfellas Pizza, which is a chain restaurant. It is headquartered in the Cov, though, so I guess it counts. Anyway, pretty cool.

• Remember that big fight over legalizing marijuana last year? Republicans were pretty dead-set against efforts to do so, but now some are trotting out their own plan. State lawmakers have introduced a proposal to legalize medicinal marijuana by 2018. Under the plan, folks over 18 could buy edible marijuana products, patches, oils and probably the good ole fashioned green stuff with a doctor’s prescription. Lawmakers say they’ll work over the next year to figure out who would be allowed to grow the crops, and within two years, Ohio could join 24 other states that have legalized medicinal use of the drug.

• Democratic presidential primary contenders Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will square off in their final scheduled debate tonight. The debate comes as Sanders has made some big gains — though probably not big enough — by capturing some primary and caucus wins over the past few weeks. Clinton still has a commanding delegate lead, however, and has a much more feasible path to the nomination. That means tonight’s debate could be a knock-down, drag out fight as the two make their respective cases with an eye toward New York primary voters, who will go to the polls next week. That means Clinton will likely have to explain her stance on Wall Street regulations, where Sanders has run squarely to her left. Sanders, meanwhile, will have to deal with some baggage he’s been carrying around about gun control, a big issue in the state and one of the few areas where Clinton is seen as more liberal. Stay tuned. It’ll get real.

• Finally, Republicans in the House of Representatives seem likely to miss a statutory budget deadline as they fight over various ideologically-charged proposals for the government’s financial blueprint. That deadline is tomorrow, by the way, and the House seems nowhere close to coming to an agreement that would both satisfy its most conservative members and stand any chance of passing the Senate. That’s a big embarrassment for House Speaker Paul Ryan, some say, who took the reins from former speaker John Boehner last year. Ryan, who has recently had to beat back speculation that he’s hoping to be a surprise candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, says he’s hopeful the House will come together around a spending plan soon. Failure to pass the plan is more of an embarrassment than a catastrophe at this point — Congress can still pass individual bills funding the various departments of government, and spending levels were set in a biannual bill last year — but by statute, the House must pass a spending plan every year. Republicans, including Ryan, have lambasted Democrats in the past when it has appeared that the spending plans won’t materialize on time.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.13.2016 22 days ago
Posted In: News at 04:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Council Passes North Carolina, Mississippi City Travel Ban

Travel boycott in response to anti-LGBT legislation passed in those states

Cincinnati City Council today passed a ban on non-essential city-funded travel to North Carolina and Mississippi today in response to harsh laws passed in those states allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals and prohibiting transgender individuals from using restrooms that match the gender they identify with.

The motion, presented by Councilman Chris Seelbach and passed 6-2, also directs the city to reach out to companies that have indicated they are leaving those states due to the laws to try and convince them to come to Cincinnati.

The laws, passed in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage, have been highly controversial and look likely to face challenges in federal courts.

“Regardless of who you are or who you love, you should be protected from discrimination,” Seelbach said. “Anti-LGBT discrimination is not a Cincinnati value, and this motion is in that spirit.”

Councilman Charlie Winburn had pointed questions about the motion. He and Councilwoman Amy Murray, both Republicans, voted against the effort.

Winburn asked what "essential travel" meant and what Seelbach hoped to accomplish with the legislation.

“In essence, this would ban city personnel traveling to the states of North Carolina or Mississippi for any business purpose that isn’t an emergency situation, which could be if we had to go to North Carolina to obtain a commodity or deal with an emergency," City Manager Harry Black said, answering Winburn's first question. "That’s a highly unlikely scenario.”

Seelbach threw out the idea of terrorist attacks or a hurricane as possible scenarios in which city travel to the states would be allowed. Sending emergency crews or assistance wouldn’t be off the table in those cases.

Winburn wasn't convinced.

“The problem I have with this whole ordinance is — it’s wrong to target transgender or gay people, but it’s also wrong to target Republicans," Winburn said. “In passing this motion today, what do you plan to accomplish?”

"I guess my only concern is that this motion will do what you intend it to do. If we could all search our hearts and learned to love each other, we wouldn’t have to be passing things like this. I don’t think the laws change anything."

Seelbach said the motion would make a difference by sending a message and possibly netting Cincinnati more high-paying employers.

“The goal is to send a message that anti-gay discrimination won’t be tolerated by Cincinnati, that we won’t use taxpayer dollars to do business with states who have passed ideologically charged laws that target gay people," he said. "We want to lure these businesses, these good-paying jobs, to our city, because we’ve done a fantastic job welcoming LGBT individuals."

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.13.2016 22 days ago
Posted In: News at 02:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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No Streetcar Budget Just Yet

Flynn reverses course, Cranley threatens veto after budget passes 5-4

After years of wrangling, fretting and plenty of political tug-of-wars, and just six months before the streetcar is scheduled to start gliding passengers around downtown and Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati City Council almost passed the transit project's first-year operating budget today.

Almost.

Council passed the budget out of the transportation committee earlier this week with a veto-proof 6-2 majority. But Councilman Kevin Flynn, who had been the swing vote in Council's 2013 battle with Mayor John Cranley to restart the streetcar, reversed course today and voted against the ordinance.

Without Flynn's vote, Cranley indicated he would veto the operating budget.

“I don’t feel in good conscience that we can proceed if Mr. Flynn is unhappy," Cranley said. "My assumption as of yesterday was that six people were supporting this.”

Flynn cited concerns about money set aside for contingencies in the first year of the streetcar's operation and start-up costs. His concerns boil down to where that money — $1.1 million for start-up costs and some $550,000 for contingencies — is coming from.

Flynn said he doesn't believe that all the contingency money will be spent on true contingencies — that the city will need to use it for extra foreseeable expenses — and that the money for the cushion should come from an already-existing construction contingency fund that still has $900,000.

