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by Nick Swartsell 05.10.2016 19 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_prison

Morning News and Stuff

City might begin accepting new ID cards for immigrants, homeless; Ohio prison population skyrocketing; poll: Trump leads Clinton in Ohio

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Cincinnati City Council will vote Wednesday on whether the city should accept ID cards for homeless residents and undocumented immigrants. The resolution, which a local coalition of religious groups has been advocating for months, would make Cincinnati the first city in the state to accept the cards issued by the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati, which includes Jewish, Catholic, Islamic, Baptist and other faith groups. The cards are designed to provide an added sense of dignity and ease the process of finding housing, employment and other necessities for immigrants, homeless individuals and those returning from incarceration.

• Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing is in court this morning for another pretrial hearing related to charges against him in the shooting death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose. Tensing’s attorneys say he was afraid of being dragged under DuBose’s car when he shot the motorist in the head. Inititally, Tensing said that DuBose began driving away before he was shot, and that the officer was dragged by DuBose’s car. Body camera footage contradicted those statements, however. Tensing will stand trial on murder and manslaughter chargers in October.

• Former House Speaker and West Chester resident John Boehner might no longer be campaigning for office or directing floor votes in the House, but he does still have some skin in the political game. Namely, he has about $2.5 million in reelection campaign accounts that have few restrictions in terms of usage. Boehner has been using this money to keep in politics from beyond retirement, giving some to Republican colleagues for their own reelection bids and for other political projects. That’s pretty routine, as there are few regulations on how retired politicians spend their campaign funds, so long as they don’t go all Tom Haverford and decide to treat themselves to the cash. Boehner’s leftover funds are noteworthy mostly for the amount of money sitting in those old accounts, the spoils of one of the GOP’s top fundraisers.  

• Ohio’s prison population has risen 15 percent in the past decade, according to a report from a committee convened by lawmakers to study possible changes in Ohio’s justice system. That increase has happened despite a decrease in crime rates and almost entirely stems from drug-related incarcerations. Today, Ohio’s prisons are at 132 percent of their intended capacity. Despite continued low crime rates, Ohio’s prison population could hit a record high this summer, experts warn.

• Democrat presidential primary front runner Hillary Clinton will open up a campaign office in Covington, officials with her election bid announced yesterday. The campaign will launch in-person canvassing efforts as well as phone voter engagement efforts from the forthcoming HQ, which will be on Pike Street. Clinton has a big delegate lead over opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders ahead of Kentucky’s May 17 Democratic primary.

• Speaking of Clinton, a new poll shows her trailing presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump in Ohio, but only by the slimmest of margins. A new Quinnipiac poll shows Trump leading Clinton 43 to 39 among Ohioans, though the poll has a three percent margin of error. That’s in contrast to results for Clinton’s opponent Sanders, who leads Trump in that poll by two points. Clinton leads Trump in that poll in other vital swing states Pennsylvania and Florida by small margins. The Quinnipiac poll contradicts other recent polling showing Clinton leading in Ohio, and national polls show Clinton beating Trump by a larger margin. With or without Ohio, Trump faces a challenging electoral college map this November.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 05.09.2016 19 days ago
Posted In: News at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news15.2.16_ccac_nk

Clifton Town Meeting to CPS: Don't Use Survey

Neighborhood group says school district's survey to Clifton residents asks biased questions

A community group representing Clifton residents has taken issue with a survey sent out by Cincinnati Public Schools that could influence the fate of the embattled Clifton Cultural Arts Center.

CityBeat reported last week on the battle over the Clifton School Building, which is currently occupied by the CCAC. The arts organization has leased the building on Clifton Avenue from CPS since 2008, though CPS recently told the arts center that it is considering terminating its lease and taking the building back.

As part of its outreach to neighborhood residents ahead of the decision about the building, which could come as early as the end of this month, CPS sent out a survey to 11,817 Clifton residents to gauge the neighborhood's interest in the school. The district also sent out a similar version of the survey to 860 families in Clifton Heights, University Heights and Fairview (CUF) and Spring Grove Village, which would also be using the proposed school.

But in a May 9 letter addressed to the CPS Board of Education members and CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan, CTM President Eric Urbas writes that the organization believes the survey asks confusing and biased questions. 

"We warned the Administration that the survey was flawed, but it was sent out anyway," the letter reads. "Now we are alerting you that if the survey results are used, they will only lead to bad decisions." 

Results are due back by May 15, according to CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh. The survey's results will factor into CPS's decision on whether to create a new school in the current home of the CCAC, which the arts center currently leases from CPS for $1 in rent per year along with the cost of the building's pricey upkeep. The arts group has also poured more than $2 million into the building for upgrades and renovations.

Walsh says CPS had discussions with Clifton Town Meeting about the survey, which was written by the CPS Board of Education and CPS staff members, but says community input goes beyond Clifton residents.

"We don't have time to have the world sign on to it," Walsh says. "We're just trying to get information in a timely manner." 

