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by Nick Swartsell 10.20.2015 35 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Nick Swartsell 10.19.2015 36 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Nick Swartsell 10.16.2015 39 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

More developments in Issue 22 fight; block party planned Saturday to remember DuBose, Hicks, others; Kasich's campaign releases proposed tax plan

Morning all! Here’s a quick rundown of the news today.

Let’s talk about the latest in the ongoing debate over Issue 22, Mayor John Cranley’s proposed charter amendment to fund changes to the city’s parks via a 1 mill property tax levy. Yesterday, Parks Director Wille Carden said figures estimating the cost of 16 proposed projects that would be funded by that amendment were generated by the mayor’s office. Carden said that those estimates are at best rough guesses and that the amendment might not fund all of them. Overall, the mayor’s office says those projects will cost $85 million and that decisions about which will be funded will depend on public input, how shovel-ready each one is and other considerations. Issue 22 detractors used these revelations to further press their criticisms of the amendment, saying that the proposed property tax is ill-considered. Supporters are standing by the amendment, however, saying that even if all the projects aren’t funded, the city’s parks stand to benefit greatly from the measure.

• A majority of Cincinnati City Council now officially opposes that charter amendment, with council members Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach yesterday penning an editorial against Issue 22. Seelbach and Young cited lack of provisions for public input and better uses for the tax dollars at stake as among the reasons they’re joining council members Charlie Winburn, Amy Murray and Yvette Simpson in opposing the plan. Vice Mayor David Mann and Councilmen Kevin Flynn, P.G. Sittenfeld and Christopher Smitherman all support the amendment, citing the opportunity to provide vastly better funding for the city’s parks as the reason for their support.

• One of the projects on the Issue 22 list is a revamp of Ziegler Park, which sits on the Over-the-Rhine side of Sycamore Street right on the border with Pendleton. The Park Board yesterday voted to acquire the land necessary to begin that revamp, which will proceed with or without the Issue 22 funding. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation is a major partner on the $30 million project and has said it is assembling funding to make the renovation of the park a reality. 3CDC says a new pool and water attraction will be part of that overhaul, as well as a large green space across the street next to condos in the former SCPA building.

That green space will sit atop a large parking garage very similar to one built underneath Washington Park in OTR. The basketball courts currently next to Ziegler will be preserved, though new courts will be installed. The proposed revamp has caused some controversy in the community, which is predominantly low-income and black. Some activists have expressed concern that changes to the park could exclude current long-term residents of the area. 3CDC says it has held a number of public meetings and is striving to make the park accessible to all, but bitter memories of Washington Park’s renovation still linger. Activists point to the changes to that park, which removed basketball courts, sitting spaces along the perimeter of the park and other features popular with long-term users, as reasons for their concerns.

• Members of Cincinnati Black Lives Matter tomorrow are throwing a block party in Mount Auburn to honor the life of Sam DuBose and other unarmed people of color killed by police. The event, which is meant to rally support around the families of DuBose, Quandavier Hicks and others, kicks off tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Thill and Vine streets and will feature free music and food, and later a rally protesting police violence. Meanwhile, a push for greater accountability and justice continues at the University of Cincinnati, which employed officer Ray Tensing, who shot DuBose back in July. Tensing is currently facing murder charges for that shooting, but student activists at UC are asking for bigger changes, including a big increase in the enrollment of black students on UC’s main campus. Currently, only 5 percent of students at UC’s flagship Clifton campus are black. You can read the full list of steps the so-called Irate8 (named after the 8 percent of black students in the UC system as a whole) here.

• I’m a history nerd, so this is really, really cool. Yale University recently released thousands of never-before-seen pictures of Depression-era America taken by Works Progress Administration photographers. Among them are a bunch from Cincinnati, which you can see here. It’s always super-interesting to see these kinds of candid shots, which illustrate what every day life was like back then, taking away some of the mists and myths of history and making that time period seem very relatable and not-so-distant. Check ‘em out.

• Finally, what would Gov. John Kasich do if he won the Republican nomination for presidency and then the general election in 2016? Well, according to the guv, he’d basically dismantle the federal government’s funding for transportation and education, letting states decide through block grants how they’d like to handle those services. Kasich is putting forth a so-called “balanced budget” proposal that would do just that as a demonstration of what he’d do if he wins the White House. Oh yeah, that budget proposal also slashes taxes for large corporations and high earners, dropping the top tax rate from nearly 40 percent to 28 percent. It also gives a slight increase to the Earned Income Tax Credit, which goes to the country’s lowest earners.

Most of Kasich’s cuts, however, come on the top end of the earning spectrum, and would actually… get ready for this… create a budget deficit for the first eight years they were in effect, according to the man himself. Kasich says increased profits and economic activity from the lower taxes, along with big spending cuts, would then balance things out, however, filling revenue gaps created by the tax cuts. If all that sounds familiar, it’s because conservatives have been touting this approach since Ronald Regan was president. Has a similar plan worked in Ohio? Kinda-sorta-not really. Kasich has cut income taxes, but spending has also grown in Ohio. Kasich has raised other taxes, mostly sales taxes that put a higher proportional burden on low-earners, to make up the difference. The state does have a surplus, mostly because the economy has rebounded and Ohio, like most other states, has added jobs. How much of this was Kasich’s doing, however, is up for serious debate.

Annnnnd… I’m out. Twitter. Email. You know what’s up.

by Nick Swartsell 10.15.2015 40 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Park Board votes to ask for return of pro-Issue 22 contribution; city manager gets raise; what happens if pro and anti-pot legalization amendments pass?

Hey all! I’m still struggling out of a food coma after attending last night’s Iron Fork event, but copious amounts of black coffee help me persevere. Anyway, let’s talk about news really quick.

I told you yesterday about the controversy swirling around a $200,000 contribution the Cincinnati Parks Board made to a group supporting Issue 22, the mayor’s proposed charter amendment funding the city’s parks. That controversy reached such a fever pitch that this morning, the Parks Board voted to ask for the money back. Though critics of that contribution say it is improper and illegal, the board stands by the appropriateness of its contribution, which it says came from a private endowment, not from tax dollars. However, board members said the money had become “a distraction” and that they’ve voted to ask for it back to keep from clouding the parks levy issue. Welp. There you go.

• Cincinnati City Council yesterday voted 5-4 to give City Manager Harry Black a 3-percent raise. There was controversy over the size of that raise, however, and debate about the process by which it was awarded. Black already received a 1.5-percent cost of living increase on his one-year anniversary over the summer, a fact Mayor John Cranley said he was unaware of. Some on Council, including Vice Mayor David Mann, thought another 3 percent on top of that cost of living bump was too much.

“It sends an improper message,” Mann said, citing the city’s high poverty rates and attention to income inequality over the past year. “I just can’t bring myself to support this large an increase.”

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld expressed similar hesitancy with the size of Black’s raise, which will increase his salary to more than $256,000 a year. Sittenfeld said the overall 4.5-percent raise could present a tough position when the city negotiates wages with other city employees.

“Our society is upside down right now,” he said. “When you say 4.5 percent is right for those at the top, but not for you, that sends the wrong message.”

Councilman Chris Seelbach opposed any raise for the manager, saying his salary is already high enough. Though council members praised Black’s performance, some said there were areas for improvement. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson listed off a number of critiques, including a suggestion Black work harder at engaging the community. Simpson, Seelbach, Sittenfeld and Mann all voted against the 4.5-percent increase, though Sittenfeld and Mann said they were open to a smaller raise. Councilman Charlie Winburn voted for the raise, and generally praised Black, but had harsh words about his handling of the dismissal of former Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, which he said the city had “botched up so bad.”

Some council members pointed out that the ordinance passed to hire Black last year stipulated a performance review for the city manager. That review, which was supposed to be performed by a committee and include input from all council members, was never completed. Instead, Mayor John Cranley says he’s gone over Black’s performance verbally with the city manager. Councilwoman Amy Murray also said yesterday that she sat down with Black to review his performance. Though council members Yvette Simpson and Chris Seelbach balked at providing Black with the raise without the stipulated committee review, other council members, including Kevin Flynn, pinned that responsibility on Council itself, not the mayor or the city manager. Flynn said that if Council wanted to review the city manager, it should have taken initiative and done so, and that it wasn’t fair to hold the city manager’s raise because it hadn’t.

• The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation swung through the area yesterday to talk about inner-city violence. And what better place to give such a talk than the mean streets of… Kenwood? Yeah. To be fair, that’s where the FBI’s local field office is, so that’s where FBI Executive Director James B. Comey gave remarks about the bureau’s increased efforts to deal with violent crime in inner-city neighborhoods. Though there isn’t any one over-arching initiative the bureau is launching, Comey said, it is definitely putting more of its top agents on the issue. Comey blamed the heroin crisis gripping many areas of the country for some of the violence, as well as short-handed law enforcement departments in many municipalities. Interestingly, however, there is some disagreement as to whether a big spike in crime actually exists. While some cities have seen a spike in murders and shootings, some of those increases come over rock-bottom lows in previous years, and the overall picture is more complex. Here’s a pretty fascinating exploration of that dynamic.

• It goes without saying that national politics, including the election of U.S. representatives, is like a kinda shady game of chess. And it looks like outgoing House Speaker John Boehner is moving a few pieces around before he splits. Some sources say Boehner’s been active in pushing for Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds to take his District 8 seat in Congress. So far, a half-dozen GOP candidates have expressed interest in the seat, which will go to the winner of an as yet to be scheduled special election. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Boehner has been making calls on Reynolds’ behalf and helping introduce the 46-year-old to big wigs in the party. Boehner is set to leave his perch Oct. 30, but has also promised not to leave until Republicans have found someone to replace him as house speaker, which, umm… could take a while.

