Good morning all. Here’s a quick look at news today.
Do we have a streetcar budget yet? Not quite. Cincinnati City Council this week came so, so close to nailing down a first-year operating budget for the transit project, but stumbled in the last yard before the end zone yesterday in what can only be described as a headache-inducing last-minute meltdown. (I know because I’m one of the ones who ended up with a headache from watching it go down). The issue? Councilman Kevin Flynn, who joined the 6-2 vote for the $4.2 million first-year budget in committee, balked in the final voting yesterday, citing concerns about where contingency and startup funds for the project are sourced from in the budget. Flynn indicated that if his concerns are addressed, he’ll vote for the budget. Meanwhile, the budget passed 5-4, but Mayor John Cranley threatened to veto it. So back to committee it goes so Council can hammer out what will likely be the final details. The budget is due to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority at the end of the month. The streetcar is expected to start operations sometime in September.
• Council also wrangled just a bit over a motion to ban city-funded travel to North Carolina and Mississippi, both of which have recently passed laws many say are anti-LGBT. Those laws allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals and also stipulate that trans individuals must use restrooms assigned to their physical gender traits, not their identified genders. The ban wouldn't cover emergency travel to those states — say in case of a hurricane or terrorist attack — but would otherwise keep city officials and employees from going to the state. The legislation also asks city administration to begin courting companies to move to Cincinnati that have indicated they'll leave the states in question over the anti-LGBT laws. The motion, introduced by Councilman Chris Seelbach, passed 7-2. Councilmembers Charlie Winburn and Amy Murray voted against the travel ban.
• Quick. Name the most underrated place in Kentucky. Did you save Covington? You win… something. Anyway, travel website Thrillist.com agrees with you, giving props to the city’s bourbon bars, historic districts and art galleries. It also praises the Roebling Suspension Bridge and calls Covington a… hipster enclave… whatever that is. Of course, the first thing the site mentions is the wonderful view of Cincinnati, and the last thing it suggests is grabbing a slice of Goodfellas Pizza, which is a chain restaurant. It is headquartered in the Cov, though, so I guess it counts. Anyway, pretty cool.
• Remember that big fight over legalizing marijuana last year? Republicans were pretty dead-set against efforts to do so, but now some are trotting out their own plan. State lawmakers have introduced a proposal to legalize medicinal marijuana by 2018. Under the plan, folks over 18 could buy edible marijuana products, patches, oils and probably the good ole fashioned green stuff with a doctor’s prescription. Lawmakers say they’ll work over the next year to figure out who would be allowed to grow the crops, and within two years, Ohio could join 24 other states that have legalized medicinal use of the drug.
• Democratic presidential primary contenders Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will square off in their final scheduled debate tonight. The debate comes as Sanders has made some big gains — though probably not big enough — by capturing some primary and caucus wins over the past few weeks. Clinton still has a commanding delegate lead, however, and has a much more feasible path to the nomination. That means tonight’s debate could be a knock-down, drag out fight as the two make their respective cases with an eye toward New York primary voters, who will go to the polls next week. That means Clinton will likely have to explain her stance on Wall Street regulations, where Sanders has run squarely to her left. Sanders, meanwhile, will have to deal with some baggage he’s been carrying around about gun control, a big issue in the state and one of the few areas where Clinton is seen as more liberal. Stay tuned. It’ll get real.
• Finally, Republicans in the House of Representatives seem likely to miss a statutory budget deadline as they fight over various ideologically-charged proposals for the government’s financial blueprint. That deadline is tomorrow, by the way, and the House seems nowhere close to coming to an agreement that would both satisfy its most conservative members and stand any chance of passing the Senate. That’s a big embarrassment for House Speaker Paul Ryan, some say, who took the reins from former speaker John Boehner last year. Ryan, who has recently had to beat back speculation that he’s hoping to be a surprise candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, says he’s hopeful the House will come together around a spending plan soon. Failure to pass the plan is more of an embarrassment than a catastrophe at this point — Congress can still pass individual bills funding the various departments of government, and spending levels were set in a biannual bill last year — but by statute, the House must pass a spending plan every year. Republicans, including Ryan, have lambasted Democrats in the past when it has appeared that the spending plans won’t materialize on time.
Cincinnati City Council today passed a ban on non-essential city-funded travel to North Carolina and Mississippi today in response to harsh laws passed in those states allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals and prohibiting transgender individuals from using restrooms that match the gender they identify with.
The motion, presented by Councilman Chris Seelbach and passed 6-2, also directs the city to reach out to companies that have indicated they are leaving those states due to the laws to try and convince them to come to Cincinnati.
The laws, passed in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage, have been highly controversial and look likely to face challenges in federal courts.
“Regardless of who you are or who you love, you should be protected from discrimination,” Seelbach said. “Anti-LGBT discrimination is not a Cincinnati value, and this motion is in that spirit.”
Councilman Charlie Winburn had pointed questions about the motion. He and Councilwoman Amy Murray, both Republicans, voted against the effort.
Winburn asked what "essential travel" meant and what Seelbach hoped to accomplish with the legislation.
“In essence, this would ban city personnel traveling to the states of North Carolina or Mississippi for any business purpose that isn’t an emergency situation, which could be if we had to go to North Carolina to obtain a commodity or deal with an emergency," City Manager Harry Black said, answering Winburn's first question. "That’s a highly unlikely scenario.”
Seelbach threw out the idea of terrorist attacks or a hurricane as possible scenarios in which city travel to the states would be allowed. Sending emergency crews or assistance wouldn’t be off the table in those cases.
Winburn wasn't convinced.
“The problem I have with this whole ordinance is — it’s wrong to target transgender or gay people, but it’s also wrong to target Republicans," Winburn said. “In passing this motion today, what do you plan to accomplish?”
"I guess my only concern is that this motion will do what you intend it to do. If we could all search our hearts and learned to love each other, we wouldn’t have to be passing things like this. I don’t think the laws change anything."
Seelbach said the motion would make a difference by sending a message and possibly netting Cincinnati more high-paying employers.
“The goal is to send a message that anti-gay discrimination won’t be tolerated by Cincinnati, that we won’t use taxpayer dollars to do business with states who have passed ideologically charged laws that target gay people," he said. "We want to lure these businesses, these good-paying jobs, to our city, because we’ve done a fantastic job welcoming LGBT individuals."
After years of wrangling, fretting and plenty of political tug-of-wars, and just six months before the streetcar is scheduled to start gliding passengers around downtown and Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati City Council almost passed the transit project's first-year operating budget today.
Council passed the budget out of the transportation committee earlier this week with a veto-proof 6-2 majority. But Councilman Kevin Flynn, who had been the swing vote in Council's 2013 battle with Mayor John Cranley to restart the streetcar, reversed course today and voted against the ordinance.
Without Flynn's vote, Cranley indicated he would veto the operating budget.
“I don’t feel in good conscience
that we can proceed if Mr. Flynn is unhappy," Cranley said. "My assumption as of yesterday was
that six people were supporting this.”