Malcolm Montgomery, the vice president of Clifton Town Meeting, says CTM's concerns with CPS go beyond just the survey. It would like to see the district host more community meetings and discussions before it goes forward with any plan to build a new school. 

"For any school to succeed, it's got to have strong parent backing, and you don’t get that from a survey," Montgomery says. "You don't get that from press releases. You get that from honest engagement from the community."

The CCAC, CTM and the Fairview-Clifton German Language School are set to meet for an hour at CPS's Burnet Avenue headquarters on May 12 to discuss options for the new school and CCAC's future.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.09.2016 20 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
music hall

Morning News and Stuff

Downtown buildings named historic landmarks; online charter attendance debated; which local GOPers will stump for Trump?

Good morning all. Here’s what’s happening today.

Critics of U.S. Senator Rob Portman are getting louder in their opposition as the Republican faces a tough re-election campaign this year. A group will gather outside his Cincinnati headquarters today for a news conference around Portman’s refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Merick Garland.

The presser, organized by Progress Ohio, will feature voting rights advocate Samuel Gresham, immigration law expert Jorge Martinez and Sandy Theis, director of Why Courts Matter Ohio, according to a news release from the group. SCOTUS, which currently has eight members instead of the usual nine after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year, has seen big cases around immigration and voting rights recently. Portman is neck and neck with Democrat challenger Ohio governor Ted Strickland in Ohio’s Senate race. He's fallen in line with other GOP Senators and said he thinks the next president should pick Scalia’s replacement. Portman has indicated he does not support extending a Senate hearing for any Obama nominee.

• Are you a skywalker or a street crosser? There’s a big fight brewing over the skywalk that links Music Hall to a parking garage west of the historic Cincinnati landmark, and as the building is renovated, the bridge over Central Parkway could be removed. City parking officials say the skywalk is well beyond its lifespan, could present a hazard to the public and could be removed in June as part of Music Hall’s $135 million renovation. But Mayor John Cranley is insisting the skywalk be saved. Replacing the bridge could cost up to $4 million. Tearing it down would cost about $700,000.

• Three Cincinnati buildings downtown designed by famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham are getting a $100 million redevelopment, and they’ve been named historic landmarks in the process. The Cincinnati Planning Committee voted Friday to bestow that status on the Fourth and Walnut Centre, built in 1904, which Texas-based owners Newcrestimage, LLC will soon turn into multiple hotels.

• Last year, Ohio’s charter school system was rocked by revelations that data about those schools was rigged by an employee within the Ohio Department of Education to make certain charter school sponsors appear better, mostly by omitting data about low-performing online schools. Now, a former employee of one of those online schools has revealed how attendance data there was fudged to make the school look more successful than it actually was.

Brianne Kramer worked at the Ohio Virtual Academy last year, where she says 487 students had failed to log into classes 11 weeks into the school year. Yet only 89 were reported as truant. That was part of bigger attendance reporting problems the school faces, according to critics of the online schools. You can read all about those problems in this Columbus Dispatch story. Charter officials and supporters say the school works students who miss hours to get them back on track and that the attendance stats don't tell the whole story.

• The GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump has been a polarizing figure within the party, to say the least. So it’s interesting to take note of which Republican politicians in the region are lining up behind him and which are still expressing reticence about the real estate mogul and reality TV star.

Among bigwigs pledging support: U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Cincinnati-area U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, Hamilton County Commissioners Dennis Deters and Chris Monzel, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou and others. Meanwhile, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have yet to weigh in on Trump. Bevin has said he won’t endorse in the primary. Kasich took a full-tilt run against Trump in the GOP battle and was Trump’s last opponent before he dropped out last week.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 05.06.2016 23 days 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 24 days 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 24 days 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 similar 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 striping. 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 24 days 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 25 days 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 26 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 27 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 Nick Swartsell 05.26.2016 66 hours ago
Posted In: News at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_dennison2_ns

Dennison Vote Delayed

Representatives for Joseph family make their argument for tearing down the historic building, but no decision reached yet

After a nearly four-hour meeting, Cincinnati's Historic Conservation Board adjourned this afternoon without voting on Columbia REI, LLC's application to tear down the historic Dennison building downtown at 716-718 Main St.

That application has caused controversy. Columbia, owned by the powerful Joseph family, says it would be too expensive to save the building and would like to build a headquarters for an as-yet unidentified Fortune 500 company on the site. But preservationists say the building, which was designed by the firm of noted architect Samuel Hannaford, is a vital part of downtown's urban fabric.

Representatives for Columbia and the Joseph family presented their case to five members of the seven-member board. The group called a number of experts they've hired while they've owned the building to give evidence they say shows the building can't be redeveloped in an economically feasible way due to its poor condition and structural attributes.

Most of the presentation restated the key points of this assertion in greater detail, but there was at least one new revelation: how the Cincinnati City Center Development Company, which purchased the building for $1.2 million and then sold it to Columbia for $740,000, recouped money on the deal. Representatives for the Joseph family say the group paid 3CDC further development costs after the initial sale, making up the missing money.