“That’s what I’m asking for, because we’ve been told construction is essentially completed and there’s $900,000 in construction contingency fund left," Flynn told Council after his surprise "no" vote.

"In transportation yesterday, we heard people wanting to give free rides," Flynn said. "This is a very, very aggressive budget relative to ridership, relative to advertising dollars and sponsorship dollars. We can’t afford to give away free anything. And then, when I started thinking about this ordinance more, when I voted for the streetcar, I said we would not be using money form the general fund for the streetcar."

Much of the money in question comes from an increase in parking rates and hours in Over-the-Rhine and downtown. Other Council members pointed out, and Flynn acknowledged that the parking funds would not exist if Council hadn't changed parking policies to raise money for the streetcar. But he also said that since contingency money is left over for construction, it should be used first for start-up costs and contingencies. Flynn said he was worried that the construction contingency fund would evaporate if it wasn't used.

"I’ve been involved in enough construction projects to know — if there’s money left, they’ll find a way to spend it," he said. "I want to get that money out of there now.”

City Manager Harry Black sought to allay those concerns. “We are micromanaging the contingency side of the budget," he said. "Any action related to the contingency must be approved by the city manager.”

But Flynn held fast, and Council will now have to tinker with the budget to get the six votes necessary to avoid a mayoral veto.

Other council members who support the streetcar, including Yvette Simpson, said moving the money is reckless and that it can be transferred over after construction is finished. “The reason I’m concerned about pulling money out of contingency is because our project manager says pulling money out of contingency could damage the project," Simpson said. "We can believe what we want to believe or we can believe what our experts say.”

There are other concerns — the construction contingency fund is tied up in a process involving the Federal Transportation Authority, and the city must technically ask the FTA to use it, city administration pointed out.

Simpson said she was worried that a small amount of money could “short circuit” the enormous, $148 million federally funded project. “We have a start date of Sept. 2016, and a boatload of developers building along the route. If it doesn’t start on time, it’s going to cost us a lot more than $550,000 to fix it.”

The budget is due to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority at the end of the month. The streetcar is expected to start full operation sometime in September.
 
 
by Natalie Krebs 04.13.2016 23 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Preservationists fire back against plans to demolish Dennison building; UC police begin search for new chief; Ohio House to lay out proposal for medical marijuana

Preservationists are pushing back against a plan to demolish the historic Dennison Hotel building on Main Street. The Joseph family, of Joseph Automotive Group wealth, has released renderings of a potential Fortune 500 company's headquarters it could potentially develop, should the Historic Conservation Board OK the building's demolition. Opponents of demolition have been circulating copies of a Cincinnati Enquirer article from the 1980s via social media as an example of the Joseph family failing to deliver on promises of shiny new office complexes after demolishing historical buildings in the past. Documents filed by the family's attorney with the Historic Conservation Board show that the family purchased the Dennison Hotel in 2013 in part to stifle plans to convert the structure into affordable housing. The family will present its case for demolition in front of the Historic Conservation Board on April 18. 

• Hamilton County library employee Rachel Dovel might file a federal lawsuit against the library for failing to cover her gender reassignment surgery via its insurance policy. Dovel, who has worked for the library for the past decade, has been transitioning from male to female for the past two years and said the library's insurance policy won't cover gender confirmation surgery necessary to complete her transition. The library's trustees are currently debating adding the procedure to the employee medical plan in August, but Dovel says she feels she's already waiting long enough.

• The University of Cincinnati Department of Public Safety announced it is launching a nationwide search for a new chief of police and assistant chief of police. Previous Police Chief Jason Goodrich and Major Tim Thornton both resigned last February following a review into the department after the July shooting death of Mount Auburn resident Samuel DuBose by UC Police Officer Ray Tensing. The 11-person search committee will be lead by S. Gregory Baker, UC's director of police community relations, starting at the end of April. The university said the search will go on until the right people are found. 

• The issue of medical marijuana is inching back this year for Ohio. The Ohio House is expected to lay out its proposal for medical marijuana today. Both the House and the Senate have had separate hearing on the issue, and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Republican from Clarksville, says the legislation will likely be a joint effort. The Senate is currently wrapping up its own hearings on the issue. Polls have shown Ohioans support the legalization of medical marijuana. And it seems whatever plan legislators roll out will probably have a better shot at passing than ResponsibleOhio's failed attempt last election at getting voters to approve a constitutional amendment to legalize all marijuana. 

• Donald Trump has fired back against those tricky Republicans who are trying to figure out a way to deny the GOP frontrunner the presidential nomination. As Republicans stumble toward a likely contested convention in Cleveland this July, Trump has started accusing the party of trying to steal the election from him. Trump told the crowd at a campaign event in upstate New York that the system is "absolutely rigged" and that the Republican National Committee should be "ashamed of itself." Trump, who has with 742 delegates, leading rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's 529 delegates, looks unlikely to secure the 1,237 delegates necessary to secure the nomination by July.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.12.2016 24 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dovel

Library Employee Might File Federal Suit Over Trans Benefits

Ten-year employee Rachel Doval says the library has waited long enough to provide benefits that would help her transition

A potential lawsuit against the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County over the library’s lack of benefits for trans individuals could be the first of its kind in the country, putting Cincinnati on the map again for LGBT issues.

Library employee Rachel Dovel has been transitioning from male to female over the past two years. In February last year, she changed her name legally from Nathan and has come out as transgender. Now, she says she needs gender confirmation surgery to complete her transition and match her physical traits with the gender she identifies with. The library’s insurance doesn’t cover that procedure, however.

The library’s trustees say they haven’t made a decision one way or the other about the coverage and say they’re not trying to discriminate against Dovel. The board’s seven members — President Elizabeth LaMacchia, Vice President Allen G. Zaring IV, Secretary Barbara Trauth, Robert G. Hendon, Monica Donath Kohnen, William Moran and Ross Wright — are appointed to seven-year terms by the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas and the Hamilton County Commission.

