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by Nick Swartsell 06.20.2014 32 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Metro sinkhole, unemployment drops and senior bludgeons burglar with a back scratcher

Friday's usually kind of a slow news day, but lots of important or just plain weird stuff has already happened. Get ready for it.

In what must be one of the most biblical mass transit emergencies in recent Cincinnati memory, a Metro bus was partially sucked down a 20-foot-deep sinkhole near the zoo at about 9:30 last night. Then the ground opened up, and the stink did begin to emerge from the angry earth, and woah, those on the bus were sore afraid. Or something like that. City officials say some failed sewer lines caused the hole. As if being nearly swallowed by the earth isn’t unpleasant enough, there was also the smell of raw sewage to contend with. In an ironic note, yesterday was also “Dump the Pump Day,” a day designed to get commuters out of their cars and onto public transit. Workers from Cincinnati’s Metropolitan Sewer District are out to fix the hole and sewer lines.

• Former Over-the-Rhine social service agency City Gospel Mission is clear to move to Queensgate. Wrangling over some compliance issues with the Department of Housing and Urban Development had stalled the agency's plans for a men's shelter there, which has been on the drawing board for months. HUD said City Gospel's mens-only approach might violate certain non-discrimination clauses on deeds to the land the agency wanted to use for its new shelter. But after some pushing by Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, HUD has given the agency the go ahead. City Gospel will host some women’s programming at the shelter and is part of Cincinnati’s Homeless to Homes program, which helps both men and women transition from homelessness.

• Ohio’s newest jobs report came out today. It shows the state is at 5.5 percent unemployment, its lowest level since the recession and well under the national rate of 6.3 percent. Republicans, of course, are touting this as a win for Gov. John Kasich, while Democrats are pointing out that the low number has a lot to do with how many Ohioans have left the workforce altogether. Unemployment stats only measure those who are looking for work, not those who have given up on the job hunt. The state added 2,900 total jobs in May but lost 14,000 people who dropped out of the workforce. Many of these are the long-term unemployed, who studies show have an especially hard time finding work.

• Speaker of the House John Boehner has slammed the Obama administration over the looming situation in Iraq, where a new insurgency group calling itself ISIS is overtaking cities and the Iraqi military. Boehner used the situation, as Republicans are wont to do, to talk about how bad Obama is at everything, saying that “terrorism has increased exponentially under this president.” That's of course not a view everyone with knowledge about the situation in the Middle East shares, and it's clear the current problem has at least some major roots in Bush-era decisions. Political posturing aside, Boehner also showed his softer side Wednesday when he gave a smooch to former Rep. Gabby Giffords at the Congressional Women’s Softball Game. Giffords, who has made a long, emotional recovery from near-fatal injuries she received during a mass shooting in 2011, threw out the first pitch. After having a moment with Giffords, Boehner then promptly… you guessed it… got all teary-eyed, though not teary-eyed enough to do anything about gun control efforts in Congress, it would seem.

• So a 63-year-old woman on oxygen in Marion, Indiana fought off a burglar with a back scratcher. I couldn’t write anything more awesome than her account of the incident, so here are a couple little bits:

“Guy had a hockey mask on and I almost started laughing,” the woman told a reporter. “If he hadn't have got out that back door, I'd have beat him to death.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.19.2014 33 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

GE goes to The Banks; OTR Council says not so fast, 3CDC; FitzGerald talks higher education

The best news today is that this week is almost over. But there’s a lot more to talk about, so let’s go.

As we reported yesterday, Over-the-Rhine’s Community Council is asking the city to hold off on a deal with 3CDC over vacant properties north of Liberty Street near Findlay Market. The council says 3CDC has slowed the development process by banking a large number of properties, and the group believes small, independent developers could do the job faster and better meet the community's needs.

• Meanwhile, on the other side of the basin, everyone at The Banks is about to get a new neighbor. General Electric is moving more than 1,400 employees to the retail and entertainment development on the Ohio River by 2017, the Business Courier reports. City and county officials will vote Monday on the tax incentives that GE gets for heading south, and after that, it will be a done deal. These are pretty much no-nonsense administrative, IT and finance offices for one of the region’s biggest businesses we’re talking about, but all I can picture is some crazy Real World scenario. Only with jet engines. Which sounds awesome.

Before we get all excited about Real World GE 2017, though, I should note that both the company and Mayor Cranley have refused to comment on the reported decision. The deal is expected to go public Monday.

• Democratic candidate for Governor Ed FitzGerald unveiled his plan for affordable higher education yesterday. FitzGerald’s proposal includes finding ways to lower administrative costs at the state’s colleges, increasing the availability of financial aide, expanding a college savings plan, getting more students into early college enrollment while they’re still in high school, and boosting community colleges and trade schools. Fitzgerald cited the nearly $4 billion in student loan debt Ohioans carry as a reason to lower college costs. He also took the opportunity to hit incumbent John Kasich for tuition hikes FitzGerald says resulted from Kasich’s cuts to state funding for higher ed.

FitzGerald also suggested voters start calling him “Higher Ed FitzGerald,” though at press time, no one had addressed the gubernatorial hopeful by this self-conferred nickname. (That last part didn’t really happen, at least not while the cameras were rolling.)

• In certainly the most important news of the day, Facebook was down briefly this morning. But don’t worry, CNN was on it. No wonder my 4 a.m. tirade about Game of Thrones didn't get the likes it obviously deserved.