Flynn cited concerns about money set aside for contingencies in the first year of the streetcar's operation and start-up costs. His concerns boil down to where that money — $1.1 million for start-up costs and some $550,000 for contingencies — is coming from.
Flynn said he doesn't believe that all the contingency money will be spent on true contingencies — that the city will need to use it for extra foreseeable expenses — and that the money for the cushion should come from an already-existing construction contingency fund that still has $900,000.
“That’s what I’m asking for, because we’ve been told construction is essentially completed and there’s $900,000 in construction contingency fund left," Flynn told Council after his surprise "no" vote.
"In transportation yesterday, we heard people
wanting to give free rides," Flynn said. "This is a very, very aggressive budget relative to
ridership, relative to advertising dollars and sponsorship dollars. We can’t
afford to give away free anything. And then, when I started thinking about this
ordinance more, when I voted for the streetcar, I said we would not be using
money form the general fund for the streetcar."
Much of the money in question comes from an increase in parking rates and hours in Over-the-Rhine and downtown. Other Council members pointed out, and Flynn acknowledged that the parking funds would not exist if Council hadn't changed parking policies to raise money for the streetcar. But he also said that since contingency money is left over for construction, it should be used first for start-up costs and contingencies. Flynn said he was worried that the construction contingency fund would evaporate if it wasn't used.
"I’ve been involved in enough construction projects to know — if there’s money left, they’ll find a way to spend it," he said. "I want to get that money out of there now.”
City Manager Harry Black sought to allay those concerns. “We are micromanaging the contingency side of the budget," he said.
"Any action related to the contingency must be approved by the city manager.”
There are other concerns — the construction contingency fund is tied up in a process involving the Federal Transportation Authority, and the city must technically ask the FTA to use it, city administration pointed out.
Preservationists are pushing back against a plan to demolish the historic Dennison Hotel building on Main Street. The Joseph family, of Joseph Automotive Group wealth, has released renderings of a potential Fortune 500 company's headquarters it could potentially develop, should the Historic Conservation Board OK the building's demolition. Opponents of demolition have been circulating copies of a Cincinnati Enquirer article from the 1980s via social media as an example of the Joseph family failing to deliver on promises of shiny new office complexes after demolishing historical buildings in the past. Documents filed by the family's attorney with the Historic Conservation Board show that the family purchased the Dennison Hotel in 2013 in part to stifle plans to convert the structure into affordable housing. The family will present its case for demolition in front of the Historic Conservation Board on April 18.
• Hamilton County library employee Rachel Dovel might file a federal lawsuit against the library for failing to cover her gender reassignment surgery via its insurance policy. Dovel, who has worked for the library for the past decade, has been transitioning from male to female for the past two years and said the library's insurance policy won't cover gender confirmation surgery necessary to complete her transition. The library's trustees are currently debating adding the procedure to the employee medical plan in August, but Dovel says she feels she's already waiting long enough.
• The University of Cincinnati Department of Public Safety announced it is launching a nationwide search for a new chief of police and assistant chief of police. Previous Police Chief Jason Goodrich and Major Tim Thornton both resigned last February following a review into the department after the July shooting death of Mount Auburn resident Samuel DuBose by UC Police Officer Ray Tensing. The 11-person search committee will be lead by S. Gregory Baker, UC's director of police community relations, starting at the end of April. The university said the search will go on until the right people are found.
• The issue of medical marijuana is inching back this year for Ohio. The Ohio House is expected to lay out its proposal for medical marijuana today. Both the House and the Senate have had separate hearing on the issue, and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Republican from Clarksville, says the legislation will likely be a joint effort. The Senate is currently wrapping up its own hearings on the issue. Polls have shown Ohioans support the legalization of medical marijuana. And it seems whatever plan legislators roll out will probably have a better shot at passing than ResponsibleOhio's failed attempt last election at getting voters to approve a constitutional amendment to legalize all marijuana.
• Donald Trump has fired back against those tricky Republicans who are trying to figure out a way to deny the GOP frontrunner the presidential nomination. As Republicans stumble toward a likely contested convention in Cleveland this July, Trump has started accusing the party of trying to steal the election from him. Trump told the crowd at a campaign event in upstate New York that the system is "absolutely rigged" and that the Republican National Committee should be "ashamed of itself." Trump, who has with 742 delegates, leading rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's 529 delegates, looks unlikely to secure the 1,237 delegates necessary to secure the nomination by July.
A potential lawsuit against the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County over the library’s lack of benefits for trans individuals could be the first of its kind in the country, putting Cincinnati on the map again for LGBT issues.
Library employee Rachel Dovel has been transitioning from male to female over the past two years. In February last year, she changed her name legally from Nathan and has come out as transgender. Now, she says she needs gender confirmation surgery to complete her transition and match her physical traits with the gender she identifies with. The library’s insurance doesn’t cover that procedure, however.
The library’s trustees say they haven’t made a decision one way or the other about the coverage and say they’re not trying to discriminate against Dovel. The board’s seven members — President Elizabeth LaMacchia, Vice President Allen G. Zaring IV, Secretary Barbara Trauth, Robert G. Hendon, Monica Donath Kohnen, William Moran and Ross Wright — are appointed to seven-year terms by the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas and the Hamilton County Commission.
The board will consider whether or not to acquire trans-inclusive benefits in August. The coverage will cost a little more than the library’s current plan, though advocates say that price increase is minimal. After a year-long fight to get the surgery, the end of the summer is too long to wait, Dovel says.
“It’s been really stressful,” Dovel says. “This is a surgery I need to get to feel like I’m moving on with my life and not transitioning forever. I just want to live a normal life and I thought I was going to be able to do that last year when I was trying to get the ball moving on getting the surgery scheduled. Transitioning is already hard enough.”
The delay has led Dovel and her attorney to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Pending the EEOC’s response, Dovel’s attorney says they are prepared to file a federal gender-discrimination lawsuit against the library.
“Rachel’s case against the library will be a case of first impression in the country, meaning no employer in the United States has refused to offer coverage for gender confirmation surgery, leading their employee to file a federal lawsuit,” Dovel’s attorney Josh Langdon said at a news conference April 12 in front of the downtown library. “Just like Obergefell v. Hodges, Cincinnati will literally make history with Rachel’s case.”
That case, in which Over-the-Rhine resident Jim Obergefell and a number of other plaintiffs sued the state of Ohio and other states over same-sex marriage bans, eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted in the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country.
Dovel and Langdon say they don’t want their situation to progress that far, but after fighting the library for a year, Langdon says, “We’re nearing the end of the rope."
“I hope they don’t force me to take it that far, but if that’s what it takes,” Dovel says. “This isn’t just about me. There could be future employees or their families who need this medically necessary care.”
Dovel, who works processing books for circulation, has been with the library for more than a decade. She says she believes in the library’s mission and would like to stay there, but also needs the medical care she’s working to get.
Dovel initially sought to have the surgery under the library’s health insurance policy. But she was informed that the policy under Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield did not offer coverage for the procedure. Dovel and attorneys challenged Anthem, saying the fact it did not offer the coverage violated gender discrimination clauses under the Affordable Care Act. The insurance company eventually complied, offering supplemental coverage for transgender care, including the procedure Dovel would like to receive. However, the library has yet to purchase that coverage.