The meeting had its fair share of contention: Columbia's attorney Fran Barrett moved to have Cincinnati Urban Conservator Beth Johnson's testimony stricken from the proceedings. Barrett said that Johnson has shown "extreme prejudice and bias" and that the Josephs "have a stacked deck against us going in" to their demolition application.

Johnson last month wrote a report taking staunch issue with the Josephs' assertion that anything other than demolishing the building would present the company with an economic hardship, pointing out the building's sound structural condition and the fact that studies on the economic feasibility of redevelopment of the building didn't take into account historic state tax credits and other incentives.

Lance Brown, the executive vice president of Beck Consulting, which drew up the economic feasibility report, told the board that no normal type of use — apartments, condos, office space — was feasible for the Dennison. However, when pushed by the board, Brown admitted he wasn't specifically familiar with incentives like state Historic Preservation tax credits, LEED tax credits, or city grants and tax credits that could have made the project more feasible.

Multiple board members also took issue with Brown's use of the term "flophouse" to describe the Dennison's former life as a single room occupancy hotel. Brown cracked that he got his understanding of that term from "extensive research on Wikipedia and Google."

Board member Judith Spraul-Schmidt chided Brown for using the term, saying that such housing was designed to be "decent and safe."

The board will work with attorneys representing the Josephs and opponents of the demolition application to set the next hearing, at which those seeking to save the Dennison will make their case.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.26.2016 70 hours ago
Posted In: News at 11:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover_otr

Effort to Preserve 300 Units of OTR Affordable Housing Unveiled

Cranley budget proposal calls for $2 million in OTR to foster mixed-income developments

Over-the-Rhine will get 300 improved units of affordable housing, many as part of mixed-income developments, if $2 million in funding in Mayor John Cranley’s budget proposal is approved. Another $2 million would be dedicated to affordable housing elsewhere in the city if the plan goes forward.

The plan would rehabilitate affordable housing at eight sites, many under contracts with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Currently, those sites house 302 units of housing, many of which city officials say are in substandard and neglected condition. The city money would go toward a $135 million effort by developers like Model Group and 3CDC to turn those sites into 304 units of high-quality affordable housing along with 212 market rate units at four of the sites.

Cranley, Vice Mayor David Mann, representatives from Over-the-Rhine Community Housing and developers Model Group and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation unveiled the proposal today at a news conference outside 1525 Race St., which would see 25 units of affordable housing developed by Model along with 85 market rate units.

“We’re very excited to be here today to celebrate affordable housing and a diverse community in Over-the-Rhine,” said Over-the-Rhine Community Executive Director Mary Burke Rivers. “People who are working in our city, or retired, or veterans, can’t afford what the market provides for housing. It’s gotten very complicated, but at its core it’s a simple math problem. This money addresses that math problem.”

The developments are designed to help the slide in affordable housing the neighborhood has seen in the past decade, Cranley says. Since 2000, 73 percent of OTR’s lowest-cost housing units have left the neighborhood, according to a study by Xavier’s Community Building Institute. That's caused some displacement of residents.

“We’ve seen here in Over-the-Rhine an extraordinary renaissance that was unthinkable five or 10 years ago,” Cranley said at the news conference. “But I think we all believe it should not come at the expense of the people who have lived here a long time. There have always been HUD contracts that have been extended for 15 or 30 years to preserve affordable housing. But it’s not enough, and we’d like to do more. We want to adjust to changing circumstances. We want a healthy community that is mixed income. I think this is a tremendous opportunity to do that.”

Cranley says the financing is general fund money coming from the city’s sale of the Blue Ash Airport and refinancing of some streetcar expenses.

Model Group CEO Bobby Maly says affordable housing and economic development can go hand and hand.

“Investing in affordable housing can also be investing in economic development and revitalization. That means investing in high-quality affordable housing alongside, adjacent to, high-quality market rate housing. It also means investing in affordable housing next to high-investment community projects. Things like Washington Park and other public investments.”

A focus on mixed-income development is the very deliberate focus of the proposal, Mann says.

“It’s no accident that we’re here,” Mann said about the site of the news announcement, a series of empty buildings on Race Street. “Next door, new, market rate condos are being built. As I understand from (3CDC CEO) Mr. (Steve) Leeper, they’ll be $300,000 and up. Here, because of the affordable housing money that the budget will commit to Over-the-Rhine, there will be about 25 renovated units of affordable housing.”

Mann cited statistics that 50 percent of renters in Cincinnati pay more than 30 percent of their incomes for apartments, the threshold for affordability set by the federal government.

“We hope there are ways that the $2 million can be leveraged,” Mann said, to create more opportunities for affordable housing creation. The other $2 million will be dispersed to developers doing low-income housing projects in other parts of the city through an as-yet-to-be-determined process.

The plan would, in some cases, move affordable units to other buildings and create market rate or mixed-income developments in their place.

