Since Jess Lamb’s time on American Idol, she has been busy getting her name and brand out in the public eye. She has played constantly at venues old and new, teamed up with other local musicians for projects and made many TV and radio appearances around Cincinnati. Up until this point, her output has been largely live performances and outreach. But now that her contract with American Idol is in its final month, she is taking the next step to continue growing in her career, starting with the release of her first single to radio on March 30.
The single, “Memories,” should be familiar to most of Lamb’s fans already.
“This is a song that I’ve released through iTunes and performed as an indie artist, with just a simple, master mix in 2010,” Lamb says. However, the song has been updated and revitalized by superstar producer David Sisko.
Sisko has worked with artists like Justin Timberlake, Destiny’s Child and Kelly Clarkson, just to name a few. What sets his version of the track apart from the original is twofold. First, Sisko has an obvious ear for what makes a Pop song successful. The new version is fuller, with layered vocals (all recorded by Lamb) and thicker instrumentation. Sisko also worked in hooks that loop into the listener’s ear and don’t let go. When the guitar and bass drop out for a chorus, leaving only a tribal drum beat and Lamb’s vocals, it becomes obvious that the song could easily find a home on any Pop radio station across the country.
The second change that Sisko brought to the table was his eagerness and ability to produce Lamb’s vocals, which she has never experienced before.
“I’ve never had someone say, ‘I want to produce your vocals.’ I’ve been putting music out since 2010 and no one has ever said, ‘Why don’t you try this Jess,’ ” Lamb says.
What results is a track wherein Lamb’s already powerful vocals are tuned to a fine edge. Sisko put great care into keeping the heart of the track intact to craft a song that maintains the original’s sultry ambience, but dials up the energy to more Pop-friendly levels.
While Lamb is excited at the proposition of turning her originals into more Pop-friendly versions, she is taking great care to insure that the end results stay in her control.
“I own that master and I plan to own each master. It’s kind of hard with the money to keep up,” Lamb says.
This isn’t a normal practice for most musicians, especially for acts like Lamb who aren’t rolling around in platinum record-levels of money. But she is adamant on maintaining a handle on what is released under her name.
“I’m really starting to buy into the really independent artist. I’m going to own my master, which is a big deal. I could have done this with Sisko and signed a production deal, which is what most everyone does. They don’t have the money so they sign a production deal and he owns that master,” she says.
Lamb plans on releasing remixed versions of her songs throughout the summer, with “Dig Deep” following shortly after the release of “Memories.” She is set on putting out each track the same way, utilizing the contacts she has made over the past months to release each track without any sort of major label or other interference. She is ascribing to the indie artist mentality from beginning to end and insuring that the music that is put out under her name is something she truly believes in and cares about.
Ultimately, this is just the beginning of what Lamb hopes to do once she is released from American Idol’s contract (which limits certain industry/career moves). The groundwork that she has laid in the preceding months will finally have more building blocks laid upon them at the end of May and “Memories” is just the first stone of many. Ultimately, she wants to stay stationed in Cincinnati and grow her career from the city she calls home. Whether she performs her works herself or passes them to other artists is up in the air at this point, but one outcome could easily feed into the other.
“I have songs that I’m sitting on that could be reproduced for other artists, because I really do want to make a living writing and performing. That’s where my heart is. That’s where I feel that I shine the most and I feel like I’m being backed in those ways,” Lamb says.
In many ways, “Memories” is simultaneously a finish line and a starting point for Lamb. It shows just how far she has come since the Kansas City tryouts on American Idol, but it is also her springboard into a much larger and more demanding pool. But with a world-class producer working with her, a city full of supporters behind her and her own raw talent, she’s determined to make a big splash.
Hey hey. Let’s do this news thing real quick.
After the whole
hubbub around Mayor John Cranley’s veto of the OTR parking permit plan last
week, it seems like a strange question to ask, but here we go: Does the mayor
need more power? According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Councilman Christopher
Smitherman is working to get an initiative on the ballot that would do just
that. Sort of. Smitherman’s months-long advocacy for moving Cincinnati to a
so-called “executive mayor” system is about accountability, he says, not about
giving away more power. Under
Smitherman’s proposed changes, the city would eliminate the city manager
position and the mayor would assume the responsibilities of that office —
hiring and firing department heads, etc. The mayor would also retain veto power
and still attend council meetings, but council would select its own president
(currently the mayor’s job), who would select committee heads and make
council’s agenda, effectively eliminating the mayor’s power to “pocket veto”
Other members of council,
including Councilman Kevin Flynn, who is helping oversee a review of the city’s
charter, are opposed to the executive mayor idea. Flynn’s Charter Review
Committee has been meeting for months, kicking around ideas for ways to reorganize
Cincinnati’s unusual power structure. The city’s current system creates the
strongest mayor of any major city in the country, the committee has said. The committee has its own recommendations for ways to change city government, including requiring the mayor to pass along all legislation to city council committees within 14 days, ending the so-called "pocket veto." The committee would also like to see council given the power to fire the city manager. The Charter Review Committee has been holding public input sessions around the city. The next two are at the Westwood Town Hall May 14 and the Oakley Senior Center May 18. Both sessions start at 6 pm.
• Is Joe Deters
cool with legalizing weed? Another sign marijuana legalization in Ohio is moving
toward the mainstream: The Hamilton County Prosecutor is leading a taskforce
looking into the law enforcement ramifications of legalizing the drug. Marijuana
legalization group ResponsibleOhio
approached Deters about the study, though
Deters says he’s not doing it to simply endorse the group’s legalization
proposal. ResponsibleOhio wants to legalize the sale of marijuana to
anyone age 21 or over, but the group's ballot initiative would limit
growth of the crop to 10 sites around the state.
Deters has expressed frustration with the current legal setup for dealing with marijuana and ambivalence about the drug being illegal.
“I've seen firsthand how ineffective and inefficient marijuana laws are,” Deters said in a statement about the task force. “I strongly believe we must have an honest and in-depth assessment of the positive and negative impacts that legalization can have, so that Ohioans can make an informed decision."
The taskforce includes elected officials, experts on drug policy and academics. The group will develop a white paper outlining policy recommendations on ways to improve laws governing marijuana in the state.
• Don’t do lame stuff with your garbage or you may get fined, according to changes in the city of Cincinnati's garbage pickup policy. In the days leading up to June 1, city sanitation workers will be hanging orange tags on garbage that is improperly prepared. Before May 17, they’ll still haul the trash away but leave the tag as a reminder. After that date, you’ll have to correct whatever problem you have with your trash and call 591-6000 to get it picked up, but you won’t have to pay a fine. After June starts, however, residents who don’t have their trash in order can be fined anywhere from $50 to $2,000. The low end of that range is for folks who just used the wrong can or other minor violations. The high end is for improperly disposed construction debris and other heavy stuff. You can read the criteria for improper trash here. The sanitation department says the fines are necessary to keep trash pick up efficient and effective.
• Cincinnati Public School District’s Walnut Hills High School is the number one school in Ohio, according to a new ranking from U.S. News and World Report. Overall, Walnut is the 65th best high school in the nation according to the ranking. Four other area schools also landed in the top 10 of the statewide rankings, including Indian Hill High School, which came in at number two.