A number of local corporations already offer such coverage, including Macy’s and Kroger. Trans advocates say procedures like the one Dovel is seeking are vital.
“More and more people are recognizing that these things are not only beneficial to transgender people, they’re medically necessary,” says Callie Wright, board member for local trans advocacy organization Heartland Trans Wellness Group. “This is not just us talking who want these surgeries. This is many organizations of medical and mental health professionals, who say these things are as necessary as any other medical treatment.”
The mental health dimension of transgender treatment was tragically illustrated by the death of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen who took her own life late in 2014 after her parents refused to permit her to undergo transition procedures.
The April 12 news conference brought local and national advocates including Heartland and a representative for national LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, Cincinnati Police Department LGBT outreach officers and Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach.
“This is about her health care, and her relationship with a medical doctor licensed by the state of Ohio, who says she needs these medical procedures to live her life as a healthy individual," Seelbach said. "That decision should be made between Rachel and her medical doctor, not a politically-appointed medical board.”
Seelbach touts Cincinnati as the first city in the Midwest to offer transgender-inclusive medical benefits and says that, overall, the city has made huge strides from a place that had very restrictive anti-LGBT rights legislation just a decade ago. He said he hopes the library will follow that example.
“It’s time to go forward, following the lead of the city and our corporate community,” Seelbach said. “It’s the right thing to do because of history, it’s the right thing to do because of Rachel’s health.”
• City Council's Budget and Finance Committee has approved a ban on all non-essential city-funded or city-sponsored travel to North Carolina and Mississippi. The committee approved the motion at Monday's meeting put forth by council members Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young, Christopher Smitherman and Vice Mayor David Mann in a vote of 6-2. The ban is a way for Cincinnati to put pressure on North Carolina and Mississippi to reconsider newly created law laws that discriminate against LGBT people. North Carolina's law requires people to use the bathroom of the gender listed on their birth certificate. Mississippi's law allows businesses to refused to serve LGBT people if they object on religious grounds. Council is expected vote on the motion Wednesday.
• Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted wants to overturn a judge's March 15 order that kept polls open an additional hour in Hamilton, Clermont, Warren and Butler counties after a traffic accident tied up greater Cincinnati roads. U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott issued the order after a major accident on I-275 on the day of Ohio's presidential primary left many voters claiming they would be unable to reach polls by closing time. The decision was unusual because it was made quickly with no plaintiff and no hearing for evidence. Husted has called Dlott's intervention into the electoral process "unreasonable" and says he's appealing the order because he says he doesn't want to set a precedent with the presidential election on the horizon.
• Warren County transgender teen Leelah Alcorn's Tumblr post five days after her 2014 suicide made national headlines and sparked a national outcry about the controversial practice of conversion therapy, including a promise from President Barack Obama to support a ban. But at a Monday presidential campaign event in Troy, New York, Gov. John Kasich said he's never heard of her. Kasich's response reportedly was from a question about conversion therapy, and his spokesman Joe Andrews later explained Kasich's lapse in memory, saying that the GOP presidential hopeful couldn't recall every tragic death in the state. Last December, conversion therapy in Ohio made headlines again when Cincinnati became the second city in the country after Washington, D.C. to pass a law banning the practice.
The owners of downtown’s Dennison building bought it in 2013 at least in part because of concerns about a proposed plan to turn it into affordable housing, documents filed with Cincinnati’s Historic Conservation Board reveal.
The revelation comes as Columbia REI, LLC, the owners of the Dennison, look to move forward with controversial plans to demolish the building, constructed in 1892 from designs by noted architect Samuel Hannaford.
The documents, which are downloadable here and were first reported by the Cincinnati Business Courier, show that Dennison owners Columbia Development Corp. — run by the Joseph Auto Group family — purchased the building from an affiliate of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation in August 2013 for $744,000, a price the developer negotiated. 3CDC had purchased the property from The Model Group the month prior for $1.3 million. Model itself purchased the property in 2010 for $700,000 to develop affordable housing with Talbert House. 3CDC has made no comment about the sale.
“This acquisition was necessary to protect the family’s investment in this block of downtown Cincinnati,” the documents, filed in response to conservation board questions, reads. “As media groups have confirmed, and as the family had become aware, 3CDC engaged The Model Group for the remodeling of this building into a facility to be owned, occupied, and used by The Talbert House, a halfway house providing housing for persons who have transitioned through the criminal justice system and incarceration. Since it was believed this type of use would have a damaging effect on their investment in particular and on the neighborhood in general, the family concluded it was necessary to acquire this property. The acquisition would then be a part of the assemblage of the parcels in this block to facilitation a major redevelopment."
Model Group and 3CDC’s plans involved redeveloping the building into 63 one bedroom, one bath units of affordable housing. Reports say the $10 million redevelopment, to which the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority pledged $3.3 million, would have been permanent supportive housing, which provides services and other support for those with disabilities or addiction issues transitioning out of homelessness.Those plans fell through, however.
Cincinnati is more affordable than many major cities, but is still experiencing the national trend of shortage in affordable housing. Rising rents and dwindling subsidized and otherwise affordable units of housing have put a squeeze on low-income individuals. A study by the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless found that in order to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment at the $769 average monthly rate in Hamilton County, a minimum-wage worker would have to work 73 hours a week. About 24 percent of renters in Cincinnati have incomes below the poverty level.
The Dennison was the last of more than 20 single-room occupancy hotels that dotted downtown; it charged around $90 a week. Another single-room occupancy hotel once occupying the Metropole building was redeveloped into the 21c Museum Hotel in 2012.
The documents from Columbia at one point refer to the Dennison’s former use as a single-room occupancy hotel for low-income individuals as “a flophouse.”
Representatives for the Joseph family point out that the building had fallen into severe disrepair and was “disgraceful,” as the documents call it. Attorney Fran Barrett says the building is in disrepair and poses a danger to passersby, and that's a big reason to tear it down. Columbia seeks to redevelop the property and several adjoining properties into a headquarters for an as-yet undetermined Fortune 500 company. The group envisions “an attractive, Class-A office building” to occupy the 69,000 square foot site, according to Columbia attorney Fran Barrett.
Barrett argues that, though the building was designed by the firm of the noted architect, the Dennison is not one of Hannaford's noteworthy works. He compared Hannaford to Pete Rose and called the Dennison a "broken-bat base hit," according to the Business Courier.
Columbia has been responsible for past demolitions of nearby buildings, and some of the sites of those former buildings are now parking lots, preservation advocates say.
The developer commissioned cost estimates for reusing the Dennison building — a part of the process of getting a demolition permit — and says that reuse of the building as apartments, condos, office space or a hotel is not economically feasible.
The city's Historic Conservation Board will discuss Columbia's demolition permit at its April 18 meeting.
The University of Cincinnati is working on big changes to its police department but still has work ahead of it, a UCPD official said at a conference on police reform yesterday.