As and example: Among the sites involved in the OTR plan are the Jan and Senate Apartments, six buildings containing 101 units of subsidized housing, and the so-called Mercy portfolio, which includes 140 units in 18 buildings in OTR for people making less than 60 percent of the area median income — about $71,000 for a family of four. About 70 of those units are in bad shape, developers say, while another 70 need only minor work.

Developers say the Jan and Senate properties are in danger of losing their rental subsidies due to their poor condition and have begun managing the sites and moving tenants to other, nearby affordable units with the help of the Cincinnati Legal Aid Society ahead of rehab work. The HUD contracts held by the Jan and Senate buildings would then be transferred to a number of other affordable housing sites, 3CDC and Model Group say in an outline of their plan provided by city officials. About 45 units of housing at 60 percent of the area median income will stay at the Jan and Senate as part of a mixed-income development.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 05.26.2016 3 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Off-duty CPD officer fatally shoots robbery suspect; Cranley wants to restore human services funding; medical marijuana bill heads to Kasich's desk

Good morning, Cincy! A lot is happening around the city so let's get straight to the headlines. 

• An off-duty Cincinnati police officer fatally shot a man suspected of robbing a Madisonville bank yesterday afternoon. CPD Chief Eliot Isaac confirmed that the still-unnamed CPD officer fired two shots at 20-year-old Terry Frost in the Fifth Third bank off Madison Avenue shortly after 4 p.m. Frost reportedly claimed to have a gun during the robbery, then, after being shot, stumbled off into the woods behind the bank where he was found dead by CPD officers. Police still haven't said whether Frost had a gun or any other weapon. CPD is planning on holding a press conference this morning to reveal the name of the officer. This is the third fatal shooting by a CPD officer this year. 

• Mayor John Cranley says he is not OK with the cuts to human services funding in City Manager Harry Black's proposed budget released last week. Cranley told The Enquirer he wants to bring back 82 percent of the $413,500 Black has proposed cutting, amounting to an 8.5 percent decrease. Under Cranley's proposal, human services funding would account for 1.9 percent of the budget. Black's budget dedicates $4 million to five different agencies with the majority of funds going to nonprofit United Way. 

• Mayor Cranley appears to be a busy man at the moment. The mayor will also hold a press conference with Vice Mayor David Mann this morning at 10:30 a.m. in Over-The-Rhine to unveil the details of a $135 million initiative to upgrade and add low-income housing to the neighborhood. The effort reportedly will be led by 3CDC and Walnut Hills nonprofit The Model Group. 

• The city is taking Mahogany's owner Liz Rogers to court. Rogers received a $300,000 loan from the city in 2012 to open the soul food restaurant, which went under in September 2014. Taxpayers have forgiven Rogers for two-thirds of the loan, but she is refusing to repay the $96,928 she still owes the city. Rogers missed her $800 loan payments in March and April, and the city filed suit on May 11. Vice Mayor Mann said the city was left with "no choice." She is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 1.  

• A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Ohio in a highly restrictive form is on its way to Gov. John Kasich's desk. The legislation passed the Senate last evening with a margin of just three votes. The bill would still prohibit growing and smoking the plant, but would allow it in a vapor form and would be available for doctors to prescribe to patients with a list of approved medical conditions. The Ohio Department of Commerce would oversee the growth, distribution and testing of the plant. Some Democrats expressed disapproval at the provision that allows employers to fire employees who tested positive for the drug — even if they have a prescription. If Gov. Kasich signs the bill into law, Ohio will become the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana. 

• Gov. Kasich, like Mayor Cranley, also appears to have a lot on his plate now. Also on its way to the Gov.'s desk: a bill that would require taxpayers to fork over thousands of dollars to keep polls open longer. The proposal from Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township, came from the controversy sparked after a federal judge in Hamilton County ordered the polls during the March 15 primary to stay open 90 minutes longer. The bill would require state judges who order polls to stay open later to collect bonds. Several Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union have objected to the proposed change, saying it could discourage people from voting.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.25.2016 4 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tom massie

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar start date set; will Avondale get a real grocery store?; Kasich still won't support Trump

Good morning all. Here’s what’s going on in the world today.

The city of Cincinnati has officially announced an opening date for the city’s streetcar. The transit project running through Over-the-Rhine and downtown will take its first passengers Sept. 9, beginning with an opening ceremony at some point mid-day. The project, which has been fraught with political battles and funding concerns, is being financed with increased parking revenues, advertising proceeds and other sources that aren’t part of the city’s general fund budget.

• Mayor John Cranley yesterday rolled out more of his proposals for the city’s budget, which involve some $30 million for neighborhood projects. He spoke at a news conference in Avondale about projects he’d like to see funded in that neighborhood under his proposed fiscal plan, including a renewed Avondale Towne Center with a Save-A-Lot grocery store. Avondale has been trying to get a full-service grocery store since Aldi left the neighborhood about eight years ago. The city would chip in about $2 million to get development started under Cranley’s plan. The mayor did acknowledge that neighborhood activists had hoped for a higher-scale store such as a Kroger but that the Save-A-Lot will be expected to stock fresh produce and other necessities. Cranley yesterday also announced he would provide $3.2 million for a new community development corporation in Bond Hill and Roselawn.