• So Bill Murray
might be spending a little less time partying in Austin and more time in
Cincinnati. That’s because his son, Luke Murray, has landed a job as an
assistant coach for Xavier University’s men’s basketball program. The younger
Murray has held several coaching jobs in college basketball and was last at the
University of Rhode Island as an assistant coach. Xavier head basketball coach
Chris Mack has called Murray “one of the top young assistant coaches in the
America.” Sounds good. Word is, his dad comes to a lot of the games the younger
Murray coaches. Let’s hope the Coffee and Cigarettes and Groundhog Day star
hangs out here on occasion, and maybe brings a Wu-Tang Clan member with him.
If you have access to a radio or television set, then you’re likely well aware that “Shut Up and Dance” by Cincinnati Dance Pop crew Walk the Moon has become a bona fide Pop hit. The single has been certified platinum, meaning it has sold more than one millions copies. The catchy, danceable track is currently at No. 5 on Billboard’s singles chart and has also performed very well on various other charts. “Shut Up” reached No. 2 on iTunes Top Songs chart and Billboard’s digital charts. On Spotify, the song has been streamed more than 78 million times, while “Shut Up”’s video has held a steady presence in the Top 10 of VH1’s Top 20 video countdown. Talking is Hard, Walk the Moon’s second album for RCA Records, continues to benefit from the single’s success, moving as high as No. 14 on Billboard’s overall album chart.
The Cincinnati band has worked hard to push “Shut Up and Dance” to the upper reaches of the Pop charts. Along with the usual late-night talk show circuit, Walk the Moon has also appeared on network morning shows like The Today Show (which used various WtM tunes as bumper music throughout the day the band appeared) and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
When DeGeneres introduced the group on her show, she called “Shut Up” the band’s “No. 1 hit,” which it wasn’t at the time but could end up there as Walk the Moon keeps up its relentless promotional push. WtM’s is also becoming a bigger and bigger concert draw, selling out many of its shows across the country (the band just recently completely another successful U.S. jaunt).
And WtM has also been making it onto prime time TV lately. Last month, Riker Lynch and Allison Holker danced to “Shut Up” for a routine on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Tuesday night (May 12), the band will play “Shut Up” as special guests on NBC’s popular singing competition, The Voice. Tune in to catch the performance at 8 p.m.
Though several Cincinnati-based acts have done well on a national level, crossing over to the top of the Pop charts is pretty rare, particularly for artists who choose to remain in their hometown while pursuing their career. Walk the Moon comes home to play Cincinnati’s Bunbury Music Festival on June 5 along the Ohio’s riverfront. Click here for tickets/details.
Morning y’all! It’s bike to work week, so I hope you saddled up on your commute today. Here’s what’s up in the news.
It’s kind of unbelievable that solid statistics on housing on one of the city’s most actively developed neighborhood don’t exist. I’ve been working to find solid numbers on affordable housing in Over-the-Rhine forever, so this is great news: Xavier’s Community Building Institute and the Over-the-Rhine Community Council are teaming up to conduct a much-needed housing survey in OTR. As land values and housing costs in the neighborhood skyrocket (some condos there have reached the $600,000 mark, and proposed new single-family homes could go for as much), many worry about dwindling supplies of low-income housing there. Though a neighborhood comprehensive plan was completed in 2002, there have been no other comprehensive studies of housing in the neighborhood since. Much of the data on housing in OTR is scattered and incomplete. CBI’s efforts will change that — starting in June the organization will do a complete survey of the buildings in OTR to record how many units each has and how much it costs to live in them.
• A seven-story hotel by Marriott is coming to riverfront development The Banks, the lead development group for the project announced today. That’s a relief for city and county officials and area business leaders who have been waiting for that major piece of the Banks puzzle for a long time. Stakeholders had originally hoped to have the hotel open in time for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game in July, but it looks as though the hotel will now open in spring 2017.
• The city of Cincinnati will pay Cincinnati Public Schools $2.1 million in back property taxes from the downtown Duke Energy Center. The CPS Board of Education and the Ohio tax commissioner have been fighting the city since 2011 over taxes on the property, which is managed by a private company. The city has argued that it is exempt from such taxes since the building is owned by a public entity and obtained a tax exemption from state legislators in 2012. But CPS and the state tax assessor have fought that claim in court. The city has now settled with the district and will pay the $2.1 million to the schools. Had the city lost its case with CPS, it would have had to pay up to $25 million in back taxes and other costs.
• Here’s cool news: Former MVP and 2012 Hall of Famer Barry Larkin is working for the Reds again. No, you won’t see the shortstop running the bases, but he’ll be an infield instructor for the Reds’ minor league teams. Larkin played for the Reds for nearly two decades from 1986 to 2004.
• The city of Covington’s City Hall is currently located in a former J.C. Penny department store building, and before that it was located in another former department store. But that could change soon, and the seat of city government there could get a new, more permanent home in a proposed riverfront development called Duveneck Place, named after the famous Covington-born artist Frank Duveneck. That building would be the first major riverfront development in Covington since the 2008 Ascent luxury condos and could host both the city’s administrative offices and Kenton County offices. The city’s main administrative building has moved around several times since Covington’s ornate official City Hall building was demolished in 1970.
• As state lawmakers mull a bill that would eliminate a question about felonies from public organizations’ job applications, private companies wrangle with whether or not they should do the same. Some big, generally conservative companies like Koch Industries have announced they no longer ask about felony convictions on job applications, but many others, especially those in the area, still do. That puts a barrier between former convicts and employment, a key factor in reducing recidivism. Such barriers also disproportionately affect minorities, who are more often subject to arrest and conviction in the first place. Here’s an Enquirer story about the push to do away with a box on employment applications asking about felonies. I’ve been speaking with former convicts and academics who study this issue for a long story on the topic. Stay tuned for that.
• Finally, a report by the Baltimore Sun shows that thousands apprehended by Baltimore Police have been so severely injured they cannot be taken directly to jail. Between June 2012 and April 2015, the Baltimore City Detention Center refused to admit 2,600 arrestees because injuries they sustained from police were too severe and required immediate medical attention. These included broken bones, head injuries and other traumas. The report comes in the wake of civil unrest around the April death of Freddie Gray in police custody and a looming U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the city’s police force.
Morning y’all. Here’s what’s going on today.
The battle over Over-the-Rhine’s parking plan continues. Yesterday, Mayor John Cranley told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he would be open to eliminating permit parking in the city — currently, one part of Clifton near Cincinnati state and the tiny Pendleton neighborhood both have permits available for residents. He said he’d also be interested in auctioning off spots in OTR to the highest bidder.
That doesn't sit well with permit advocates in the neighborhood, including City Councilman Chris Seelbach and OTR Community Council President Ryan Messer.
At the bottom of the debate is a philosophical difference: Cranley wants any parking plan to be first and foremost a revenue generator to pay for the streetcar and pay back taxpayers for investment in OTR. On Wednesday, he vetoed a parking plan for the neighborhood that would have created up to 450 permitted spots for residents at $108 a year. Previously, Cranley had proposed a plan that would have charged $300 a year and then later another that would have charged an unspecified market rate for the spaces.
Cranley says it’s unfair to taxpayers that certain spots can be bought by residents of a neighborhood that has seen millions in taxpayer money spent on redevelopment. Taxpayers pay for the roads, Cranley says, and should be able to park on them. What’s more, he says, creating a permit plan for OTR will only encourage other neighborhoods to seek them. Downtown has already made movement toward that end.
Permit supporters, meanwhile, see the measure mainly as a way to make
life easier for residents who have to park in one of the most popular
places in town. Supporters of the parking permits, including Democrats on council, say they will help keep low-income people who can’t afford garages or extended time at meters in the neighborhood.