University of Cincinnati Police Department Director of Community Relations S. Gregory Baker called the July 19 UCPD shooting of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose “an atrocity” and told a crowd of about 50 that the university is pushing to get a more diverse police force, change training officers receive, add more front-line managers overseeing patrol officers and a number of other changes in the coming months.
Baker spoke at the first event of a five-night conference recognizing the 15th anniversary of civil unrest in Over-the-Rhine over the police shooting death of unarmed Timothy Thomas. Activist Iris Roley and other members of the Black United Front, which helped establish Cincinnati’s Collaborative Agreement in the wake of the unrest, organized the conference. Anti-poverty group the AMOS Project, the Hamilton County Office of Reentry, Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority and a number of other groups helped sponsor the conference, which is being held at the New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn.
Last night’s talk focused specifically on reform efforts underway at UC after UCPD officer Ray Tensing shot and killed DuBose in Mount Auburn after a routine traffic stop for a missing front license plate. Tensing was indicted on murder charges, and UC has paid a $4.6 million settlement to DuBose’s family.
The incident, which sparked peaceful protests and national media attention, has also brought about efforts at deep change at the university, Baker says.
“Unfortunately, we had to arrive at this situation through a very tragic incident,” he said. “No amount of money will bring Mr. DuBose back, so really this reform is bigger than Mr. DuBose. We can’t pay for his life, and we don’t want this to ever happen again.”
One very specific upcoming piece of that puzzle, according to Baker: a report from independent police accountability firm Exiger that will examine department hiring practices, its diversity, its training procedures, use of force policies, traffic stops and arrests. That report will also detail suggestions for reform. It’s due out in June.
Another substantive reform that has already been implemented: The department now has sergeants supervising patrol officers, and officer behavior, stops and arrests are now being monitored for bias and racial disparities.
Those disparities have been huge. Baker says the university ramped up its police force in the years preceding the DuBose shooting, in response to a spike in crime around the university that started around 2008. The school ended up doubling the 35 officers it had in 2013 to 70 in just a year and a half. It’s now the third-largest law enforcement agency in the county behind the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.
With that increased enforcement came huge racial disparities. The student body on UC’s campus is only 8 percent black, though the neighborhoods surrounding it, especially to the west, have a much larger proportional black population. Increased police activity led to a disproportionate number of stops and arrests of blacks.
Traffic stops went up 300 percent to 2000 in 2015. Arrests also tripled.
But during this time, stops of white individuals actually decreased. Black stops went way up, however. Tickets written by Tensing in the year before he shot DuBose, went to blacks 81 percent of the time.
“Was it racist?” Baker asks about the disparities. “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…”
In the wake of the shooting, UCPD was ordered to roll back its involvement in the communities surrounding the school. Officers can now only stop a person if they are imminently threating someone or if an officer witnesses them committing a crime. Otherwise, university police must call the Cincinnati Police Department.
The department is still wrestling with what its role should be in those communities around the school, Baker says. It’s also working on gaining back trust within those communities.
The university has created a 19-member community advisor council that will weigh in on ongoing reform efforts. That council is made up of students, neighborhood residents around the university and faith leaders. Baker says it’s “very diverse.”
Other reforms are more general and are still materializing. Baker says the department is committed to increasing the number of officers of color on the force. He says that of the 72 officers currently serving in the UCPD, only one is black.
“We have to look at this one African American officer,” he said. “That’s just wrong. The police should reflect the diversity of the community. We have a problem with that at UC.”
There are still unanswered questions, however. When a CityBeat reporter asked about the other officers involved in the DuBose shooting who initially corroborated Tensing’s story in preliminary police reports, Baker shook his head.
“Those officers made statement within the urgency of the situation,” he said. “They blurted things out.” Baker pointed out they gave a more accurate accounting of events before the grand jury that indicted Tensing.
“They corrected their testimony to be consistent with the video tape,” he said. “They knew what was on the tape because they saw it themselves. That’s a very unsettled piece of this. They’re currently still working on the force.”
Baker, who spent 30 years working for the city of Cincinnati in public safety and community development before he came to UCPD in August, says he believes the department is making progress. He said the work the department is doing is vital, given concerns around crime, campus shootings and other public safety issues.
The crime issue will come up again during the five-day community-police relations conference, which also features film screenings, workshops and discussions on Cincinnati Police and the Collaborative Agreement. You can find the full schedule here.
Good morning all. It snowed this weekend. It’s nasty out right now. Insert T.S. Eliot “Wasteland” reference. Let’s not talk about it and just go straight to non-weather related news, shall we?
Cincinnati could get a unified effort to expand preschool offerings to more needy kids. At least, that possibility seems more likely after a gathering yesterday to discuss preschool funding effort Preschool Promise and Cincinnati Public Schools’ own operating levy, which also includes some preschool provisions. Many are worried that if the two efforts aren’t combined, voters confronted with two educationally related levies this November will sink one or both of them.
Representatives from CPS, Preschool Promise and the Cincinnati Business Committee spoke at the panel discussion, which was hosted by anti-poverty group the AMOS Project. All say they’re looking for a way to join forces. CPS’s levy would come in the form of property taxes, while Preschool Promise hasn’t officially announced an ask from taxpayers. But many believe a boost in the city’s earnings tax, which is paid by those who work in Cincinnati, would be the most likely potential funding source. Experts and Preschool Promise boosters cite studies showing that quality preschool can boost a child’s chances of rising out of poverty. Half of Cincinnati’s children live below the poverty line, making the city second worst in the country by that measure. Preschool Promise wants to extend the opportunity to attend preschool, either at CPS or through private preschools, to all of the city’s 9,000 3- and 4-year-olds.
• Cincinnati’s streetcar could start operating Sept. 1 if Cincinnati City Council approves a first-year budget for the transit project it will consider this week. Council’s Budget and Finance Committee will consider that $4.2 million budget drawn up by City Manager Harry Black today. More than $2 million in parking revenues from changes in parking fees in Over-the-Rhine and downtown, $677,000 in rider fares, $450,000 in naming rights, sponsorships and advertising and $11,000 in property tax receipts from reduced tax abatements in OTR and downtown will pay for the streetcar’s first year. Another crucial funding source will be $900,000 pledged by the Haile Foundation for the streetcar’s first year.
• Councilman Chris Seelbach, officials with national LGBT group the Human Rights Campaign, transgender activist Paula Ison and others are pushing the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to extend medical benefits for transgender employees. One of those employees, Rachel Dovel, is seeking gender confirmation surgery, which the library’s insurance policy does not cover. Dovel has worked at the library for a decade. The library’s board of directors recently declined to change its employee insurance in response to a request from Dovel, and now attorneys representing her have brought up the possibility of legal action. The library board has said it hasn’t made any final decisions on the request and is researching the possible change. The city of Cincinnati provides such benefits to its employees, as do several of the city’s large corporations like Kroger and Macy’s. Seelbach and representatives from LGBT groups will hold a press conference tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. in front of the library’s Vine Street entrance to discuss the issue, according to a news release from Dovel’s attorneys.