• Cranley is set to pitch another round of investments today in the city’s East Side neighborhoods. He’s also expected to announce that the city will purchase the land necessary to build the Wasson Way bike trail. That $11.8 million, 4.1-mile stretch of former railway is vital to the completion of the trail, which would pass through a number of East Side neighborhoods on its way to Uptown. If the city doesn’t purchase the land by the end of July, the price will jump by nearly $600,000. It’s unclear where the construction money for the project will come from. The city applied for a federal TIGER grant last year to help fund building costs for the bike trail but was turned down.

• Wait. Hold on. Do I agree on something with U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, the tea party crusader from Northern Kentucky? It would… kind of appear so. Massie owes the GOP $24,000 in “party dues,” i.e. money from his fundraising coffers the party expects in order to stay in its good graces. Massie has criticized the practice, which is also used to determine who gets which committee assignment in the House. Particular assignments have particular dollar amounts assigned to them, and the more influential the committee, the more money a House member is expected to kick in. Massie is slamming this system, saying it means the best fundraisers, not the best lawmakers, get oversized influence in the legislative process. In what may be the only example of partisan agreement between a tea party member and the rest of Congress, some Democrats agree with him. I also think it sounds pretty messed up.

• What policies will law enforcement officers and departments have to follow regarding body cameras across Ohio?

Read More

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.24.2016 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
trump

Morning News and Stuff

Judge divvies up DuBose settlement; council members request MSD audit; Clinton beating Trump in Ohio polls

Good morning all. Lots to talk about today so let’s get to it!

The 13 children of Samuel DuBose will each receive more than $200,000 as part of a settlement between the family and the University of Cincinnati, a Hamilton County judge ruled yesterday. DuBose was shot and killed by UC police officer Ray Tensing July 19 last year. In addition to the money for his children, DuBose’s mother Audrey DuBose will receive $90,000, his six siblings will receive $32,000 each and his father Sam Johnson will receive $25,000, Judge Ralph Winlker announced yesterday. The settlement, which also includes other elements such as college tuition for DuBose’s children, resolves a civil suit against the university. Criminal proceedings are ongoing against former officer Tensing, who is charged with murder and manslaughter. He’s scheduled to stand trial on those charges in October.

• Cincinnati City Council members are requesting the recently completed audit of the region’s Metropolitan Sewer District ahead of the city's budget process, but City Manager Harry Black says they shouldn't rush. The audit, which resulted from revelations that MSD spent millions on contracts it didn’t properly put through a bidding process, is still with the city’s lawyers in a working draft form, Black says. But with work on the city’s budget looming, council members like Kevin Flynn and Chris Seelbach say the time is now to reveal the results of the audit. Things got testy when Council pushed for more information from the audit at yesterday’s budget and finance committee meeting, with Black resisting requests for that information and Seelbach accusing the city manager of giving him an eye roll. Oh snap.

• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is at the White House today meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and state and local government officials as part of a discussion on gun violence. Sittenfeld made gun control a big part of his campaign when he was running for Senate against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. Sittenfeld lost that race but has pledged to continue efforts to curtail shootings. He told WVXU he is there to learn more about strategies for curbing gun violence and that he doesn’t think the invite has anything to do with his former Senate campaign. President Barack Obama and VP Biden endorsed Strickland in that race.

This is a weird article. Breaking news: The city has a lot of stairs. Some of them are crumbling. More breaking news: The city isn’t exactly rushing to pay to fix them. Thus concludes your breaking news update about something you probably already knew about. The steps are a big part of the city’s walking infrastructure (I take them every day). But they’ve been neglected since, well, probably since people started moving out of the city. The money it would take to fix them is also an infinitesimally small portion of the city’s budget at a time when Mayor John Cranley is discussing throwing $30 million to a few city neighborhoods.

• A federal judge has temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip $1.4 million in public money from Planned Parenthood in the state. That money goes to providing health screenings for low-income women, not to providing abortions. The temporary restraining order keeping Ohio from enforcing the law, which passed in February, comes as a larger court fight around the measure continues. You can read more about all of that in our story here.

• Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost yesterday announced the results of surprise headcounts at Ohio charter schools, saying at least some of the schools had very few or no students attending on the days of the unannounced visits. Yost said the extremely low attendance numbers at three charters in the state suggests they might be operating illegally as distance learning schools instead of the brick and mortar schools they’re certified to operate as. It’s the latest revelation in a bad stretch for the state’s charters, which have faced allegations of mismanagement and an Ohio Department of Education data rigging scandal that artificially inflated charter school performance by omitting some low-performing online schools. Yost visited 14 drop-out recovery schools around the state and found an average attendance of just 34 percent.