• Finally, a record-low 7 percent of Americans really like Congress, and the rest prefer being bitten by dogs or having poison ivy all over their bodies or something. But I’m willing to bet more Americans are fans of Guided By Voices, one of the greatest bands to emerge from our area (OK, Dayton, but The Southgate House used to be their home base of sorts). One of those Americans is outgoing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who is leaving his post to take some time off. Carney gave his final press briefing at the White House yesterday with one of GBV’s best songs as a send-off sound track. Carney’s been a vocal fan of the band for years, and has taken multiple opportunities to mention them from the White House podium. He even hung out with the guys on stage at their most recent DC show. Speed on, Jay, speed on.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.18.2014 33 days ago
Posted In: News at 03:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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OTR Community Council: Rethink Deal with 3CDC North of Liberty

Community group says it's time for more resident involvement in neighborhood development

The Over-the-Rhine Community Council today asked Mayor John Cranley and City Council not to make a deal with 3CDC over buildings north of Liberty Street.

In a letter authored by OTR Community Council President Ryan Messer, the group praised 3CDC’s work over the last 10 years but said the developer’s large cache of properties is slowing down the neighborhood’s continued recovery, and suggested that more transparent process for choosing developers is needed. The letter also said that more voices from the community need to be heard in the development process.

“We believe it's time for a new era in our neighborhood,” Messer wrote in the letter, dated June 18. “A common thread in the neighborhood is the expressed desire to protect and expand our cultural diversity and this, in part, can be done by paying close attention to providing affordable housing options in both the rental and the purchase markets.”

Messer asked that more small, independent developers be brought into the fold in OTR and highlighted the council’s partnerships with nonprofit Over the Rhine Community Housing and the Over the Rhine Foundation. The letter stressed the need for both more market rate and affordable housing in the neighborhood, where demand for housing has outstripped supply. Prices have ballooned in the past five years, and the neighborhood is now one of the most expensive in the city.

3CDC has spent nearly $400 million on redevelopment in Over-the-Rhine, much of it south of Liberty Street in the so-called Gateway Quarter near Central Parkway and Vine Street. Now the group is looking north. 3CDC has asked for the rights to develop 20 vacant properties around Findlay Market, and the city may grant its request by designating the group “preferred developer” of the sites. The group could then recommend redevelopment plans that it or another developer would carry out.

3CDC could choose to farm out development to smaller groups. It applied for the preferred developer status months ago, and officials with the developer say they haven’t heard concerns from the community about the properties before now.

Mayor Cranley has voiced support for 3CDC’s request, citing the developer’s long history in the neighborhood. But the OTR Community Council and other stakeholders in the neighborhood say the city needs to find ways to encourage more equitable and transparent ways to choose developers.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.18.2014 34 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Lytle Park changes, early voting hours and mummies

All right. It's time for the good stuff, the bad stuff and the ugly stuff in today's news. Fair warning — the ugly stuff involves a mummy.

Big changes are coming to the Lytle Park area. Alterations to the area’s historic district designation are set to pass City Council today. Western and Southern Financial Group, which owns the whole dang area many of the buildings around the district, wants to expand its office space and will need the ability to tear down a parking garage and some other buildings in the historic district to do so. So it's asked the city's planning commission to change the district, which expires this year. The changes were folded into the renewal of the area's historic designation and have gone through the commission and City Council's Neighborhoods Committee and now just need final approval.

The area became the city’s first historic district when it was designated such in 1964. The district as it is currently drawn prevents the changes Western and Southern would like to make, but the proposed redrawn boundaries would leave the buildings in question out of the district. There are a few historic buildings in the district whose designation would change due to the plan, including the University Club and the Sheakley Building. The owners of those buildings said they have big investments in the historic structures, however and would not be significantly changing or selling them.

Meanwhile, Western and Southern is gearing up to convert the Anna Louise Inn into a luxury hotel. The Inn, which was run by nonprofit Cincinnati Union Bethel, served as a women’s shelter for over 100 years before being purchased by the company after a long legal battle. Because low-income women escaping abuse and exploitation just don’t look good in a neighborhood you’re trying to turn into a shimmering and artificial oasis of ludicrous wealth.

Funding disparities between two affordable housing projects in the city are raising questions about the ways the city allocates money for such projects. A 100-unit supportive living site in Avondale requested $500,000 in funds last year from the city, and its application has still not been processed despite council approving the project. Meanwhile, a vote later this month could send $1.8 million toward 40 units of affordable housing in Pendleton. Difficulties have popped up with the site chosen for the Avondale project, but some on council, including Yvette Simpson, are questioning why money is going to the more recent Pendleton proposal over the Avondale site. Advocates for housing in the city say the two projects aren't competing and that funding should be found for both.

• The city of Cincinnati was awarded $1 million in federal transportation grants Tuesday. The city announced it will use the money for bike trails. Half will go to an expansion of a trail in Westwood, and the other half will go to fixing up part of the trail near Lunken Airport. The city will pitch in another $125,000 for both projects.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has set early voting hours for the state but only after some arm-twisting by the Supreme Court. Originally, Husted had moved to eliminate early voting the Sunday and Monday before election day. He claimed the move was for more uniformity in voting hours across the state. Voting rights advocates, however, claimed the changes curtailed voting opportunities, especially for minority voters.

The Supreme Court agreed that, you know, generally giving people the chance to vote is good and ordered Ohio to reinstate the days. Now the time frame is set. Voters will be able to cast ballots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in the month before the election and will be able to vote from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Monday before election day. This schedule starts in August.

• In the category of “surreal, awful things that could only happen in an Ohio rustbelt city,” a boy exploring an abandoned house in Dayton found… a mummy. Apparently the man who once lived in the house hung himself in a closet, which preserved his body. He wasn’t discovered for five years, until the curiosity of youth led the boy to the house. Multiple levels of disturbing right there.

• Finally, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today canceled the trademarks for the name of a certain Washington, D.C. based football team on the grounds that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans.” The office went on to say that the name is definitely an ethnic slur and should never have been able to be patented in the first place. In case you're wondering why it took until 2014 to figure that out (I sure was), the trademark was overturned once before, in 1992, but was reinstated by federal courts due to a technicality. The Trademark Office says that no such error exists in this case and that the ruling will likely stand. Finally.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.17.2014 35 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Barricades, free speech, and museums up, McDonalds down

It's morning. I've got news. Check it out.