• A week-long panel on the aftermath of the 2001 unrest and its legacy kicks off tonight at the New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn. The conference is hosted by activists and organizations responsible for the city's historic Collaborative Agreement. A presentation by law enforcement officials to give updates on developments in the Sam DuBose case will start at 6 p.m. The conference will also include film screenings, panel discussions and workshops throughout the week. Find out more details here. In the meantime, read CityBeat's story on the aftermath of 2001, which includes reams of data on policing, economics in the black community and demographic changes in Over-the-Rhine since the unrest there.
• Last week, we told you about efforts by Cincinnati City Council banning non-essential city-funded travel to North Carolina, which passed harsh laws allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT individuals on religious grounds. Now, the city of Dayton has also passed similar legislation, cutting off city-funded travel to that state and Mississippi, which has also passed similar laws. Dayton Mayor Nann Whaley last week issued a memo explaining that the move comes because the legislation in those states violates the inclusive values that Dayton represents. Other municipalities and local governments in Ohio have also passed similar travel bans, including Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located.
• Well, it’s probably happening. Things look more and more likely to get live in Cleveland this summer as the Republican Party inches closer to a contested presidential primary convention there. Frontrunner Donald Trump has taken something of a nosedive, leaving it quite possible, even probable, that none of the GOP’s candidates will get the requisite 1,237 delegates needed to grab the party’s nomination outright. Trump took a beating in Wisconsin last week, narrowing considerably the path to the magic number for him. That’s good news — perhaps the only good news — for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is trailing a distant third behind Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. So what’s Kasich thinking? Here’s his contested convention strategy.
• Meanwhile, is there a dark horse waiting in this primary circus? Some people think so, and they also believe that horse has two first names and went to my alma mater. That’s right — Miami University alum and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s name continues to float around as a possible entrant into the nomination battle. Republicans would have to change a rule they set that keeps any candidate who has not won a majority of delegates in eight states from entering the nomination proceedings, but they could do that.
There are reasons to think he might — he’s been on international trips with U.S. allies, his staff released a campaign-like video featuring Ryan talking about uniting the country and he’s outwardly taking other steps to run what some call “a parallel campaign” to counter the angry messages Trump and Cruz have used to rise to prominence. The question is whether that campaign is purely to boost an alternative vision of the Republican Party — one that is still staunchly conservative but outwardly less hostile and destructive — or whether there is the seed of a convention challenge in the efforts. Time will tell.
Until recently, the most heated the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination got consisted of disagreements with campaign finance and fighting over the word “progressive.” For the past year, Democrats have prided themselves with debating issues and not mangling each other like the Republicans.
However, the battle over the April 19 New York primaries have added a new layer of tension to the campaigns. The Empire State is Clinton territory — serving as one of the state’s senators from 2001 - 2009. But the Sanders campaign has launched a full assault, gathering an army of mostly young volunteers and holding massive rallies in Clinton’s backyard — aiming for a major upset.
Clinton still leads the insurgent campaign, according to the most recent Quinnipiac poll, but nowhere near the 40 points she was leading by in the same poll conducted in June. The Democratic frontrunner’s New York support has been bleeding for months. While a loss in New York would not spell doom for the former secretary of state, it would be a massive moral loss.
The delegate gain and upset would likely propel Sanders unlike any of his other victories in this election. The Vermont senator needs 56 percent of the remaining delegates to topple Clinton. However, that does not take superdelegates into account — which Clinton has a virtual monopoly on.
Clinton lashed out against Sanders’ qualifications for the presidency, suggesting he may not be ready for the Oval Office while echoing some of her rhetoric in the past, labeling the Vermont senator as a one-issue candidate.
“He’s been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hasn't studied or understood,” Clinton said in an interview on Morning Joe. “What he has been saying about the core issue in his whole campaign doesn’t seem to be rooted in an understanding of either the law or the practical ways you get something done.”
While addressing supporters in Philadelphia, Sanders came back swinging in an unprecedented move.
“We have won seven out of eight of the recent primaries and caucuses, and she has been saying lately that I may be ‘not qualified’ to be president. Well, let me just say in response to secretary Clinton. I don’t believe she is qualified if she is through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest funds,” Sanders said.
This is the first time either Democratic candidate has suggested their challenger is “unqualified,” a phrase that caught a lot of media attention and folks questioning if Sanders is keeping true to his original promise of not being negative.
“I don’t think you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street with your super PAC. I don’t think you're qualified if you voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are qualified if you supported virtually every disastrous free trade agreement that have cost us millions of decent paying jobs.” Sanders added.
Clinton expressed her puzzlement over Sanders’ statement, saying, “I don’t know why he’s saying that, but I will take Bernie Sanders over Donald Trump or Ted Cruz anytime."
Ask virtually any Bernie Sanders supporter and one of the most respectful qualities they see in the Vermont senator is he has never ran a negative ad over the course of three decades in the political arena — despite losing about half-a-dozen elections over the years.
On the flipside, there’s undoubtedly a lot of frustration in the Sanders camp that the campaign largely holds back munitions it has against Clinton. For base liberals, Hillary Clinton is standing in the way of what they see as a real future for progressive politics. To a lot of his supporters, Sanders is a once-in-a-generation dream candidate, similar to the energy behind President Barack Obama when he first sought the presidency.
This has bubbled into a real desire that Sanders will finally take the gloves off and lash out against the Democratic frontrunner. However, if Sanders would attempt any knockout attack, it would be antithetical of the campaign’s values. It’s a rarity Sanders even names Hillary Clinton. In most speeches he refers to her as “my opponent” or indirectly jabs at her with his populist rhetoric.
Clinton’s campaign is likely equally frustrated. Lashing out against Sanders would risk further alienating his liberal followers, and Clinton’s mission this summer has to be uniting the party and courting Sanders supporters to combat the Republican nominee.
There’s a movement called “Bernie or Bust,” where Sanders supporters are refusing to turn out to the polls in November if he isn’t the Democratic nominee. With bulk of the electorate under 30 siding with Sanders, some of which very passionately, Clinton has had to be careful not to bruise up the Vermont senator. Also, any attack she lays out leads to the massive donations for the Sanders camp.
When Sanders said Clinton was “unqualified” at the Philadelphia rally, the crowd went wild. He finally fed that desire to throw a direct punch. It was the kind of red meat the Republican base has been spoiled with in the form of “Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco.” It is not unthinkable that supporters for any candidate on either side of the aisle craves some level of red meat — Democrats rarely get that service in any election.
In an election where the frontrunner for the opposing party defends the size of his genitalia on a debate stage, it is hard to imagine any realistic scenario in which either Democratic candidate goes too far.
After some blasted Sanders for his heated rhetoric, he ceased fire on the “unqualified” remarks. In a town hall Friday, Sanders said “of course” his Democratic rival is fit for the presidency. “On her worst day she would be an infinitely better president than either of the Republican candidates,” Sanders said.
Need suggestions for a good theater production to attend this weekend? Here are some good choices on Cincinnati stages.