• So here’s an awkward situation that could happen. What if Ohioans pass both Issue 3, ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization effort, and Issue 2, lawmakers’ attempt to do an end-run around the legalization effort by outlawing monopolies like the one ResponsibleOhio is proposing? Statewide polling says that could happen. A poll out of Kent State University found that 54 percent of adults are planning to vote yes on Issue 2, and 56 percent are planning on voting yes for Issue 3. Obviously, this is just one poll, and it’s likely that some people are just a little confused at this point, but it brings up an interesting and thus far unanswered question: What happens if voters approve to conflicting amendments to the state’s constitution? The short version of that answer is that no one really knows, and it would likely trigger a long court battle. Proponents for both sides take issue with the poll, of course, saying their particular effort will prevail and the opposition will not, citing their own polling. With just weeks before the election, this one’s going to be interesting.

by Nick Swartsell 10.14.2015 41 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Harry Black

Morning News and Stuff

Parks fight intensifies; should Black get a raise?; women's clinics stay open, but new restrictions loom

Good morning all. Here’s the news today. And no, I didn’t watch the Democratic presidential primary debate last night, the same way I didn’t watch the Republican one the night it aired. I get paid to think, read and write about politics from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or later) Monday through Friday. The last thing I want to do when I’m done is go home, pop the top off a beer and listen to some drab older folks who have dedicated their drab lives to drab electoral and policy chicanery talk about said drab chicanery. Bor-ing. I sat around and watched skate videos on Thrasher’s Instagram account instead. Milton Martinez for prez what up. That said, I’ve been watching the debate this morning while I’m on the clock. I’ll tell you about it at the bottom.

• But first, let’s talk local drama. There’s an enormous fan somewhere in the city, and yesterday some stuff definitely hit it. The fight over Issue 22, Mayor John Cranley’s proposed charter amendment to raise money for 16 big parks projects, got real, with opponents of the plan coming out of the woodwork.

Cincinnati attorney and anti-Issue 22 Save Our Parks member Timothy Mara put a letter in Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden’s mailbox yesterday calling the parks board out for a contribution to the Issue 22 booster campaign that Mara says is illegal and inappropriate. The Parks Board has pushed back against that assertion, saying that the funds came from an endowment, not tax dollars, and that the donation was perfectly legal. Mara is asking the parks board to take back the $200,000 donation, which was used to help fund a pro-amendment ad that features Cranley basically playing all the sports and passing a number of different balls to himself. Which is kind of an odd choice for the ad as far as narrative devices go, since opponents of the mayor’s proposal are basically accusing him of fiscal ball-hogging with the amendment.

Meanwhile, former Cincinnati vice mayor, longtime civil rights leader and former Issue 22 supporter Marian Spencer was on the radio talking about how she hung up on Cranley after a phone call from the mayor she says was rather discourteous. Key quote here: “I told him I’m 95 and no one tells me how to vote.” Dang. The mayor remembers the conversation differently, according to quotes posted by an Enquirer reporter on social media. He says that he was merely reminding Spencer that she would be the most prominent opponent of the parks plan if she came out against it. Phew. You can read all about the multiple back and forths, plus my reporting from the pretty informative and evenly matched Issue 22 debate held by The Cincinnati Enquirer Monday, in our story yesterday.

• Cincinnati City Council is set to vote today on whether or not to give City Manager Harry Black a $10,000 raise. This could be somewhat controversial, however, as the city hasn’t completed a required performance review on Black. The ordinance hiring Black set forth that requirement. Cranley, who recommends the raise, says he’s evaluated Black and found he deserves the extra money, but a review committee is supposed to undertake the performance evaluation with input from every member of Council. We’ll see if that proves a roadblock to Black’s pay bump, which would bring his salary up to about $256,000. I would like to add a friendly amendment to the mayor’s motion which gives me a $10,000 raise as well. I promise to spend it all on coneys or Rhinegeist or something else that boosts the local economy.

• Oh yeah. Some other big local stuff happened yesterday: A federal judge ruled that Cincinnati’s last women’s clinic performing abortions, the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, can stay open as it fights Ohio’s new abortion regulations. An earlier stay in orders to close the clinic, which was denied a license renewal by the Ohio Department of Health, expired yesterday. The new federal injunction will keep the clinic, and another in Dayton, open until Planned Parenthood’s federal court case challenging Ohio’s new abortion laws goes to trial next year. Here’s the full story, which per usual we reported first. Not that we’re keeping track or anything, because we don’t care about scoops or whatever real journalists call that stuff.

• While it’s really big news that the Mount Auburn and Dayton clinics have a temporary reprieve from the state breathing down their necks, there are more restrictions potentially on the way. The Ohio General Assembly is mulling three bills expected to pass by the end of the year that would further restrict abortion access in Ohio. One would strip all state funds from Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortions here. Another would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks. A third would outlaw all abortions due to a diagnosis of Down syndrome in a fetus. Ohio would be the first in the nation to pass such a law.

Conservative lawmakers behind the bills, which are currently in the Ohio Senate, acknowledge that they are attempting to eliminate abortion in the state. The effort mirrors a national move to defund Planned Parenthood: A showdown in Congress over taxpayer funding for abortion nearly shut down the federal government last month. All the hubbub stems from a series of videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue for profit. Though a number of government investigations have found no wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part, and though the videos in question and others used against the organization have been somewhat debunked, lawmakers say they want to make sure taxpayers aren’t contributing to organizations that provide abortions.

• Let’s go to the other end of the life spectrum, shall we? Here’s an interesting op-ed from a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who opposes the death penalty. It discusses several Ohio and Kentucky Republican lawmakers who are pushing to end capital punishment for a lot of reasons both practical and moral. Very interesting stuff, and worth a read. Surprised? You must have missed our feature on conservatives pushing to end Ohio’s death penalty, which is also worth perusing.

• We all need to lighten up. At least, that’s what Gov. John “Party Time” Kasich says. Kasich got some blowback last week after he told a young woman trying to ask a question at a University of Richmond campaign appearance that he didn’t have any Taylor Swift tickets for her. Kayla Solsbak then wrote an op-ed for the university paper about Kasich’s comment to her, which went viral. Note to Kasich: not how you win the youth vote. Anyway, at another campaign stop in New Hampshire yesterday, Kasich said he was tired of getting hassled for his jokes.

“Let’s also get a sense of humor back in America, OK,” he said to the crowd, which applauded. I mean, I don’t think it’s that America doesn’t have a sense of humor, though. I think it was just that Kasich’s jokes are pretty sexist and reductive of women, which isn’t anywhere near as funny as, say, making fun of yourself for being out of touch, which Kasich could also easily do. Anyway, Kasich says the negative attention is good and that he’s just, like, trying to be his authentic self. To paraphrase: haters gonna hate, I’ma do me. Which is a pretty hipster thing to say, so maybe he is in touch with us Millenials after all.

• So back to the Democratic presidential primary debate last night. What can you say, really? Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn’t mess up, keeping her frontrunner status. And she raised debate around Planned Parenthood and other women’s issues that sorely need to be talked about. But she also didn’t put any nails in the coffin of her nearest contender U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, either, and he’ll likely see a surge in interest, even though he didn’t outright win this round.

Meanwhile, Sanders, the independent running as a Democrat who says he’s a socialist (got that?) pretty much ran over Clinton when it came to his signature issues of income inequality, financial industry regulation and campaign finance reform. But he didn’t really branch out from those and lay claim to any new ground, which has some pundits wondering if he can really make himself look presidential before next November. He also came across as kind of hawkish, saying he would take the U.S. into war if necessary, and was wishy-washy on gun control, both of which could hobble him with the progressives he’s supposed to be rallying. Clinton, who has about the most hawkish record a Democrat can have, didn’t best him here, but she didn’t really need to.

Oh, and there were other candidates, too. Jim Webb mostly complained about how long he’d been waiting to answer questions (10 minutes is an eternity, right?) and divulged that he killed an enemy soldier in battle. The prime takeaway from Lincoln Chafee’s 10 minutes total of speaking time during the two-hour debate was that he’s managed to not be involved in any scandals (good job, Chaf!) and Martin O’Malley said little that would give him a breakthrough moment. So that’s that.

I’m out. See you later. In the meantime, get at me via email or Twitter.

by Nick Swartsell 10.13.2015 42 days ago
Posted In: News at 03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
news1_protester_7-9 copy

Women's Clinics to Stay Open — For Now

Federal judge rules Mount Auburn Planned Parenthood and Dayton facility can continue operation during fight over state laws

The only remaining women's clinic in Cincinnati that provides abortions will stay open, for now at least.

A federal judge today issued an injunction allowing Planned Parenthood's Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center, a women's clinic that provides abortions in Mount Auburn, to stay open until next year as it fights Ohio's  abortion laws and appeals a decision by the Ohio Department of Health declining to renew its license.

Planned Parenthood is fighting a federal court case over restrictive new laws in Ohio that have pushed the clinic, and another in Dayton, to the brink of closure. A federal judge ruled that the clinics have a good chance of winning their case, and thus forbade Ohio from forcing them to close.

Today's ruling extends a temporary stay on the clinics' closure a federal judge handed down late last month. That stay was set to expire today. The clinic was denied a license last month after new rules passed in Ohio's budget legislation this summer mandated a clinic close if the Ohio Department of Health did not issue a license within 60 days of receiving an application. In the past, the Mount Auburn clinic waited more than a year to receive license renewals.