Barricades along McMicken Avenue in Over-the-Rhine and Fairview are working to deter prostitution, Cincinnati Police said yesterday in a presentation to City Council’s Human Services Committee. The barriers sit in three locations along the street and were put up April 30 as part of a program to fight sex work and human trafficking in the area. Other efforts include new laws making penalties tougher for pimps and johns and releasing the names of those convicted of soliciting prostitutes.

The stretch of McMicken is known for high levels of prostitution and other crime. In January, a 24-year-old woman was shot in the head and killed on the street. Authorities suspect she was involved in the sex trade. Police say the volume of prostitution in the area has gone down with the barricades, though they also acknowledge that they’ve seen an uptick in activity in places like the West End. Residents in West Price Hill have also reported an increase in prostitution since the barriers went up. Some residents in the area aren’t convinced the barricades help and say they make their daily commutes more difficult, though others say they’ve noticed a difference in the level of crime. The barricades will come down by the end of the summer.

• Everyone’s favorite proto-tea party group and an anti-abortion organization got a win yesterday when the Supreme Court ruled that they can challenge an Ohio law prohibiting false statements in political advertising.

The court ruled both the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, or COAST, and the Susan B. Anthony List were harmed by the Ohio law and could sue the state. In 2010, Democrat Steve Driehaus, then running for governor, threatened legal action over SBA plans to buy billboards saying he voted for “tax-payer funded abortions.” SBA cited Driehaus’ support of the Affordable Care Act as proof of the claim. Though Driehaus dropped the matter after losing the election, SBA sued, saying their First Amendment rights were violated. COAST jumped on the suit as well, claiming they did not carry out plans for similar advertisements due to fear of legal action.

SBA’s assertion against Driehaus was incredibly questionable — using taxpayer money for abortions is still illegal under the ACA, and abortion providers must still go to great pains to show they’re not using public money to administer the procedure — but the larger issue of free speech convinced both liberal and conservative justices at the Supreme Court. Lower courts originally dismissed the groups’ suits, but the case will now go back to them to be settled.

Former Reds slugger and skipper Pete Rose got to manage a baseball team again yesterday, doing a one-day stint with the Bridgeport Bluefish, a Connecticut team in the independent Atlantic League. The 73-year-old hasn’t managed a game since his suspension from major league baseball 25 years ago for gambling.

• In other sports news, Team USA won over Ghana to kick off its bid for the World Cup, but you probably already know that from all the yelling your neighbors did about it last night. At least that’s how I know about it. We're number one!

• …Except when it comes to health care. In fact, a new study by the Commonwealth Fund shows the United States is number 11 when it comes to our health care system when compared with 10 other developed countries. The U.S. ranked behind the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, France and Canada in terms of quality of healthcare available. We’re number 11! That’s like being number one twice! The U.S. was legitimately number one in a single category, though: We have the most expensive health care of all the countries in the study.

• Before you get too sad, consider this: Another study found there are more museums in the United States than Starbucks and McDonalds combined. We have about 25,000 of the two chains combined, and more than 35,000 museums. Now if they would just combine the two so I can see some postmodern art and grab a Big Mac at the same time, or maybe enjoy a smoothie as I check out the Kansas Underground Salt Museum.
 
 
by Rachel Podnar 06.16.2014 36 days ago
Posted In: News at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Obama Signs Ban on LGBTQ Discrimination by Federal Contractors

Private-sector non-discrimination legislation still stalled in House

President Barack Obama today announced plans to sign an executive order that will protect LGBTQ employees of federal contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, a move that covers 20 percent of the American workforce.

Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Rea Carey said the executive order will be a major step forward.

“Now millions of people will have the economic security they need to provide for their families,” Carey said in a press release. “This decision is good for LGBTQ people, good for our economy and good for America.”

The initiative was a campaign promise in 2008, and LGBTQ groups have pressured the president to issue the order for years.

Obama announced this decision before appearing at a Democratic gay-rights fundraiser on Tuesday and as greater protection stalls in Congress.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect all American workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity passed the Senate in November but has since been halted in the House.

According to the Washington Post, 24 of the top 25 federal contractors have nondiscrimination policies towards sexual orientation, and 13 of those policies include gender identity. So while the executive order will cover 20 percent of the workforce, most are already protected.

Although many private employers offer protection, discrimination is still on the books in many states.

In 29 states, it is still legal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; and in 32 states, gender identity is grounds for discrimination.

Carey stressed the work that remains.  

“Unfortunately, many of us who don't work for federal contractors will still lack workplace protections,” she said. “Now we must redouble our efforts for the urgent passage of state employment protections and strong federal legislation.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.16.2014 36 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

The power's out, CVG will track your phone, campaign finance fun

Hey all. Let’s get straight to the important stuff… Across city, a whole lot of ice cream is melting. Large swaths of the east side seem to be without power right now for an indeterminate reason. Between 10,000 and 20,000 people are without electricity.

• Some of Cincinnati’s city department directors have been caught living outside the city limits. That’s a violation of city regulations, according to the Cincinnati Business Journal, which drew attention to the situation last month. Metropolitan Sewer District Director Tony Parrott and Citizen Complaint Authority Director Kenneth Glenn were disciplined by the city for skirting the residency rules. Glenn, who has been living in West Chester, is retiring in July. Parrott has been living in Butler County; he’s been docked 40 hours of vacation time and has six months to establish residency in the city limits. Now me, I’m from Butler County, and would give up a week’s vacation to not live there, but hey, that’s just me.

• On a note that’s bound to freak some people out, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport will be the first in the country to track the number of travelers in specific parts of the airport by using signals from their Wi-Fi devices. The information will help the airport mitigate congested spots and calculate wait times at security checkpoints. Lockheed Martin owns BlipTrack, the system being used to monitor devices. The company says no personal data is collected by the system, which only looks at the number of signals being emitted from devices. I'm cool with this so long as they aren't keeping track of the embarrassing amount of time I spend on Twitter while waiting for my plane.