There is nothing unusual about parking permits in neighborhoods. Cities like Columbus, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco (the nation’s most expensive at $110 a year) and many other major urban areas have them. Even smaller cities like Newport, Covington and Bloomington, Indiana have them. Hell, in Washington, D.C., you have to have D.C. plates to park on most streets and need to apply for a visitor’s permit if you don’t (I know this by experience and it is awful). But if it wasn’t for that permit system, residents in popular neighborhoods would spend an hour after work circling the block looking for a place to put their cars while tourists or folks from the other side of the city dropped by and took their time eating at that new $40-a-plate neo soul food place. (Err, sorry. Did I mention D.C. was awful?)
On the other hand, the affordability card is a funny one to play here. In terms of affordability, all the parking plans, including Cranley’s, presented a clause for lower-cost permits for low-income residents. But there are bigger issues as rents in OTR continue to increase and the neighborhood shifts ever-more toward the high-end in terms of the businesses and homes there. Perhaps a discussion about how much affordable housing is in the neighborhood, instead of spinning wheels on a parking plan, would better serve low-income folks?
• Here’s another transportation mess: Cincinnati City Council Budget and Finance Chair Charlie Winburn is threatening to withhold city funds from the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority for its Metro bus program until it releases information about the bids it has received to operate the streetcar. Those bids were due March 30, but SORTA says it will not release them until it has made a selection, claiming that making the information public will compromise the competitive bid process. Winburn says the public has a right to know how much the streetcar will cost them. The Cincinnati Enquirer has sued SORTA for the records, which it says fall under open records laws. SORTA’s attorney disagrees. The question now is whether a judge will agree and if the ruling will come before SORTA makes its pick and releases the documents anyway.
• Democratic County Commissioner Todd Portune might get an unexpected Republican challenger in the 2016 election. Hamilton County Appeals Court Judge Sylvia Hendon might run against Portune, she says. Hendon, 71, is about to hit the age limit for judges in Ohio but isn’t ready to give up public service. Democrats say they aren’t worried; though Hendon has served in a number of capacities in the county’s judicial system, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Cooke says she doesn’t have the name recognition to mount a serious challenge to the popular Portune. But Republicans say her time as a top judge gave her strong managerial skills and unique qualifications for the commissioner’s spot. They say she’ll be a strong contender should she choose to run. Commissioners oversee the county budget and the county’s various departments. Hendon is also looking at running for county recorder, a position held by Democrat Wayne Coates. Another Republican, former Hamilton County Judge Norbert Nadel, is also contemplating a run for that seat.
• Are online charter schools getting taxpayer money for students who are no longer enrolled in their courses? Some recent evidence seems to suggest that, and a state investigation might result. Data from one online school, Ohio Virtual Academy, shows that hundreds of students were on that school’s rolls but hadn’t logged in to classes in months. Only 14 had been withdrawn. OVA has 13,000 students. It’s not the first time charters have seen scrutiny for their attendance records. The schools get paid millions in state funds based on the number of students they have attending classes. In January, a state investigation found significant discrepancies between reported attendance and actual attendance at many of charters across the state.
• Finally, there’s another marijuana legalization scheme in Ohio, and it just cleared its first hurdle. Better for Ohio is challenging ResponsibleOhio’s plan for weed legalization by… doing almost exactly the same plan. The difference is that instead of ResponsibleOhio’s 10 grow sites, Better for Ohio would create 40, each tied (not kidding here) to a serial number on a specific $100 bill stipulated in the group’s plan. The holder of that bill would be allowed to grow marijuana at one of the grow sites. Private, non-commercial growth would also be allowed, and wouldn’t require registration with the state the way ResponsibleOhio’s plan does. The state just gave the OK for the group’s initial ballot language, and now it just has to get the necessary 300,000-plus signatures. Of course, there’s been some sniping between Better for Ohio and ResponsibleOhio, with both groups criticizing the other’s plan. Things are getting heated in the weed legalization game.
That’s it for me. Tweet or email me with news tips or just to say hey.
If you're feeling nostalgic, Cincinnati stages have several offerings for you to enjoy. Let's start with Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It's set in the present, but Vanya, one of three angsty siblings, thinks that contemporary life is missing the point, and he yearns for things he loved during his childhood in the 1950s. He love them to the point that he's spurred to a 10-minute rant (by a feckless actor who pays more attention to texting than the people in the room with him) about all that life is lacking today. It's a very funny moment in Christopher Durang's award winning play. I gave it a Critic's Pick in my CityBeat review. Tickets: 513-421-3888
The production of Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike wraps up with the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun." If you'd like a whole evening of Beatles tunes, you need to be at the Aronoff Center in Downtown Cincinnati on Monday evening for RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles. It's more than two hours of music, covering the progression from "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to "I Am the Walrus," with more than 30 numbers being authentically performed. The live, multi-media spectacle covers the entire career of the band and its four famous musicians. These guys pay attention to details in recreating the music and the mood. Tickets: 513-621-2787
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati just opened a production of John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar that will make anyone who's Irish long to head to the Emerald Isle. It's about generational differences and the possibility of love between two unlikely souls. What will make this one good is the cast: Joneal Joplin (Scrooge for many years at the Playhouse) plays a crusty old man, and Dale Hodges, one of Cincinnati's best professional actresses, is his outspoken neighbor. Jen Joplin (Joneal's daughter in real life) plays Hodges' daughter in the show; and the old man's son is brought to life by Brian Isaac Phillips from Cincinnati Shakespeare. It's being staged by Ed Stern, former artistic director at the Cincinnati Playhouse. With that many theater veterans working on it, the show is sure to be worth watching. Lots of people must think so, since ETC has already announced an extension of the show to May 30. Tickets: 513-421-3555
Cincinnati Music Theater can always be depended on to do a good job with a big musical. Our city's most ambitious community theater takes on the lighthearted Gershwin tuner, Crazy for You, which will be staged at the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. It's onstage for two weekends, through May 16.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
I actually liked “Uptown Funk” when I first heard Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson perform it on SNL last November. But because we can’t have anything nice, the song has been sorely overplayed in TV promos, movie trailers, parody videos, poorly choreographed wedding dances (I’m guessing) and elsewhere to the point that it is no longer enjoyable.
So, naturally, now is the very appropriate time for a Westside-themed parody to surface. Ladies and gentlemen, WKRC’s “Bridgetown Funk”:
fifth season is currently in production (follow Lena Dunham
— or the other Girls girls — on
Instagram for sneak peeks) and while the HBO comedy hasn’t been renewed past
that point, Dunham says if six is a go, it’ll probably be the final season.
Cincinnati on the TV alert! Locally based eyewear company Frameri appeared on Shark Tank last week, but walked away without a deal. Frameri is an online frame and lens shop that specializes in interchangeable lenses that can pop in and out of various Italian frames. The local angle wasn’t too prominent and the sharks ripped them apart due to their steep valuation ($150,000 for 3.5 percent), but everyone knows even just the exposure on the show can bring success to Shark Tank businesses.
Here’s Justin Timberlake playing a washed up lime in a Sauza tequila commercial:
Did you have a good Derby Day? Did you get all dressed up, sport a fancy hat and bet on the ponies? You still did not do Derby Day as well as Johnny Weir.
The mint julep fascinator speaks for itself.
