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by Nick Swartsell 10.29.2015 30 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Social Media Messages at UC Imply Lynching

Racist messages aimed at activist group the Irate 8 raise concerns

Racist messages, including at least one appearing to threaten lynching for black student activists at University of Cincinnati, have recently begun appearing on social media site Yik Yak in response to calls to increased diversity on UC’s flagship campus.

Yik-Yak is an anonymous, location-based online message board. One of the recent messages posted on the site reads, “I don’t know if I have enough rope for all of the irate8…”

The message appears to refer to lynching, a murderous tactic used throughout the United States, but especially in the Jim Crow-era South, to terrorize blacks during the decades after emancipation.

Another message says “Breaking News: Use promo code 'irate8' at Burger King and get a black whopper for free.”

Both messages, and others with similar content, had been upvoted multiple times by campus Yik-Yak users. The posts have since been reposted to Facebook and Twitter.

The racist messages refer to UC’s Irate 8, a group named for the 8 percent of the school’s student body that is black. The Irate 8 points out Cincinnati’s population is 45 percent black and has pushed the UC administration to articulate a plan to boost diversity on the school’s main campus to better reflect the demographics of the city as a whole.

"This means these were people on our campus, people who were students," says Irate 8 member and UC student Ashley Nkadi. Yik-Yak posts are only accessible within a short distance of where they were posted. Nkadi says that some of the posts have gotten dozens of upvotes, meaning that people very near her are also boosting the racist messages. That's caused her and other students anxiety.

The activist group sprang up in late August in response to the July 19 shooting death of black motorist Samuel DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing. The group is pushing for substantial reform to UC’s police force in the wake of that shooting, highlighting the large disparity between blacks and whites in stops and arrests by the department in the past year. In 2014, 17 whites and 52 blacks were stopped by the UC police force. Police issued 30 citations to whites that year and 119 to blacks. As of July 2015, that disparity had grown — 12 whites had been stopped so far that year, while the department had stopped 62 blacks. UC police issued 31 citations to whites and 189 to blacks.

The student-organized group has staged a number of rallies, teach-ins and other peaceful efforts to advocate for black students on campus. On Oct. 15, the Irate 8 released a list of 10 demands for UC’s administration. In that list, the group asks that the officers serving with Tensing at the time of the shooting be restricted from patrolling on or off campus and calls for comprehensive screening for all officers employed by UC police, the establishment of campus-wide racial awareness training, disinvestment from any companies running private prisons, the hiring of at least 16 black staff and senior faculty members over the next three years, and the doubling of the school’s percentage of black students on campus.

UC student and Irate 8 activist Brittany Bibb and other activists say after that list was released, the racist messages on Yik-Yak began in earnest and have increased since.

Both the administration and student body government responded yesterday to the list of demands, stating that they wished to work together with the activists to increase diversity and racial awareness on campus. But in the meantime, some black activists say the anonymous messages on campus-centered social media sites have been increasing, highlighting a culture of racism there.

UC President Santa Ono addressed the messages on Yik-Yak this morning in an email.

“I ask everyone in our community to join me in condemning such comments and for all of us to fully embrace civility and respect,” Ono wrote. “Furthermore, I have asked for an immediate investigation into a particularly offensive post and will look after the safety of our students.”

by Nick Swartsell 10.28.2015 31 days ago
Posted In: Immigration, News at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigration Task Force Announces Recommendations

Creating center for new Cincinnatians, protecting legal rights among top priorities

Mayor John Cranley and the Task Force on Immigration he convened last year announced a series of recommendations this morning the mayor says are aimed at making Cincinnati the most welcoming city to immigrants in the country.

The task force announced 14 short-term, two-year goals and another nine longer-term, five-year goals designed to persuade and help immigrants settle in Cincinnati while protecting their legal rights and encouraging entrepreneurship.

“We want to be a city of growth and opportunity,” Cranley said during a news conference about the task force’s recommendations, “and we think this is the right thing to do for the economic vitality of our city.”

Among the short-term objectives the task force would like to tackle are the establishment of a center where immigrants coming to Cincinnati can find information, support and services in the community. That center, a collaboration between the city, the University of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, Children’s Hospital and other organizations, will start out as a website while a permanent, physical center similar to ones in Pittsburgh and Chicago is established.

“We’ll have infrastructure and support services for immigrants from around the world,” Cranley said. The mayor said UC has committed $50,000 a year to the effort, and Cranley said he’ll be asking Cincinnati City Council to approve a similar commitment. “This is a true collaboration, and it’s very inspiring to see the community come together to support something we don’t have.”

That center will help connect and coordinate the many efforts to help immigrants currently happening while looking to provide services that may not yet exist.

“We know that there are a lot of really great organizations throughout the city already doing wonderful things to serve our immigrant populations,” said Jill Meyer, President and CEO of the Cincinnati, USA Regional Chamber, which will provide staffing and other support for the center. “What you’ll see in the months ahead is us looking for new ways for this center to connect some dots and fill in the gaps that are there so that a one-stop shop is the reality for our new Cincinnatians.”

