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by Kevin Osborne 03.30.2012
 
 
sarah jones

Morning News and Stuff

Ending months of speculation about why a special prosecutor was investigating her, a Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleader was indicted Thursday for allegedly having sex with an underage student while she was a teacher at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood. A grand jury indicted Sarah Jones on first-degree sexual abuse and a charge of unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual acts. The charges are felonies that are punishable by up to five years in prison. She resigned from her teaching job in November. Jones won $11 million in a default judgment in summer 2010 arising from a libel lawsuit she filed against Thedirty.com, a gossip website. An online post had claimed Jones had two venereal diseases and was having sex in her high school classroom. The website has asked that the judgment be dismissed, while Jones has appeared on TV shows like ABC’s 20/20 to discuss cyber-harassment.

Cincinnati officials are touting how the violent crime rate in Over-the-Rhine has dropped in recent months, on the heels of the FBI and local police arresting five alleged gang members Thursday that are accused of committing crimes there. Police note there hasn't been a homicide in Over-the-Rhine in the past seven months, adding stepped up patrols partially are responsible..

Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order Thursday that is designed to crack down on human trafficking. His order creates a task force to coordinate statewide rescue efforts, law enforcement investigations and prosecutions, and services for victims. The task force is scheduled to report back to Kasich within 90 days on the problem's scope and how best to address it.

As The Enquirer's parent company this week sheds numerous employees by offering a voluntary “early retirement” severance deal, a union representing reporters at The Dayton Daily News are fighting efforts to replace older, more highly paid workers. The Dayton Newspaper Guild rallied outside the Cox Media Center on Wednesday, as the union resumes contract negotiations with the media company. Guild leaders said newspaper executives are seeking unlimited power to use freelancers to replace professional journalists, along with wanting to abolish job security for its most experienced workers by eliminating seniority-based layoffs. Cox also owns newspapers in Mason, West Chester, Hamilton and Middletown.

A Columbus man is crediting his friend for saving his life after a freak accident involving a turkey. Ohio State University “super fan” John Chubb, who also is known as “Buck i Guy,” was recently driving home on Interstate 79 from Pittsburgh after the Buckeyes’ win over Gonzaga when a turkey crashed through his windshield and knocked him unconscious. Chubb's friend, a retired Columbus firefighter, grabbed the steering wheel and safely brought the car to a stop. (Shades of Arthur Carlson on WKRP in Cincinnati: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”)

In news elsewhere, a group launching a $3.6 million advertising campaign criticizing President Obama for high gasoline prices is connected to the notorious Koch brothers. The American Energy Alliance is the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, and sources told Politico that both groups are funded partly by industrialists Charles and David Koch and their donor network. In all, the brothers’ network is aiming to steer significantly more than $200 million to conservative groups for political advertising and organizing ahead of Election Day.

A conservative think tank with ties to local politicians has been drawn into the controversy over Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's shooting death. The unarmed 17-year-old was killed last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer who is expected to use Florida's “stand your ground” law as his defense. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model legislation for state lawmakers, promoted "stand your ground" laws. A statement issued by ALEC said the law probably is being misapplied in Martin's case: “It does not allow you to pursue another person. It does not allow you to seek confrontation." State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) is among ALEC's leaders, as CityBeat has previously reported here and here.

Meanwhile, the police reports from the two officers who first responded to the scene of Martin's shooting have been posted online. They reveal what the officers encountered and how shooter George Zimmerman reacted upon being confronted by police.

Newt Gingrich's recent casual attitude toward his supposed presidential campaign might now have an explanation. The Washington Times has revealed that Gingrich secretly met with GOP rival, Mitt Romney, on Saturday. The ex-House Speaker said he has made no deal to end his bid for the Republican nomination, adding he hasn’t been offered a position in a potential Romney administration in exchange for dropping out. Curiouser and curiouser.

The Human Rights Campaign has obtained confidential documents from a prominent anti-gay rights group that indicates its legislative strategy includes trying to divide African-American and gay voters and pit them against one another. The documents, from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), were unsealed this week in a Maine court case. “The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies,”the NOM report states. “Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.” Seems like that strategy worked with our local NAACP president, Christopher Smitherman.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.29.2012
 
 
bike_touring

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati officials appear ready to ignore the recommendations of city staffers and allow a project that would add a bicycle lane along an East End road to proceed. The city's Transportation and Engineering Department had wanted to delay the bike lane on Riverside Drive for up to two years while construction was occurring to reconfigure a portion of I-471 in Northern Kentucky. Engineers were worried that motorists would use Riverside as an alternate route to avoid 471, and any work there might cause rush hour bottlenecks. But a Cincinnati City Council majority indicated Wednesday it doesn't agree with the assessment. Council members will discuss the issue again at a committee meeting in two weeks.