Annie Leibovitz photographed the cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the shots are out of this world (sorry).
Remember those funny “Ryan Gosling won’t eat his cereal” Vines? Well — sad, serious segue here — the creator of those passed away after a battle with cancer. In a sweet move that paid tribute to creator Ryan McHenry and proves that Ryan Gosling really is just the best, Mr. Hey Girl posted a Vine of himself finally eating that cereal. McHenry would have loved it.
Everyone knows the annual Met Gala is less of a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute and more of a Halloween for rich beautiful people. And any time rich beautiful dress up in crazy clothes, the Internet will meme the shit out of them. Here’s a few.
Ever wondered what your fave celebs would look like as redheads? See gingified stars on Put a Rang On It. (For those who don’t watch Chris Lilley shows/aren’t down with Aussie slang, “ranga” — as in orangutan — is their version of “ginger.”)
“…back when MTV actually played music” is a thing a lot of old people like to say, but honestly I grew up watching a lot of non-music programming on the channel. Sure, I got down with TRL and early-morning videos, but I also loved shows like Daria, The Real World, Road Rules, Pimp My Ride, Rich Girls (seriously, is there anyone out there who remembers this mess of a reality show that was on TV for like three weeks?) and, of course, MTV Cribs.
Perhaps the most memorable
episode took viewers to Redman’s Staten Island house, which did not quite fit
in with the sprawling mansions and gold bidets of other celebs. Right off the
bat, you had to rub two wires together outside to get the doorbell to ring.
Inside, was a tiny (comparatively), messy bachelor pad a group of
past-their-prime frat bros would live in. The episode was shot just like all
the rest, except Redman showed off his George Foreman grill, small collection
of DVDs and a box of cash he stored above his fridge. Many argued the episode
was faked, but Thrillist recently talked to the rapper and Cribs creators top uncover the truth — it was all real. Read all about it and relive the ep here.
An answer to millions of
prayers: A tool that will wipe away all references to the Kardashians out of
your Internet life. (They’re working on a Beiber blocker too)
Morning Cincinnati. The sun has apparently caught whatever terrible cold I had last week and is off sick for a couple days. It feels like October outside, which would be cool if we got Halloween and colorful leaves. But actually we just get coldness which isn’t that great. Anyway, news time.
More city-police chief news is afoot. City Manager Harry Black has given Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell until Friday to present a 90-day plan for reducing violence in the city. Black says the chief can have an extension into next week if he needs it, but wants to be proactive and find causes and solutions for the city’s recent spike in shootings. Cincinnati has seen more than 50 shootings and 11 killings in the last month, and 30 murders so far this year. In Cincinnati and most other major cities, crime usually spikes as the weather gets warmer, but this year’s increase has been bigger than normal. The Friday deadline for Blackwell comes as questions swirl around resignation papers drawn up by the city manager’s office for Blackwell. Mayor John Cranley and the city manager both say they want Blackwell to stay and that he initiated conversations about his resignation last week. Blackwell says he’s not going anywhere and wants to remain chief. He’s been chief for two years, before which he served with the Columbus Police Department.
• Cincinnati City Council’s Neighborhoods Committee voted yesterday to purchase a four-mile stretch of rail right of way for the Wasson Way bike trail. The city will purchase the land sometime in the next two years for $11.75 million from Norfolk Southern Railways. The bike trail will stretch from Mariemont to Evanston, with a proposed extension into Avondale. The deal goes before a full council vote Wednesday.
• Great news: Whether the Reds win or, you know, do that other thing they’ve been doing a lot lately, Cincinnati is one of the best cities in the country for baseball fans. That’s according to a new study by WalletHub.com. The website looked at 11 factors in deciding its rankings of 272 cities, including how well each city’s professional or college team does, how expensive tickets are, stadium amenities and other criteria. Cincinnati did well — we’re the third best city in the country when it comes to baseball. But here’s the not so great part. Numbers one and two are St. Louis and Pittsburgh, respectively. You win some, you lose some…
• Former Mason mayor and Warren County State Rep. Pete Beck was found guilty today on 17 counts of fraud and corruption. Beck was accused of cheating a local company out of millions of dollars and originally faced more than 60 counts of fraud and corruption. Some of those charges were reduced, and he was found not guilty on another 21 counts today. Some of the guilty verdict covered serious felony charges. No sentencing date has been announced yet.
• When you think of hip up and coming cities, what places pop into your head? I’ll wait while you write out a list. Did that list include Columbus? Mine didn’t, but hey, what do I know? Here’s a funny article in national magazine Mother Jones about how Ohio’s capital is marketing itself to the young and hip. It's kind of unclear if the author visited the flat, gray city, but the piece asks some intriguing questions. Is it the next Brooklyn? Hm. Probably not. It is, as the article puts it, vanilla ice cream in a world of exotic gelato. But it’s like, cheap, and stuff, so there’s that. Oh, and OSU. It also has that going for it.
• Finally, more Rand Paul stuff. Turns out all those stands Paul is taking against the NSA and foreign intervention aren’t endearing the U.S. Senator from Kentucky to big Republican donors. In the toss-up race for the Republican presidential nomination, big GOP donors are spreading money around to any number of hopefuls: Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and other potential front runners. Pretty much everyone but Paul. That will certainly hobble the libertarian’s chances of spreading his message with TV ads and the like as the primary race heats up. But it may also further endear him to his anti-establishment libertarian base and may entice some voters who don’t traditionally vote Republican into the fold.
There were diamonds everywhere at Bogart’s this past Friday (May 29), about 1,500 of them. Marina and the Diamonds is not a band, but the artistic umbrella for Welsh singer/songwriter Marina Diamandis. She says she created the solo-guise “band” moniker because she didn’t want to be seen as a solo Pop star, and wanted to “involve people” with a name that didn't make anyone feel excluded. So, you see, we are all diamonds. Most of the diamonds at her Cincinnati show were teenage to college-age girls with a smattering of parents in tow. Many had travelled a few hours to see their hero. It was a sadly homogenous audience, given the scope and talent of Diamandis and her three-album catalog, but an enthusiastic lot nonetheless.
Her set started with “Bubblegum Bitch,” the power cut from her second album Electra Heart, and from there the party never stopped. The latest single, “Forget,” followed before she and her touring backing band launched into “Mowgli’s Road.” After that trio of songs, Diamandis chatted with the crowd telling them how happy she was to finally make it to Cincinnati. Though she was preaching to the converted, Diamandis proved to be no-less charming and engaging.
“I am Not a Robot,” a U.K. Top 40 hit from 2010, followed and, as with the entire set, Diamandis’ voice soared effortlessly as she glided across the stage. About half way through, an additional keyboard was brought on stage. Diamandis proceeded to take a seat at it and play “Happy,” whilst her backing Diamonds looked on. It was a nice respite before the title track from her current album, Froot.
While every song received a loud cheer, it was the two biggest hits that really got the diamonds in attendance particularly fired up. “Hollywood” (a No. 12 hit in the U.K.) was her breakthrough single in the in 2010 and is based on her observations of the U.S. “I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America,” she sings, though it’s not meant to be a criticism. (“It was written way before I got signed," she told me in an interview a few years ago. "It's funny because I wouldn't describe my relationship with America as love or hate. Anything that has an element of illusion naturally fascinates people. I absolutely love America.”) Live, the song was keyboarded-up nicely, though the album version echoes the synth sound of the ’80s effectively. Her guitar player strummed an acoustic guitar, providing a nice counterbalance.