The board will consider whether or not to acquire trans-inclusive benefits in August. The coverage will cost a little more than the library’s current plan, though advocates say that price increase is minimal. After a year-long fight to get the surgery, the end of the summer is too long to wait, Dovel says.

“It’s been really stressful,” Dovel says. “This is a surgery I need to get to feel like I’m moving on with my life and not transitioning forever. I just want to live a normal life and I thought I was going to be able to do that last year when I was trying to get the ball moving on getting the surgery scheduled. Transitioning is already hard enough.”

The delay has led Dovel and her attorney to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Pending the EEOC’s response, Dovel’s attorney says they are prepared to file a federal gender-discrimination lawsuit against the library.

“Rachel’s case against the library will be a case of first impression in the country, meaning no employer in the United States has refused to offer coverage for gender confirmation surgery, leading their employee to file a federal lawsuit,” Dovel’s attorney Josh Langdon said at a news conference April 12 in front of the downtown library. “Just like Obergefell v. Hodges, Cincinnati will literally make history with Rachel’s case.”

That case, in which Over-the-Rhine resident Jim Obergefell and a number of other plaintiffs sued the state of Ohio and other states over same-sex marriage bans, eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted in the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country.

Dovel and Langdon say they don’t want their situation to progress that far, but after fighting the library for a year, Langdon says, “We’re nearing the end of the rope."

“I hope they don’t force me to take it that far, but if that’s what it takes,” Dovel says. “This isn’t just about me. There could be future employees or their families who need this medically necessary care.”

Dovel, who works processing books for circulation, has been with the library for more than a decade. She says she believes in the library’s mission and would like to stay there, but also needs the medical care she’s working to get.

Dovel initially sought to have the surgery under the library’s health insurance policy. But she was informed that the policy under Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield did not offer coverage for the procedure. Dovel and attorneys challenged Anthem, saying the fact it did not offer the coverage violated gender discrimination clauses under the Affordable Care Act. The insurance company eventually complied, offering supplemental coverage for transgender care, including the procedure Dovel would like to receive. However, the library has yet to purchase that coverage.

A number of local corporations already offer such coverage, including Macy’s and Kroger. Trans advocates say procedures like the one Dovel is seeking are vital.

“More and more people are recognizing that these things are not only beneficial to transgender people, they’re medically necessary,” says Callie Wright, board member for local trans advocacy organization Heartland Trans Wellness Group. “This is not just us talking who want these surgeries. This is many organizations of medical and mental health professionals, who say these things are as necessary as any other medical treatment.”

The mental health dimension of transgender treatment was tragically illustrated by the death of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen who took her own life late in 2014 after her parents refused to permit her to undergo transition procedures.

The April 12 news conference brought local and national advocates including Heartland and a representative for national LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, Cincinnati Police Department LGBT outreach officers and Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach.

“This is about her health care, and her relationship with a medical doctor licensed by the state of Ohio, who says she needs these medical procedures to live her life as a healthy individual," Seelbach said. "That decision should be made between Rachel and her medical doctor, not a politically-appointed medical board.”

Seelbach touts Cincinnati as the first city in the Midwest to offer transgender-inclusive medical benefits and says that, overall, the city has made huge strides from a place that had very restrictive anti-LGBT rights legislation just a decade ago. He said he hopes the library will follow that example.

“It’s time to go forward, following the lead of the city and our corporate community,” Seelbach said. “It’s the right thing to do because of history, it’s the right thing to do because of Rachel’s health.”

 
 

 

 

by Natalie Krebs 05.06.2016 2 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
portman

Morning News and Stuff

Obama commutes life sentence of local man; Ohio House moves closer to approving medical marijuana bill; Trump heightens rifts in Republican party

President Barack Obama on Thursday gave a Cincinnati man named Thomas Farmer a second chance when commuted his life sentence along with 57 other federal convicts. Farmer has been in a federal prison serving a life sentence since 1995  for charges of cocaine possession and distribution. Obama's latest round of commutes targeted those serving life sentences for drug-related charges and brings the president's total commute number to 306. 

• There's less than two months before the world will finally get the chance to journey to Grant County, Kentucky, to experience a real-life replica of Noah's Ark. After 14 months of construction, the project is apparently coming along smoothly — and even under budget. The controversial structure, which is based on the Biblical tale of one man single-handedly building a giant ark and cramming it full of two of every kind of animal, is set to open on July 7 and is expected to attract 1.2 million visitors in the first year. 

• The Ohio House is set to vote on legislation next Tuesday that could legalize medical marijuana for Ohioans. After months of committee hearings, a special House committee approved HB 523 Thursday evening, making it the first time marijuana legislation has ever made it out of committee and on to a full House vote. The bill would create a tightly regulated system for growing, dispensing and prescribing the plant and would permit it only be used in a patch, vapor, oil or other extract.

• If you're planning on getting out your wildest hat and watching the Kentucky Derby Saturday, as tradition goes, you're also going to hear the crowd sing along with University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band to Kentucky's state song, "My Old Kentucky Home." But former Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker believes some people are missing the racial undertones in the sweet-sounding, old-timey melody. Walker says the song, which was written by composer Stephen Foster as an anti-slavery song, actually has some pretty troubling lyrics related to slavery. 

• It's been less than two days since Donald Trump has taken the spot of the presumed GOP presidential nominee, and already the split in the Republican party is widening. House Speaker Paul Ryan, the country's highest-elected Republican, says he's not ready to endorse Trump for president. Trump responded to the comment saying he's "not ready" to support Speaker Ryan's agenda."

In Ohio, Democrats are already hoping that Republican Sen. Rob Portman's support of Trump will hurt his chances of re-election this November. Incumbent Portman is running against former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland for the U.S. Senate.