Cincinnati officials are mulling whether a 118-year-old pump station and water tower behind Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park could be sold and converted into a micro-brewery. The Cincinnati Beer Co. approached the city to redevelop the 7,000-square-foot property so it could make small batches of beer there to sell to local restaurants. The buildings are now used for storage.

E.W. Scripps Co. gave more than $4.4 million in cash and stock awards last May as a severance deal to the person who once managed the firm's newspaper division. Details on severance payments to Mark Contreras were disclosed in Scripps' proxy statement to shareholders on Monday. Contreras was a senior vice president for six years until he was fired on May 25, 2011. The Cincinnati-based media giant wouldn’t say why Contreras was terminated. During Contreras’ tenure, Scripps eliminated 2,500 newspaper jobs, including those lost when The Cincinnati Post was closed in 2007.

Oxford police say two Miami University students who were left bloody and battered in an altercation probably were attacked because they are gay. Michael Bustin told police he was walking home from a local bar near campus and holding hands with a male friend when four men approached them, yelled a slur, then began hitting them. That's when other students intervened and stopped the attack. The university responded swiftly, Bustin said, sending a bulletin to the campus community.

Meanwhile, an LGBT group in Lexington, Ky., has filed a discrimination complaint against a T-shirt printer after the company refused to honor a bid to produce apparel for an event. The Gay and Lesbian Services Organization filed the complaint Monday with the city’s Human Rights Commission. The group's president said it chose Hands On Originals to print t-shirts for a local gay pride festival, but the company refused to take the order. A Lexington official said the firm is subject to the city’s human rights ordinance because it deals in goods and services to the public.

In news elsewhere, the U.S. government blocked a court case arising from a multimillion-dollar business dispute so it could conceal evidence of a major intelligence failure shortly before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, British officials were told this week. David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, said the FBI planned to begin eavesdropping on all telephone calls into and out of Afghanistan in 1998 to acquire intelligence on the Taliban, but the program was delayed more than a year in a turf war with the CIA. It finally was implemented on Sept. 8, 2001. When a related court case was filed in New York, it was blocked and all records removed from the courts' public database on the grounds of the State Secrets Privilege, a legal doctrine that permits the U.S. government to stop litigation on the grounds of national security.

New claims for unemployment benefits fell to a four-year low last week, according to a government report that indicates an economic recovery is underway. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 359,000, the lowest level since April 2008, the Labor Department said today.

A police detective told the father of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin that his son initiated two confrontations with the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot him. Tracy Martin, describing the police version of events Wednesday to The Washington Post, said he didn't believe the official account, which was conveyed to him two days after his 17-year-old son was killed Feb. 26.

In related news, police surveillance video of the teenager's killer, George Zimmerman, appears to contradict portions of Zimmerman's version of what happened that night. The video shows no blood or bruises on Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who says he shot Martin after he was punched in the nose, knocked down and had his head slammed into the ground. The video, obtained by ABC News, shows Zimmerman arriving in a police cruiser. As he exits the car, his hands are cuffed behind his back. Zimmerman is frisked and then led away, still cuffed.

A major influence in Bluegrass music died Wednesday. Earl Scruggs, the banjo player whose hard-driving picking style influenced generations of players, died in a Nashville hospital at age 88. Although Scruggs had a long and critically acclaimed music career, he is perhaps best known to the public for performing the theme song to the TV sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies, with his guitar-playing partner, Lester Flatt.
 
 
by Hannah McCartney 03.22.2012
Posted In: Cycling, Neighborhoods at 02:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
100623bikeplan02

Riverside Drive Bike Lanes Delayed

City's Department of Transportation says delays could last up to two years

The last time we reported on the Riverside Drive bike lane project, Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation was considering postponing the long-awaited project because of future construction on I-471.

The delay is official. According the WVXU (91.7 FM), the city’s Transportation and Engineering Director, Michael Moore, told Laurie Keleher, the city liaison with the East End Area Council, in an email that the project was indefinitely postponed. The delay, said the email, could range from a year to two years.