“Primadonna,” her other big single came next, and it too had a brighter and livelier sound on stage, sounding a little like an EDM track in spots, but not too heavily. Sadly, “Teen Idle,” a stand-out track from Electra Heart was left off the set list. “How to be a Heartbreaker,” finished the encore-less set, but the crowd seemed quite satisfied with the performance as Marina bade farewell to her diamonds to thunderous applause.
Oddly, professional photographers were not allowed to take pictures of Diamandis (as is customary for just about any concert review), something that wasn’t revealed until just before the doors opened. It is unclear who made that decision. (Primadonna indeed?)
Hey y’all. Oh boy, did some news happen since last time we talked.
First, as I told you about on Friday, the city has finalized a deal to purchase right of way along the Wasson Way rail line from Norfolk Southern. If council approves the deal, the city will pay $11. 75 million for the right of way need to build a 7.5 mile bike path from Mariemont to Evanston. The city is currently applying for millions in federal grants to help pay for the path.
• Did the city make moves to sack the police chief? Or was he thinking about quitting? The City of Cincinnati recently drew up resignation documents for Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, the Cincinnati Business Courier reports. Both Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black, who has the power to dismiss the chief, have said that the documents were drawn up after Blackwell inquired about resigning. Blackwell didn’t sign those documents, and has since said he’s not planning on going anywhere. Some, including Councilman Wendell Young, a former police officer, have said they think the papers are a sign that Blackwell was about to be pushed out. Cranley and Black, however, both say they didn’t want Blackwell to leave. The resignation letter comes to light as the city receives accolades from across the country for its community-based policing practices, but also struggles with a recent wave of gun violence that has shootings at a ten-year high.
• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is still hustling to make the case that he, not former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, is best Democrat to challenge U.S. Sen Rob Portman in 2016. Yesterday, both were in Mason speaking at the Warren County Democratic Party’s annual dinner. There, Sittenfeld found he’s still got his work cut out for him, according to an Enquirer story today. The crowd seemed much warmer to Strickland, the story says, and many weren’t that familiar with Sittenfeld. The 30-year-old has gotten some support for his run, raising a respectable amount of money for his campaign this year, mostly from Cincinnati donors. But 71-year-old Strickland has statewide name recognition and the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton on his side. Top Dems have called for Sittenfeld to step aside, and some at the Warren County dinner last night agreed, but Sittenfeld has said he’s in the race to stay.
• If your bike was stolen from downtown or OTR recently, here’s a quick hit of potentially good news: The Cincinnati Police Department says it located several stolen bikes in the West End this weekend. If you’re missing your ride, you could get a call from the cops soon about that.
• The Ohio Department of Education has finished part of its investigation into Chicago-based Concept Schools in the state, specifically the organization’s Dayton-based location, where former teachers and administrators say employees allowed sex games between students, tampered with testing attendance data and committed other crimes. The 106 complaints lodged against the school could not be proven, ODE says, though the organization isn’t ruling out action in the future if more evidence comes to light. Other charges of test tampering, including at Horizon Academy in Bond Hill, another Concept school, are still under investigation. Concept says the department’s findings prove that the allegations against the schools were nothing more than a “witch hunt” against charters. Concept is also under a separate white collar crime investigation by the FBI for other business misconduct charges at some of its 18 Ohio schools.
• If you’re really into buying stuff off the internet, here’s a small bit of bad news for you: Amazon will begin charging Ohio sales tax on items it sells online. The company estimates that the move, which comes as Congress works to expand taxes on internet commerce, will put between $150 million to $200 million into the state’s coffers.
• Ohio State University has created a committee to study whether the school’s top administrators make too much money. OSU’s former president Gordon Gee was the highest paid public university president in the country, a fact that has created some controversy as college becomes more and more unaffordable for students. Gee’s replacement, Michael Drake, has pledged to work toward a more affordable college experience for students. The school says it would like its executives — people like Drake as well as athletic coaches and high-profile physicians employed by OSU — to be paid the same as the average position at comparable universities.
• Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, died over the weekend of brain cancer. The younger Biden was the former attorney general of Delaware and a figure many Democrats had once looked to as a rising political star. Biden passed up a chance to run for his father’s Senate seat when the elder Biden became VP in 2008, instead staying in Delaware to continue serving as AG. He had been a favorite to run for governor there in 2016 before his health deteriorated.
• How big a deal is Sen. Bernie Sander’s presidential run? Many have written off the self-professed socialist as a long shot contender for the Democratic nomination against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and that’s probably accurate. But Sanders has still been receiving a surprising amount of support and excitement from left-leaning Democrats. As the above New York Times story about the race makes clear, Sanders could at least make things interesting in the primary.
• As we talked about a couple days ago, a key tenet of the U.S. Patriot Act expired yesterday after U.S. Senator Rand Paul led resistance to its renewal. The program allowed the federal government to collect massive amounts of cell phone call data from American citizens, something Paul calls a violation of constitutional rights. The lapse is almost certainly temporary — a compromise bill looks likely to pass the Senate in a few days — but the stand allowed Paul to make a political point and score a few among his libertarian base for his presidential bid.
Fringe is hot and heavy right now. If you’re planning to attend and want to get
the scoop on some shows you might enjoy over the weekend, head to the CityBeat's Fringe hub, where
reviews are being posted by a team of writers that I’m managing. We go to see
the opening performance of each show, write about it overnight and post it the
next day. You won’t find more timely coverage anywhere else. There are several
“Critic’s Picks” so far including METH: a love story, Moonlight After
Midnight and Edgar Allan. With more than 40 productions
available over the course of 12 days, there’s lots of choices. About two-thirds
are up and running already. What are you waiting for?
Speaking of the Fringe, there’s a special event on Sunday evening in Washington Park that’s free and open to the public. It’s a staged concert reading of Cincinnati King, a new work by Playhouse Associate Artist KJ Sanchez. It’s about the history of Cincinnati music, racial equality, music pioneer Syd Nathan and his recording label King Records. The evening starts at 5 p.m. with music and theater activities for kids. At 5:30 the Philip Paul Quartet plays some of King Records’ greatest hits; Paul was a drummer at King Records. The concert reading happens on the stage at the Public Lawn at the north end of the park. All you have to do is show up! More info here.
There are shows elsewhere to be seen, depending on your preferences. Showbiz Players is offering a production of The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy at The Carnegie in Covington. It opens tonight and continues through June 7. All your favorite characters from the wacky cartoons of Charles Addams (which inspired the cult TV series that ran from 1964 to 1966) are onstage, singing and dancing: Gomez and Morticia, Wednesday and Pugsley, Uncle Fester and Lurch. Tickets: 859-957-1940
If you want something a little more serious, you might check out Falcon Theater’s production of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins at the Monmouth Theater in Newport. Believe it or not, it features many of the men and women who thought their path to the American dream was to shoot a president. It’s a powerful show about values and motivations, and it features some fascinating melodies by Sondheim, perhaps the greatest musical theater composer of our time. It’s onstage through June 13. Tickets: 513-479-6783
You can still catch Ensemble Theatre’s charming production of Outside Mullingar this weekend (it has to wrap up on Saturday to make way for ETC’s Fringe production, Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, performed by the theater’s intern company on June 4, 5 and 6). Mullingar features four outstanding actors — Joneal Joplin, Dale Hodges, Brian Isaac Phillips and Jenn Joplin — in a story about spirited Irish parents and children, about love and longing, and about finding a place in the world. Definitely worth seeing. Tickets: 513-421-3555
One other production still running that I recommend you make an effort to see is Circle Mirror Transformation at the Cincinnati Playhouse. It features five excellent actors playing everyday people in an acting class at a community center. Their efforts to find their talent lead to revelations more profound than any of them initially imagine. Great fun and thoughtful at the same time. Tickets: 512-421-3888
This weekly series discusses the cultural and artistic implications of a selected foreign film.