Another set of short-and-long-term goals will seek to ensure that immigrants are treated fairly and get their full legal rights. The task force calls for increased cultural sensitivity training for police, a deeper commitment by the city to punish violations of immigrants’ civil rights and calls for an ordinance from the city pledging to go after wage theft, a big issue for immigrant workers. Among the members of the task force is Manuel Perez, who works with the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, which has helped lead the conversation around wage theft in Cincinnati.

Cranley declined to comment explicitly on what effect the effort could have on the undocumented immigrant population in the region, but did point out that some of the partners in the task force are working independently on measures like ID cards for undocumented immigrants. Those IDs would then be recognized by municipal offices, including the police department.

According to data released recently by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a pro-immigration think-tank, the foreign-born population of metro Cincinnati has contributed more than $189 million in state and municipal taxes. Within the city, foreign-born residents have more than $1.5 billion in spending power, according to the data.

“Right from the start, there was a strong consensus from the members about the importance of immigrants for our city,” said task force co-chair Raj Chundur, who explained that more than 70 volunteers comprised the task-force. Those volunteers were broken up into five subcommittees covering education and talent retention, rights and safety, economic development, international attractiveness and resources and development.

Cranley says he hopes to bring ordinances associated with the task force’s recommendation to Council in the next two weeks and predicted the measures would pass easily. 

by Natalie Krebs 10.28.2015 31 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

ResponsibleOhio airs more TV ads; grand jury for Tamir Rice shooting underway; Cincinnati drivers are more accident-prone

Good morning, Cincy! I hope your struggle to get out of bed and commute wasn't too bad this morning. Here are your morning headlines. 

With less than a week left until election day, ResponsibleOhio is working hard to drum up all the support it can get for Issue 3. The most recent pro-Issue 3 TV ads feature Hamilton Prosecutor Joe Deters and Cincinnati basketball star Oscar Robertson urging voters to support legalizing marijuana. Deters, who is not identified as the county prosecutor in the ad, says he supports Issue 3 because he's tired of seeing drug dealers make money while local governments cut back on safety spending. Issue 3 would legalize marijuana but limit its growth to just 10 commercial farms run by ResponsibleOhio investors. Deters is not one of the 10 investors, but did lead a task force for the super PAC that produced a report that pointed to favorable results for the Ohio economy if the initiative passed. Robertson, on the other hand, is an investor in one of the commercial farms in Anderson Township. In his spot, he says he supports legalizing marijuana for its medical benefits. The ads will air in all 11 of Ohio's major media markets. 

• A poll released by Issue 22 supporters points to favorable results for Mayor John Cranley's initiative to create a permanent hike in property tax to support the city's parks. The poll of conducted by a firm in Washington D.C. found that 56 percent of voters said they will vote for Issue 22 as opposed to 35 percent, who said they are against it. Opponents say the poll was released to discourage the opponents of the measure, and Issue 22's campaign manager admits that those polled tended to be older and more conservative than the average Cincinnatian.

• As the one-year anniversary of the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice approaches, the grand jury in Cuyahoga County is underway. Cleveland police officers and Cuyahoga County sheriff's deputies have spent the last few weeks testifying and, most recently, prosecutors have started presenting evidence in the shooting. Rice's family said it learned the jury started from the media and has called for a special prosecutor to replace Timothy McGinty after he released two reports from separate sources that concluded that the Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann acted reasonably in shooting the boy, who was holding a pellet gun outside a recreation center. Attorneys from Rice's family called into question the reports stating that they come from sources with a pro-police bias and are disappointed that Loehmann hasn't stepped aside yet. 

• Ready to watch the Republican presidential hopefuls try to debate tonight? Governor John Kasich is and, according to the Columbus Dispatch, he might be showing his true colors. Kasich, who is known for being blunt, has reeled it in on the campaign trail, but last Tuesday in his hometown of Westerville, he said he's "done with being polite and listening to this nonsense." The situation's starting to turn a little desperate for Kasich, who's polling at the bottom of the national candidates and is far from frontrunners like former surgeon Ben Carson and business tycoon Donald Trump. The debate airs at 8 p.m. on CNBC and should hopefully make for some good T.V. at the very least.         

• Did the rain slow you down this morning? Or was it really bad Cincinnati drivers? According to Thrillist.com, Cincinnati ranks 17th for the city where you're mostly likely to be in an accident. It's nestled nicely between the three car-loving Texas cities of Dallas, Houston and Austin, and has the added bonus of being a headache for insurance companies as its metro area the extends into another state. Be careful out there!

Email me story tips at nkrebs@citybeat.com and drive safe!
by Nick Swartsell 10.27.2015 32 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Council mulls panhandling ban near schools; meat found to be unhealthy, Cincinnati in crisis; Kasich, Trump fight over who kept union jobs in Ohio

Hey all! Here’s the news today. It’s a nasty, rainy pre-Halloween mess out there, so gather ‘round the warm, cozy glow of your computer screen and I’ll tell you some scary stories. Mostly about politics.

• Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee yesterday discussed a possible ban on panhandling near schools. You can read more about the proposed law in tomorrow’s issue, but here’s the long and short of it: Law and Public Safety Chairman Christopher Smitherman would like to make it illegal to panhandle within 50 feet of a school building, and his reasons for that are pretty interesting. Smitherman cited recent school shootings, many of which have actually happened on university campuses, as reasons to be extra-vigilant and to allow extra policing powers around schools.

”When I’m picking my children up 50 feet from the school, I don’t want anyone asking me anything about anything other than what I’m focused on,” Smitherman said. “Having someone on grounds that you don’t know around children makes everyone a little nervous. I wanted it much farther. I wanted it thousands of feet away, or miles away, but I had to compromise.”

He also reflected that such a law is necessary because he’s not allowed to exercise his right to concealed carry in or around a school.

“I want to know that the staff can sort it out,” he said. “For my children. Because I have already taken the position, because of the law, that I can’t have a firearm to protect myself or my children.”

The proposal drew some pushback from homelessness advocates, who point out that there is little statistical evidence linking panhandling and violence, and that school shooters are usually a different group entirely. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson also expressed concern about the proposed ordinance, suggesting it won’t add any more protection than current laws already provide. Representatives from Cincinnati Public Schools expressed conditional support for the ordinance, which makes exceptions for some kinds of passive panhandling including musical performances commonly known as busking.

The committee did not vote on the proposed ordinance yesterday, but will hear further testimony about it and potentially vote to move the ordinance to full Council at the committee’s next meeting.

• So here’s a big news flash: red meat and processed meats are bad for you. The World Health Organization recently released a study suggesting links between processed pork and beef products and cancer, and it’s been a huge boon for media outlets looking for something to fill up a slow news week. The media hand-wringing has been especially intense here in Cincinnati, because we used to be the world’s meat-packing hub for a couple brief years in the 1840s or something and continue to have the nickname Porkopolis as a hangover from that one time our city was literally living high on the hog. Now we find out that the same substance that gives us Cincinnatians life and identity also brings death. Clearly, we’re a city in crisis, but luckily, there’s some great journalism going on about Cincinnati’s meaty existential dilemma.

• U.S. Senate hopeful and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is getting a bit more national press for his run in the Democratic primary. In a recent interview in the National Journal, Sittenfeld lays out his case for his Senate aspirations, explaining why he sees himself as a better choice than former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Those reasons include an orientation toward innovation and collaboration the 31-year-old Sittenfeld touts as second nature and says that his opponent doesn’t have. In the interview, he also explained why he thinks it’s important for Democrats to continue to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement and revealed that he’s never smoked marijuana, which he says may be a liability for future politicians instead of an asset. The continued national ink can only be good news for Sittenfeld, but the upstart candidate still has a long slog ahead if he’s going to convince Democratic primary voters that he’s a better choice than his rival, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. For one, Strickland leads incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman in polling, and some Democrats have asked why the party should switch horses mid-stream when the one its on is winning the race. Err, that may be a mixed metaphor but you know what I mean.

• Here’s a funny story. Two Republican candidates for president are arguing about which one gets credit for keeping auto worker jobs in Ohio. Real estate guy and combover icon Donald Trump says his incessant badgering and shit-talking convinced Ford to move production of certain mid-sized trucks to Ohio from Mexico to avoid shutting down a plant near Cleveland. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. and fellow GOP prez contender John Kasich says it was his tax incentives. The hilarious part? The agreements that kept those jobs in Ohio were brokered by the United Autoworkers Union, which is, uhhh, a union. One thing both Trump and Kasich agree on: they don’t like unions. Though Kasich gets some credit from Ford for tax incentives he threw their way, the company continually cites the negotiations with the UAW as a big reason Ohio’s jobs stayed in the state. So, yeah, that’s awkward.

• Speaking of Kasich, his administration is getting national attention for a new plan to fight opiate addiction. Kasich introduced plans recently to spend $15 million linking doctors and pharmacies and their records with a computer database that keeps track of prescription opiates around the state. Ohio is the first state to attempt a fully-integrated computer tracking system for the drugs, which could help find and eliminate fraudulent uses of prescriptions.

• Finally, maybe you’ve heard people talk about the school-to-prison pipeline, which some activists say contributes to higher levels of incarceration for young people of color. And maybe you’ve shrugged that off and said, you know, “I’m sure police presence in schools is a good and necessary thing” or something similar. I’m not going to argue with you about it, but you should probably watch this video of an officer forcibly arresting a student sitting at her desk. It involves him tipping over her desk and chucking her across the room. The officer in South Carolina is currently suspended as an investigation continues into the incident. Just food for thought about that whole police presence in schools thing.

That’s it for me. Hit me up via e-mail or Twitter with Halloween costume or party ideas. I’ve already got some rad stuff on my radar for my favorite holiday, but I’m always up for more options.

by Natalie Krebs 10.26.2015 33 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Park Board gives endowment perks to top executives; Local media looks at Denver for what could be in Cincy; Five beers coming in celebration of streetcar

Good morning, everyone! Here are your morning headlines. 