"Today, the court ruled in favor of Ohio women, ensuring access to safe and legal abortion,” said Jerry Lawson, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio in a statement. “This sends an important message to Ohio politicians that their unconstitutional attempts to restrict access to abortion will not stand. Patient safety is our top priority. We will continue to stand up for Ohio women who rely on Planned Parenthood for the care they need.”

The clinic, and another facility called Women's Med Clinic in Dayton, found themselves facing imminent closure due to increasingly strict Ohio laws around abortion. Ohio law requires clinics to have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case patients need emergency care. But in 2013, the state passed a law forbidding state-funded hospitals from entering into those transfer agreements, ending a partnership between the Mount Auburn clinic and UC Medical Center. No private hospital in the city will enter into an agreement with an abortion clinic, but clinics who have physicians with individual admitting privileges at local hospitals can apply for a variance to the laws. The Planned Parenthood facility in Mount Auburn had been operating under a license obtained with those variances until the new laws were passed this summer.

Conservative lawmakers say the laws exist to ensure the safety of women using the clinics, though some also acknowledge they're designed to cut down the number of abortions in the the state. Ohio has gone from 14 clinics to just nine since the new, more restrictive laws are passed, and pending the results of the federal case Planned Parenthood is currently fighting against the new laws, Cincinnati and Dayton's clinics could also close. The elimination of the Mount Auburn clinic would make Cincinnati the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to abortion.

by Nick Swartsell 10.13.2015 42 days ago
Posted In: News at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
to do_smale riverfront park-courtesy cincinnati parks

Parks Tax Fight Gets Real

A 95-year-old civil rights icon says she hung up on Cranley; local lawyer wants campaign money returned to Parks Board

As voters get nearer to weighing in on Mayor John Cranley's proposed amendment to Cincinnati's charter that would create a permanent property tax to fund the city's parks, things are getting contentious.

Supporters of Issue 22, which would raise property taxes by about $35 for a $100,000 house, say it will help Cincinnati create “world class parks,” boost neighborhoods and economic development throughout the city. But detractors say the amendment gives too much control to the mayor and will allow him to take on debt the city will be paying for years to come, money that will be used to boost for-profit ventures in the city’s public parks.

Former Cincinnati vice mayor and civil rights leader Marian Spencer today said that Mayor John Cranley had harsh words for her regarding her opposition to the proposed charter amendment.

"He said to me, angrily, 'Your face will be on the Enquirer, the front page, opposing the levy, and you're not going to like that,' " Spencer said during an appearance today on 1230 AM WDBZ. "I told him I'm 95 and nobody tells me how to vote. He didn't have anything else to say because I think I hung up."

Cranley remembers the conversation differently, though, according to a social media post by Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Carrie Blackmore Smith reported by the Cincinnati Business Courier. According to that post, Cranley says he didn't threaten Spencer, but merely told her she would be the most prominent opponent of the amendment if she came out against it.

Spencer originally supported the levy, but says once she read the full text of the amendment, she pulled her endorsement. She says she's concerned that the proposed tax increase is a permanent charter amendment, which she called "bad policy" in a letter to Parks Board Director Willie Carden last month. She also expressed consternation in that letter that the amendment language doesn't guarantee that improvements made to parks will be free of admissions charges to Cincinnati residents. Finally, she said in the missive that large changes to the city's parks should be initiated by citizens, not the mayor, and should go through the normal budget process involving City Council.

Spencer's letter isn't the only unfriendly missive in Carden's mailbox lately.

In a letter delivered to the parks director today, Cincinnati attorney Timothy Mara of anti-Issue 22 group Save Our Parks called a $200,000 contribution to a campaign boosting the parks levy “illegal” and demanded the money be taken back.

"Given the facts as we know them, it is imperative that the Park Board act today to set this matter right by first securing the return of its $200,000 campaign contribution," Mara wrote in the letter delivered this morning.

Cranley appears in the television ad funded in part with the park board's contribution, touting the charter amendment as he plays various sports including football, basketball and baseball. The ad features slick production and is running in local markets.

The two sides of the fight battled it out at a public debate hosted by The Cincinnati Enquirer Oct. 12 at The Phoenix downtown. Don Mooney, a Cincinnati attorney who has helped organize opposition to the plan, argued against the amendment, while environmentalist Brewster Rhoads presented the case for it. Cranley himself was invited to participate in the event, but declined unless he would not be on the stage at the same time as the opposition and could speak last, according to the Enquirer.

At the debate, Mooney blasted Cranley’s proposal, calling it a “slush fund” for the mayor. He pointed to the ballot language, which gives control over the money raised to the mayor and the Cincinnati Park Board. The mayor appoints the park board with council approval. Critics like Mooney have questioned why the amendment language doesn’t stipulate any requirements for Cincinnati City Council or community involvement.

That, Mooney says, primes Cincinnati for “a commercial and corporate takeover of our parks.” Mooney cites recent closures of Washington Park due to for-profit events as evidence for this, as well as a proposed public-private partnership with Western & Southern to remake Lytle Park downtown.

But Rhoads says the amendment is about boosting Cincinnati’s public parks, not selling them off. He says for-profit events like those at Washington Park are rare events that put much-needed funds in the city’s coffers for parks.

At the debate, Rhoads also pushed back against the assertion that the mayor will control the funds raised by the amendment. Ohio law requires City Council to approve any bonds issued by the city, he said, giving the elected body a say over which projects will be funded by the amendment.

Rhoads did acknowledge that the amendment’s language would be better if it had specific guidelines for community involvement, but said that the parks board does a good job with getting the community engaged.

“It’s not a perfect plan,” he said. “But we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

The mayor has proposed 16 projects to be funded by bonds issued with seed money from the property tax increase, though none are specifically listed in the amendment language. Among these are an effort to save and restore the former King Records site in Evanston and create a museum there; millions in funding for the Wasson Way bike path, which would cut through a number of East Side neighborhoods on its way into Uptown; and money to give large urban woods like Burnet Woods and Mount Airy Forest facelifts. All told, the price tag for those projects comes to about $80 million.

Rhoads argued that the city doesn’t have enough money to fund park maintenance currently. He and other supporters say 25 percent of the money raised by the property tax levy will go toward maintenance costs. Critics, however, point out that the language on the ballot only stipulates that the 25 percent cannot be used toward debt service for capital projects, not a requirement for it to be used for maintenance.

Mooney questioned how the city doesn’t have enough money for park maintenance when the Park Board has millions in its accounts and was able to spend $200,000 to fund the pro-Issue 22 ad featuring Cranley. Rhoads demurred on that question, saying he doesn’t speak for the Issue 22 campaign. Parks Board President Carl Budig said the donation to the campaign came from a special endowment. He defended the contribution as appropriate and legal.

Mara pushed back against that assertion, however.

"The fact that the money may originally have come from an endowment or donation to the Park Board does not mean that the $200,000 political campaign gift is legal," he wrote in the letter. "Once accepted by the Park Board, that money became 'public funds' subject to the above-described prohibition against campaign expenditures by a public entity."

by Natalie Krebs 10.13.2015 42 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

CPS Board votes to renovate Vine Street school; still no price tag on I-71 uptown exchange; Democratic presidential hopefuls hit Las Vegas

Cincinnati Public Schools could be getting much needed additional space for pre-schoolers as soon as next school year. The CPS board voted unanimously in favor of renovating the old Vine Street school. The old school, which sits at Vine and Mulberry streets in Mount Auburn, has been empty since 2012. The building was last used to house Rothenberg and Taft elementary schools while their buildings were undergoing renovations. The proposed project will cost about $7-$8 million and go forth "when the funds are available," ideally opening next fall potentially as a pre-school, according to board member Eve Bolton. Pre-school expansion has become a priority for CPS as it turns away 1,000 kids from pre-school every year.

• A debate over Mayor John Cranley's proposed city park property tax levy between pro-levy environmentalist Brewster Rhodes and anti-levy activist Don Mooney drew a crowd of more than 200 people to The Phoenix downtown yesterday. Mooney is disturbed over the amount of control Mayor Cranley, who was not in attendance, has over the money and projects. Rhodes argued it's OK because City Council, the parks board and the mayor would share control. Rhodes later admitted the proposal wasn't perfect because it lacked public input. I was not in attendance at this event, but staff writer Nick Swartsell was, so more details on this debate will follow. 

• There is still no cost estimate from the state on the new Uptown Interstate-71 exchange. The Ohio Department of Transportation is dragging its heels on finalizing the sale price of 16 properties, and the price tag for the project won't be known until those sales are finalized. A spokesman for the DOT told the Enquirer that the real estate purchases could possibly be a contributing factor in holding up the construction, but the project should be finished by August 2017. Gov. John Kasich, who is currently schmoozing with undecided voters in New Hampshire, has pushed the project since he first took office in 2011. The Uptown area is the second-biggest area for jobs in the city, but lacks direct access from interstate 71.  

• The Red Bike program, which recently turned 1 year old, celebrated another milestone yesterday: It had its 100,000th ride. Cincinnati resident Keith Piercy unsuspectedly checked out bike that made the milestone ride Monday morning and was actually on his way to buy a bike helmet, having recently enrolled in the city-wide bike-sharing program. As someone who frequently bikes to work on bike lanes that are nearly empty, I encourage everyone to follow Piercy's example. 

• The stoners of Colorado and their fun, fruity marijuana-laced candy couldn't win over Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. He recently returned from a trip to the state that has famously legalized recreational marijuana and reported that he met with more than a dozen people who apparently told him "you'd be crazy to bring this to Ohio." DeWine gave a press conference yesterday in which he declared, “Ohio will be fundamentally changed if Issue 3 passes." DeWine took issue with the marijuana-laced candies, which look the same as non-laced candies and could potentially be a danger to kids. Ian James, the executive director of ResponsibleOhio, the super PAC responsible for putting Issue 3 on the Nov. 3 ballot, said DeWine didn't meet with marijuana supporters in Colorado, including Gov. John Hickenlooper. 