Last night I attended the opening of Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It’s an inventive recreation of the legendary African-American pitcher who found his fame eclipsed by Jackie Robinson. The changes wrought by events in 1947 affected both black and white Americans, and this play by Ricardo Khan and Trey Ellis explores them. They know their way around storytelling: Their play Fly, about the Tuskegee Airmen, was well received at the Playhouse in 2013. In this one, players from two teams of baseball all-stars, one black and one white, share a boarding house on a rainy night in Kansas City. We get to eavesdrop on what they might have talked about, their dreams, their grudges and their fates. Robert Karma Robinson wholly inhabits the role of Paige as an angular, grumpy philosopher of sports, race and life. It’s onstage through May 21. Tickets: 513-421-3888.
Before they wrote My Fair Lady and Camelot, the lyricist-composer team of Lerner and Loewe had a 1949 hit with the musical Brigadoon. It’s about a pair of American tourists who happen upon a mysterious town in Scotland that appears just once every century. Of course, one of the guys falls in love with a resident of the town — and that gets complicated. When I was six years old, I went to see this show with my very British grandfather, my first experience of musical theater. I still love the show, and I’ll be seeing it this weekend at the Covedale Center, where it will be onstage through May 22. Tickets: 513-241-6550.
Don’t shy away from Cincinnati Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar because you read it in high school. Set in ancient Rome, there’s as much political intrigue — and perhaps more danger — that you’d find in your average episode of House of Cards. Several fine acting performances make this production especially watchable: Brent Vimtrup gives a textured performance of the principled but conflicted Brutus; Josh Katawick is the “lean and hungry” Cassius who recruits the assassins who bring down Caesar; and Nick Rose is the wily Mark Antony who finds a way to turn Caesar’s death to his own advantage. Once you’ve seen this production, you should make plans to return for a kind of sequel as Cincy Shakes stages Antony and Cleopatra with several of the actors from Julius Caesar reprising their roles. Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
Playwright Lauren Gunderson presented a quartet of badass women from 18th-century France in The Revolutionists at the Cincinnati Playhouse back in February. Some more strong females — Americans from the early 20th century — are the characters of Silent Sky, the current production at Know Theatre. The central character is Henrietta Leavitt, an aspiring astronomer who had to work doubly hard to earn recognition for her scientific insights. She’s bracketed by a devoted, conservative sister and a pair of “lunatic women” who are her scientific colleagues. Director Tamara Winters has an excellent cast of actors to tell this story — especially Maggie Lou Rader in a luminous portrait of the feisty, persistent Henrietta. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati seldom brings back a show it’s presented in the past, but when it staged Jeanine Tesori’s musical Violet back in 1998, that was long before Over-the-Rhine was a go-to neighborhood for entertainment. So there’s a good rationale for reviving this lovely, heartfelt story. Check out this video preview.
Big things happened at Wednesday's City Council meeting. Council finally voted to approve the streetcar's operating budget for the first year after spending the last month squabbling and kicking it back and forth between council and committee. The budget just barely passed in a vote of 5-3, with council members Kevin Flynn, Christopher Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voting against it. Councilwoman Amy Murray was absent from the meeting. Mayor John Cranley, who previously said he would veto any operating budget that didn't get at least six votes, appears to have had enough of this streetcar drama. The mayor decided recently not to veto the budget even if it passed with a mere five votes.
Council also voted to approve a wage hike for city government workers, passing a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for full-time workers and to $10.10 an hour for part-time and seasonal workers. The increase will affect about one out of every five city workers, or about 1,166 workers. Cranley, who introduced the ordinance last month, called council's decision "morally right" and hopes the state will follow suit.
• Students at Northern Kentucky University will see a slight increase in their tuition next year. The NKU Board of Regents voted to pass a 3 percent increase in undergraduate tuition on Wednesday to keep up with rising costs at the university and a decrease in funding from the state. Next year, Kentucky residents can expect to pay an average of $130 more per semester while Cincinnati residents will shell out an extra $200 per semester and nonresidents will pay an extra $260.
• State Rep. Denise Driehaus is upset with the closure of the Little Miami Incinerator. The incinerator was closed temporarily earlier this month after it was determined that it does not meet federal pollution standards. It served as one of two ways that Hamilton County disposes of human waste, and it's unclear when, or if, it will reopen. Driehaus, who is currently running for Hamilton County commissioner in the upcoming November election, released a statement Thursday morning condemning county for allowing the closure that she saw as avoidable and called for new leadership to better address the issue.
"This could have and should have been resolved." Driehaus says in the statement. "We need leadership on the County Commission that will roll up their sleeves and work to resolve challenging issues instead of being content to play the blame game when something goes wrong."
• Since former Speaker of the House John Boehner resigned from his post last October, it seems he feels more free to express his true feelings about the GOP presidential candidates. At an event at Stanford University on Wednesday, Boehner called Texas Sen. Ted Cruz a "miserable son of a bitch." Boehner also disclosed that he and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump are "texting buddies" and that he is also friends with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is currently running way behind Trump and Cruz in the election. However, it seems he and Kasich aren't quite BFFs as he also said that their friendship "requires more effort."
The operating budget for the Cincinnati streetcar again looks likely to move forward in City Council today, barring any major surprises. Of course, that was also the case a couple weeks ago, when the budget stumbled over some last-minute objections by Councilman Kevin Flynn around contingency funding. Flynn’s course reversal left the budget with only five votes, which was not enough to overcome a veto promised by Mayor John Cranley. So back to committee it went, where it passed again yesterday. Cranley has indicated he won’t veto the revised budget, which would move about $550,000 in leftover construction funds into a contingency account, even if it only gets five votes. Flynn thinks leftover construction money should be used for startup costs.
• Hey, this is creepy, though not totally unexpected. Crews working to seal off some asbestos in Music Hall found human remains under the orchestra pit. No, they aren’t what’s left of some unfortunate clarinetists who were a little pitchy in their renditions of Rhapsody in Blue’s opening glissando or timpanists who missed a beat or two in a conductor's favorite Bach piece. The remains, which archeological consultants Gray and Pape say probably belonged to four people, seem to be holdovers from the pit’s 1928 construction. The historic hall, as well as the land around it in Washington Park, spent two decades starting around 1818 as a burial ground for indigent residents. Many of those grave sites were moved in the 1850s, but some lingered, and apparently still do. When Music Hall construction began in 1876, workers were faced with the task of removing the remaining bodies to places like Spring Grove Cemetery. Far be it for me to critique someone else’s work, especially when it’s work that I wouldn’t go anywhere near, but… seems like they missed a few spots. In addition to the remains under the orchestra pit, workers also found a number of grave shafts full of wooden coffins.
• If you’re a frequent flyer, you know the struggle: The Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, or CVG, used to be the last resort when you wanted to take a flight on the cheap. Places like Dayton and Louisville — or even Columbus — were cheaper enough to fly from that it made the drive worth it. But not any more, apparently. CVG’s fares are now lower than Dayton and Louisville’s airports, and the lowest they’ve been relative to other airports in more than 20 years. That’s in part due to the increase in airlines flying out of CVG, including low-cost carriers like Allegiant Air. CVG still trails Columbus and Indianapolis in terms of affordability, but not by as much as in the past, when our airport was the third-most expensive in the country. These days, it’s 22nd.