• The Cincinnati Park Board is using private endowments donated to the board nine years ago by a private individual to give its top executives some pretty sweet perks. Records obtained by The Enquirer show that executive director Willie Carden is given a car allowance of $12,000 a year from the funds, with second top-ranking official Marijane Klug raking in $4,800 a year for her set of wheels. The endowment, which was previously used to pay the board's top executive more than $100,000 in annual bonuses, also paid $48,500 of Carden's credit card expenses for the last three years, covered his membership to a private, exclusive club and covered thousands in food there and paid $21,000 in legal expenses of nonprofit the Cincinnati Parks Foundation after an ethics investigation into Carden and Klug. Mayor John Cranley, who is in the middle of pushing for a permanent income tax levy for city parks, has approved a temporary moratorium on any discretionary spending and called for a third-party audit of the park board early last week. City Manager Harry Black released a memo Friday saying the audit is underway at the expense of the park board. 

• One of Cranley's proposed multimillion park projects is a set of trails that would go through the city's east and west sides. WCPO has turned to Colorado — Denver specifically — to ask if these trails could transform Cincinnati. Real estate experts in the Mile High City say residents' ability to ditch their cars and hike and bike everywhere has attracted considerable interest. But the report finds that while many, including myself, would like to bike to work without the daily threat of being knocked off the road by a passing vehicle, some believe there is a way to build these Denver-style trails without Cranley's permanent tax levy. 

Denver is apparently becoming the model city for what Cincinnati could be. The Enquirer recently sent two reporters to check out just what a city that has legalized marijuana looks like. Unlike WCPO, which saw sprawling urban bike trails, The Enquirer wrote about what they didn't see, which included: "staggering stoners on city streets," that skunky weed smell and impaired drivers. So Denver doesn't look like my freshman dorm hall, and Cincinnati probably won't either if voters pass Issue 3. But the bigger issue behind Ohio's ballot initiative still lies in that pesky rule that would limit the growth of marijuana to 10 commercial farms — a rule which is also something Colorado does not have. 

• Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Bond Hill) and Rep. Jonathan Dever (R-Madeira) have introduced a bill that would require outsider law enforcement to investigate police-involved shootings. The bill would require a panel of three officers — one from the police agency and two from a pool of investigators across the state — to look into the death and produce a report. This bill comes in response to the July shooting of Mount Auburn resident Sam DuBose by University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing as the department failed to investigate its own officer, according to Reece. 

• One of the most confusing things for people new to Cincinnati, like myself, is the question "Where did you go to school?" I quickly found out that Cincinnatians mean high school, not college, and it is a question that I'm pretty sure no one has asked me in 10 years and is irrelevant to locals because I went to high school really far from here. Well, Mary Stagaman, executive director of the Agenda 360 plan at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, would like to put an end to the common inquiry. She thinks the question is unwelcoming to outsiders, even though it shows most people here are incredibly tied to the community. The agency is developing a leadership program in cultural competency as part of Diverse by Design, a movement to bring more diversity to the area, to be launched in 2016 to make the region more friendly to outsiders. 

• Does the arrival of the streetcar make you want to drink? Well, five Cincinnati brewers are making beers especially for you. Taft's Ale House, Christian Moerlein Lager House, Christian Moerlein Malt House Taproom, Rhinegeist and Rock Bottom Brewery will all be cranking out new brews set to debut on the projected arrival dates of the streetcars with the first one, a Rye India Pale Ale called Ryed the Rails, debuting at Taft's this Friday. 

• Finally, you might want to watch the number of sausages you wash down with those streetcar beers. A report by the World Health Organization has linked some types of cancer to eating red or processed meat. The report found that eating beef, pork or lamb could cause colon, pancreatic and prostate cancer after a review of more than 800 studies.

Email story tips or questions about my high school to nkrebs@citybeat.com.

by Natalie Krebs 10.23.2015 36 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Noon News and Stuff

Cranley's parks tax levy hits more bumps; Kasich hopes to strip Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood; Fracking tax will stay the same in Ohio, for now

Happy Friday, Cincinnati! Here are your headlines. 

• Mayor Cranley has hit a few more speed bumps on his proposed city park tax levy. The Charter Committee of Greater Cincinnati has come out against his proposed levy after initially taking a neutral position. The group changed its mind after a letter by nine board members suggested that Cranley had access to how the board members were voting a month ago, and then made calls to some member to vote neutral on the measure. Cranley responded that he did indeed call come board members, but, hey, it's a free country. "Do I talk to people? Yes, I believe in free speech," he told the Enquirer. He also denied having any knowledge of the board's original vote. 

• One of Cranley's parks projects is in jeopardy. Rev. Damon Lynch III of the New Prospect Baptist Church, the site of one several proposed projects, decided not to sell the church's land to the city after a town hall meeting last night. The proposed $8 million Roselawn Neighborhood Center — including a swimming pool, tennis courts and an urban campground — was to use most of the church's land and will now have to be privately funded. Lynch and members of the church said yesterday they refused make a move as drastic as selling the land to support a vision that they claim was initially their own. They'd rather hold on to the land and do it themselves. 