• Well, we've all just barely recovered from the GOP presidential primary debates in time to watch the Democrats duke it out. Jim Webb, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Lincoln Chafee and Martin O'Malley will be in Las Vegas tonight to push their liberal agendas on CNN. Clinton and Sanders will likely be the most-watched contenders, as they're received the most attention for their campaigns, but it should be nice to see a few extra faces in there. The action starts at 8:30.

If you start to zone out in the middle of the debate, you can always stay focused by looking for City Councilman P.G Sittenfeld, who will be popping his head in three times during the debate in the form of television spots. The spots form a kind of narrative arc to promote his run for the U.S. Senate, where he is far behind better-known fellow Democratic contender and former Ohio governor Ted Strickland.

Send me an email or find me on Twitter. See y'all later!

by Natalie Krebs 10.12.2015 43 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Democrats endorse park tax levy; UC Health to repay millions in fraudulent Medicare claims; outside reports find Tamir Rice shooting justified

Good morning Cincinnati! Here are today's headlines. 

• City Democrats got together Saturday morning in Northside and voted 41-17 to endorse Mayor John Cranley's proposed permanent income tax levy to support the city's park system. If passed on the Nov. 3 ballot, the tax would be written into the city charter and would cost homeowners $35 for every $100,000 in home value. It would bring in an estimated $5.5 million annually and allow the mayor to propose projects to the park board, bypassing City Council, which has some concerned it could lead to the commercialization of the city's parks. Some say the money could be better spent on other citywide issues, like poverty. The Democratic precinct executives who gathered on Oct. 10 generally said that while the proposal wasn't perfect, it would be beneficial to set aside extra money to maintain the city's parks in the future. 

• Speaking of parks, today city officials are considering naming two parks after a fallen police officer and two firefighters. The city's Law and Public Safety Committee is considering renaming the East Hyde Park Commons after CPD Officer Sonny Kim, who was shot in June while on duty. The Queensgate Recreation Area would be renamed for firefighters Daryl Gordon and Oscar Armstrong III, who died in fires in March of this year and in 2003. 

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday that UC Health and West Chester Hospital will have to pay back $4.1 million in fraudulent Medicaid and Medicare claims. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Dr. Abubakar Atiq Durrani, a former surgeon at the hospital, brought in $7.125 million in Medicare payments from 2010 to 2013 when he performed medically unnecessary spinal surgeries — and botched many of them. Durrani, who is a Pakistani citizen, fled the country for Pakistan in 2013 after facing a 36-count federal indictment and hundreds of lawsuits, leaving his wife and three children in the area. The allegations against Durrani include failing to read or ignoring x-rays he ordered, falsely telling patients they were in danger of grave injury without surgery and pre-signing prescription pads for patient Oxycodone prescriptions to be later filled out by a member of his staff. 

• Kroger, the largest traditional grocer in the country, with 400 stores and 400,000 employees, has agreed to extend its health benefits to its transgendered employees. The locally based corporation is the nation's seventh largest employer. The Enquirer reported that a Kroger employee had posted the news on her Facebook page. The extended benefits will cover surgery and drugs for gender reassignment starting at the beginning of 2016. 

Two outside reports found that the Cleveland police officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice last November was justified in his actions. Rice was shot in a Cleveland park by officer Timothy Loehmann after he and his partner responded to a call that a black boy was waving a gun at people in the park. Rice was fatally hit in the torso and was later found to be holding a pellet gun. The Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office released reports last night from a retired FBI agent and a Denver prosecutor that concluded that the officer had used a reasonable use of force, as Rice was perceived as a serious threat.

Feel free to email me with story tips, questions and possible Halloween costumes at nkrebs@citybeat.com.
by Nick Swartsell 10.09.2015 46 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Former Drop Inn Center reopens in Queensgate; free health screenings offered throughout city on Sunday; U.S. House slips further into chaos

Good morning all. It’s news time friends.

Today marks the opening of David and Rebecca Baron Center for Men, the homeless shelter in Queensgate replacing the Drop Inn Center that was located in Over-the-Rhine for decades. The shelter, located in a renovated Butternut Bread factory on Gest Street, has 150 beds and more than 79,000 square feet of space. The shelter, operated by nonprofit Shelterhouse, is one of five operating as part of the city’s Homelessness to Homes plan overseen by Strategies to End Homelessness. The move marks the end of years of fighting by advocates for the homeless to keep the shelter, the region’s largest, in Over-the-Rhine.

• Cincinnati’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists yesterday hosted a panel discussion on media coverage of the July shooting death of Samuel DuBose by University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing. The panel, staged at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, included Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black, attorneys for both the DuBose family and Ray Tensing, a representative from Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters’ office and news directors from The Cincinnati Enquirer and Channels 9, 19, 12 and 5. Topics ranged from the portrayal of both Tensing and DuBose in the initial reporting of the incident — many outlets showed a mugshot of DuBose and referred to him as a “suspect” in their early reports, while showing Tensing in uniform — to the media’s responsibility to report accurately without further inflaming community tensions. I live tweeted a lot of the discussion, as did many other attendees, under the hashtag #wordsandimages. Check out the discussion.

• First Lady Dena Cranley and a number of faith leaders will announce the first step in a major health initiative today at City Hall at 1 pm. Cranley, national executive director of the First Ladies Health Initiative Tracey Alston and the wives of a number of church leaders will unveil the first-annual health day, which will take place Sunday Oct. 11. The event, which will offer free health screenings for a number of conditions from diabetes to HIV, will take place at 18 locations throughout the city. You can find these locations and hours they'll be open here.

• A landmark historic building in Walnut Hills is on its way to renovation. Last week, the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation purchased the iconic Paramount Building on Peebles Corner for $750,000 and plans a full-scale redevelopment of the property. The foundation estimates that work will cost at least $3 million and is currently raising funds to complete the effort. The 80-year-old Paramount long served as a theater in the neighborhood and is one of Walnut Hills’ distinctive landmarks with its turret-like front façade.

• How much does health care cost in Cincinnati? Well, it depends, and it’s kinda arbitrary. That’s especially true when it comes to care for women, a new study released by castlighthealth.com finds. Costs for procedures like mammograms diverge wildly in the Cincinnati area, running anywhere from $123 to nearly $300 depending on where you go. HPV tests are similarly wide-ranging in their costs. Healthcare outlets charge anywhere from $24 to $208 for the routine test. Some other, non-gender specific health services, such as a preventive primary care visit, also vary wildly in price, but the ranges are especially wide for services for women. The price differences reflect the varying deals insurers are able to strike with hospitals and other healthcare providers, as well as a number of other factors that Castlight researchers say show how dysfunctional America’s healthcare system is. You can see the full study and how Cincinnati compares to other cities here.

• So this is just really cool. Officials and community advocates in Akron shut down a highway to hold a 500-person dinner and community conversation. On Oct. 4, Akron police shut down a section of the city's Inner Belt Freeway while volunteers set up 63 tables for guests. Attendees, led by facilitators, then had a meal and discussed the city's future, delving into a number of contentious issues while taking notes and sketching out ideas. Among the topics of discussion: what to do with the freeway they were sitting on, which cut through low-income neighborhoods and separated them from downtown when it was built in the 1970s. That freeway will soon be shut down  — it serves only 18,000 cars a day, a far cry from the 120,000 for which it was designed.

• Could John Boehner’s resignation from the House of Representatives and the ensuing chaos it has caused (more on that in a minute) have repercussions in the Kentucky governor’s race? It’s looking like it. Republican gubernatorial candidate and tea party dude Matt Bevin has been waging a tough-fought campaign against Democrat candidate Jack Conway. But now, at least some prominent Republicans in Kentucky are turning their backs on Bevin in favor of Conway as a result of distaste for the tea party movement that has caused deep fissures within the GOP. Part of the lingering bitterness is from Bevin’s 2012 primary challenge of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Bevin ran a nasty campaign against McConnell, marshaling tea party anger and attempting to use it against the veteran lawmaker. Bevin failed in that race, but has been seen as a viable candidate for governor. But with the divide between establishment Republicans and radical tea party conservatives growing wider, it may be hard for him to pull together the support he needs to defeat Conway.

• Finally, speaking of all that, I just want to talk really quick about how fascinating things are getting in the House of Representatives. A couple weeks back we told you about how the resignation of House Speaker and Greater Cincinnatian John Boehner could bring more power to hardline rightwingers in the GOP. At the time, this was an arguable point, considering House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was all lined up to take Boehner’s place. Now, it’s not that McCarthy isn’t conservative, but like Boehner, he has no interested in shutting down the government or engaging in some of the more radical tactics tea party conservatives in the House have championed. Welp, hate to say I told you so, but yesterday McCarthy dropped out of the running for speaker, and now Republicans are scrambling to find a willing replacement who isn’t part of the three dozen or so tea party radicals in the GOP. Party leaders, including Boehner, who just wants to get the hell out of there at this point, are reportedly begging U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, former Vice Presidential candidate in Mitt Romney’s last run, to step up and take the job, but Ryan’s all like, nah, that’s cool I’m good.

That’s it for me. Hit me up on Twitter or email me with news tips or your favorite Halloween haunted houses. I’m trying to hit up several before they close for the season.




by Nick Swartsell 11.24.2015 15 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Thanksgiving family argument fodder galore!