• Campaign finance reports filed Friday show council member Charlie Winburn with a big stack of cash going into his run for state Senate. Winburn, a Republican, announced his candidacy last week, and his filings show he’s got more than $50,000 to spend. He’ll be challenging former council member Cecil Thomas, a Democrat. Thomas hasn’t filed a finance report this time around but had $1,500 going into the Democratic primary. He looks to have an advantage, though, due to the ninth district’s highly Democratic tilt. The district stretches across most of Cincinnati and other urban parts of Hamilton County. All statewide candidates filed Friday, and the results are fairly predictable, with Republican candidates getting large contributions and widening fundraising leads over their Democratic opponents. Gov. John Kasich doubled up on Democratic opponent Ed FitzGerald, gaining $1.7 million in contributions this period to FitzGerald’s $800,000. That puts Kasich with more than $9 million overall to spend in the race, compared to FitzGerald’s less than $2 million.

• On the subject of Republicans, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will be in town today. He’s promoting his new solo rap mixtape, which doubles as a campaign tool for his presidential bid. No, actually, that’s completely made up. He’s here to raise money for the Republican National Committee, and you can hear him talk for just $1,000. For that price, he better at least drop a couple freestyle rhymes about his economic policy ideas, though. Bush's name has been floated as a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, though he's a ways down the list.

• On a sad note, Casey Kasem passed away Sunday. He was most famous for his radio show, American Top 40, which millions of people listened to for decades. Closer to my heart, he was also the voice of Shaggy. No, not that Shaggy. Shaggy of Scooby Doo fame, which for you youngsters out there was kind of like Adventure Time before there was Adventure Time. I was a big fan. 

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.13.2014 39 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Chabot tries to cut Section 8, Pew on partisanship, the Pope on economics and Meat Rushmore

Ready for your Friday the 13th morning news? Let’s do this. 

As we’ve reported a couple times already, Cincinnati is in a hard spot when it comes to affordable housing. So Rep. Steve Chabot, Republican representing part of the city, did the logical thing recently and tried to push through an amendment to a House bill that would cut $3 billion in funding for Section 8 vouchers. Wait, that doesn't seem logical at all. Keep in mind the Republican-authored bill he was amending already cut $1.8 billion from transportation and HUD programs. But Chabot thinks folks are hanging out in subsidized housing too long, calling  the system that keeps people from homelessness “a way of life for too many in this country.” Luckily, even the heavily Republican House said “nah” to Chabot’s cuts. The amendment failed yesterday.

A $2,500 reward offered by Brogan Dulle’s family when the 21-year-old UC student went missing May 19 will be given to the woman whose 911 call lead authorities to his body a week later. The woman, who hasn’t been identified in reports, said she came upon Dulle’s body in the basement of building she works in on East McMillan next door to where he lived. The woman apparently didn’t know he was dead and called 911 reporting an intruder. Authorities found Dulle hanged in the basement, and the Hamilton County coroner later ruled his death a suicide. In total, $20,000 was offered for information about Dulle’s whereabouts. UC offered $10,000, and is still mulling what to do with the money. Local restaurant owner Jeff Ruby gave another $7,500, which he’ll be contributing to tuition at UC for Dulle’s younger brother Tim.

A new Pew research project released yesterday tracks the increasing partisanship among American voters. Though hardly surprising, the study quantifies the fact that people are hunkering down in their ideological biases, with more folks crowding to the far left and far right ideologically over the past few years and fewer holding a mix of views in the middle.

Pope Francis just keeps spitting hot fire. The pope said yesterday in an interview with a Spanish-language newspaper that the world’s economic system causes war and imperialism and that it squashes peoples’ individuality. Francis has made a name for himself pushing a relatively more inclusive vision of the Catholic Church and emphasizing its social justice tenets, and his recent eyebrow-raising remarks continue that trend.

Finally, yesterday was National Jerky Day. I know. I missed it, too. But apparently a major jerky company constructed a large model of Mount Rushmore made from a glorious 1,600 pound mix of dried meats. Really gross, but also kind of amazing. The company displayed it in New York yesterday and will now ship it back to headquarters in Wisconsin. It’s probably en route right now, actually. It will have to pass through the Midwest at some point. If you hear about someone hijacking three quarters of a ton of jerky as it makes its way across the Brent Spence Bridge, it totally wasn’t me.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.12.2014 40 days ago
Posted In: Cycling at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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City Funds Non-Profit Bike Share, Battles Over Bike Paths

Council gives money to bike share but puts off bike path decision

Before the summer is over, Cincinnatians should be able to rent a bike in OTR, Clifton or downtown and take it for a spin. But whether or not there will eventually be more bike lanes to ride in may still be up in the air.

City Council on Wednesday passed legislation to help fund a bike share program in Cincinnati, but not before arguments over the bike paths prioritized in Mayor John Cranley’s budget.

The bike share program, run by a non-profit company called Cincy Bike Share, would allow residents and visitors to purchase a year-long membershipor a daily pass to gain access to 300 bikes from 35 stations in the central business district, Over-the-Rhine and uptown. Over the last few years, successful bike shares have started in a number of large cities, including Chicago and Washington, D.C.

The motion passed by council gives the startup $1.1 million from the city’s capital improvements fund to help get its operation off the ground. The group estimates it will need at least another $1 million in investment to ramp up, but Cincy Bike Share Executive Director Jason Barron has expressed confidence it can attract that money.

But there was some controversy. Though all members of council supported the money to Cincy Bike Share, the motion originally came bundled with funding for a number of off-road bike trails the mayor prioritized in his budget.
Those trails have been controversial, as they represent a shift in course from the last council’s plans for on-street bike lanes.