• A Republican lawmaker from Mount Lookout has introduced a plan to make Ohio a "right-to-work" state. Under Rep. Tom Brinkman's plan, Ohioans would have the option of opting out of unions and their dues. The measure would make Ohio the 26th state to pass "right-to-work," putting it in the same family as Wisconsin, Michigan and Texas. Brinkman's measure has opposition from Democrats, of course, who say these kind of plans lead to lower wages, reduced benefits and an overall less safe work environment. But the measure also might have a hard time getting past his fellow Republicans, including Gov. John Kasich, who has stopped going after unions after a state referendum overturned his attempt to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees. 


• The Ohio Senate just voted to defund Planned Parenthood, but that’s not enough for Gov. Kasich, who'd also like to see the clinic stripped of its Medicaid funding. Ohio Right to Life has been pushing Kasich to cancel contracts with Medicaid, but that might not sail through like the Senate's bill did two days ago. Federal law prohibits Medicaid programs from excluding qualified healthcare providers, which Planned Parenthood is. 

• State lawmakers finally released a report on the state's fracking tax that confirms what many environmental groups, and even Kasich himself, have asserted: The severance tax in Ohio is really, really low, but they also recommended not increasing it right now. Republican Sen. Bob Peterson of Salina said that with the oil and gas industry dealing with deflated prices, now would not be the time to increase the tax, which Kasich has called "a total and complete rip off to the state." The report was released by a task forced created to study the tax in the last state budget. Kasich, who has been pushing for the increase in order to fund income tax cuts, called the findings "disappointing." 

• No one needs the upcoming weekend more than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spent more than eight hours yesterday testifying before a Republican House committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead. Lawmakers grilled Clinton on why requests for additional security were denied. The hearing brought little new information on the attack, which has been a sore subject for Clinton, and Democrats say the committee was called as a way to knock back support for the leading Democratic presidential candidate during an pivotal time on the campaign trail.  

That's all for now! Emai: nkrebs@citybeat.com; Twitter: @natalie_krebs.


by Nick Swartsell 10.22.2015 37 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Park Board bonuses raise eyebrows; Duke settles lawsuit for $80 million; Ohio Senate votes to defund Planned Parenthood

Good morning Cincy. Here’s a rundown of the news today.

More details are coming to light surrounding Issue 22, the proposed charter amendment to fund new projects in the city’s parks.

First, The Cincinnati Enquirer has information on the donors funding the campaign promoting the proposed amendment. Among the names that contributed the $670,000 raised by the campaign are some you’ll find familiar: Western & Southern, Kroger, Duke Energy and American Financial Group all contributed $50,000. More than half the donations to the campaign came from corporate sources. Western & Southern will participate in a plan to renovate Lytle Park, which is next to its corporate headquarters, if the amendment passes. W&S says it gave the money solely to support the city’s parks, which it says help attract people to Cincinnati.

Uptown Consortium, a non-profit development group composed of representatives from the University of Cincinnati, the uptown hospitals and other big employers focused on the neighborhoods around UC, gave $100,000. Uptown Consortium has a big interest in Burnet Woods, which sits at the heart of the uptown neighborhoods.

Individuals gave money, too. Folks living in Hyde Park, which stands to benefit from the proposed Wasson Way bike path, have been especially supportive of the effort. Donations from that zip code totaled more than $70,000. Various park board members and their spouses, as well as local philanthropists, also donated to the campaign.

• Meanwhile, revelations about big bonuses taken by Cincinnati Park Board leaders between 2004 and 2010 are causing controversy. In 2013, park leaders overseeing both the public Cincinnati Parks Board and the private nonprofit Cincinnati Parks Foundation reached a confidential settlement with the Ohio Ethics Commission regarding those bonuses, but questions linger about the way more than $100,000 was routed from public accounts to private ones with the foundation again in 2011. There are also concerns about a never-completed or published city audit of the way money was transferred between the two organizations. Cincinnati Parks Executive Director Willie Carden ran the public board and the private foundation at the time the bonuses were paid. Marijane Klug, who worked just under Carden in the public organization, also received large bonuses for her work from the private funds. Mayor John Cranley has said he has faith in the Park Board, but also said Cincinnati City Council should commission an independent audit in the name of full transparency.

• Duke Energy has entered an $80 million settlement to end a lawsuit alleging that it gave its biggest customers improper discounts on their electricity at the expense of other users. According to allegations in the suit, in 2004, Duke, then called Cinergy, brokered a secret deal with 22 of its largest industrial clients while it was seeking a rate hike from the state. From 2005 to 2008, the suit alleges, those customers paid a lower rate on their electricity — a rate that was subsidized by everyone else using Duke’s services. As a result of the settlement, residential customers could see rebates up to $400, while commercial users affected by the secret deal could get up to $6,000 back.