In many ways, Forough Farrokhzad’s The House Is Black is more of a poem than a film. This may not be particularly surprising, as Farrokhzad today is mostly remembered, if at all in the West, for her modernist poetry, which was controversial, evocative and banned to post-revolution Iran. Yet despite the film’s censorship and Farrokhzad’s tragic death at age 30, she managed to be immensely influential to Iranian cinema, and helped lead the way for the Iranian New Wave that flourished in the late ’60s.
The House Is Black — Farrokhzad’s sole film — is probably a masterpiece. The 21-minute film essay depicts the everyday lives of men, women and children who inhabit a leprosarium in northern Iran. Shot in black and white in a cinema vérité style, a collage of jarring cuts and narrations that often sound like prayer imbue meaning to the film, which shares the same lyrical language and open-ended symbolism as her verse. Farrokhzad seems to write with her camera; she rhymes her visuals and sounds, trading a cohesive narrative for an abstraction of imagery.
Lines culled from
the Koran, the Old Testament and Farrokhzad’s own unforgettable poetry are
stitched together in voiceover to add or subtract context from the onscreen
happenings. An artist whose work relies somewhat on juxtapositions, Farrokhzad
films the sublime moments — children at play, villagers creating music, a woman
brushing a girl’s hair — along with the uncomfortable: bandages being unwrapped,
needles being injected, the blind intuiting their unsure movements.
What emerges is an interrogation of beauty and ugliness, and how those two things coexist in the world. There is, perhaps surprisingly, a lot one can learn by observing the empathy and gratitude that occurs in this Iranian leper colony. In just 20 minutes, The House Is Black is a documentary, a poem and most importantly, a portrait. Of what — a leprosarium or something larger — you decide. The final seconds of the film occur in complete blackness, as Farrokhzad says in a near-whisper: “O overrunning river driven by the force of love, flow to us, flow to us.” It is a plea, both for them and for us.
THE HOUSE IS BLACK is currently screening on YouTube.
Summerfair, NKY Pride 2015!, used book sales, the Fringe Festival, lots of concerts, craft beer parties and more.
Get weird with the CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL
The Cincinnati Fringe Festival — running through June 6 — is celebrating 13 years of theater, creativity and fun. A total of 40 shows (selected by 24 jurors) will be presented during the 12 days of the 2015 Fringe, split almost exactly between shows generated by local creators and productions from elsewhere in the U.S., plus four international acts representing South Africa, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom. Through June 6. cincyfringe.com. Read reviews here.
Hit the Square for MIDPOINT INDIE SUMMER
Fountain Square’s popular, free concert series kicks off this week — a true sign that summer is upon us. The first event in the MidPoint Indie Summer series (held Fridays through early September) is indicative of the strong roster of shows on the Square this year, showcasing a mix of quality touring headliners and some of local music’s finest. Headlining Indie Summer’s opening night is Surfer Blood, the superb, Florida-spawned Indie Pop Rock group that began drawing major attention with its 2010 debut album, Astro Coast. The band has since split with Warner Bros. Records and returned to its DIY roots with the just-released, hyper-melodic 1000 Palms, Surfer Blood’s finest work yet and, fittingly, a perfect melancholic summer album. Three superb local acts round out Friday’s bill: Harbour, Automagik and The Yugos. September’s MidPoint Music Festival sponsors the Indie Summer series, and there will be opportunities to purchase (or win) passes for the 2015 event each week. 7 p.m. Friday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.
Show your pride at NKY PRIDE 2015!
Let your pride flag fly with this year’s Northern Kentucky Pride festival, which starts on Thursday and goes through Sunday. The fest will kick off with an ally training and fairness reception for participants to learn about specific LGBTQ issues in the community. Throughout the weekend, you can show your pride with scheduled activities from a pride bike ride with flamingos through MainStrasse’s Goebel Park to a pub crawl and live music headlined by acoustic duo Linda and Taryn. During Saturday’s official Pridefest, chill in the NKY Pride Beer Garden on Sixth Street with local brews, bring your pet to the PetZone (complete with photo booth), attend the pair of afternoon drag shows and, most importantly, help support social equality. Thursday-Sunday. Free. Search NKY Pride 2015! on Facebook for a full event schedule.
Grab a beer and a Filipino snack at CRAFTS AND CRAFTS at Krohn
Take a tropical vacation without leaving town by visiting Krohn Conservatory’s Crafts and Crafts event, bringing together their Butterflies of the Philippines exhibit, a handful of craft vendors and local craft beer. It’s a perfect evening to enjoy the colorful butterfly show while imbibing some adult beverages, including Filipino cocktails and food like roasted pork, chicharrón and fried peanuts. Must be 21. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday. $12; $15 door. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, 513-421-4086.
Blend light and sound with OSCILLATORS at Harvest Art Gallery
Intermedio, an ongoing sound-light collaboration between multi-disciplinary designer Eric Blyth and composers/installation artists Sam Ferris-Morris and Justin West, will present a one-night-only exhibition Friday at Harvest Gallery. Together, the three create immersive environments, such as last year’s “Radiate” installation in ParProject’s MakersMobile traveling exhibition, by incorporating digitally processed sound and video to engage their audiences in temporary interactive experiences. 6-10 p.m. Friday. Free. 216 W. 15th St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/intermediodesign.
Get slightly melancholy with MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS at Bogart's
It’s oddly wonderful how sometimes two songwriters will interpret the same concept in diametrically opposed fashions. For example, consider Pharrell Williams and Marina Diamandis, both of whom have very powerful songs called “Happy.” Of course, Williams’ composition is the musical manifestation of exuberance and joy, a bouncy sing-along that almost dares you to remain passive while it jukes and swings. Diamandis’ “Happy,” the opening track on Froot, the third Marina and the Diamonds album, couldn’t be more different. A quietly moving, slightly melancholy reflection on the subject of finding the title emotion in making music, “Happy” — and much of Froot — hovers in the vicinity of Florence + the Machine and Aimee Mann, with wisps of Kate Bush’s ephemeral eccentricity and Annie Lennox’s arty populism creating an Electropop shimmer that could easily appeal to fans of Sara Bareilles or Lady Gaga. See Marina and the Diamonds 7 p.m. Friday at Bogart's. Get more information and purchase tickets here.
Get crafty at SUMMERFAIR
Here in the Queen City, the reopening of Coney Island — the pool, the rides, the food — means one thing: the start of summer. And the annual Summerfair clinches the deal. A Cincinnati tradition since 1967, Summerfair consistently ranks among the top 100 art shows nationally and features more than 300 artists from all around the United States in 12 categories, including painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking and mixed media. There will also be regional performers, including belly dancers, Celtic dancers, musicians and cloggers(!) on stages across the park, plus gourmet food. 2-8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. $10 cash at the gate. Coney Island, 6201 Kellogg Ave., California, summerfair.org.