Some council members said they didn’t know enough about the bike paths included in the motion to vote yes or no.

“The problem is, someone has paired these two issues together,” said council member Chris Seelbach. “And the bike paths may be perfectly legitimate, but the public deserves a presentation on what these paths are, why they deserve $200,000 set aside for them and what they will be used for.”

Seelbach pointed out that some of the paths need millions in funds to be completed and asked what a little money from the city would do to help their progress.

But Cranley said money for the Bike Share program is already overdue and needed to be approved immediately if that project is to go forward. A motion to consider both measures together failed a council vote.

“I’m just trying to get the Bike Share passed,” Cranley said. “I believe the Bike Share plan is going to be dead if we don’t get it through today.”

Cranley said the bike path spending will not happen in the near future and ordinances could be passed to revise that spending later.

Eventually, the measures were split after some argument between the mayor and council members Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young, all of whom wanted Cincy Bike Share and bike path funding considered separately.

Council will vote on the bike path funding issue later, after presentations from the groups building the trails in question.
Young called splitting the two issues to find out more about the paths “time well spent.”

Simpson told CityBeat she and other council members are pleased that Cincy Bike Share will be funded and that they’ll get a chance to learn more about proposed bike paths.

“I support biking and bike trails in general, it’s just one of those weird nuance things where if we’re going to defund one thing and start funding something else, you want to know what it is,” Simpson said.

She added that she was hopeful the city can find ways to fund both bike paths and urban lanes.


Update: an earlier version of this story stated that Cincy Bike Share is a for-profit company. The organization is a non-profit. The error has been corrected.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.12.2014 40 days ago
at 08:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
music hall

Morning News and Stuff

Bike Share and early voting are a go, and the dangerous weight of love

Alright alright… here’s the deal today.

City Council voted unanimously last night to fund Cincy Bike Share, which means in the next few months you should be able to get on (someone else’s) bike and ride. No word on prices for rentals just yet. Here's more on that, plus council's tiff over bike paths.

Also of import, though probably not nearly as exciting — council voted to raise water rates four percent. The money will go to shore up the city's water works, which have been losing revenue.

A federal court handed down a big victory for voting rights advocates yesterday when it ruled that Ohio must maintain three days of early voting. U.S. District Court Judge Peter Economus ruled that the state must provide voting the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before election day. Democrats have been fighting state laws and orders from the secretary of state that they say unfairly affect urban minority voters.

In 2012, the Republican-controlled state legislature voted to eliminate weekend early voting, though a lawsuit by Democrats, including the Obama campaign, led to that law being overturned. Earlier this year, however, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, a Republican, adopted a voting schedule that eliminated Sunday early voting. The schedule was put together by the bipartisan Ohio Association of Election Officials. Democrats say the elimination of Sunday voting disadvantages inner-city black voters, many of whom are organized by urban churches that provide transportation to polling places on Sundays before elections.

Cincinnati is getting bigger. But just a tiny bit. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the city, which had been losing population for decades, has gained about 1,000 new people since 2010. That’s just a blip in the city’s population of nearly 300,000, but the census data seems to show the city has gained for two years in a row, meaning at least it’s heading in the right direction. So that tiny gain is big news.

Of course, Cincy’s tiny .25 percent annual growth rate is dwarfed by some other cities, including Columbus, which has grown about 1.5 percent annually. Meanwhile, cities like Austin, Texas have been posting up to 6 percent growth rates in the past few years. Something like 25 people move to Austin in an average day. Imagine how hard it would be to get LumenoCity tickets if that were the case in Cincinnati.

• Speaking of the light show, The Cincinnati Museum Center and marketing firm Landor are working on a LumenoCity-like event at Union Terminal in September. Plans aren’t finalized yet, but organizers hope to nail things down soon.

• And speaking of Union Terminal (look at these segues today!), Hamilton County Commissioners have given the green light to a public hearing on proposals to raise sales taxes in order to come up with the funds to renovate the former train station and Music Hall. They’ll hold the hearing next month. It will include a presentation by the Cultural Facilities Task Force, a group of 22 area business leaders who are recommending putting the tax on the ballot. Both buildings are highly historic and iconic in the city. Union Terminal, the Western Hemisphere’s largest semi-dome building, is renowned for its unique Art Deco construction. It’s also rumored to be the model for The Hall of Justice, which appears in DC’s Batman, Superman, and other comics, so there’s that. And Music Hall… well, just look at that amazing piece of 1878 gothic architecture. Place is crazy awesome looking. The buildings need about $275 million in repairs, though county commissioners would probably try to get $150 million from the tax increase. Some $34 million has already been raised through private donors.

• In national news, the race is on for ousted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's job. Cantor got beat in his primary by tea partier David Brat and has subsequently resigned his post as majority leader. This matters because Cantor has been a big driver of the House's dysfunction, helping to push the war over Obamacare past the brink and into government shutdown last fall. Though Cantor has struggled with his party's far right wing (obviously, since they kicked him out of office), whoever takes his place will inherit similar power over the rowdy, rowdy Republican House. And there are some pretty hardline applicants for the job. Oh great.

• Finally, love is a destructive thing. You know that touristy thing couples do where they lock a padlock to a bridge in Europe to show they're everlastingly committed to each other and all that gross stuff? I guess no one ever really goes back and cuts their lock off when they break up, and thus, all that weight collapsed a bridge in Paris. There's a depressing metaphor somewhere in there, but I'll let you find it.

 
 

 

 

by Nick Swartsell 07.22.2014 4 hours ago
Posted In: News, Drugs at 10:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Northside Community Council OKs Needle Exchange

Northside program an effort to fight disease, demonstrate benefits of exchanges

Northside Community Council voted July 21 to allow a needle exchange program in the neighborhood. The effort, run by the Cincinnati Exchange Program, will start sometime in August and operate from a van one day a week for three hours at a time. Planned Parenthood will also participate, providing testing services for diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Exchanges, which aim to cut down the transmission of those diseases among intravenous drug users, have been controversial in the city. A similar effort in Springdale earlier this year was shut down after just a few weeks due to outcry from some in the community. But the community council in Northside thinks the program is worth it.