• The Ohio Senate yesterday passed a bill to strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood in the state. The legislation would divert about $1.3 million dollars from the women’s health organization because it provides abortions and direct that money to other clinics across the state that do not. The federal money is used for things like health screenings, not abortions, but conservative lawmakers say they want to end any association between the state and Planned Parenthood. The bill also forbids public entities like schools from partnering with the organization on things like sex education.

"This bill is not about women's health care," said Senate President Keith Faber, who sponsored the bill. "It's about whether we're going to fund an organization that has its senior leadership nationally, who by the way get money from Ohio, who believe it's good public policy to chop up babies in a way it makes their parts more valuable so they can buy a Lamborghini."

The push to defund the organization comes after heavily edited videos were released this summer purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue to undercover activists. Those videos have largely been debunked, but the organization’s donation of fetal tissue for scientific research has raised outcry among conservatives. An effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to strip all federal funds from the organization nearly led to a government shutdown earlier this month. Ohio clinics do not participate in fetal tissue donation, which is illegal in the state. Planned Parenthood runs 28 clinics in Ohio, three of which provide abortions. The Ohio House is considering a similar bill, which it expects to pass in the coming weeks. A reconciled bill will then go to Gov. John Kasich's desk for his final approval.

That’s it for me. I’m off tomorrow, so have a great weekend, y'all. 

by Nick Swartsell 10.21.2015 38 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
to do_smale riverfront park-courtesy cincinnati parks

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley defends park tax in debate; tiny apartments coming to downtown; Paul Ryan to run to replace Boehner as House speaker

Hey all. Thanks for wading through the sea of Back to the Future Day-themed blog garbage to hang out and talk about news!

Last night, there was another debate Uptown about Issue 22, the proposed amendment to Cincinnati’s charter that would fund big changes to the city’s parks as well as much-needed maintenance for them. The big difference between this debate and the last one, which was held downtown last week, was that Mayor John Cranley himself argued for his proposal. Cincinnati attorney Don Mooney once again represented the opposition to the parks plan.

Most of the debate was a retread of points the two sides have already made, and little new was revealed, with one major exception. Cranley revealed for the first time that a joint city-county tax proposal was considered at the beginning of this year when Issue 22 was first being drawn up. That potential levy would have been a 2-mill property tax increase that would have funded upkeep to Great Parks of Hamilton County as well as at least some of the 16 projects Cranley has proposed for Issue 22. But Cranley says the deal “just didn’t make sense” because all of the proposed new park projects he wanted funded are within the city proper. Both the county and the Cranley administration agreed that a joint city-county levy didn’t make sense, according to the mayor.

• Do you want to live in a really swanky downtown apartment, but can’t afford penthouse prices? Do you love the feeling of sleeping standing up nestled cozily next to the soothing hum of your refrigerator? Then I’ve got good news for you. Really tiny luxury apartments, or, if you prefer the glass is half full outlook, really big luxury closets, will soon be part of the downtown rental landscape here in Cincinnati.

Michigan-based developer Village Green has announced that it will add sub-400-square-feet micro apartments to the plans for the 294 luxury units slated for the 1920s-vintage Beaux Arts building at 309 Vine St. The ultra-small apartment concept has been a hit in bigger cities like New York and San Francisco, where they basically give young professionals a place to hang their snazzy grown-up shirts and pass out for a few hours when they’re not freelance coding at a co-working space or drinking microbrews at a post-happy hour semi-business-casual networking dinner. Now, Cincinnatians, this lifestyle can be yours as well.

• A retrial date has been set for suspended Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge Tracie Hunter. A jury could not agree on eight of nine felony counts Hunter was tried for last year. Those charges include misuse of a court credit card, forgery and tampering with evidence. Hunter was convicted on a ninth count involving charges she gave her brother, a juvenile court employee, confidential records to use at his own disciplinary hearing. She was sentenced to six months in prison for that conviction, but is free as her case works its way through the appeals process.

Hunter’s supporters say the accusations against her are political in nature and point to the fact she’s the first female African American judge in the juvenile court system. Many, including State Senator Cecil Thomas, also point to what they say are defamatory statements made by Hamilton County prosecutors about Hunter. Hunter ran on a promise to greatly reform Hamilton County’s juvenile justice system, which some say treats juveniles of color inequitably. Those charges of inequitable treatment are the subject of a pending lawsuit filed last year against the county. Hunter was elected in 2012 after a hotly contested recount showed she narrowly defeated her Republican opponent.

Where’s Gov. John Kasich? There’s nothing novel about accusations of absenteeism for governors who are running for president, so it’s no surprise that people are asking if Ohio’s very own 2016 GOP presidential primary contender is putting in enough time at his day job as the state’s top exec. But it’s a worthwhile question to ask as the Big Queso racks up the frequent flyer miles between New Hampshire, home and other big primary states.