Hey Cincy. Hope you’re winding down your work week. It’s T-minus two days 'til turkey time, which also happens to be my birthday this year. I’m hyped for both. Oh, and if you want to get your favorite reporter a b-day gift, I’ll take a pair of these in size 8.5 thx. Huh. Now you know my shoe size, which is kind of creepy.

But here’s something awesome: There will be tons of political fodder for you to argue awkwardly about around the dinner table with your family this Thanksgiving. Consider this news update your guide to all the best terrible conversations you’ll be having soon.

• You can start with something mild, like debating whether or not Mayor John Cranley should have gotten off the hook for his election-day outburst at a polling location in Avondale. OK, “outburst” is a little harsh. The Cran-man just got a bit over-enthusiastic about Issue 22, the parks tax proposal, and shouted out that people should vote yes on it a couple times. Who doesn’t like to see enthusiasm for the democratic process? But uh, campaigning and telling people how to vote in a polling place is pretty firmly against the rules, especially when you’re a political figure. Despite that, the Hamilton County Board of Elections yesterday announced that it will not be seeking any penalties against the mayor for his breach of the rules. Pollworker Mary Siegel argued that the BOE should start cracking down on such electioneering infractions in the future, because the rules are rarely enforced now.

• If the ensuing argument about that doesn’t heat things up while you’re waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, try talking with your conservative Uncle Jeff about the University of Cincinnati white student union that was set up on Facebook a few days ago. The group’s posts feature prognosticating on how “European Americans” face special challenges on campus and in society in general and other nonsensical claptrap designed to draw people into useless race-related Internet debates. Anyway, the page is almost certainly fake, set up in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a plan hatched on a national white supremacist message board. The UC-themed page uses language almost identical to similar sites across the country, many of the likes on the page’s posts come from out of town Facebook accounts and the whole thing comes across as a reminder not to feed the trolls. So, uh, don’t feed the trolls. Meanwhile, there are more serious and terrifying anti-Black Lives Matter incidents happening of late.

• Just a couple days after Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, dropped a bombshell by revealing he’s decided not to run for reelection, three Cincinnati City Council members are saying they’re considering running for his seat. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn have both expressed some interest, with Winburn saying he could switch from a planned run for county recorder to the commission race if the party wants him to. Murray has said she’ll take the Thanksgiving holiday to think it over before deciding, but is intrigued. Meanwhile, independent Christopher Smitherman has said he might run as a Republican for the seat. Whoever the Hamilton County GOP taps will face Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton, who is leaving the state House due to term limits.

• The second Cincinnati streetcar arrives today and will soon be making test trips around the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown. This argument pretty much scripts itself, so just say "streetcar" to your public transit-hating dad and watch the holiday magic unfold.

• Black leaders from across the state met yesterday at The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati headquarters in Avondale to discuss the state of black Ohio. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which includes local politicians State Sen. Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Alicia Reece, held the public meeting in part to discuss the wide disparities facing the black community here and across the state. Ohio ranks second-to-last in the nation in infant mortality rates, according to the caucus. Closer to home, the group singled out continued issues at the University of Cincinnati, which has been the site of serious racial dialogue around disparities in higher education. The group also discussed efforts toward police reform, which have been slow in coming even after several high-profile police shootings of unarmed black citizens here and a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich. You can read more about how activists are continuing to fight for those reforms in this week’s news feature.

• GOP presidential primary contender Donald Trump came to Ohio yesterday. He didn’t talk as much shit about Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he has in the past. Per usual, his speech was light on policy proposals and heavy on bombast. What else really needs to be said? His remarks to a crowd of 10,000 mostly focused on how the U.S. has become “soft and weak” (despite spending more on its military than all other countries combined) and about how he’s leading in all major polls (sadly, this claim is actually true). He also gave a shout out to waterboarding, the controversial torture technique once used by the U.S. to extract intelligence from terrorism suspects. Trump’s all for bringing it back. Another thing Trump likes, according to his hour-long remarks: lists. As in, lists of people who are Muslim, which Trump thinks should be compiled by the federal government. Thanksgiving family debate difficulty level: black diamond.

• Finally, Indiana Governor Mike Pence faces a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union over his refusal to take in Syrian refugees. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, the Indianapolis nonprofit that handles refugee resettlement for the state. Pence pressured that organization to turn away Syrian refugees earlier this month. The ACLU says in doing so, he violated both the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. This would be a great topic to discuss with your cousin Tami, who has that Gadsen flag bumper sticker on her Hummer.

That’s it for me. Later!

by Natalie Krebs 11.23.2015 38 hours ago
at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
to do_kitten knittin_gertie adoptable kitten_photo oar and spayneuter clinic

Morning News and Stuff

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann won't run for re-election; unlikely winner P.G. Sittenfeld holds in Senate race; Belgium responds to citywide police sweep with Internet cats

Good morning, Cincinnati! Hope y'all are ready for a short work week followed by some binge eating! 

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann is officially not running for re-election next year. Hartmann, who has served as commissioner for the last seven years, announced his decision in an email Saturday. He stated his main motivation was to allow new leadership in the position in what he calls "a self-imposed term limit." Hartmann's decision came as a surprise, as the conservative Republican was already raising money to run against State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Clifton), who chose to run for commissioner upon hitting a real term limit after serving in the state House for eight years. Hartmann told the Enquirer he had been thinking about not running for the past year. Republicans have yet to present another candidate for the position.  

• Another federal housing project might be coming to Cincinnati that would give government housing agencies flexibility to test local projects using federal dollars. The arrival of the 19-year-old federal program Moving to Work is pending the U.S. Senate's approval of appropriations bill that would extend the program to 39 different agencies. The program targets programs that reduce the costs of other programs and incentivize families to prepare for work. Some local activists and experts aren't so thrilled with program's possible arrival. Critics of the program say that the local agencies' programs that receive the flexible federal dollars aren't subjected to enough evaluations to prove their effectiveness, therefore letting ineffective, and even damaging programs, slide by. 

• A new program looking to get guns off the streets of Cincinnati will launch its second round today. The program, run by the nonprofit Street Rescue, will set up in Brown Chapel AME Church on Alms Place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. allowing community members to trade their unwanted guns for $50 and $100 grocery gift cards, no questions asked. The program was developed by local residents who aim to get illegal guns off the street following the city's recent spike in violent crime. They collected seven guns during their first drive in October. 

• Cincinnati City Councilman and Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is still in the race, much to the dismay of political experts. Sittenfeld's campaign against Republican Rob Portman has been largely overshadowed since former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland jumped in the race. The Ohio Democratic Party gave Strickland its endorsement last April. But Sittenfeld held on and has launched recent attacks against both candidates for issues like gun control. Strickland is much better known around the state than Sittenfeld, who isn't recognized much outside of Cincinnati.

• Finally, Brussels is lockdown as authorities sweep the city for terrorism suspects. Authorities have even requested residents refrain from posting messages that expose the whereabouts of police on social media. So rather than give up social media for the extent of the operations, Belgians have banded together by posting pictures of cats, the Internet's favorite animal. Cat memes have popped up all over Belgian's social media accounts poking fun of the tense operation.  

by Nick Swartsell 11.20.2015 4 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

National Transgender Remembrance Day; why Owens left Cincy State; Kasich and Trump trolling hard on Twitter

Good morning all. Hope you’re hyped for the weekend. I’m going to see Jens Lekman at the Woodward tonight, so I totally am. Music isn’t my beat and you should probably just read our article on the show after we talk about news. But for now, let’s get to it.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT rights organization, has established today as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day designed to draw attention to the often-forgotten violence faced by transgender people in America. At least 98 hate crimes against people based on their gender identity were reported in 2014, according to FBI hate crimes statistics. This year, trans people have been victims of nearly two dozen murders. Trans people in Cincinnati are no exception and face harsh violence, even murder.

• Why did former Cincinnati State President O’dell Owens leave so suddenly back in September? Turns out the answer is partly about money and partly about interpersonal politics, as so many answers are. Owens, who was once Hamilton County coroner and now serves as the director of the Cincinnati Health Department, was being asked to undertake 10 in-person fundraising meetings a week on behalf of the college. That fundraising schedule is unusual, education experts say. Other duties generally given to a college president were in the process of being assigned to a newly hired chief operating officer.

Despite exceeding his fundraising goals — Owens says he raised $1.73 million last  year, hundreds of thousands of dollars more than he was expected to raise — and gaining praise from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Owens says he continued to receive pushback from some of the college’s board members. The tension culminated in an angry phone call from board chair Cathy Crain. Owens says Crain raised her voice to him in a call about a statement he made to the Cincinnati Enquirer on a possible tax levy for the school. After that incident, he began to consider leaving Cincinnati State. More money, more problems, or something.

• So, Cincinnati is definitely living in the age of re-urbanization, with more folks flocking back to the city. But while the general stereotype is that young professionals drive the demand for urban living spaces, it looks like baby boomers hitting retirement age are pushing a condo boom in Cincinnati as well. Older folks are interested in living in the city after their kids (finally) move out and they don’t need quite so much space, some developers say. Increased demand from empty nesters has informed new condo projects in places like Hyde Park. Side note: When I first saw the headline of that WCPO article, I read it as “condor demand picks up” and thought owning a bird of prey was some new hipster, Royal Tenenbaums-throwback thing I missed.