News tips go here. Enjoy your weekend, Cincy!
 
 
by Natalie Krebs 05.05.2016 26 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover_johnkasich

Morning News and Stuff

City to replace beheaded parking meters; study finds Central Parkway bike lane not causing more accidents; Kasich gives up on presidential bid

The city of Cincinnati has opted to replace the city's sad, beat-up, beheaded parking meters with multi-space meters requiring motorists to print out a ticket to put in their windshields, according to a memo from City Manager Harry Black. The new meters will soon be installed in 40 locations across the city, including Findlay Market, Court Street, Freedom Way and Washington Park. 

• There's been a lot of controversy around the Central Parkway Bikeway, with some in the city, including City Council members, asking whether it has caused more accidents along the busy street. But a study undertaken by the city and re-released yesterday seems to show that's not the case. A report by the city of Cincinnati Department of Transportation and Engineering released yesterday by the office of City Manager Harry Black shows that the stretch of Central Parkway with the controversial bike lane has not had more accidents than comparable roads without the lanes. 

• Campbell County, Kentucky's government has approved a needle exchange program to help prevent the spread of diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV among heroin users. The Campbell County Court voted Wednesday to help fund a program that will create mobile van run by health professionals where users will be able to exchange used needles for clean ones. Covington hospital St. Elizabeth Healthcare agreed to provide space for the van on its grounds.

• Former City Council candidate Kevin Johnson was arrested Tuesday and charged with two counts of drug trafficking and two counts drug possession after police found more than 550 grams of cocaine in his car during a routine traffic stop. Johnson, who came in 20th out of the 21 candidates for Council in the 2013 election, is being held at the Hamilton County Justice Center on a bond of $300,000. He is scheduled to appear in court on May 13. 

• After months of clawing his way through the GOP presidential primary as the ultimate underdog, Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced the suspension of his campaign at a Columbus press conference yesterday. Kasich's announcement appears to have been a sudden call. Following another his defeat in Indiana's primary on Tuesday, Kasich's campaign said he would carry on. Yesterday, the Kasich campaign released a Star Wars-themed ad claiming he was "our only hope" just hours before his announcement that he is finally giving up his dreams of the White House.

The Ohio Governor's departure from the race means Trump, as the last GOP man standing, has pretty much secured the party's nomination. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who was second behind Trump, suspended his campaign Tuesday after losing Indiana's primary.

News tips go here.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.05.2016 27 hours ago
Posted In: News at 08:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
bike and dine

Report: Central Parkway Crashes in Line with Other Streets Without Bike Lanes

Finding are similar to those released and then pulled by the city in March

There's been a lot of controversy around the Central Parkway Bikeway, with some in the city, including City Council members, asking whether it has caused more accidents along the busy street. But a study undertaken by the city and re-released yesterday seems to show that's not the case.

A report by the city of Cincinnati Department of Transportation and Engineering released yesterday by the office of City Manager Harry Black shows that the stretch of Central Parkway with the controversial bike lane has no more accidents than comparable roads without the lanes.

Critics, including Councilman Christopher Smitherman, say that the lanes cause confusion because they require drivers to park in the right lane of the street instead of on the curb, where the bike lane now runs. Smitherman introduced a motion in February asking that the lanes be removed.

In 2015, according to Wednesday's report, Central Parkway between Liberty and Linn streets had 62 total car accidents, including seven involving parked cars.

In that same time frame, Glenway Avenue from Rapid Run Road to Gilsey Avenue, a similar stretch, had 91 accidents, including 13 parked car accidents. Another like stretch of road, Hamilton Avenue from Spring Grove Avenue to Bruce Avenue, had 51 wrecks including seven with parked cars.

"The number of crashes on Central Parkway is comparable to the number of crashes on similar streets," the report concludes. "Research published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that streets with protected bicycle lanes saw 90 percent fewer cyclist injuries per mile than those with no bicycle infrastructure."

The report also breaks down the crashes on Central Parkway by cause, as shown below.

The report is similar to one released and then rescinded by the city in March. Among the differences: The earlier report explicitly recommended that the lanes be retained. That language does not appear in the recently released study.

“Given the reduced risk of injury to bicyclists, the administration does not recommend removal of the bike lanes,” the March memo from City Manager Black reads. “However, DOTE will continue to monitor conditions, and improvements may be made in the future as best practices evolve.”

The new report says that the Cincinnati Police Department's Traffic Unit "did feel that the area is more congested and confusing," but also that CPD feels that should lessen over time as motorists and cyclists become accustomed to the new lane arrangement. "Both Police and DOTE both believe that as drivers, cyclists and pedestrians become more familiar with the area and with the rules for the bike lane operations, there should be fewer conflicts," the new report notes.

There are measures that the city can take to reduce the confusion around the lane, the report says, including additional signs and better traffic stripping. Those measures would cost about $30,000, money DOTE says it has available. By contrast, removing the lanes from the stretch between Liberty and Ravine streets as requested by Smitherman would cost the city $234,000. Removing the entire lane from Marshall Avenue to Elm Street, meanwhile, would cost $587,000, according to the report.

The Central Parkway Bikeway was completed in 2014 after multiple bouts of political wrangling. The protected bike lane uses plastic partitions to separate cyclists from drivers along the four-lane stretch of the Central Parkway running from Clifton, through the West End and University Heights and into Over-the-Rhine and downtown. The lane was initially proposed in a bike plan Cincinnati City Council passed in 2010, and Council in 2013 voted unanimously to build it using $500,000 in mostly federal money. 

While some neighboring business owners and the Fraternal Order of Police, whose headquarters are on the bike lane's path, have complained about accidents and parking woes since the lane has been introduced, nearby community councils have rallied around the lane. Clifton Town Meeting and the Over-the-Rhine Community Council have both passed motions this year supporting the lanes and asking for their expansion, citing the increase in economic activity and cyclist safety that studies suggest come with bike lanes in urban neighborhoods.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.04.2016 49 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover_johnkasich

Reports: Kasich Will Drop Out Today

Campaign cancels planned stops, schedules 5 p.m. news conference in Columbus

With U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz departing the GOP presidential primary following last night's big win for Donald Trump in Indiana, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was, for a moment, Trump's sole challenger in one of the strangest primaries in memory.