Kasich's spokesman says his “cell phone works just as well in Cincinnati, Iowa as it does in Cincinnati, Ohio,” but if I tried that line on my boss I don’t think it would go so well. The questions come as other candidates in the race — including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and governors like Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie — take heat for being away from the home base stirring up support for their presidential ambitions. Kasich’s camp says technology allows the guv to stay on top of things here while he’s out schmoozing with donors elsewhere, and so far his packed travel itinerary hasn’t put a dent in his 62-percent job approval rating among Ohioans. But others who would know cast doubt on the efficacy of splitting your time between the big gig on the state level and auditioning for the top spot in the country. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the GOP primary earlier this month, said it’s been really hard running a state and running a campaign at the same time. Keeping that in mind, Kasich’s answer that “cell phones are a thing” doesn’t seem quite as compelling.

• Finally, the GOP in the House of Representatives may have finally sorted out their big dilemma when it comes to finding a House speaker. Maybe. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last night announced he would run for the speakership, which is being vacated by Ohio’s own Rep. John Boehner. But there’s a big catch: The entire House GOP has to unite behind him, and all must agree to a set of conditions Ryan has stipulated. That’s a tall order, considering a group of a few dozen hardline conservative representatives drove Boehner out of the top spot last month and show few signs of being willing to bend on their demands for ideological purity from a new leader. A few have already signaled they may not support Ryan as he runs for speaker. That could scuttle chances for a Ryan speakership and put Boehner, who has promised to stay on until a new speaker is elected, in an indefinite state of purgatory as not-quite-outgoing speaker. Sounds like a fun job, right?

by Nick Swartsell 10.20.2015 39 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Fairfield officer suspended after Taser accident involving student; Strickland paying no mind to Super PAC backing Sittenfeld; Westboro Baptist protests Kim Davis

Hey all. Let’s talk about news real quick.

A Fairfield Police officer stationed at Fairfield High School was suspended for three days without pay after he accidentally shocked a student with a Taser last month, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. An investigation into the incident found that the officer wasn’t acting with any malice toward the student, but concludes that it “should not have occurred.” No kidding. Reports from the department reveal officer Kevin Harrington has “displayed his Taser in the past to students without a valid law enforcement purpose.”

Harrington was speaking to a 17-year-old student in his office about her recent breakup with her boyfriend. The officer says he was trying to cheer her up. At one point the student reflected that she would probably get back with the boy and be in Harrington’s office again in a few weeks. At that point, Harrington joked, “if you were my daughter I would just tase you.” He pulled the Taser out, but thought it didn’t have its cartridge in it. The Taser, a newer model, had a second cartridge in the handle. It went off, and one of the barbs went into the student’s abdomen. According to officials, Harrington has admitted to pulling out his Taser around students 15 to 20 times during his three years of service at the school.

• As we told you recently, Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann will face a tough challenge from Democrat and current State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton in his quest for reelection next year. Hartmann was at the center of a fight last year over the county’s sales tax hike to fund renovations to Union Terminal, a tax which initially also included funds for Music Hall. Cutting the latter from that deal has made Hartmann and fellow Republican commish Chris Monzel unpopular in some circles. But Hartmann says he’s ready to fight for another term, and that his stance on Music Hall saved tax payers tons of money and will be seen as a positive by many voters. Hartmann discussed that and many other issues surrounding his reelection bid in an in-depth interview with the Business Courier. It’s worth a read.

• Speaking of elections next year, is former Ohio governor and U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Strickland worried about a recently announced super PAC backing Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld? Not at all, he says. Both Sittenfeld and Strickland were at Longworth Hall last night for the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s fall fundraiser last night. At the event, Strickland told reporters that he’s focused on incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman and that Sittenfeld isn’t his enemy. He also expressed confidence that opponents could spend millions against him and would still come out the winner of the 2016 race, a vital one for Democrats looking to take back control of the Senate. Sittenfeld also spoke at the event, challenging Strickland to a debate. But the former guv says that’s unlikely to happen, mostly because he’s more focused on Portman. Strickland has little incentive to debate Sittenfeld, as he’s the frontrunner with a huge lead against the councilman and statewide name recognition from his time as governor.

• I might be stepping over into our music department’s turf on this, but I think it’s pretty cool and worth a brief mention. Cincinnati is the setting of a new video by rap legend Talib Kweli. The video for Kweli’s “Every Ghetto” shows Kweli hanging around various Cincinnati locations with some Cincinnati notables, including local rapper Buggs Tha Rocka, who is sporting Cincinnati-based Floyd Johnson’s Ohio Against the World gear. There are shots of various downtown locations, the fountain on the corner of Clifton and Ludlow avenues and more. The song was also produced by long-time Kweli collaborator and Cincinnatian Hi-Tek. Pretty rad.

• Ohio has delayed scheduled executions again over the lack of proper drugs necessary for administering the death penalty, state officials announced yesterday. The announcement comes after the state said earlier this year that it would cease using a two-drug cocktail designed to replace thiopental sodium, the drug once used in administering the death penalty. Ohio has had trouble sourcing that drug, which American companies will no longer sell for execution use. The two-drug cocktail used to replace it has caused abnormally long, and some critics say painful, executions in Ohio and other states. But the state is finding it difficult to obtain more thiopental sodium, even from overseas suppliers, forcing officials to push back scheduled executions. Ohio has more than 25 executions scheduled between January 2017 and 2019.