• As a journalist I’m supposed to be cold and dead inside without preference or favoritism for anything. I generally do OK with that, but if I have two weak spots, they are bicycles and beer. So I might not be qualified to report on this next thing objectively, but here goes: Cincinnati’s Fifty West Brewing Co. is expanding and, in the process, folding in the Oakley Cycles shop, a high-end bicycle retailer that will move from Observatory Avenue to Fifty West’s campus in Columbia Township. Fifty West and Oakley Cycles representatives both say they’re looking to provide a new, community-oriented experience for visitors while taking advantage of the Fifty West facility’s proximity to local bike trails. Fifty West will also be expanding capacity to brew four times as much beer as it does now. This is all pretty great.

• What else is happening? GOP presidential primary contender and perennially red-faced and slightly sweaty verbal combatant Donald Trump has set his sights on equally red-faced and sweaty fellow Republican candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The two have been having a war of words via Twitter, which… well, that’s where we’re at as a country these days and I’m really just too depressed to continue typing about this. Check it out if you want.

Kasich has also drawn some attention for his suggestion that the United States create a federal government agency charged with spreading Judeo-Christian values across the globe. That sounds like a great plan that has absolutely zero constitutional or moral problems, right? Once again, I’m just going to let you read the story.

• Finally, a small group of Syrian refugees resettled in Kentucky this week despite political furor over such resettlements after the attacks on Paris last week by ISIS. Most of the eight attackers were French or Belgian, but at least one Syrian passport was found at the scene of one of the attacks, fueling apprehensions that some of the four million refugees fleeing Syria are allied with ISIS, the militant Islamic group that has claimed control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would add extra levels of scrutiny to Iraqi and Syrian refugees before they can resettle in the United States on top of the U.S. State Department’s already months- or years-long vetting process. Those new requirements would effectively halt refugee resettlement of those groups in the U.S. The bill faces stiff opposition in the Senate, and President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it should it pass there. The House’s version of the bill passed with a veto-proof two-thirds majority. The Senate would need to pass it with a similar margin to override Obama’s veto ability.

If you’re interested in learning more about the refugee resettlement process from the perspective of an Iraqi family that settled in Cincinnati, check out our cover story earlier this year on refugees here.

I’m out. Enjoy your weekend!

by Nick Swartsell 11.19.2015 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Ben Carson visits Cincy, says gov't makes people poor; FBI investigates sewer district; Issue 3 organizer: weird weed-headed mascot was a mistake

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

You might’ve missed it entirely, but GOP presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was in Cincinnati last night. He was speaking at a private event at Music Hall and didn’t really hit the town much or give public stump speeches. But he did chat with press outside the Cincinnatian Hotel downtown for a moment after his speech, where he told reporters that the answer to struggles with poverty in cities like ours is less government regulation. Carson said regulations on businesses and the finance industry keep prices high and interest rates low, meaning the poor pay more for everyday goods and don’t get returns on interest collected from things like savings accounts.

“It doesn’t hurt rich people when they go into a store and a bar of soap costs 10 cents more. It hurts poor people,” he said. Carson also talked about why he opposes Syrian refugees coming into the United States and concerns about his lack of foreign policy knowledge, which have been floated by his own advisers recently. Carson scoffed at the suggestion that his lack of world knowledge makes him unprepared to be president, saying he’s visited 57 countries and that he has “common sense and a brain.”

Hey Ben. I’ve been to Canada a few times and also possess a human brain of sorts. Make me an ambassador to our neighbors up north after you get elected, eh? Carson is polling second in Ohio in the GOP presidential primary race behind Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is polling third in his own dang state. Ohio's primary is in March.

• Speaking of the sad plight of Syrian refugees, a group of about 15 protesters gathered outside Cincinnati City Hall to protest statements made by Mayor John Cranley earlier this week asking the federal government to pause resettlement efforts for those refugees in the U.S. Cranley has since apologized for upsetting people with that statement, but has also defended his point — that federal officials should place a moratorium on Syrian refugee resettlement in Cincinnati and elsewhere in the country until they can guarantee safety for citizens. Cranley, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a number of other mostly Republican governors, is concerned that terrorists from ISIS could slip into refugee populations making their way into the United States.

• A group of about 30 students representing University of Cincinnati’s activist group the Irate8 held a silent protest yesterday on UC’s campus to advocate for racial equity there. The demonstration came in the wake of UC’s response to the group’s list of 10 demands. The Irate8 came together after the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing is currently awaiting trial on murder charges. The Irate8 has issued a list of 10 demands and timelines for UC administrators. That list includes substantive reforms to UC’s policing practices, including removal of officers at the scene of the DuBose shooting from active patrols, and efforts to double UC’s enrollment of black students. Currently, black students make up 8 percent of UC’s student body, even though Cincinnati as a city is 45 percent black. The university responded earlier this week to that list of demands, but activists say the response is too general and doesn’t set forth concrete action steps or deadlines.

• The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Metropolitan Sewer District made improper payments of taxpayer money to outside contractors. Those contracts, handled by the city, are worth up to $35 million a year. That’s caused Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel and other county officials to question whether the city is running the MSD properly. Cincinnati operates the MSD, but it’s owned by the county. Memos from City Manager Harry Black to Cincinnati City Council detail what Black believed to be inefficiencies in the contracting process, including jobs that might have been awarded without proper competitive bidding. However, those memos don’t say anything about legal improprieties. It’s unclear which specific contracts the FBI is investigating. The city and county’s sewer district has faced a lot of scrutiny in recent years, mostly thanks to a $3.2 billion, federal court-ordered restructuring project MSD is currently undertaking.

• Two Cincinnati-based state representatives are working on an effort to increase accountability for the state’s law enforcement officers in the wake of controversy around police-involved shootings in this city and around the country. State Reps. Alicia Reece, a Democrat, and Jonathan Dever, a Republican, are pushing a new bill that would create a written, publicly available statewide standard for investigating police-involved shootings across Ohio. That standard would require a report from investigators no more than 30 days after a police shooting happens, and if no indictment is handed down for the officer, that report would be immediately made public. The bill is one of many expected to come from a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich earlier this year in response to controversial police shootings throughout the state. Lawmakers say they hope to have preliminary hearings on the bill before the end of the year.

• Finally, we all make mistakes. Some of us lock ourselves out of the house without our keys and wallet because we’re so excited to get a bagel and some coffee. (Yes, I did that this morning.) But some among us take bigger risks, so the mistake possibilities are much higher and more interesting. The group pushing ballot initiative Issue 3, for instance, created a creepy, weed-headed pitchman for their multi-million-dollar effort. Ian James, one of the heads of marijuana legalization effort ResponsibleOhio, admitted that Buddie, the caped crusader of weed legalization and ResponsibleOhio’s mascot, was probably not a great idea. Seriously. Dude’s head was a giant, dank bud. I had nightmares. James also said the idea of limiting growth of marijuana to 10 grow sites owned by ResponsibleOhio investors in the group’s ballot proposal was also a mistake. In the letter, James promised that pro-pot organizers with the group would be back with an improved ballot initiative next year to again try and get weed legalized in Ohio.

That’s it for me. I have to go get coffee and a bagel now or I’m probably going to pass out.

by Nick Swartsell 11.18.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley stands behind refugee resettlement comments; SORTA strike looking more likely; Kasich sinking in New Hampshire, poll shows

Morning all. Here’s the news today.

Mayor John Cranley has said he “feels horrible” about any unintended harm he may have caused in calling for a moratorium on Syrian refugees coming to Cincinnati, but is standing by the substance of his comments. Cranley also told The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday that he merely meant to suggest a “pause” on refugee resettlement here until safety concerns brought up by attacks in Lebanon, Egypt and France could be addressed. Cranley has joined Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other, mostly conservative, politicians across the country in calling for an at-least-temporary halt to Syrian refugee resettlement in the wake of those attacks. The U.S. has an extensive vetting process for refugees that can take anywhere from 18 months to multiple years, as CityBeat explored in this cover story about an Iraqi refugee family earlier this year. Meanwhile, a local Muslim group today decried statements by Cranley and Kasich, calling them “disturbing,” knee-jerk reactions that punish terror victims instead of preventing terrorism.

• Bus drivers for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority have taken another step closer to striking over a new bus proposal. A group of drivers yesterday attended a SORTA board meeting to protest higher health insurance payments as well as a plan that calls for smaller Metro buses operated by lower-paid drivers. Drivers with the Amalgamated Transit Union say decisions about that plan are being made without current SORTA drivers’ input. Those drivers say they should operate the smaller buses, instead of lower-paid drivers who can operate the smaller buses without a commercial driver’s license. Current Metro drivers top out at about $25 an hour; drivers of the smaller buses would start at $15 and top out just under $20 an hour. ATU members will vote on whether to strike over the new proposal at their Dec. 3 meeting. There are no bargaining meetings between the ATU and SORTA scheduled before that date.

• While that public transportation fight rages, some transit advocates will be partying tonight to celebrate the city’s first streetcar in 65 years. Streetcar advocates with All Aboard Ohio are throwing a free public party at Over-the-Rhine’s The Transept, a newly renovated church along the streetcar route, tonight starting at 6 p.m. The group has been one of the biggest voices in boosting the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown as well as other rail projects in Cincinnati. The event will feature free appetizers and a cash bar.

• Have you ever felt like this state needs more guns in daycare centers? If so, you're in luck, because that could become a reality with a new bill the Ohio House of Representatives just passed. The bill would allow concealed carry permit holders to have their guns in the aforementioned child care facilities, on college campuses and on private aircraft. Because nothing is more American than shooting a bald eagle out of the sky from the cockpit of your Leer Jet. The bill passed the house 63-25. Now it’s off to the Senate.