Take your dog to Washington Park for the FURRY FRIENDS FESTIVAL
If dogs are man’s best friend, shouldn’t they be able to have as much fun as we do during the weekend? Washington Park thinks so. Your furry friends are invited to spend a day in the park with other pups of all shapes and sizes, surrounded by tasty grub from Eli’s BBQ and Mazunte, as well as free, live music performed by Bluegrass artists Casey Campbell, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, The Tillers and more. Water will be available for the pups as well as locally brewed beer for the humans. 3-9 p.m. Free. 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.
Buy some local wares at the OAKLEY FANCY FLEA MARKET
Oakley Fancy Flea is a low-key, curated market with high-end locally made wares in the heart of Oakley. Featuring vendors like Alien Pets, which makes knitted felt animals in all manner of shapes and sizes, Loveworn, upcycled clothing made from recycled T-shirts and even treats from Brown Bear Bakery, the Fancy Flea has almost doubled the space they’ll use for the market this year, meaning almost double the amount of stuff to peruse and double the fun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Free. 3047 Madison Road, Oakley, theoffmarket.org.
Check out Stephen Sondheim's dark musical ASSASSINS
Stephen Sondheim’s dark musical about presidential assassins has become a classic since it was first staged in 1990. That was the same year that Falcon Theatre began producing shows in Greater Cincinnati. In 1998, Falcon’s staging of Assassins put the company on local theatergoers’ radar. You know the names: John Wilkes Booth, Squeaky Fromme, Lee Harvey Oswald and more — all disgruntled, unbalanced people whose twisted path to the American Dream involved shooting a president. In this fascinating show they converge, commiserate and conspire, each with music from his or her moment in American history. It’s a strange tour de force. Through June 13. $18-$20. 636 Monmouth St., Newport, 513-479-6783, falcontheater.net.
Catch BUTCH WALKER at Bogart's
No one can accuse Butch Walker of not living up to his potential. For the past three decades, Walker has blazed a unique trail as a member of renowned bands, a critically acclaimed solo artist, a highly regarded producer and a prolific songwriter whose compositions for some of the industry’s biggest names have hit the upper reaches of the charts.Walker’s last three albums — 2010’s I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, 2011’s The Spade and the just-released and patently excellent Afraid of Ghosts — all hit the top spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. As a producer, Walker has worked with an almost schizophrenic range of musical talent, from Pete Yorn, Sevendust and Weezer to Lindsay Lohan, Avril Lavigne, Pink and Taylor Swift. If the music industry is looking to coronate a new man for all seasons, surely the crown would fit comfortably on Butch Walker’s hit-crammed head. See Butch Walker with Jonathan Tyler and The Dove and the Wolf 7 p.m. Saturday at Bogart's. Get more information and purchase tickets here.
Celebrate King Records with a reading of CINCINNATI KING in the park
Washington Park hosts a free staged reading of Cincinnati King, a new play that shares the history of King Records, Cincinnati music and racial equality by Playhouse in the Park Associate Artist KJ Sanchez. The play, meant to ignite dialogue and preserve unique local history, will be read at 7 p.m. A special performance from King Records’ legendary drummer Philip Paul kicks off the evening with a performance and behind-the-scenes stories. 5 p.m. Sunday. Free. 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincyplay.com.
Head to the Cincinnati Art Museum for a screening of AMERICA'S POP COLLECTOR
The Cincinnati Art Museum’s ongoing “Moving Pictures” series of film screenings presents the highly regarded and prescient America’s Pop Collector: Robert C. Scull - Contemporary Art at Auction. The verity-style documentary by John Scott and E. J. Vaughn chronicles the 1973 auction of work collected by Scull, a taxi-company tycoon, which netted more than $2.2 million and forever established the marketplace value of contemporary art. Today, when pieces by contemporary masters routinely bring in millions, the amount raised at the Scull auction may seem small, but it was a watershed moment at the time. 2 p.m. Sunday. Free. Cincinnati Art Museum Fath Auditorium, 953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, cincinnatiartmuseum.org.
Stock up on summer reading material at the FRIENDS OF THE PUBLIC LIBRARY USED BOOK SALE
The Friends of the Public Library Main Library Book Sale returns Saturday for its 43rd annual event (through June 5), offering more than 50,000 used books from every category imaginable, with most prices between $1 and $4. Feel free to casually browse or go on a book-buying spree — there will most likely be something for everybody, whether you’re looking for Alice or Zhivago. On Friday, June 5, indulge your bibliomania by filling up an entire Friends’ bag for only $10 (that’s not a typo). It’s time to hit the books. Begins 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. Free. Main Library, 800 Vine St., Downtown, friends.cincinnatilibrary.org.
See more things To Do here.
Each week CityBeat staffers share their weekend plans: from dinner and drinks or special events to out-of-town concerts and stories we're working on. And some of us just watch TV.
Jesse Fox: This weekend I am shooting my first weekend of many summer music festivals. I will be traveling with former CityBeat intern, Catie Viox, to Nelsonville Music Festival to photograph a variety of amazing acts including Built to Spill, Black Lips and St. Vincent. Sunday, when I return, I plan to go by Riverbend to catch my friend Ben playing drums for this little band he's in called Dashboard Confessional.
Jac Kern: Tonight I will be living out my dream of being a hair model while volunteering for the May Festival. With a big, flower-filled 'do courtesy of Parlour, I’ll be greeting patrons as they arrive at the longstanding choral festival beginning at 6:30 p.m. If you see me, say hi! The May Festival closes this weekend with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Other than that, I'll be keeping it 100 percent chill (Read: boring), playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and watching the season premiere of Halt and Catch Fire Sunday.
Emily Begley: I’m heading up to Dayton on Saturday night to check out Wine & Canvas, which advertises itself as “the painting class with cocktails.” Each class lets you try your hand at a different portrait, and this weekend’s project is “Colorful Elephant,” a close-up of a wistful-looking elephant rendered in blues and greens. I’m not the best painter in the world — especially when alcohol is thrown into the mix — so I’ll probably be figuring out where to hang a portrait of an elephantine blob Sunday morning.
Hey all! News time.
First, a couple Cincinnati City Council things. Council yesterday voted to apply for up to $33 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants for the proposed Elmore Street Connector project. The bridge, which would connect Cincinnati State to the West Side after the current I-74 exit there is removed, is expected to cost up to $44 million. Currently, the city and the state would split that cost, but the federal money could lower the burden for both significantly.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is undertaking a years-long reworking of the I-75 corridor, which includes changing interchanges that connect the highway and I-74 to uptown. ODOT’s original plans remove the I-74 exit onto Central Parkway, which carries traffic to Cincinnati State’s doorstep, but wouldn’t replace that exit. That led to proposals for an overpass over I-75 to relink the area with Beekman Street, which runs through South Cumminsville and other neighborhoods on the other side of the Mill Creek Valley. Despite the backing of area employers in the Uptown Consortium, the project has been controversial.
But the bridge won’t cause delays to other parts of the project as previously expected, ODOT now says. Last month, officials said that constructing the bridge, which Cincinnati State President O’Dell Owens has championed, could delay the construction of the Hopple Street ramp until as late as 2020. After the potential delay was revealed and business owners in Camp Washington raised objections, Owens wrote a letter to ODOT requesting that the Hopple project not be delayed by the I-74 bridge. In an email response to that letter yesterday, Ohio Department of Transportation Acting District Deputy Director Gary L. Middleton said that removing the current I-74 interchange and constructing the new bridge would not affect the construction time frame for the Hopple exit.