Now, however, there are multiple reports citing a senior campaign advisor saying Kasich is dropping out of the race. The Kasich campaign has cancelled previously-planned campaign stops and scheduled a 5 p.m. news conference in Columbus, where iKasich is expected to make an official announcement.

Kasich was a long-shot candidate at best: Trump has 1,048 delegates and needs only 1,237 to end the race outright. Kasich, meanwhile, has only 153 delegates, still less than now-departed Cruz and long-gone U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Despite this, the Kasich campaign this morning confidently released a  Star Wars-themed video (it is May 4, after all) laying out a nightmare scenario for conservatives: It's 2017, and Hillary Clinton has trounced Trump in the general election, going on to nominate a Supreme Court justice and institute a raft of liberal policies. But there's hope, and that hope's name is... you guessed it: John Kasich.

Kasich faced a nearly-impossible path, however. To win the GOP nomination, he would have had to somehow prevent Trump from gaining the last few delegates he needs to clinch the nomination. Kasich would then have had to best Trump at a contested convention, convincing delegates that it would be better to vote for him than the candidate primary voters sent them to vote for.

Kasich continuing his campaign at this point would have flown in the face of even GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, who has called Trump the party's presumptive nominee. But Kasich did have a couple points to argue for his nomination in the very unlikely contested convention scenario: In what started as a huge primary field, more primary voters voted for some other candidate besides Trump. Kasich's campaign has also pointed to polls showing him winning against Clinton in a general election in November, something Trump has not been able to claim. (Most recent polls show Clinton widening her margins against Trump, though one has Trump neck and neck with Clinton. So far, it's an outlier.)

Kasich's political opponents in Ohio cheered the news.

“Since last March, Governor John Kasich has spent more than 200 days out of state, pursuing his presidential ambitions and ignoring the needs of the people of Ohio," the Ohio Democratic Party said in a statement, accusing Kasich of "gallivanting across the country" instead of working on issues in Ohio.


 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.04.2016 50 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover_berniesanders

Morning News and Stuff

Trump nomination nearly certain after Indiana win; Cincinnatian tapped to head Clinton Ohio campaign; D.C. developer holds onto blighted OTR properties

Good morning all. It’s news time.

I think you know what’s first on the agenda: last night’s historic Indiana primary results and the ensuing realization that, barring some unimaginable turn of events, Donald Trump will be the GOP’s presidential nominee.

Trump dominated the Hoosier State yesterday, taking at least 51 of the state’s 57 delegates and bringing his total delegate count to 1,048. He needs only 1,237 to clinch the game outright, and some big states — including California and New Jersey — loom ahead. Racking up delegates is going to get a lot easier for Trump because his nearest opponent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, uh, cruised right out of the race after results came in last night. That leaves only Ohio Gov. John Kasich left running against Trump, but good luck if you’re a Kasich fan. Dude is still trailing the dispirited ghosts of Marco Rubio and Cruz’s campaigns with just 157 delegates and isn’t anywhere near Trump’s total. What’s more, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus last night said Trump will be the party’s presumptive nominee. Will Kasich drop out? Stay tuned.

• Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders had a big night in Indiana, winning 53 percent of the vote and taking 43 of the state’s 80 delegates. He still trails Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton 1,410 delegates to her 1,700. There are more states friendly to Sanders coming up, but unless he gets huge, huge wins in them or somehow convinces the Democratic party’s super delegates to side with him instead of the frontrunner, he’ll face an uphill battle.

• What does this new near-certainty around Trump’s nomination mean for Senate races? Bad news for the GOP, some Republican strategists fear. Some veterans of past Republican Senate campaigns put the odds that the party will lose control of the Senate at 75 to 80 percent as general election voters who might have sided with a more traditional and moderate Republican candidate stay away from the polls or vote Democratic. Some, however, see hope if candidates like Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Rob Portman can distance themselves from Trump’s unconventional campaign. Portman is running a very tough race against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland.

• Here’s some local presidential race news: Cincinnatian Chris Wyant will run Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in Ohio. Wyant worked for President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns and also as a managing director for Enroll Ohio, which encouraged state residents to sign up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Wyant has connections: His parents, Jack Wyant and Peg Wyant, both worked for Procter & Gamble before starting their own venture capital firm. In addition, Jack is a Cincinnati Reds co-owner and Peg is the CEO of Grandin Properties, a real estate company owned by the family that is very active in Over-the-Rhine. Wyant’s wife, Lauren Kidwell, also has ties to Obama’s past campaigns and his administration.

• You know that feeling when you order something online and can’t wait for it to show up? That’s kind of what city transit officials must feel like right now. Cincinnati’s fifth and final streetcar is on the way and should arrive sometime today. Expect Race Street, where the streetcar maintenance facility is located, to be closed around Findlay Market for a couple hours starting at 2 p.m. Unloading is expected to take about 90 minutes. The first streetcar arrived in October. All the cars must undergo rigorous testing, including empty runs around the city, before passengers can ride them. The city last week passed the 3.6-mile transit loop’s budget last week, and it is expected to start taking passengers in September.

• A Washington, D.C.-based developer will hold onto 10 properties it owns in Over-the-Rhine by addressing multiple municipal code violations on those buildings. The city of Cincinnati threatened to take action against 2414 Morgan Development, LLC, after seven of the company’s buildings were declared public nuisances for their advanced states of disrepair. That action would have included seizure of the buildings, but the developer has side-stepped having the properties placed in receivership for now by making some of the necessary repairs. 2414 Morgan says it is dedicated to renovating the buildings. The city says it doesn’t foresee putting the properties into receivership right now, but will look into further action if more issues arise.