“The community has been doing its due diligence as to how the program would work and what the repercussions are, and decided the health benefits definitely outweigh any consequences,” said Northside Community Council President Ollie Kroner. “Northside wants to be part of the solution to the heroin epidemic.”

A 2012 study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that needle exchange programs can greatly reduce the number used syringes found littering streets. And a 2004 study by the World Health Organization found that exchanges do not increase the rate of heroin use in areas where they are undertaken.

Heroin addiction has been rising steadily in Ohio in the past five years. 2012 Ohio Department of Health data shows that 159 people in Hamilton County died from heroin overdoses, a 6 percent increase over the year before. Experts trace the epidemic to an increase in the availability of prescription opiates in the last decade. As Ohio has cracked down on those drugs, addicts turn to other, similar drugs to experience the same high. The most popular by far is heroin.

Local organizations, including Northside-based Caracole work hard to fight heroin addiction and prevent overdoses. But as heroin use increases, needles infected with various blood-borne diseases including HIV and hepatitis are a serious concern. Hepatitis C in particular has been increasing among intravenous drug users in the area. Needle exchanges allow a person to exchange a used needle for a new, sterile one, so they at least won’t catch deadly diseases associated with intravenous drug use. The exchanges also cut down on the level of needle litter, meaning less risk of exposure for community members who aren’t using.

Opponents say exchanges encourage heroin use, but supporters of the programs say the availability of clean needles alone won’t sway a person to take or not take the incredibly addictive drug.

Kroner said the effort is a six-month pilot program to demonstrate the benefits of needle exchanges. Though some in the community have expressed concerns that the exchange will create a perception that Northside has a heroin issue, Kroner emphasized that the program isn’t a response to any specific drug problem in the community.

“What we’re really hoping is that Northside can show that this kind of program can work in other communities,” Kroner said.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.22.2014 5 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
music hall

Morning News and Stuff

National Urban League comes to Cincy, landmark renovations may cost more cash, Cranley says cities don't need to annex the burbs

It's morning! I have news! Morning news! Wow, sorry, that's a lot of exclamation points. I sprung for the large iced coffee this morning and probably need to settle down a little. Anyway, here we go:

Cincinnati is playing host to the annual National Urban League Conference this week. The event, held by one of America’s oldest and largest civil rights organizations, is expected to draw 8,000 people to the city for events Wednesday through Saturday.

The conference is a big deal for Cincinnati. Last time the city tried to host the event in 2003, it was recovering from the 2001 civil unrest that gave Cincinnati a national reputation for race problems. Notable black entertainers boycotted downtown and the Urban League took its conference elsewhere. Since then, some reconciliation and a lot of revitalization has happened, but many old problems remain. In a report called “The State of Black America,” the Urban League ranked the city 74th out of 77 peer cities in terms of economic equity between blacks and whites. Blacks in the Greater Cincinnati area make an average of $24,272 a year compared to $57,481 for whites, the greatest disparity of any city in the region.

Here’s a quote worth thinking about in a Cincinnati Enquirer piece on the event:

"The riots ... were also about economic frustration," said Donna Jones Baker, president and chief executive of the Urban League of Greater Southwest Ohio. "These economic gaps continue. And while we have a vibrancy in the city because of wonderful things happening, we have a group of people who can't access them. We can’t expect people to suffer in silence forever.”

Among those attending the event are Vice President Joe Biden and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Biden will make opening remarks Wednesday and Paul will deliver a town hall speech Friday. This seems like a good opportunity for both to keep their speaking short and their listening long, but yeah.

• The cost of renovating Union Terminal and Music Hall may be more than initially estimated, a group of consultants say. International real estate company Hines looked over engineers’ $331 million cost estimates and found places where more money may be needed for both projects. The possible overrun could amount to $10 million more added to the project.

The revelation comes during a continuing disagreement about where renovation money should come from. Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann suggests the city chip in to help shore up the landmarks. Hartmann argues that the county can’t “go it alone” in efforts to fix the buildings. A further city contribution would be in addition to the $10 million the city has already pledged for the renovations. Mayor John Cranley shot back at Hartmann yesterday with an editorial detailing the city’s ongoing commitment to the buildings.

• A group of parachutists landed on a parking garage at Fourth and Elm yesterday, according to police. Annnd…. that’s about all anyone knows about it. The group may have been BASE jumpers parachuting from Carew Tower, or may have jumped from an airplane, though air traffic controllers at Lunken Airport didn’t report anything out of the ordinary. Maybe they were protesting something, but none were wearing tiger suits or waving banners shaming Procter & Gamble, so it's hard to tell.

• Horseshoe Casino, which has been open just over a year, is undertaking a half-million dollar, 8,700-square-foot expansion. The new addition sounds like it will be a patio for people to take smoke breaks when they need to cool off from all the fun they’re having fighting battles against the one-armed bandit (that’s a slot machine for those not hip to casino lingo). The patio will be enclosed, have a bar and will only be accessible from inside the casino, Horseshoe representatives say, though they’re tight-lipped so far about further details.  

• Cincinnati and Mayor Cranley are featured prominently in a Governing magazine article about changes in the way cities view their outlying suburbs. The article discusses how some cities are shifting away from the view that suburbs are valuable prizes to be annexed or wrapped up in Indianapolis/Louisville-style city and county combined governments. A renewed interest in cities among the young and well-to-do and an increase in suburban poverty are cited as reasons for the shift in thinking from some city leaders.

Cranley’s view that Cincinnati is just fine without taking over surrounding suburbs challenges conventional accepted wisdom.