The idea for Riverside Drive bike lane project came about in summer 2011. Bike transportation proponents argue that the installation of bike lanes on Riverside Drive is a crucial step into making the street a safe channel for commute and leisure for East End residents.

Currently, the road serves as a main thoroughfare for bikers and drivers from the East End to downtown, but problems with speeding and narrow paths along the side of the road pose serious safety risks for bikers. The plan to install bike lanes on Riverside Drive would potentially make the road less of a busy thoroughfare and more like a suburb road.

The city is concerned that construction on I-471 will divert traffic to Riverside Drive; the bike plan mandates the removal of one lane on the road, meaning that, potentially, Riverside Drive would become clogged with commuters.

According to construction plans, though, I-471 would remain open during the work. Columbia Parkway, which also runs from the East End downtown, is a far more viable alternative for commuters inconvenienced by I-471 construction. Speed limits on Columbia Parkway are higher than on Riverside Drive, and the infrastructure is markedly unfriendly for bikers, while Riverside Drive holds far more potential.

According to an email from the East End Area Council to City Manager Milton Dohoney, the city’s decision to halt progress on the Riverside Drive project essentially means they’re going back on their word. “The City of Cincinnati has invested considerable time and money in various plans ... all of which seek to make walkability and bicycling an integral part of daily life in Cincinnati.”

“We are dismayed that the City of Cincinnati Administration considers the convenience of the eastern suburban commuters who all speed through our neighborhood above the safety of the people who live and work in the East End,” reads the email.

Queen City Bike also expresses concern over any form of delay in the plan. "If this project is delayed, current budgetary realities lead Queen City Bike to believe that the lane reconfiguration would be lost for the foreseeable future. Any future reconsideration will almost certainly require rerunning the considerable analysis that went into the decision, effectively wasting the work done and taxpayer’s money spent so far. Therefore, Queen City Bike opposes any delay in the Riverside Drive lane reconfiguration," reads a post on Queen City Bike's website.

Want to contact the city's Department of Transportation? Click here.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.01.2012
 
 
huckabee

Morning News and Stuff

It's not exactly the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, but we'll understand your confusion if you mistake the event for the old Lollapalooza favorite. Mike Huckabee, the ex-Arkansas governor, one-time presidential hopeful and current Fox News commentator, will host a forum Saturday in Southwest Ohio that features the three frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich will all attend the event, which will be held at the closed DHL plant in Wilmington. It will air live on the Fox News Channel from 8-10 p.m.

Cincinnati residents will get to sound off in coming weeks on two proposals from City Council that would extend councilmembers' terms from two years to four years. Under one proposal, all nine councilmembers would run at the same time, while in the other, terms would be staggered so some members would run every two years. Council will schedule four public hearings on the matter, then decide in August which of the two should be placed on the November ballot. Any change must happen in the form of a charter amendment, which needs voter approval.

A deer is being credited with saving a woman from being abducted in Oxford. The woman, a 20-year-old student at Miami University, walked outside a party alone about 1:20 a.m Sunday when a man grabbed her from behind and used her purse strap to choke her. The man dragged her to a nearby field. A deer then jumped from the bushes, startling the man and causing him to flee.

Although today is expected to be sunny and warm, Greater Cincinnati could experience some severe weather on Friday. Showers will move into the area at about noon Friday, and then warm fronts will arrive around 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., forecasters said. The fronts could produce strong thunderstorms and there is a “moderate” risk for hail, damaging winds and tornadoes. Powerful tornadoes Wednesday killed at least 12 people in the Midwest and South. States affected were Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

Kennedy Heights and Pendleton will be the recipients of Cincinnati's Neighborhood Enhancement Program this year. The program is a 90-day blitz of city services to jump-start revitalization efforts in individual neighborhoods. Kennedy Heights' blitz begins today, and Pendleton's will start in August.

In news elsewhere,
conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart died unexpectedly "from natural causes" early today, his website reported. Breitbart, 43, a star of the Tea Party movement, died shortly after midnight in Los Angeles, his website said.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Wednesday that the U.S. economic recovery is starting to accelerate. The economy grew by 3 percent in the final three months of last year, surpassing a previous estimate of 2.8 percent, and companies are beginning to add workers. Still, Bernanke cautioned that the recovery is “uneven and modest” and could be derailed by borrowers having trouble getting loans or by surging gasoline prices.