• Finally, the organization that represents many of Ohio's businesses says it doesn't want marijuana legalization, but that if it has to happen, it would prefer a series of bills going through the state's legislature over constitutional amendments. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has weighed in on two different proposed constitutional amendments around legalizing medicinal marijuana, saying it would prefer lawmakers tackle that subject through the usual legislative process. Last year, a proposed constitutional amendment legalizing limited marijuana growth and sale by ResponsibleOhio was roundly rejected by the state's voters.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.03.2016 3 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_trump2_0316_ns

Morning News and Stuff

Indiana primary today; Cincy tops for working moms; new developments in East Walnut Hills

Hey all. Today is Indiana’s primary. Go vote if you live in Indiana. If you don’t live in Indiana, continue to gnash your teeth and pray that somehow this election season is simply some very long-term practical joke or a very committed performance art piece.

About the primary: On the GOP side, Donald Trump is leading in the polls. He’s enlisted the help of former Indiana University basketball coach and fellow freaky hair grower Bobby Knight to stump for him and occasionally throw chairs at the crowd/hecklers/his opponents. Formidable duo, to say the least. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, desperately needs a win tonight to keep his campaign afloat. He trails in the delegate count 565 to Trump’s 996 and so far has only managed to get in awkward arguments with folks in the Hoosier State. And then there’s Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has been content to beg Indiana’s 57 delegates to consider switching their vote to him at a contested convention should Trump not reach the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination outright. Solid strategy there.

• Meanwhile, on the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders are running neck and neck in the state. That doesn’t matter much, because Clinton’s lead over Sanders all but guarantees her the Democratic nomination. Sanders is fighting on, however, and has vowed to take his battle all the way to the Democratic National Convention in July. A Sanders victory wouldn't get him much closer to clinching the nomination (an impossible goal at this point) but would continue to keep his agenda — banking reform, universal health care and fully funded college education, among other goals — on the radar as the election moves forward.

• While we’re talking elections, here’s an interesting piece exploring the challenges facing the GOP come November. Turns out, Republicans could win Ohio and still easily lose the general election, at least according to the scenarios mapped out here. That scenario involves the Democratic nominee scooping up the 19 states and D.C. that Dems have won in the last six elections and taking Florida. If America’s goatee goes blue, it’s pretty much over for the GOP’s presidential hopes.

• Let’s get back down to some local stuff, shall we? This one is just in time for Mother’s Day. It turns out Cincinnati is one of the best cities in the country for working mothers, at least according to a study by Realtor.com. Cincinnati placed sixth in the country according to the ranking, which considered female employment rate, salaries and other career opportunity factors, childcare available and cities’ affordability. As the product of a working mom, I say that’s really cool if true.

• Things are happening in East Walnut Hills. Specifically, development things. A new project featuring nine single-family homes starting at $500,000 has been announced by developer Traditions Building Group. Those homes will stand on the site of the former Seventh Presbyterian Church on Madison Road near DeSales Corner. Some elements of the church will be preserved, it appears. Elsewhere in East Walnut Hills, plans are developing to turn the former YMCA on East McMillan Street into market rate apartments. City Center Properties, which owns the building, has applied for local historic landmark status that could help redevelopment efforts of the 52,000-square-foot building. The specifics of the redevelopment plans aren’t available yet, however, and Cincinnati City Council would have to approve the request for historic status. The YMCA building was constructed in 1930.

• Statewide news time: U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman are pushing for millions in funding to test Ohio’s various water supplies for lead following the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Brown’s legislation advanced in the Senate yesterday and would provide $20 million for lead testing in schools and day care centers. It would provide funding for public health measures around lead poisoning and make available low-interest loans to states that need to upgrade drinking water infrastructure. The legislation is part of a larger $9.3 billion water reform bill currently before the Senate.

I’m out. Tweet at me. Email me. You know the drill.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.02.2016 4 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

Poll: Ohioans want Kasich to drop prez bid; lawmakers mull eliminating most mandatory minimums for drug sentences; Bevin vetoes money for NKY river trail

Good morning all. Did you run the pig this weekend? I thought about it. For a few seconds. That should count for something, right? No? OK. Let’s talk news then. There’s a bunch of politics transpiring. Here it is:

A new poll says that only 38 percent of Ohioans want Ohio Gov. John Kasich to stay in the GOP presidential primary, in contrast to the 49 percent who want him out. But there’s an even more striking number in the Public Policy Polling survey: Fifty-eight percent of GOP voters want Kasich to bail on the race, compared to just 33 percent who think he should stay in.

• Is this one reason why taxpayers are tired of Kasich’s run? The Columbus Dispatch reports that his presidential campaign is costing taxpayers plenty when it comes to his security detail. The nine state troopers assigned to protect Kasich at all times racked up 1,800 hours in overtime as of April 16, earning an extra $82,400 in public money.

• One more Kasich tidbit: Our Big Queso is working hard in Indiana to woo voters… but not the voters you’re thinking of. Kasich is mostly ignoring the state’s primary voters and taking his case directly to the state’s GOP delegates, who will decide the presidential nominee in case of a contested convention. After the first round of voting at such a convention, those delegates will become “unbound,” meaning they no longer have to vote for the candidate voters in their state selected.

• Cincinnati restaurant mogul Jeff Ruby has rescinded a $25,000 reward offer in relation to the recent massacre of eight people in Pike County. The execution-style killings of the Rhodan family have drawn national attention and led to speculation that a Mexican drug cartel might be responsible for the carnage after marijuana growing operations were found on the Rhodan’s properties. Ruby has nodded to that speculation as a reason he’s pulling his reward.

• A task force put together by Ohio lawmakers has recommended eliminating mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws in the state. A working group that is part of the Criminal Recodification Committee, which is charged with reforming the state’s drug laws, says that the minimums should go away and that new sentencing standards should be put in place. That could reduce Ohio’s prison population, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction says.