• As we’ve talked about before, GOP presidential primary hopeful and Ohio Gov. John Kasich has pinned his campaign’s continued viability on his performance in early primary state New Hampshire. Annnnnd… it’s not looking so great there right now, according to a poll conducted by a National Public Radio affiliate. In September, Kasich was polling at 45 percent favorability among GOP voters in the state. These days, however, just 33 percent of GOPers view him favorably. Meanwhile, his unfavorable percentage has gone up to 39 percent in the most recent Nov. 15 poll, a huge swell from the 21 percent who found him unfavorable in the September round of polling. He has stayed steady with voters who identify him as their first preference, however. In September, 7 percent of New Hampshire GOP voters said he was their first choice. The most recent poll found that number unchanged. Kasich lost a couple points with undecided voters in that same time period, however.

* Finally, GOP presidential frontrunner and manly mane mentor Donald Trump will stump in Columbus Monday. Grab your tickets now and maybe find a good book to read.

I’m out. Twitter. Email. You know how to reach me.

by Nick Swartsell 11.17.2015 7 days ago
Posted In: News, Immigration at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cranley Calls for U.S. Moratorium on Syrian Refugees

Cincinnati mayor joins Ohio Gov. John Kasich, other politicians in calls to halt resettlement in wake of ISIS attacks

Following attacks in Egypt, Beirut and Paris that killed hundreds, the United States should place a moratorium on Syrian refugees, Mayor John Cranley said in a Nov. 16 statement.

“I understand the dire circumstances Syrian refugees face because I personally visited a refugee camp in Jordan last summer,” Cranley said in that statement. “However, the federal government should halt its actions until the American people can be assured that exhaustive vetting has occurred.”

Cranley’s statement comes just two weeks after the roll-out of a program he says is designed to make Cincinnati the most welcoming city in the country for immigrants. At least one Syrian refugee family of nine has already settled in Cincinnati. But recent terrorist attacks have radically shifted the conversation around refugees in the U.S.

Bombings and shootings carried out by followers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Beirut and Egypt last week claimed hundreds of lives, and a subsequent attack in Paris killing 129 on Nov. 13 garnered new levels of attention for the terrorist group. Those attacks have led some politicians, including Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to oppose accepting Syrians into the country.

“I wouldn’t let them in unless we have a positive affirmation that they don’t have evil intent or that they’re associated with any group that would endanger the country,” Kasich said at a GOP presidential candidate summit in Florida the day after the Paris attacks. “We’re not bringing ISIS into this country.”

Kasich’s office has said the governor is looking into ways to refuse refugees coming to Ohio. Other Republican governors, including presidential primary contender Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, have also protested refugees arriving in their states. These protests are largely symbolic, however. Acceptance of refugees is a federal matter; governors and mayors have no formal say in resettlement policies.
At least eight people carried out the Paris attacks. Most were French, according to investigators, but at least two were from Syria.

After stepping into the chaos of an ongoing civil war in Syria initially sparked by dictator Bashar-al Assad, ISIS gained control of a swath of Syria and Iraq populated by about 8 million people. Last year, the group claimed it has caliphate status — that is, an Islamic state charged with upholding Islamic law. The group has murdered thousands as it seeks to consolidate power over portions of Syria and Iraq, driving an estimated 4 million Syrians out of the country as refugees.

Most of those refugees have taken shelter in nearby European states such as France and Germany. However, the United States has agreed to take on 10,000 of the fleeing Syrians.

Not all politicians have called for rejection of the refugees. Cincinnati City Council Democrats Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson decried Cranley’s move, calling for the city to welcome Syrians. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley asked that the Department of Homeland Security ensure the safety of U.S. citizens, but said the city would welcome immigrants.

“Should the decision be made to place refugees from any country in the city of Dayton, we will continue to be a leader in the welcoming movement and will champion inclusive communities that enable all residents to thrive," Whaley said in a Nov. 16 statement.

by Natalie Krebs 11.17.2015 7 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
metro plus bus

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley calls on Feds to stop accepting Syrian refugees; Ohio legislature to vote on defunding Planned Parenthood; Metro looks at smaller buses to improve service

Good morning! Here are your morning headlines. 

Mayor John Cranley yesterday joined a growing number of politicians across the U.S., including Ohio Governor John Kasich, in calling for the federal government to stop admitting Syrian refugees into the U.S. The push comes in the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks in Egypt, Lebanon and Paris, where one dead attacker was found with a Syrian passport. The U.S. pledged to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees in September amid the growing crisis overseas, which is just a tiny percentage of the more than 3 million Syrians have fled the country under the strain of the country's ongoing civil war. Cranley's announcement spurred immediate backlash from council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson, who released a joint statement saying refugees should be welcomed into the community and not vilified. Refugees are processed at the federal level and go through extensive criminal background and health checks before they are admitted into the U.S. The average waiting period is between 18 and 24 months. Just last month, Cranley announced a plan to make Cincinnati more immigrant-friendly, stating that immigrants can help boost the local economy and create jobs.  

• Things aren't looking good for Planned Parenthood at the Ohio State House. The GOP-majority legislature looks ready to vote to strip the health organization of $1.3 million dollars in state funding. The push against Planned Parenthood across the U.S. comes from unproven claims from anti-abortion groups that the Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue for profit. But the money that the state will likely vote to strip from Planned Parenthood doesn't go to abortion services, but to programs that do things like fund tests for sexually transmitted infections and find prenatal care for mothers. The decision will come just days after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to look at Texas laws, which have required that the state's abortion clinics adhere to new strict requirements like having admitting privileges to local hospitals. Ohio legislature has also passed tighter restrictions  on abortion clinics in the state modeled after laws in Texas' law forcing nearly half of the state's clinics to close.  

• The park levy may have lost on the ballot, but controversy around it lives on. The City of Cincinnati denied a taxpayer's lawsuit against the city's Parks Board because of private endowment money it spent on a pro-levy website. The lawsuit was filed by State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. (R-Mt. Lookout), who stated that the Parks Board violated the city charter when Director Willie Carden authorized $2,575 from the Parks Foundation last June to be spent on a website for the levy. The city charter states that no funds from the city can be used towards advocating for or against a candidate or proposal. The city denied the lawsuit on the grounds that all the money has been returned to the Cincinnati Parks Foundation.  

• Metro has a plan to bring bus service to some Cincinnati neighborhoods by using smaller buses, but that plan involves paying drivers of those buses less. That's ignited talks of a strike among SORTA's union. Metro's proposal comes shortly after the release of a University of Cincinnati Economics Center study that found that Metro's services were insufficient to connect commuters to 75,000 Cincinnati jobs. The proposed buses will go down routes where it services are needed, but the ridership is low. The mini-bus proposal is opposed by the union as it would permit the hiring of drivers without commercial licenses for lower wages. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority has proposed up to 31 percent of its route be served by mini-buses with a $15.47 an hour starting wage. 

• Miami University outside Cincinnati is second in the U.S. for the rate of students who study abroad. According to the Institute of International Education, Miami University sends 42 percent of its students packing at some point with its Luxembourg campus as the most popular place to go with the UK, Australia, Italy, Spain, Mexico and China ranking up there as well. The federal government also reports that the number students studying abroad is up by 2.1 percent across the nation. However, that number, at just 5.2 percent, still falls far behind Miami's impressive rate. The feds also reported a 10 percent increase in foreign students studying abroad in the U.S.    

Send story tips to nkrebs@citybeat.com!

by Nick Swartsell 11.16.2015 8 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Real estate deals heating up around I-71 interchange; still no trial date in DuBose shooting; Paris attacks already coloring 2016 presidential race

Hey Cincy. Good morning. Hope your weekend was chill. I got to eat some rad kimchi and embarrass myself via karaoke at a Korean restaurant. Fun times. Anyway. Here’s what’s going on around town and beyond today.

Things are getting hot around the new I-71 interchange being constructed in Walnut Hills and Avondale, with property and cash changing hands rapidly as the urban core’s first highway on- and off-ramp since the 1970s nears its spring 2016 completion date. Developer and controversial Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board member Shree Kulkarmi has cashed in on property around the forthcoming highway interchange, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. Two companies controlled by Kulkarmi, Uptown Partners LLC and Beecher Investments LLC, sold 16 properties around the new interchange to another limited liability corporation listed at the same address as Neyer Properties, Inc., one of the city’s largest property developers. In doing so, Kulkarmi doubled his money. Property records show the developer paid about $636,000 for the properties; they sold for more than $1.3 million. Since 2013, Kulkarmi has spent $865,000 purchasing 22 properties around the interchange. Other developers have also been rushing for properties in the area. Nonprofit development corporation Uptown Consortium Inc. has spent nearly $12 million on 100 properties in the area, the first step in constructing what it envisions as an “innovation corridor” along Reading Road.

• Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing still doesn’t have a trial date related to murder charges he faces for the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose. Tensing had a pretrial hearing this morning, but a county judge said the discovery, or evidence-gathering, phase of prosecution is still ongoing, delaying the actual trial. His next pretrial hearing will be Dec. 15.

• Oops. The medical records of more than 1,000 UC Health patients were accidentally emailed to an unauthorized email address nine times since August 2014, the health provider says. The compromised information includes patient names, medical record numbers and diagnosis records. UC Health has said it has fixed the problem, which it has attributed to an email glitch.

• Before he peaced out on his ultra-powerful perch as speaker of the House of Representatives last month, John Boehner had been in office longer than I’ve been alive. So what’s a former powerbroker once only a couple heartbeats away from the presidency to do in his retirement? Golf? A few extra rounds in the tanning bed? A few glasses of red wine followed by a good cry? Probably all of the above for Boehner, but also, some soul-searching about what state he should buy a car in, the fact he hasn’t driven in nine years and figuring out how he’s going to get by with “hardly any” staff members to help him out. Oh, and also stacking tons of cash making speeches about all that stuff and about how nothing was ever good enough for those radical Republicans he had to deal with in the House. Where do I sign up for that retirement package?