The European Union's data protection authorities are worried that Google's new privacy policy, which takes effect today, violates the union's standards for keeping some personal information confidential on the Internet. CNIL, a French regulatory agency, said Google's explanation of how it will use the data was too vague and difficult to understand "even for trained privacy professionals.”

Egypt has lifted a travel ban on the defendants in a trial of 43 nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers charged with using illegal foreign funds to promote unrest in the nation. In order to leave, however, the defendants – which include 16 American citizens — must post $330,000 in bail money. The U.S. State Department had protested the detentions, adding that Egypt's charges are groundless and aimed at quelling dissent against Islamic extremists.

Two more American military personnel were killed in Afghanistan when an Afghan civilian grabbed a weapon from an Afghan soldier and opened fire, NPR reports. The killings follow the anti-American protests and violence in Afghanistan since it was reported Feb. 21 that international military personnel had burned some Korans at the Bagram Air Field.. According to U.S. officials, the Korans were mistakenly mixed with some trash.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.21.2012
 
 
foreclose

Council Proposes Crackdown on Foreclosures

Two Cincinnati City Council members will unveil a proposal Wednesday to require banks to take better care of foreclosed properties.

Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Cecil Thomas want city administrators to gauge the feasibility of launching a pilot program to improve vacant and blighted properties, which they said would help stabilize neighborhoods.

If ultimately deemed feasible and approved, the proposal would create a mandatory registry for vacant foreclosed properties and enact stiffer civil offense charges for properties that aren’t properly maintained. Also, it would require point of sale inspections prior to sheriff's sales, and assess the costs for code violation corrections to lenders.

The program would be tried on a one-year trial basis in Westwood, Price Hill, College Hill, Madisonville and Mount Airy. If successful, it could be expanded to other neighborhoods.

When foreclosed properties are left vacant, they often become targets of crime and sources of blight, and can ultimately end up in the hands of absentee landlords, Sittenfeld said.

"Our efforts are all about demanding accountability," Sittenfeld said. "Banks and lenders must maintain the properties they own, just like the rest of us."

He added, “We must all care about this issue because all of us are affected by it. If you live next to a vacant foreclosed house, your property values go down and your quality of life deteriorates. This pilot program provides an important step toward stabilizing our neighborhoods."

Sittenfeld and Thomas will formally announce the plan at a press conference Wednesday morning at a foreclosed home at 1540 Ambrose Ave. in College Hill. The property is owned by mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which has had 188 building code enforcement cases in Cincinnati during the past five years.

The proposal also has the support of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilmembers Chris Seelbach, Charlie Winburn and Wendell Young. That gives it enough votes for passage, which means administrators will report back to council on the costs for such a program and whether it would be effective.

Community activists and advocates from Working In Neighborhoods and the Legal Aid Society also support the proposal.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.21.2012
 
 
towing

Morning News and Stuff

If you've ever felt like your car was held hostage by a towing company wanting an exorbitant fee before it would release your vehicle, this will sound like sweet justice. The city of Cincinnati's prosecutor has begun a criminal investigation of Kenwood Towing, based on allegations of overcharging. The firm, which has locations in Northside and South Cumminsville, also has been indefinitely suspended from its city contracts pending the investigation's outcome. Ohio law limits how much towing companies can charge, but residents have complained that Kenwood routinely violates the law, in some cases charging 400 percent more than is allowed.

Leasing issues with some current tenants at Corryville Plaza could delay parts of a major redevelopment project near the University of Cincinnati. The $78 million first phase of U Square @ The Loop is underway, with construction of shops and apartments along William Howard Taft Road. But plans to demolish and revamp the plaza where a Kroger grocery store and a Walgreen's pharmacy are located might be postponed. That's because three tenants — a chiropractic center, furniture store and clothing retailer – remain under lease under 2015. Developers are negotiating for their earlier departure.

The recent, unexpected death of Hamilton County Coroner Anaht Bhati means local Democratic officials have until Thursday to find a replacement candidate to put on the November ballot. Besides investigating suspicious deaths, the coroner can act as a de facto commissioner if two of the three Hamilton County commissioners are unavailable to conduct business for some reason.

Ongoing construction at the Horseshoe Casino on downtown's eastern edge will cause some detours for motorists. Beginning today, the work will close Eggleston Avenue between Central Avenue and East Court Street for about four months.

In news elsewhere, the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign raised $6.6 million last month and spent $13.9 million, according to a report filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission. Politico reports the paperwork reveals 25 six-figure donations, many from repeat donors, which accounted for $4.9 million of Restore Our Future’s January haul. Money might not buy love, but it can give new life to a lackluster candidate.