• Controversy in Kentucky, part 1: Comments Kenton County District Judge Ann Ruttle’s made while finding former Xavier women’s basketball coach Bryce McKey not guilty of sexual abuse have caused some consternation and concern. Ruttles said that the plaintiff in the case, who alleges McKey gave her alcohol when she was underage and touched her inappropriately, did not do enough to stop him and that her behavior was “almost... an invitation.” Advocates for sexual assault survivors have said that amounts to victim-blaming.  

• Controversy in Kentucky, part 2: Governor Matt Bevin late last week vetoed more than $300,000 in the Kentucky budget meant to help develop an 11-mile trail along the Northern Kentucky riverfront called Riverfront Commons. That will slow, but not stop, the project, which already has funds to establish portions of the trail in Dayton, Ludlow and Covington. Bevin cited “significant fiscal constraints” in the state for his decision. Trail boosters call the cut “disappointing.”

• Finally, this really is more the music section’s purview, but I’m going to mention it. Radiohead has erased nearly its entire web presence — tweets, Facebook, website, everything. Fans of the band and some music critics have speculated this is a sign of a new album on the way — the band is known for its innovative business and marketing (well, really, anti-marketing) approaches. But I have a more precise theory: Yorke and Co. are looking to capitalize on the increasingly prevalent nostalgia for the 1990s, a time blissfully before Twitter, Facebook, immersive website experiences, etc.

Prediction: The next Radiohead album will be announced on a new site that looks like something you’d make on Geocities circa OK Computer.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 04.28.2016 8 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
new1_boehner

Morning News and Stuff

Council finally approves streetcar operating budget; Rep. Driehaus upset with Hamilton County's poop problem; former Speaker Boehner says what he really thinks of the GOP presidential candidates

Big things happened at Wednesday's City Council meeting. Council finally voted to approve the streetcar's operating budget for the first year after spending the last month squabbling and kicking it back and forth between council and committee. The budget just barely passed in a vote of 5-3, with council members Kevin Flynn, Christopher Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voting against it. Councilwoman Amy Murray was absent from the meeting. Mayor John Cranley, who previously said he would veto any operating budget that didn't get at least six votes, appears to have had enough of this streetcar drama. The mayor decided recently not to veto the budget even if it passed with a mere five votes.

Council also voted to approve a wage hike for city government workers, passing a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for full-time workers and to $10.10 an hour for part-time and seasonal workers. The increase will affect about one out of every five city workers, or about 1,166 workers. Cranley, who introduced the ordinance last month, called council's decision "morally right" and hopes the state will follow suit.

• Students at Northern Kentucky University will see a slight increase in their tuition next year. The NKU Board of Regents voted to pass a 3 percent increase in undergraduate tuition on Wednesday to keep up with rising costs at the university and a decrease in funding from the state. Next year, Kentucky residents can expect to pay an average of $130 more per semester while Cincinnati residents will shell out an extra $200 per semester and nonresidents will pay an extra $260. 

• State Rep. Denise Driehaus is upset with the closure of the Little Miami Incinerator. The incinerator was closed temporarily earlier this month after it was determined that it does not meet federal pollution standards. It served as one of two ways that Hamilton County disposes of human waste, and it's unclear when, or if, it will reopen. Driehaus, who is currently running for Hamilton County commissioner in the upcoming November election, released a statement Thursday morning condemning county for allowing the closure that she saw as avoidable and called for new leadership to better address the issue. 

"This could have and should have been resolved." Driehaus says in the statement. "We need leadership on the County Commission that will roll up their sleeves and work to resolve challenging issues instead of being content to play the blame game when something goes wrong."  

• Since former Speaker of the House John Boehner resigned from his post last October, it seems he feels more free to express his true feelings about the GOP presidential candidates. At an event at Stanford University on Wednesday, Boehner called Texas Sen. Ted Cruz a "miserable son of a bitch." Boehner also disclosed that he and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump are "texting buddies" and that he is also friends with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is currently running way behind Trump and Cruz in the election. However, it seems he and Kasich aren't quite BFFs as he also said that their friendship "requires more effort."

• In other election news, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announced yesterday that former Hewitt-Packard CEO and GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina will be his running mate. Fiorina was one of the first GOP candidates to drop out of the race and endorsed Cruz in early March. Cruz is the first of any presidential candidate to announce a running mate and his announcement comes a day after as frontrunner Trump just declared victory in five states' Tuesday primaries, bringing the real estate tycoon even closer to securing the GOP nomination.

Stay dry, Cincy! And send any news tips here.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.27.2016 9 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
music hall

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar budget could pass today; bones found in Music Hall; Trump says Clinton plays "women card"

Good morning all. Here’s your news today.

The operating budget for the Cincinnati streetcar again looks likely to move forward in City Council today, barring any major surprises. Of course, that was also the case a couple weeks ago, when the budget stumbled over some last-minute objections by Councilman Kevin Flynn around contingency funding. Flynn’s course reversal left the budget with only five votes, which was not enough to overcome a veto promised by Mayor John Cranley. So back to committee it went, where it passed again yesterday. Cranley has indicated he won’t veto the revised budget, which would move about $550,000 in leftover construction funds into a contingency account, even if it only gets five votes. Flynn thinks leftover construction money should be used for startup costs.

• Hey, this is creepy, though not totally unexpected. Crews working to seal off some asbestos in Music Hall found human remains under the orchestra pit. No, they aren’t what’s left of some unfortunate clarinetists who were a little pitchy in their renditions of Rhapsody in Blue’s opening glissando or timpanists who missed a beat or two in a conductor's favorite Bach piece. The remains, which archeological consultants Gray and Pape say probably belonged to four people, seem to be holdovers from the pit’s 1928 construction. The historic hall, as well as the land around it in Washington Park, spent two decades starting around 1818 as a burial ground for indigent residents. Many of those grave sites were moved in the 1850s, but some lingered, and apparently still do. When Music Hall construction began in 1876, workers were faced with the task of removing the remaining bodies to places like Spring Grove Cemetery. Far be it for me to critique someone else’s work, especially when it’s work that I wouldn’t go anywhere near, but… seems like they missed a few spots. In addition to the remains under the orchestra pit, workers also found a number of grave shafts full of wooden coffins.