Owens has said the bridge would provide Cincinnati State students living on the West Side a vital direct link to the school. Economic impact studies touted by Mayor John Cranley’s office and undertaken by the Greater Cincinnati Economics Center for Education & Research in 2014 suggest that the bridge could have an economic impact worth millions, as well as reconnecting neglected neighborhoods like Millvale and South Cumminsville, which were cut off from the rest of the city by construction of the interstates.
Now, if we could just get some of those millions for more public transit options in Cincinnati….
• A major bike trail on Cincinnati’s East Side could soon be one step closer to reality. The city of Cincinnati hopes to have a deal to present City Council for purchasing the right of way along the mostly unused Wasson Way rail line by Monday, City Manager Harry Black revealed in yesterday’s City Council meeting. The right of way, currently owned by Norfolk Southern, is needed for a proposed 7.5-mile bike path stretching from Mariemont to Xavier University in Evanston. Plans for an extension into Avondale have also been floated. Securing right of way for the trail is a crucial step and one that needs to be taken soon, Black said. The city is in the final stages of applying for a share of $500 million in TIGER grants the U.S. Department of Transportation has made available this year, and owning right of way is an important part of winning those funds.
• The Greater Cincinnati YMCA released big renovation plans for its downtown location yesterday. The building was built in 1917 and is an iconic presence along Central Parkway. The branch closed in December for the work, and now the YMCA is rolling out its detailed plans for what it will look like when finished. Among the big changes: much more natural light in the facility’s two-story fitness center, lounges with 50-inch TVs, new weight-lifting equipment and preservation of the site’s running track. That last one is huge for me. Sign me up when they reopen. I hate treadmills and it’s very difficult to find a good indoor track these days. City Council yesterday voted to approve a tax exemption for the entirety of the improvements made to the property. The project will revamp the entire building and add up to 65 units of affordable housing for seniors. The work is expected to cost $27 million. The facility is expected to be open to the public again around this time next year. In the meantime, 12 other branches are open in the West End, Walnut Hills, Northern Kentucky and elsewhere around the area.
• A group of about 50 people gathered at Ziegler Park in Over-the-Rhine yesterday for a rally organized by Cincinnati Black Lives Matter in remembrance of unarmed women and trans people of color killed recently in police-related incidents around the country. Among those remembered was Rekia Boyd, who died in 2012 after off-duty Chicago police officer Dante Servin fired into a dark alley and shot her. Boyd was not involved in an earlier confrontation that led officer Servin to give chase to the group of people he fired at, and a Chicago judge found his actions “beyond reckless.” Servin, who says one of the group pulled something from their waistband and that he feared for his life at the time, was not punished for Boyd’s death. Organizers of yesterday’s rally in OTR said they wanted to highlight Boyd’s story and others as continued attention is paid to the shooting of unarmed men of color like Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III.
• Finally, Cincinnati isn’t the only Ohio city grabbing on to the tiny house trend. People’s Liberty grant recipient Brad Cooper has gotten a lot of attention lately for his project, which looks to build two 200-square foot houses in Over-the-Rhine. Cooper got $100,000 from People's Liberty to carry out that plan, but Cincy isn't the only city where enthusiasm is growing for the concept. This Cleveland Plain Dealer article details how the small, simple house movement is gathering steam in Cleveland and Toledo, where folks are making big plans to build similar tiny houses in urban areas.
That’s it for me. Tweet or email me with any story tips or just to say hey.
Good morning Cincy. Here’s your news today.
While we’ve all heard the good news that is going down in Cincinnati, there’s one big exception. Some recent serious but mostly non-fatal shootings in Walnut Hills, CUF, West End and other neighborhoods (including a few right outside my house in Mount Auburn) have put gun crimes in Cincinnati at a 10-year high. That’s caused some to call into question the effectiveness of the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, or CIRV. The program has produced good results in the past, though its funding has been uneven. But with gun violence on the rise, detractors like Councilman Charlie Winburn say it might be time to try something else. Winburn suggested getting rid of CIRV during a presentation of crime data at Tuesday’s Cincinnati City Council Law and Public Safety Committee meeting. Others, however, say the program, which relies on a number of methods including civilian peacekeepers, law enforcement home visits to repeat offenders and social service referrals, is doing its job and needs more support. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson suggested at the Tuesday meeting that more emphasis on social services and anti-poverty measures like neighborhood redevelopment might be part of the answer.
• Greater Cincinnati’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level in 14 years, according to figures released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Companies in the region added nearly 20,000 new jobs in April, the data shows, the biggest increase in the past three years. But the area hasn’t avoided a major pitfall that has accompanied economic recovery around the country — while the overall unemployment rate is down, economists say, so are wages in the region. Meanwhile, underemployment, or people working part-time when they want to be working full time, is up in the Greater Cincinnati area. That dynamic could keep the economy sluggish, experts say.
• A plan to renovate 13 buildings in Covington’s MainStrasse neighborhood for 50 units of low-income housing we told you about in March has run into opposition from some in the community, who are vowing to fight the development. Cincinnati-based Model Group and women’s shelter Welcome House have partnered on the project, which is slated to receive federal low-income housing tax credits through the Kentucky Housing Corp. About half of the buildings have already been green-lighted for those credits, and applications for the rest will be filed later this year. But neighboring property owners are upset about the fact those tax credits require the currently crumbling buildings on Pike Street to remain low-income housing for 30 years after they’re renovated. They say that will dampen private investment in the area and lower the value of their properties, and they’re asking the city to fight the state’s decision to award the credits. However, it’s unclear that Covington officials have any power to challenge the state’s decision.
• Yikes. A sheriff’s deputy in Clark County Ohio, where Springfield is, has been fired after he took to Twitter with some seriously racist thoughts about protests in Baltimore. That city experienced civil unrest last month after a man named Freddie Gray died in police custody under questionable circumstances. “Baltimore the last few days = real life Planet of the Apes,” Clark County Deputy Zachary Davis tweeted April 28. Another tweet that day suggested: “It’s time to start using deadly force in Baltimore. When they start slaying these ignorant young people it’ll send a message.” After the tweets were brought to the attention of Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly yesterday, Davis was immediately fired. “If you’re posting these type of statements then I don’t feel you can serve this community,” Kelly told the Springfield News-Sun yesterday evening. Good for him.
• Two of the most powerful Republicans in Kentucky, and really in the whole country, have been butting heads big time in the Senate. U.S. Senator Rand Paul, who as you probably already know is running for president, has been digging in his heals on a portion of the Patriot Act that allows the National Security Administration to collect so-called meta data on Americans’ cell phone calls. Congress has just days to renew that particular program, as well as other parts of the Patriot Act. Paul and other Senators on both sides of the aisle have refused to allow cloture in the Senate for a bill that would do that unless NSA cell phone surveillance programs are nixed or significantly reformed. Paul and other Senators have used procedural maneuvers to keep that from happening.
That, of course, hasn’t been great for Kentucky’s other Senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is charged with getting things passed through the chamber. This is especially awkward since McConnell has endorsed Paul for president. It’s yet another example of the complicated, fractious relationships that the GOP must navigate as it tries to take back the White House in 2016. Paul is playing the NSA card to appeal both to his grassroots, anti-government libertarian base as well as more civil-liberty minded independents. Meanwhile, rank and file Republicans want to see the Patriot Act renewal passed. Politics is awkward and complicated, y’all.