• Finally, I assume you’re familiar with Westboro Baptist Church, the group of religious extremists known for protesting gay rights at funerals and many other incredibly charming and principled activism efforts. The kooky group of far-right warriors is at it again, focusing their ire and formidable protesting skills on… Kentucky’s most famous clerk of courts Kim Davis. That’s right. Even the clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses in protest of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same sex marriage can’t escape the hateful wrath of the Westboro folks. Wait. Aren't y'all supposed to be on the same side here? Apparently not. Davis is a hypocrite, Westboro members say, because she’s been divorced and remarried. A few members of the group picketed outside Davis’ office yesterday and called for Davis to divorce her current husband and return to her original husband… for some reason… and also said that Davis should do her job and issue marriage licenses and focus on protesting same-sex marriage in her own time, because “God hates oath breakers just like he hates adulterers and hates same-sex marriage.” Well then. It’s really hard to know who to root for here, folks.

by Nick Swartsell 10.19.2015 40 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Crews finish last section of streetcar track; sheriff suggests detox facility for Justice Center; Kasich flails in New Hampshire

Hello all. I hope your weekend was good. I spent part of my Saturday volunteering at the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative’s annual Youth Summit at Xavier University. The summit involved a number of sessions on topics youth in Cincinnati said they wanted to know more about. Hundreds of young folks crammed into sessions about goal setting, fitness, civic engagement and more.

There was also a two-way facilitated conversation between Cincinnati police officers and youth attendees as well as remarks from CPD Chief Eliot Isaacs, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson and others. Cincy’s young people face a lot of challenges, but it’s good to be reminded how smart and driven they are and that there are a lot of people out there doing good work to help empower them.

Anyway, here’s the news today. On Friday, city workers welded together the last bit of track for the streetcar, bringing the highly contested transit project one step closer to reality. So far, streetcar construction has been on time and on budget, though a revelation over the summer that the cars themselves will be somewhat delayed has raised concerns. The city itself did not hold any official ceremonies — officials say that will come when the streetcars themselves show up at the end of the month. But the grassroots group Believe in Cincinnati, which helped keep the project going after it was paused by Mayor John Cranley in 2013, held their own event as the final bits of track were placed. Front and center at that celebration was a look ahead toward a proposed next phase of the project, which advocates would like to see head Uptown toward the University of Cincinnati and the city’s hospitals. Cranley remains opposed to the so-called Phase 1b plans, at least until the initial phase, which is a 3.6-mile loop through downtown and Over-the-Rhine, can be evaluated.

• Speaking of Over-the-Rhine, one of its mainstay breweries is growing. Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. just finished a $5 million expansion, the center of which is 12 new fermenters that will increase its brewing capacity from 15,000 barrels a year to 50,000. It has also added new equipment that will allow it to produce more cans of beer in addition to bottles. Up to now, the brewery had been using a mobile canner. All this increased capacity means that Moerlein will be able to produce all of its historic Hudepohl brand beer right here in Cincy, an operation that had been contracted out to other breweries outside the city.

• Let’s head next door to Pendleton real quick, where the next phase in a large redevelopment project by Model Group is taking shape. Cincinnati City Council on Friday approved a 12-year property tax abatement worth nearly $90,000 a year on Model’s $6.4 million redevelopment plan, which will create 30 market-rate apartments and about 1,200 square feet of retail space in the three- and four-story rowhouses on East 12th and 13th streets. The project is expected to be completed by September of next year.

• Hamilton County Commissioners today will consider a proposal by Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil to create a heroin detox facility in the county’s Justice Center. The plan would use $500,000 to create an 18-bed treatment center to help inmates detox off the drug with medical help. That’s a big change from what happens now, and in most jails, where inmates are often left to detox cold turkey. Neil and project proponent Major Charmaine McGuffy, who runs the Justice Center, say detoxing without medical attention can be fatal for inmates. Neil says the current approach to dealing with inmates hooked on opiates isn’t working and that the county needs a new plan. It takes about a week of medical attention and a round of special drugs to undergo a chemical detox like the kind the proposed treatment facility would administer.

• Finally, as we’ve talked about before, Gov. John Kasich has identified New Hampshire as a make-or-break state for him in the GOP presidential primary election. If he doesn’t do well in the Granite State’s Feb. 9 primary, he says, he’s outtie. Sooooo… uh, how’s it going? Not so great so far, it would seem. Kasich’s still struggling to make a name for himself in the key state, according to news reports, with many potential GOP primary voters saying they don’t know enough about him. About 45 percent of the state’s potential GOP voters have a positive opinion of the Big Queso (this is my new nickname for Kasich). Hm. Perhaps our guv should make a few more ill-advised jokes or leak more Instagram videos of himself dancing to Walk the Moon.

I’m out. Twitter. Email. Hit me with news tips or suggestions on where to get some new rad sneakers. I’ve been told the bright blue Nike Dunks I’ve been wearing forever are annoying.