• As you might have guessed, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate mogul Donald Trump came up big winners in yesterday’s GOP primaries. Trump swept every county in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, extending his delegate count to 949 of the 1,237 he needs to clinch the GOP nomination. Meanwhile, Clinton won in all those states except Rhode Island, where her challenger, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, prevailed. Clinton’s victories put the Democratic nomination all but out of reach for Sanders, though he’s vowed to stay in the race. Meanwhile, Trump has also solidified his position as the GOP frontrunner — his second-place opponent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, has only 544 delegates. Third-place contender, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, has just 153 — fewer than U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race weeks ago.
• With an ever-clearer picture of who the nominees for each party are likely to be, the frontrunners’ eyes are turning to the general election. And there are signs it’s gonna be an ugly, ugly race. Perhaps feeling his oats after his decisive victories, Trump yesterday bashed Clinton, saying that she’s only winning primaries because she’s a woman. If you thought Trump might tone it down for the general election in a bid to get more mainstream swing voters, including, you know, women, well… don’t hold your breath for too long on that. Key quote from Trump:
“She is a woman, she is playing the woman card left and right,” Mr. Trump told CNN in a post-primary interview. “Frankly, if she didn’t, she would do very poorly. If she were a man and she was the way she is, she would get virtually no votes."
Good morning all. Hope your weekend was as perfect as mine. Let’s talk about news real quick.
Vice Mayor David Mann says the private foundation that raises money for Cincinnati Parks Board should open its books to public scrutiny. The Cincinnati Parks Foundation, a nonprofit group, came under scrutiny last year during a contentious bid for a property tax levy to fund parks improvements put forward by Mayor John Cranley. Voters passed on that proposal, but not before it was revealed that the park board spent money from the foundation on pro-levy campaigns. After the election, further revelations about board spending on travel and perks drew increased scrutiny to the parks board and triggered a city audit. Now, Mann says the foundation should undergo similar scrutiny.
• Speaking of investigations: Are the feds really looking into MSD? Last year, The Enquirer reported that Cincinnati’s metropolitan sewer district was under the microscope of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, presumably over its implementation of a multi-billion-dollar federal order to revamp the city’s sewer system. However, the FBI hasn’t asked for any of the things you’d expect if it was indeed probing the large public department, the Businss Courier reports. No subpoenas have been filed, no hard drives have been seized and no documents have been requested. If there’s truly an investigation happening, it’s very low-key.
• The state of Kentucky could allocate $10 million to revamp a highway exit leading to the religiously-themed Ark Encounter theme park. Watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State has cried foul at that expenditure, saying it amounts to Kentucky using taxpayer dollars to benefit a religious group. The money for the ramp improvements on I-75 and KY 36 made its way into the state’s budget, which is currently in the process of being passed. AUSCS says it doesn’t have any plans as of yet to oppose the money, but says it is continuing to watch the situation. Ark park owners Answers in Genesis say an earlier ruling allowing Kentucky to give tax incentives to the site has answered questions about the legality of such expenditures.
• The mass shooting of eight people in Piketon, Ohio last week has left more questions than answers, and authorities say they’re preparing for a long investigation. All eight victims were related and the shootings happened at three sites close to each other. Authorities say the shootings were expertly planned and executed and noted that two of the three crime scenes contained significant marijuana growing operations. Investigators have not commented on any possible link between the operations and the killings.
• The city of Cleveland has settled a lawsuit with the family of Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed in November 2014 by a Cleveland police officer. The family will get $6 million from the city. A Cuyahoga County grand jury declined to indict officer Timothy Loehmann in that incident. Loehmann leapt from a police cruiser that had stopped feet away from Rice at a Cleveland playground and almost immediately shot him. Rice, 12, had been playing with a toy pistol on the playground when a neighbor called the police. The caller stipulated the gun was probably fake, but dispatchers did not relay that information to officers.
• Do you ever think, "jeez, more papers should be like The Cincinnati Enquirer?" You may be in luck. Gannett, the national corporation that owns the Enquirer as well as USA Today and a number of other publications, has made an offer to buy Tribune Publishing, another large national newspaper chain. Gannett has offered $815 million for the chain, which includes The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other daily newspapers.
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, both GOP presidential primary hopefuls, will collaborate in future primaries to try and trip up frontrunner Donald Trump as he charges toward the party’s nomination. The Kasich campaign has indicated it will focus efforts on New Mexico and Oregon while staying out of Indiana in a move to help Cruz best Trump in that state. In return, Cruz has agreed to stay out of the two western states in a bid to give Kasich the edge over Trump there. The move — which will present Trump with one focused opponent in upcoming contests, instead of the split field he’s faced up to this point — seems calculated toward denying him the 1,137 delegates needed to clinch the nomination outright. Kasich in particular is counting on a contested convention in July, since he badly trails in the delegate count in the current contest.
FRIDAY 22EATS: GREATER CINCINNATI RESTAURANT WEEK Be a culinary tourist in your own city with CityBeat’s inaugural Greater Cincinnati Restaurant Week. Do you like eating? Do you want to try some multi-course meals for cheap? Restaurants throughout the Tristate will be offering $35 three-course meals to delight the palate and impress your date. Participating eateries include Harvest Bistro & Wine Bar, Pompilios, Kaze, The Palace, Parkers Blue Ash Tavern and more. Check out menus and more info online. Through April 24. $35 plus tax and gratuities. Find participating restaurants at greatercincinnatirestaurantweek.com.
Yesterday marked the passing of not only Prince, but another music legend — Lonnie Mack. Mack, who was born in Harrison, Ind., and cut his teeth in Greater Cincinnati’s nightclubs, died Thursday at his home in Tennessee from natural causes. The influential guitarist was 74.
Recording locally and releasing early material on Cincinnati’s Fraternity label, Mack’s guitar playing is said to have been a major influence on many Rock superstar players, including Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn. The pioneering guitarist was the second artist to receive the Michael W. Bany Lifetime Achievement Award from the Enquirer’s former awards program, the Cammys, accepting the award in 1998. Bootsy Collins, who won the award the year before, has said Mack was a giant influence on the development of his style.
Mack is considered one of Rock & Roll’s first “guitar heroes.” He’s in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the International Guitar Hall of Fame, and should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Here’s the press release sent out by Alligator Records (Mack’s final label) late last night:
You have more theater choices this weekend than time, I suspect, so choose carefully depending on the kind of show you most enjoy.