• The revelations, as well as other frustrations with the state’s public schools, had the auditor spitting hot fire at the ODE yesterday, calling it “among the worst, if not the worst-run agency in state government.” Yost cited poor charter school accountability and performance as well as a slow roll out for ODE’s new data management system as among the sources for his frustration with the agency.

• Finally, more presidential politics, because I know you need more of that in your life. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in Ohio, according to the latest polls asking voters about the upcoming general election. But it’s not the blowout you might expect. Clinton’s up 44 percent to Trump’s 39 percent in the Buckeye State — less than her primary opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who bests Trump 48 percent to 39 percent in the CBS/YouGov poll. Voters have a pretty negative opinion of both candidates, however — 55 percent view Clinton negatively and 59 percent feel the same about Trump.

That’s it for me. See you tomorrow. Tweet or email in the meantime.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.23.2016 5 days ago
Posted In: News, Women's Health at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_protester_7-9 copy

Federal Court Blocks Ohio Law Defunding Planned Parenthood

Temporary restraining order against the state will allow Planned Parenthood to continue providing health services for now

A federal circuit court today temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip Planned Parenthood of about $1.4 million in state and federal funds.

That law was slated to go into effect today, but will now be placed on hold until June 6 as the court considers a longer-lasting injunction against the defunding move by conservative state lawmakers. 

The money the state seeks to withhold is used by Planned Parenthood to provide non-abortion healthcare services, including HIV and cancer screenings. 

Judge Michael R. Barrett of the U.S. Southwest District Court ruled that the organization’s challenge to the law has a significant chance of success in federal courts, and thus placed a temporary restraining order on the state, preventing it from enforcing the law for the time being.

Barrett agreed with Planned Parenthood’s arguments that the law blocking the money could severely damage medical-screening activities the organization undertakes, and that those operations could be hard to reestablish.

“Plaintiffs explain that without the funds at issue here, Plaintiffs will be forced to stop providing services such as pap smears and other cancer screenings, tests for HIV/AIDS and tests and treatment for other STDs, infant mortality prevention programs, and sexual health education programs,” Barrett wrote in his ruling today. “Therefore, the Court concludes that for purposes of deciding Plaintiffs’ Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Plaintiffs have established irreparable injury.”

In seeking the injunction, Planned Parenthood argues that the law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment by targeting the organization due to the fact it provides abortions.

State lawmakers have been open in acknowledging that they seek to strip funds from Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions, even though the public money given to the organization goes to other health services.

Conservatives in the state house have said they’re opposed to abortion for moral and safety reasons, and have described their crackdown on abortion providers like Planned Parenthood as a way to protect women.

“We have an obligation to say to Planned Parenthood, until you get out of the business of termination of pregnancy, the destruction of human life, we are not going to choose to fund you,” Ohio Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican who helped push the law, said during debate over the defunding provision in January.

But Planned Parenthood claims these clinics aren't immediately in a position to fill the healthcare gaps it would leave, which would include 70,000 free STD screenings it provides through a Centers for Disease Control program and 5,000 free HIV tests for populations at high risk for the virus.

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio serves 20 counties in the region. It says about 75 percent of its clients are low-income.
 
The defunding effort is the latest in a recent string of laws passed by Ohio Republicans seeking to limit abortions. The state has passed ever-stricter standards, including stipulations about admitting privileges at local hospitals and rules against publicly funded hospitals entering into such agreements with abortion clinics. That’s whittled down the number of clinics in the state from 14 a few years ago to just nine today. Among them is the last clinic in the Cincinnati area, the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, which has been threatened with closure over the new laws.

Planned Parenthood officials cheered the federal court’s decision today.

“This ruling is a victory for the tens of thousands of Ohioans that rely on Planned Parenthood for care each year,” said Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio CEO Jerry Lawson. “Our state legislators want to ban abortion across the board, and they were willing to decimate access to preventive care in the process. But this isn’t about politics for our patients, it’s about their health and their lives. If you have a lump in your breast or need an HIV test, lawmakers should be making it easier, not harder, to get the care you need.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.23.2016 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
michelle dillingham 2

Morning News and Stuff

City's top brass all got raises last year; local Dems tussle over 2017; historic Bavarian Brewery safe for now

Hey hey Cincinnati. Hope you got outside and soaked up the perfect weather this weekend. Now it’s back to the real world, where news happens.

The directors of every city of Cincinnati department received raises this past year, according to city records reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer. In total, those raises are costing city taxpayers $234,000 more a year. Some of the city’s 25 department heads got those pay bumps despite making few of their stated goals and receiving rather mixed performance reviews. Top salary getters include Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, whose $162,000 paycheck is 20 percent more than his predecessor Chief Jeffrey Blackwell made. Fire Chief Richard Braun, who is now also making $162,000, saw his pay raised 16 percent. Those raises came during a time when the city projected as much as a $14 million budget deficit. That deficit was cut in half by more recent economic projections, but could still trigger cuts to the city’s human services and economic development efforts, among other services. The city manager’s recently released budget calls for a 1 percent raise for all city employees, and police and fire personnel are negotiating to get a 3 percent bump.