“You had a sentiment that urban cores need the wealth of the suburbs to have a better budget picture,” he says in the article. “People in the suburbs escaped the city to flee the problems. But that’s changing. You’re going to see cities in a better financial situation than a lot of the suburbs.”

• Finally, a story that could (hopefully) only happen in New York City, where a developer has won permission from the city to have two separate entrances in a new apartment building — one for well-to-do residents of its luxury units and another for the tenants of its required-by-law affordable units. So, basically, a poor door.

Last year, another developer explained just such a plan for another building thusly:

“No one ever said that the goal was full integration of these populations,” said David Von Spreckelsen, a senior VP at Toll Brothers, a New York development company. “So now you have politicians talking about that, saying how horrible those back doors are. I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighborhood.”

Translation: Being rich is hard when you have to rub elbows with not-rich folks, who should just shut up and enjoy the crumbs we’re throwing them.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.21.2014 29 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
voices_wwe_greenpeaceprotest_jf6

Morning News and Stuff

Greenpeace case moves forward, local activists rally for Palestinian civilians and an epic achievement

Heavy stuff in the news today, but there’s a bright spot at the end of this rundown, something so inspiring it will probably change your life. Well, maybe just your week. Err, I don’t want to oversell it. I promise you’ll be amused for at least a couple minutes if you make it to the end of this. Read on.

The next chapter in the saga of nine Greenpeace activists who hung banners from P&G buildings happens today. A pretrial hearing will determine whether lawyers for the activists will be able to access P&G e-mails about the event to use in their case. Lawyers are also requesting records about maintenance of the building, more than likely related to the alleged $18,000 in damage done to windows in the building. That damage is part of prosecutors’ case that the group should face felony charges. Meanwhile, the Greenpeace activists are considering a plea deal that would keep them out of jail but saddle them with probation and felonies on their records. A date for the trial is expected to be set today.

Update: One of the nine protesters will take the plea deal, WLWT reports. The other eight will go to trial to face burglary and vandalism charges.

Hundreds rallied downtown Sunday to show support for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, where more than 400 civilians have been killed over the past few weeks in clashes between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas. Local protesters said their rally was about highlighting Palestinian civilians’ human rights.

“We have to be the voice for the voiceless," said Zeinab Schwen, a Symmes Township resident with family in Gaza. "For the children and parents, we have to speak up. It is not OK. It is not OK what Israel is doing.”

Israel launched a ground offensive Sunday in Gaza in response to rocket attacks from Hamas. Israeli leaders say they’re not trying to hurt civilians, and that Palestinian militants are putting them in harm’s way. But some witnesses claim that the Israeli army is targeting ambulances and other civilian vehicles as it carries out its offensive. In addition to the hundreds killed in Gaza, more than 3,000 Palestinians have been wounded by the fighting. 20 Israeli soldiers, including two with American citizenship, have also been killed.

• Macy’s, the Cincinnati-based department store behemoth, is nearing a settlement in a civil rights suit brought by actor Rob Brown. Brown, the star of TV series “Treme,” says the chain’s New York City store profiled him and others due to his race. He is black.  According to his suit, Brown was handcuffed and detained by security at the store for more than an hour when attempting to buy a watch for his mother. Other shoppers have filed similar complaints alleging they were held by security and accused of stealing because of their race. Details of the upcoming settlement have not been released.

• More questions are arising about ethics in the Ohio Attorney General’s office. The Dayton Daily News had an investigative piece Saturday about the AG’s office and the way it hands out contracts to outside firms. It’s a subject that has been reported on in the past–a number of media outlets have investigated law contracts the AG has awarded to legal firms who donate to the DeWine campaign and the Ohio GOP. Today’s piece finds similar connections with contracts awarded to firms to collect on debts owed to the state. The piece finds a high correlation between firms that donate to DeWine’s campaign and ones that get those collections contracts. Especially noteworthy are instances where firms run by those close to DeWine win contracts over more experienced vendors.

• Death and destruction. Racial Profiling. Allegations of cronyism. To give you a break from all the doom and gloom in this morning news, I found someone who has attained an amazing, completely laudable achievement, someone who can restore our faith in humanity and expand our understanding of what is possible in this world. It’s this guy, who just set the world record for number of tattoos of the same cartoon character on a person’s body. He has 41 Homer Simpson tats, all on his arm. He’s reached this pinnacle of human achievement despite having been forbidden from watching the show by his father, who he calls “a real life Ned Flanders” when he was growing up. Next time you think you can’t do something, that your goal is too hard, that the world is too harsh, remember this man. 

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.18.2014 4 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
fountainsquare-downtowncincinnati-resized

Morning News and Stuff

New housing downtown, tea party IRS suit goes forward, penal pizza party

The news transpiring this morning is all across the board.

The reshaping of Cincinnati’s downtown continues, and one of the biggest signs of more impending changes is the increase in housing in the city’s urban core. More people are interested in living in or near downtown, and developers are happy to oblige. Construction is ongoing for nearly 1,000 new apartments and condos in and around downtown, The Business Courier reports in a rundown of new construction today. The biggest projects include phase two of The Banks, which will have 305 new apartments, the so-called 580 building on Walnut Street, which is being converted from office space to 179 luxury apartments, and between 180 and 225 new apartments going in above Macy’s downtown location. There are also a number of projects happening in Over-the-Rhine, including a $26 million development in the Pendleton area that will also include 40,000 feet of retail space.

• All that change isn’t going unnoticed. It seems like I’m talking about Cincinnati making it onto some top 10 list or national publication at least a couple times a week here at the morning news, and here’s another one: Fortune magazine included Cincinnati in a list of top five cities with up-and-coming downtown areas. The article highlights Over-the-Rhine, saying, “while it’s still a work in progress, it’s already been transformed into one of Cincinnati’s most vibrant communities.” Oh, to work at a national magazine, parachute into a city for a couple days and reduce complex, decades-old dynamics into pithy, erudite observations. But I digress.