More than 2,000 angry Afghans gathered outside a US military base to protest the allegedly inadvertent burning of Korans and other Islamic religious materials. The items are thought to have been burned as part of routine disposal of garbage at Bagram Air Field. (Yep, we're winning hearts and minds over there, don'tcha know.)

DSK is in trouble yet again. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, is being detained for questioning by French police investigating a prostitution ring. Strauss-Kahn, once a front-runner for the French presidency, was charged last year in New York with the attempted rape of a hotel maid. Prosecutors later dropped the case, stating it would be difficult to win a conviction.

Government officials are offering a reward of nearly $1 million for the capture of 30 inmates who broke out of a prison in Mexico on Sunday. The governor said the inmates staged a riot, during which 44 people died, to create a diversion for their escape. The fugitives are gang members involved in the Mexican drug trade, he added.
 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.17.2012
Posted In: Cycling, Neighborhoods at 02:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cincinnati_bike lane_dana ave1

Riverside Drive Bike Lane Project Postponed

Cincinnati cyclists have been waiting for the arrival of bike lanes on Riverside Drive since summer of 2011, and patience is running thin. Yesterday, Cincinnati's Department of Transportation announced that it was considering "indefinitely postponing" the bike lane project because of possible future construction on I-471.

The plan was originally postponed because Duke Energy needed to perform some work in the area. Now, Cincinnati officials are concerned that the I-471 traffic could redirect to Riverside in the face of construction, meaning Riverside could become saturated with rerouted motorists. The bike lane project originally required a travel lane to be removed from Riverside drive to install bike lanes.

Nern Ostendorf, Queen City Bike's executive director, expressed disappointment with the decision. "We really have to stick to our plans and prioritize. If we keep being bullied [by the city], nothing's ever going to change."

Riverside Drive is currently a main thoroughfare for East End bikers who work downtown, but problems with speeding call for reform. "The road doesn't have the infrastructure that it needs right now for bikers to be safe," says Ostendorf.

She says that the installation of the lanes is crucial to Cincinnati's urban and economic development. "We need to change people's understanding of navigating space with things other than cars." Ostendorf says there's an immediate correlation between the installation of bike lanes and hikes in business in surrounding areas.

Park + Vine owner and cycling enthusiast Danny Korman posted on his store's blog yesterday regarding the postponement, arguing that the ruling was unfair for two reasons.

"1. There is no guarantee that substantial I-471 traffic would shift to Riverside Drive; 2. East End already deals with commuters speeding through their neighborhood on a daily basis. It’s time for DOTE to make Columbia Parkway the obvious alternative for motor vehicle commuters by going ahead with this project, which will reduce traffic and speeding in a residential area."

The post directs proponents of the bike lane installation to contact City Council members, along with Michael Moore, director of Cincinnati's Department of Transportation, to lobby for the reversal of the postponement.

Moore could not be reached for comment on Friday.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.13.2012
 
 
osama1

Morning News and Stuff

The wife of an Israeli diplomat in India and her driver were injured Monday when the car they were traveling in was bombed, while another bomb was defused outside an Israeli embassy in Tblisi, Georgia. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran, which he called “the greatest exporter of terror in the world.”

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by Kevin Osborne 01.30.2012
Posted In: City Council, Youth, Neighborhoods, Community at 04:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
simpson2

Simpson Wants Youth Job Improvements

Cincinnati City Council is set to approve $960,000 to fund this year’s Summer Youth Employment Program, but the councilwoman overseeing the process wants to begin collecting data to track outcomes and increase efficiency.

Council’s Budget and Finance Committee this afternoon heard a presentation from city staffers about plans for the 2012 program, which is designed to provide employment and training for low-income youth.

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by Kevin Osborne 01.27.2012
Posted In: News, Development, Neighborhoods, Urban Planning at 01:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
church

Old St. George Gets Cited

Next month marks the fourth anniversary of a fire that destroyed parts of the historic Old St. George Church in Clifton Heights. But the structure remains vacant and building inspectors this week cited the owners for conditions at the site.

The city’s Property Maintenance Code Enforcement Division posted a citation Wednesday on the fence in front of the church. It was issued by Housing Inspector James Hatton, and states the building’s owner failed to comply with an order issued by the Buildings and Inspections Department on Aug. 31, 2010.

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