• Speaking of the budget, Mayor John Cranley is set to unveil his ideas for the city’s financial plan today at 11 a.m. at Westwood Town Hall, according to a news release from the mayor's office. On the agenda: $30 million for neighborhood projects in that neighborhood and in places like West Price Hill, North Avondale, Bond Hill and others. City Manager Black released his budget proposal Thursday, and Cranley has two weeks to submit his version to City Council. He’ll be presenting his version of the budget at town halls throughout the week.

• We haven’t even survived 2016 yet, but we’re already talking about the election after it. Last week, we told you about the increasing focus around Cincinnati’s 2017 mayoral and City Council races. Now, after revelations that Councilwoman Yvette Simpson sent out a memo to potential firms that could help her in a bid opposing fellow Dem Cranley, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke is asking party members to focus on this year’s election. Burke has said it’s too early to focus on next year just yet when there are big races at the county level — most notably a pitched fight for control of the Hamilton County Commission. State Rep. Denise Driehaus is running to grab a seat on that body, and if she pulls out a victory against Republican interim commissioner Dennis Deters, the three-member group that oversees the county could have a Democrat majority for the first time in years. But the call for unity from Burke comes as the party is experiencing tension between two factions in the city: younger, more progressive Dems who tended to support the streetcar and who push for items like increases in human services funding, and more established, moderate Democrats like Mayor Cranley.

• That battle continues to shape up: progressive 2013 City Council candidate Michelle Dillingham is launching her bid for a Council seat in the 2017 election tonight at Bromwell’s Harth-Lounge at 6 p.m. Dillingham came in 12th in that race and hopes to turn support for her from progressives into a Council seat this time around.

• A historic building in Covington will get at least a little more time safe from the wrecking ball. Kenton County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Summe told Bavarian Brewery owners Columbia Sussex that they can’t demolish the 100-year-old building. The structure, which sits in a historic district, once held Jillian’s nightclub. Columbia-Sussex originally wanted to put a casino on the property, but Kentucky legislators have yet to pass a law that would allow that to happen. Now, the company says the only way it can see a return on investment is by demolishing the building. Covington’s Urban Design Review Board previously denied a permit application for that demolition, and Judge Summe’s ruling affirms that position. Columbia-Sussex can appeal her decision, however.

• Finally, University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono made big news over the weekend with his admission that he suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts as a younger man. Ono made the revelation at a fundraiser Saturday for mental health-awareness group 1N5, whose name is a reference to research that shows one in five individuals in the United States suffers from mental illness. Ono said that by talking about his past struggles, he hoped to show that mental illness is treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 05.20.2016 9 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
yvette simpson

Morning News and Stuff

Councilwoman Simpson drops hints at possible mayoral run; UC down to final candidates for police chief; Oklahoma passes most restrictive abortion bill yet

Good morning y’all! Here are your morning headlines.

• Councilwoman Yvette Simpson might have released the first shred of evidence that she’s running for mayor next year. Simpson sent a letter to consulting firms this month searching for someone who could help with a “campaign against an incumbent executive office holder,” aka Mayor John Cranley. Simpson won’t officially say yet whether she’s going to take a shot at Cranley’s spot or just run for a third term on Council in 2017 but says she’ll make a decision by the end of this year.

• It’s that super exciting time of year when the city lays out its budget for next year. Yesterday, City Manager Harry Black presented his plan for a $1.2 billion city budget that includes raises for city employees, cuts to the human service department and the city’s economic development programs and building a new marina. Yep, the city wants the Parks Department to build a marina along the Ohio River. Mayor Cranley has two weeks to present the budget to Council, which will then approve or amend it some time before the next fiscal year begins on July 1.

• The University of Cincinnati Department of Public Safety says it is down to three candidates to lead the department. The candidates were chosen by an outside consulting firm and include the director of public safety at Oregon State University, a previous CPD officer with more than 20 years experience and police deputy chief at Ohio State. The department is also down to two candidates for assistant chief, including a CPD Department Captain. UC will present the candidates to the public during open forums will be held May 23-25. Former Police Chief Jason Goodrich and Assistant Chief Tim Thornton resigned in February in the wake of the shooting of Mount Auburn resident Samuel DuBose by former UC police officer Ray Tensing.

• Judge Tracie Hunter will not be going to jail today. The suspended juvenile court judge was supposed to start her 60-day jail sentence today, but a judge suspended her sentence after Hunter filed a petition claiming misconduct by the special prosecutor and judge during her trial. Federal Judge Timothy Black ruled Hunter can remain free during the proceedings. A jury convicted Hunter of unlawful interest in a public contract for helping her brother in a discipline hearing 19 months ago.

• Could U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown become Vice President Brown? Yesterday, Sen. Brown was seen parading around with current VP Joe Biden in Columbus, leading to rumors that the progressive senator could be Hillary Clinton’s pick for running mate. Nothing is certain yet, as Biden told White House reporters that Brown would be a “great pick” but then went on to highlight other strong Democratic contenders without hinting at a favorite.