• If you’re a frequent flyer, you know the struggle: The Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, or CVG, used to be the last resort when you wanted to take a flight on the cheap. Places like Dayton and Louisville — or even Columbus — were cheaper enough to fly from that it made the drive worth it. But not any more, apparently. CVG’s fares are now lower than Dayton and Louisville’s airports, and the lowest they’ve been relative to other airports in more than 20 years. That’s in part due to the increase in airlines flying out of CVG, including low-cost carriers like Allegiant Air. CVG still trails Columbus and Indianapolis in terms of affordability, but not by as much as in the past, when our airport was the third-most expensive in the country. These days, it’s 22nd.

• As you might have guessed, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate mogul Donald Trump came up big winners in yesterday’s GOP primaries. Trump swept every county in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, extending his delegate count to 949 of the 1,237 he needs to clinch the GOP nomination. Meanwhile, Clinton won in all those states except Rhode Island, where her challenger, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, prevailed. Clinton’s victories put the Democratic nomination all but out of reach for Sanders, though he’s vowed to stay in the race. Meanwhile, Trump has also solidified his position as the GOP frontrunner — his second-place opponent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, has only 544 delegates. Third-place contender, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, has just 153 — fewer than U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race weeks ago.

• With an ever-clearer picture of who the nominees for each party are likely to be, the frontrunners’ eyes are turning to the general election. And there are signs it’s gonna be an ugly, ugly race. Perhaps feeling his oats after his decisive victories, Trump yesterday bashed Clinton, saying that she’s only winning primaries because she’s a woman. If you thought Trump might tone it down for the general election in a bid to get more mainstream swing voters, including, you know, women, well… don’t hold your breath for too long on that. Key quote from Trump:

She is a woman, she is playing the woman card left and right,” Mr. Trump told CNN in a post-primary interview. “Frankly, if she didn’t, she would do very poorly. If she were a man and she was the way she is, she would get virtually no votes."
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.25.2016 11 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Mann asks Parks Foundation to open its books; Kentucky could build $10 million exit for ark park; Kasich and Cruz embark on a presidential primary buddy comedy

Good morning all. Hope your weekend was as perfect as mine. Let’s talk about news real quick.

Vice Mayor David Mann says the private foundation that raises money for Cincinnati Parks Board should open its books to public scrutiny. The Cincinnati Parks Foundation, a nonprofit group, came under scrutiny last year during a contentious bid for a property tax levy to fund parks improvements put forward by Mayor John Cranley. Voters passed on that proposal, but not before it was revealed that the park board spent money from the foundation on pro-levy campaigns. After the election, further revelations about board spending on travel and perks drew increased scrutiny to the parks board and triggered a city audit. Now, Mann says the foundation should undergo similar scrutiny.

• Speaking of investigations: Are the feds really looking into MSD? Last year, The Enquirer reported that Cincinnati’s metropolitan sewer district was under the microscope of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, presumably over its implementation of a multi-billion-dollar federal order to revamp the city’s sewer system. However, the FBI hasn’t asked for any of the things you’d expect if it was indeed probing the large public department, the Businss Courier reports. No subpoenas have been filed, no hard drives have been seized and no documents have been requested. If there’s truly an investigation happening, it’s very low-key.

• The state of Kentucky could allocate $10 million to revamp a highway exit leading to the religiously-themed Ark Encounter theme park. Watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State has cried foul at that expenditure, saying it amounts to Kentucky using taxpayer dollars to benefit a religious group. The money for the ramp improvements on I-75 and KY 36 made its way into the state’s budget, which is currently in the process of being passed. AUSCS says it doesn’t have any plans as of yet to oppose the money, but says it is continuing to watch the situation. Ark park owners Answers in Genesis say an earlier ruling allowing Kentucky to give tax incentives to the site has answered questions about the legality of such expenditures.

• The mass shooting of eight people in Piketon, Ohio last week has left more questions than answers, and authorities say they’re preparing for a long investigation. All eight victims were related and the shootings happened at three sites close to each other. Authorities say the shootings were expertly planned and executed and noted that two of the three crime scenes contained significant marijuana growing operations. Investigators have not commented on any possible link between the operations and the killings.

• The city of Cleveland has settled a lawsuit with the family of Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed in November 2014 by a Cleveland police officer. The family will get $6 million from the city. A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict officer Timothy Loehmann in that incident. Loehmann leapt from a police cruiser that had stopped feet away from Rice at a Cleveland playground and almost immediately shot him. Rice, 12, had been playing with a toy pistol on the playground when a neighbor called the police. The caller stipulated the gun was probably fake, but dispatchers did not relay that information to officers.

• Do you ever think, "jeez, more papers should be like The Cincinnati Enquirer?" You may be in luck. Gannett, the national corporation that owns the Enquirer as well as USA Today and a number of other publications, has made an offer to buy Tribune Publishing, another large national newspaper chain. Gannett has offered $815 million for the chain, which includes The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other daily newspapers.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, both GOP presidential primary hopefuls, will collaborate in future primaries to try and trip up frontrunner Donald Trump as he charges toward the party’s nomination. The Kasich campaign has indicated it will focus efforts on New Mexico and Oregon while staying out of Indiana in a move to help Cruz best Trump in that state. In return, Cruz has agreed to stay out of the two western states in a bid to give Kasich the edge over Trump there. The move — which will present Trump with one focused opponent in upcoming contests, instead of the split field he’s faced up to this point — seems calculated toward denying him the 1,137 delegates needed to clinch the nomination outright. Kasich in particular is counting on a contested convention in July, since he badly trails in the delegate count in the current contest.

I'm out. Tweet at your boy or send a good old fashioned email my way.

 
 
 
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