• Finally, we’ve all heard about the attacks that rocked Paris Friday night, killing more than 100 and wounding hundreds more. For better or worse (definitely worse), expect that tragedy to be a huge factor in the coming 2016 elections, especially in the immediate aftermath as candidates on the Republican and Democratic side alike wrangle with each other over their party’s nomination. The events in Paris cast a long shadow over Saturday’s Democratic primary debate, for instance, tilting the conversation heavily toward foreign policy and U.S. military intervention. That, some pundits argue, gave Dem frontrunner and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton a big debate boost over her upstart challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist running mostly on a domestic policy platform promising to tackle income inequality.

Meanwhile, renewed threats from the Islamic State, which has taken credit for the Paris attacks, promise similar terror in the U.S., specifically in Washington, D.C. That’s set of a further fervor on the right in regard to U.S. military strength and the need to close the country’s borders to immigrants and refugees. The fear induced by the attacks gives Republican candidate Donald Trump an especially strong hand, as draconian measures sealing off the nation’s borders have been one of the few concrete policy stands the real estate magnate has taken thus far in his campaign.

by Nick Swartsell 11.13.2015 11 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Complaint: Cranley violated election rules; announcement about CPD chief search coming today; Kasich meets a rowdy crowd of seniors in New Hampshire

It’s Friday. It’s early. I haven’t had coffee yet. For all those reasons, I’m going to hit you with a briefer version of the morning news today. Think of it as fewer words between you and your weekend. You’re welcome.

So, did Mayor John Cranley violate election rules by literally giving a shout out to his park tax plan in a polling place on election day? That’s what a complaint filed yesterday by poll worker Mary Siegel alleges. Siegel says Cranley shouted “vote yes on Issue 22” inside the Urban League building in Avondale as voters cast ballots. That violates Ohio law, which stipulates campaigning must be done outside a 100 foot perimeter of polling places. Cranley has acknowledged that he made a mistake by discussing Issue 22 while he was in the polling place “for a few minutes.” Now it’s up to the four-member, bipartisan Hamilton County Board of Elections to decide whether to hold hearings to further investigate the incident. Board member and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke says these infractions happen all the time, and that the mayor’s apology should be sufficient. Hamilton County GOP chair and BOE member Alex Triantafilou has called the allegations “disturbing,” however, and said he’d like to hear more from the mayor.

• Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black is set to announce news about the city’s search for a new police chief today at 10:30 a.m. at City Hall. It’s unclear exactly what the news will be, but a notice from the manager’s office mentions the “next phase” of the hiring process, perhaps meaning candidates have been identified for the job. The top cop spot is open after Black dismissed former CPD chief Jeffrey Blackwell in September after months of friction between Blackwell and city administration. Blackwell’s supporters say his firing was political — the former chief was brought on by Cranley predecessor Mark Mallory — but the administration says many in the department had trouble working with the former chief because he was disconnected from officers and could be intimidating to other staff members. Interim Chief Elliot Isaac replaced Blackwell. We'll update this post after the news conference later this morning.

UPDATE: City Manager Harry Black has announced Interim Chief Eliot Isaac as the only candidate for Cincinnati Police Chief. Black said the next step in the process will require Issac to go through a series of private panels starting Monday that will include members of the community, Cincinnati Police Department, clergy, business community and sentinels. Isaac has worked for the CPD for 26 years and has served as Interim Chief since September.

• Let's be real: Black Friday is brutal and depressing. But some retailers are stepping up to offer an alternative, including a local spot. Environmentally minded general store Park + Vine, on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, has announced that it will be closed on Black Friday and will instead partner with local environmental group Imago to offer a six-mile urban hike from its store into Clifton. Part of the proceeds from that hike — which includes lunch from Park + Vine and other goodies — will go to OTR’s Holidays in the Bag, which supports local nonprofits. This year’s beneficiary is Future Leaders OTR, an entrepreneurship program run by OTR startup resource hub Mortar for low-income folks looking to start their own businesses. Park + Vine founder Danny Korman says he’s modeling his opt-out of the year’s biggest shopping day on outdoor equipment retailer REI’s recent pledge to close all of its stores on Black Friday this year. REI will give all employees a paid day off as a way to encourage folks to go out and enjoy nature.

Here are some short state news thangs:

• One of the Ohio Democratic Party’s top officials has officially switched her endorsement in the party’s presidential primary from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders. Former secretary of state candidate Nina Turner announced yesterday she’s backing Sanders in his bid for the big office next year. That’s something of a blow for Clinton’s juggernaut campaign: Ohio is a must-win state in next year’s presidential contest, and Turner has been one of Clinton’s biggest boosters here. Turner says she’s interested in Sanders’ strong commitment to voting rights and income and wage equity, and will play an active role in his campaign.

• Another day, another report commissioned by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office claiming the Cleveland police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was reasonable. This time, the report comes from a retired police officer in Florida named W. Ken Katsaris, who said that Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann had “no choice” but to shoot Rice on the playground where he had been reported playing with a gun that a caller said “was probably fake.” A dispatcher didn’t relay that last part, though, and video footage shows the cruiser Loehmann was riding in speed up within feet of Rice. Loehmann then jumps out and shoots Rice almost immediately. 

Advocates for Rice’s family criticized the release of Katsaris’ report by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, who has released two other sympathetic reports written by former law enforcement officials calling the shooting justified. A grand jury is currently hearing evidence from McGinty’s office about the case to decide whether Loehmann should be charged in the shooting. Report author Katsaris also testified for the prosecutor’s office during a trial over the controversial shooting death of two unarmed black motorists in 2013. One-hundred-thirty-seven rounds were fired during that confrontation, which came after the two led police on a high-speed chase. The officer on trial during that case, Michael Brelo, was acquitted.

• Finally, Gov. John Kasich, one of the about 10,000 GOP candidates for the party’s presidential nomination, has had a rough stretch of late. He was booed at the last Republican debate. His low poll numbers aren't budging. And yesterday, he got heckled in a room full of senior citizens in New Hampshire for talking about defunding Planned Parenthood. To be fair, though, it was a mixed bag in terms of partisan issues. He also got pushback from some audience members when he discussed a modest minimum wage increase in Ohio. Yeesh. Tough crowd.

by Natalie Krebs 11.12.2015 12 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Residents of Avondale apartment complex with collapsed roof demand action; More OTR businesses have opened this year than before; Representative introduces bill to cut Ohio unemployment benefits

Hey everyone! Here are your morning headlines. 

Residents of an Avondale apartment complex are demanding their landlords pay up after the collapse of the apartment's roof last Friday. Approximately 70 residents of the Burton Apartments have been living in a Days Inn since last week, and with the help of Legal Aid Society and the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition are asking their landlords PF Holdings and the Puretz family to fix the apartment complex and, in the meantime, continue to provide temporary assistance. So far the owners, who are based out of New Jersey, have said they'll pay for just a week at the Days Inn, leaving the residents, which include 17 children, worried that they'll being kicked out of the hotel come this Friday. PF Holding and the Puretz family own other subsidized housing complexes in Walnut Hills and Avondale and are currently under litigation by the city for the poorly maintenance of those properties. One resident of the Burton Apartments told the Enquirer the complex was in such bad shape the week before the roof collapsed, they were using umbrellas in the hallways when it was raining. For now, residents are hoping to retrieve some of their possessions when the building is inspected tomorrow at noon by the city. 

Former restaurateur Liz Rogers is scheduled to be in court tomorrow. Rogers faces charges for impersonating a Cleveland police officer last March when workers arrived to repossess her car. She faces a maximum of 30 days in jail and $250 fine. Rogers was the owner of Mahogany's, a failed restaurant at the Banks. Last March, she was ordered to pay back $100,000, one-third of the loan that the city gave her in an effort to bring more minority-owned businesses to the area, and made the first payment at the beginning of this month. 

This time last year I couldn't stroll through Over-the-Rhine while satisfying a craving for macarons. Oh, how times have changed! The last 12 months OTR has seen 41 new, independent businesses open, more than double from the year before, bringing to the area new, typically pricier, beer halls, night clubs and fancy taco bars. On Tuesday the Chamber of Commence kicked off the seventh annual Shop Local celebration to bring Christmas shoppers to the area so they will no longer worry about where to find the best mini-cupcakes. 

A bill proposed by Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Monclova Township) would cut the amount of time Ohio's unemployed receive benefits in half. Sears' bill would knock the current number of weeks of unemployment from 26 down to somewhere between 12 and 20. Her plan comes as an attempt to pay off some of the debt Ohio has to the federal government. When the recession struck, Ohio had to borrow $2 billion from the feds and is still in the red for $774.8 million, which Sears says could come from cutting the unemployment benefits as unemployment is low in the state now, but opponents to the bill say that it unfairly goes after just one group of people and adds more hurdles for already hard-to-obtain benefits.  

A Utah judge has removed a foster child from a lesbian couple's home, citing he's found evidence that claims the 1-year-old girl would be better off with heterosexual parents. Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland were married last summer and are already the parents of two children and said they were planning on adopting the girl when a judge halted the process. The couple said they asked the Judge Scott Johansen for his evidence, but he has not produced it. Peirce believe the move was based on his religious beliefs, which are not known, but the Washington Post reports he is a graduate of Brigham Young University, which is operated by the Mormon Church. The church has recently voted to exclude kids of same-sex couples until they are adults.                                       

That's all for today! Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com with any happenings in the city.