• Oklahoma’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill yesterday that would subject doctors to felony charges and revoke their medical licenses for performing abortions. The bill — which is most restrictive abortion bill passed yet — is still waiting on a signature from Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. If signed in to law, it will almost certainly be challenged in state or federal court where legal experts say it will likely be declared unconstitutional.

News tips go here.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.19.2016 9 days ago
Posted In: News at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

It's City Budget Season Again!

On deck: a marina at Smale, employee raises and cuts to human services

Are you ready for city budget season? It started today.

City Manager Harry Black this morning presented his vision for Cincinnati’s fiscal year 2017 spending blueprint; a $1.2 billion budget he touts as structurally balanced. On deck: a literal deck, as in, a marina along the Ohio River built by the Cincinnati Parks Department, raises for city employees — three percent for police and fire, plus a boost for low-paid workers through a municipal living wage initiative — and cuts to some agencies to make up for a projected $6.7 million revenue shortfall, priming another potential battle over the city’s human services funding.

Last year, Council battled for, and received, $3 million for human services to be spent through a United Way-run funding process, which vets social service organizations based on effectiveness. This year, that amount will drop to $2,781,000.

That nine percent drop once again falls short of a City Council commitment set last decade pledging to commit at least 1.5 percent of the city’s operating budget to human services.

Other organizations now, but not previously, categorized in the human services section of the budget will also take hits. Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative, which runs through Cincinnati Works, will receive $225,000 — $25,000 less than last year. Some programs previously funded by the city, like Cradle Cincinnati, which seeks to address the city’s high infant mortality rate, will receive no money at all. Last year, Cradle got $250,000 from the city’s human services fund.

Not everyone will lose when it comes to human services funding, however. The Center for Closing the Health Gap, run by close Cranley ally and former mayor Dwight Tillery, will see its city funding boosted to $1 million, a $250,000 increase over last year. The organization has received increases in past budgets under Cranley as well.

The city’s economic development programs will also see big cuts. Nearly every program funded by that portion of the budget will take hits, totaling about $285,000. Only MORTAR, a program seeking to boost minority entrepreneurship, will see a slight budget boost.

The funding cuts could have been worse: originally, the city was projected to have as much as a $14 million deficit. But revised projections by University of Cincinnati economists showed the revenue gap will be about half that size. Income tax revenues to the city are expected to grow by 4.6 percent, according to a report on the budget issued by City Manager Black.

But the need for cuts elsewhere won’t stop the city from investing in a marina along Smale Riverfront Park. The park board today voted to go forward with the project, which has been in the works for nearly two decades, and Black’s budget calls for $750,000 of city money to go toward the estimated $3.6 million cost of the project. That money is part of $4 million in Black's budget for parks capital projects. Other money could come from past federal funds for Smale, as well as an application for a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The board says the project, which as proposed would have room for 29 boats, will generate revenue for the parks department.

More on the budget as the process unfolds; this party is just getting started. Mayor Cranley has two weeks to present the budget to Council, which will then vote to approve or amend it. The process should wrap up sometime before July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 05.19.2016 9 days ago
Posted In: News at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
sherrod brown

Will Sen. Sherrod Brown be Clinton's VP Pick?

Appearance yesterday in Columbus with VP Joe Biden stokes speculation

You might have missed it, but U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from the Cleveland area, was traveling around with Vice President Joe Biden yesterday in Columbus.

It’s easy to see the two palling around as a hint that Brown, whose name has been tossed around as a running mate for Democratic presidential primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton, might be next in line for Biden’s job.

But is Brown actually a contender in the veepstakes?

So far, the gruff-voiced progressive senator has demurred on that suggestion, trying to shift the spotlight to other potential VP picks.

“I think Secretary Perez and Tim Kaine would be good vice presidents,” Brown told media yesterday. Tom Perez is Obama’s labor secretary, and Kaine is a U.S. senator from Virginia.

Biden and Brown were visiting the Buckeye State to tout President Barack Obama’s move to extend overtime pay to more U.S. workers, and to do some politicking around the 2016 election. Ohio is a vital swing state for 2016 presidential contenders, a fact that Biden acknowledged was a factor in the trip. More specifically, the two did a bit of campaigning for former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who is campaigning to take Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s seat in November.

Ohio’s Senate situation could provide a good reason Brown wouldn’t get the VP nod from Clinton. As Brown himself has pointed out, he would have to leave his Senate seat before 2018, when he’s up for reelection. Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich would then get to pick his replacement. That’s a seat Democrats can’t afford to lose as they wrestle to regain control of Congress.

But don’t count Brown out just yet.

Biden yesterday told White House reporters that Brown “would be a great pick” as Clinton’s running mate. But he also highlighted the strong pool of candidates Democrats have available and didn’t offer an endorsements.

Among other possible picks are Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and progressive firebrand Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who some say Clinton could choose to try and build a bridge with supporters of her primary rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
 
 
 
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