If it’s a classic, I suggest you check out Julius Caesar at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. This tale of one of history’s most memorable political assassinations is one of Shakespeare’s shorter plays, about two hours and 15 minutes. But it’s action-packed with a lot of intrigue, soul-searching and emotions that ebb and flow. Cincy Shakes relies on its acting ensemble to fill these iconic roles, and they bring them to life more vividly than I’ve seen in a long time. Josh Katawick is especially engaging as the leader, “lean and hungry” Cassius, whose motives are not far below his ambitious surface; Brent Vimtrup is Brutus, caught up in the plot for reasons of principle rather than envy, and his subtle performance of this conflicted man is compelling. Veteran Nick Rose is the blustery soldier Marc Antony, who’s actually a subtle manipulator of opinion. (We’ll see more of him next month when Cincy Shakes move on to Shakespeare’s other Roman play, Antony and Cleopatra). Through May 7. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
An engaging new play, Lauren Gunderson’s Silent Sky, is onstage at Know Theatre, the story of Henrietta Leavitt, a woman of science from a century ago when women were not expected to have meaningful insights. But drawn to the mysteries of astronomy, she tirelessly made advances despite many barriers. Maggie Lou Rader plays the feisty woman, and her moral support from two older women, played by Annie Fitzpatrick and Regina Pugh, has elements of humor. This is a well-acted, well-staged play (direction by Know’s Tamara Winters), worth seeing. I gave it a Critic’s Pick with my CityBeat review. Through May 14. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
The 2014 movie of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods featured Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden and Johnny Depp. A production currently onstage at Northern Kentucky University doesn’t have that kind of star power, but the student cast does an admirable job with a show that places extraordinary vocal demands on singers. Director Jamey Strawn hit upon an imaginative framing device for the legendary fairy tale mash-up, setting it in a library where a young boy (played with a mischievously expressive demeanor by Charlie Klesa, a sixth-grader at Mercy Montessori), hides away for an overnight adventure of reading and fantasizing. As giants threaten the kingdom, books tumble from the library’s two-story-tall shelves. Into the Woods requires a big cast, and more than 20 NKU student actors plus a stylized wooden cow are clearly committed to giving their all to this production. Opening night on Thursday was an enthusiastic full house. Through May 1. Tickets: 859-572-5464.
Neil LaBute’s plays traffic in complex, often ironic,
manipulative situations, frequently brutal stories of abusive, selfish
behavior. The Shape of Things, presented by New
Edgecliff Theatre at Hoffner Lodge in Northside, is that kind of story —
about Evelyn, an ambitious young woman who makes an art project of
Adam, another student who thinks their relationship is a love affair.
Rebecca Whatley and Matthew Krieg handle these complicated roles
believably, but you’ll walk away wondering about their motives — she’s
cold, he’s clueless. It’s a compelling, disturbing story that makes for
an evening of edgy, psychological theater. Another Critic’s Pick with my
CityBeat review. Through April 30. Tickets here.
There’s a touring production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast onstage at the Aronoff Center through Sunday. It’s an entertaining, visually captivating production. There’s nothing new about it, to be sure, but the young cast carries off the sprightly songs and choreography with lots of energy. I wish there was a little more heart and a little less clowning, especially by Sam Hartley as the Beast, who’s meant to be a tragic hero. The chemistry between him and Brooke Quintana as Belle is in the script, but it only shows up intermittently onstage. Nevertheless, Wednesday night’s full house with lots of kids dressed for the evening clearly had a good time watching the story unfold. Through Sunday. Tickets: 513-621-2787.
Quick Notes: True Theater is back for another quarterly evening of storytelling on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. Know Theatre. This time the theme is True Gay, so it will be enlightening to hear the personal reminiscences that get shared. … At UC’s College-Conservatory of Music this weekend, the drama program presents a staged reading of Grace Gardner’s new script, Very Dumb Kids, tonight 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. It’s the beginning of a new play commissioning initiative that will foster new works. … This is the final weekend for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross at the Incline Theater in East Price Hill and for Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years, at The Carnegie in Covington.
Good morning all. Or, well, let's be honest with ourselves: This is a not good morning. Prince is dead. The Reds lost yesterday in what appears to be the highest-scoring no-hitter since the 1880s. There’s some rain in the forecast today. Ouch.
Anyway, here’s the rest of the news if you can bear it.
• Hey, here’s something positive. The population of Cincinnati’s urban core — Over-the-Rhine, downtown, Pendleton and the East End — has increased, according to a new report from Downtown Cincinnati Inc. The Business Courier has the details on that study, but the upshot is that about 400 more people lived in the city’s 45202 ZIP code last year than did in 2014, and the population there is now almost 16,000. There are certainly downsides to this growth, as we explore in this week’s news feature. But the uptick in population signals the continued reversal in a historic trend that saw people leaving the urban core for decades.
• Contenders in the upcoming Hamilton County Commissioners race — Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus and Republican incumbent Dennis Deters (that’s a lot of Ds) — just released their post-primary fundraising totals. Driehaus brought in $64,000 for the fundraising period, bringing her total take so far up to $308,000, according to her campaign. The campaign says that 65 percent of that take came from donors pledging $100 or less. Deters meanwhile, has raised about $92,000 so far, according to WCPO, but most of that has come since the new year. Many expect the race to be one of the most expensive ever, with Driehaus saying she hopes to raise $1 million before all is said and done. Control of the currently Republican-led county commission hangs in the balance with the unusually competitive race.
• Republic Street in Over-the-Rhine won’t be getting a rooftop deck bar, a city board ruled yesterday. The Lang Thang Group, which runs neighborhood restaurants Quan Hapa and Pho Lang Thang, wanted to build the deck as part of its planned Crown & Key bar at 1332 Republic St. Residents there didn’t oppose the bar, but did take issue with the deck, which they feared would cause unwelcome noise and other detriments to quality of life in the neighborhood. A residents group that pushed back against the deck also cited ways in which the plan violated historic conservation guidelines in the neighborhood. The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals agreed with residents. The Lang Thang Group can challenge that decision in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas if it chooses.
• Cincinnati Public Schools will remake seven of its neighborhood schools next year. The remakes are part one of a larger plan called Vision 2020 to make CPS more attractive by adding additional programs to schools. Next year, schools like Chase School in Northside will get expanded arts and culture offerings, while others like Rothenberg Academy in Over-the-Rhine will get student entrepreneurship classes.
• Finally, as the GOP presidential primary continues to get weirder and more chaotic, national media is looking more at Ohio Gov. John Kasich to… well, I guess try to figure out what he’s thinking. Kasich trails primary frontrunner Donald Trump and second-placer U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz badly in the race’s delegate count, and there's no mathematical way for him to win the nomination aside from a contested convention. Party leaders and pundits have been pushing for Kasich to leave the race for months. But he’s still going, and that’s newsworthy, I suppose. Earlier this week, Kasich met with the editorial board of the Washington Post for an extended interview, where he laid out his reasons for staying in the race. I’ll leave you with a key quote from Kasich.
“The last poll that we saw up there I was running five points behind Hillary. Five. Trump was getting slaughtered. I mean, you guys have been watching and girl- women here have been watching the national polls. I win in the fall every time, even in that electoral deal, and Trump gets slaughtered.”
Mark this as the moment you learned that girl-women will help Kasich win that electoral deal. Send your thoughts on that knowledge-nugget, or your news tips, via e-mail or Twitter. I'm out.
APRIL 21Zoo Blooms — The zoo transforms into an explosion of color with one of the largest tulip displays in the Midwest. Through April 30. Free with zoo admission. $18 adult; $13 child/senior. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, cincinnatizoo.org.