Tea partiers won a victory of sorts in U.S. District Court yesterday when Judge Susan Dlott ruled a group of the political activists could pursue suits against Internal Revenue Service employees in Cincinnati. The activists’ claims, first filed last year, state that IRS officials unfairly flagged their applications for nonprofit status based on the fact the groups have names indicating they are conservative or have “tea party” in the name. Nonprofits can’t be primarily political, and in assessing a groups’ application, the IRS must determine the level of political involvement in which a group engages. While the IRS admits it did flag tea party groups, it also did so for some liberal groups, including Occupy-affiliated activists. Still, the conservative groups argue that the IRS acted in a discriminatory way by delaying or denying their applications. The judge’s ruling clears the way for the groups’ lawsuits to go forward.

• There’s a new senate candidate in Kentucky joining the Mitch McConnell/Alison Lundergan-Grimes fray, and he wants you to know he’s full of crap. “Honest” Gil Fulbright is a fake candidate created by represent.us, a group advocating to get big-money influence out of politics. Fulbright, who is played by an actor from New York, is pretty honest about his intentions.

“People of Kentucky, you deserve complete honesty, so here it is,” he says in a video. “I don't care about you. Unless you are a donor, a lobbyist who can write a big fat check, the result that you get from voting for me is negligible."

The parody is a way for the group to drive home its point that most politicians in Congress are beholden to the big-money donors who help them get elected. The group says satire is a more effective way to reach people than traditional news. Probably true.

Kentucky’s senate race, where Democrat Lundergan-Grimes is working to unseat incumbent and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is expected to be the most expensive in history. Candidates and outside groups are on track to spend $100 million to convince voters they’re the better choice. A good deal of that money comes from big-money donors and PACs.

• Finally, while we’re talking about Kentucky, I need to share this story with you. The morning news absolutely does not condone law breaking, but if you’re going to do it, you might take a tip from this criminal genius. A Corbin, Kentucky man was arrested Tuesday for shoplifting. When taken to the station, he asked to make his requisite one phone call. Did he use that call to get in touch with a family member, friend or significant other who could bail him out? No, no. He used his only phone call to order five pizzas in the name of the officer who arrested him. The pizzas were then delivered to the police station, to the confusion of officers. This was either an A-plus troll move or an act of kindness. Something tells me this guy knew it was going to be a long night for everyone involved and just wanted to get the party started right. The authorities were not amused, however, and are now adding charges of impersonating an officer to his shoplifting counts.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.17.2014 5 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
an_lumenocity_365cincinnati

Morning News and Stuff

The ins and outs of the landmark tax, charter school concerns, Lumenocity-themed beer and bears on a plane

Here it is: Everything (well, probably) that you need to know today.

The struggle to pay for renovations for Union Terminal and Music Hall continues to make news, with articles out this morning exploring the details of the buildings’ ownership and why a tax hike to fix them up won’t be like the much-loathed 1996 stadium deal. The Enquirer delves into the reasons why the city isn’t responsible for upkeep of the buildings even though it technically owns them. Basically, non-profits that lease the spaces are contractually obligated to pay for their maintenance, though the city also pitches in some funds to help.  Meanwhile, the Business Courier has a look at the way a tax hike would be structured. The piece points out that the increase doesn’t make the same assumptions about economic growth that the stadium deal did, and is therefore unlikely to balloon out of control.

• P&G left the game, but it turns out the game needs it. That game is adult diapers. The Cincinnati company is considering jumping back into adult incontinence products after leaving a decade ago. P&G already makes diapers for babies, and with the market for adult diapers growing by 8 percent a year, it’s an easy and attractive step that could net P&G $500 million annually. That’s great, but I find it a little depressing that as a nation we’re having a harder and harder time not peeing ourselves. But hey, the market is getting bigger because we’re all getting older because we’re living longer, right? That’s a good thing.

• One of the many reasons I left my former city of residence, Washington D.C., was a whale. A pink, cartoonish whale with a smug smile. Call it a reverse Ahab situation–I tried to avoid it, but instead of being elusive, it was ubiquitous. I came back here, to landlocked Ohio, partially to escape it. But now it has followed me. I’m talking about the logo for Vineyard Vines, an up-market clothing brand that recently announced it may build its first Ohio store in Kenwood. The brand specializes in a certain kind of east coast prep look. Think boat shoes. Novelty ties. Business casual pants in salt water taffy colors, or with little whales all over them. It’s a very Washington vibe, and before now you had to drive hours to get it. But soon, you too can be covered in little pink whales. It’s great news on the development front, to be sure, but it also gives me flashbacks to my time elbowing through gaggles of Georgetown grads for a spot at many a bar in DC.

• Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Christian Moerlein are teaming up to create a Lumenocity-themed beer for next month’s light show. Do I really need to say anything else about that? Sounds awesome.

• Ohio’s Board of Education is investigating reports that a Dayton charter school has been the site of racism, sexual misconduct, testing irregularities, misreporting of attendance figures, and other problems. A number of former teachers have testified that Horizon Science Academy has been mismanaged. The school is run by Chicago-based Concept Schools, which operates 19 schools in Ohio. The education organization is already under investigation by the FBI.

• Finally, the Transportation Safety Administration (you know, the folks who make you wait in line forever and have a machine that can see through your clothes) is probably one of the most-hated government agencies, but they can write a good blog. Their last few, about some of the crazy things people try to take through airport security, are pretty good reads (with pics!) Highlights include loaded guns, bullet-shaped knives, throwing knives, blades stashed in Scooby Doo greeting cards, fireworks, spent artillery shells and bear repellent. Four words for Samuel L. Jackson in case he’s looking for his next project/sequel opportunity: Bears on a Plane.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.16.2014 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ed fitzgerald

Morning News and Stuff

DOJ will jump in on Ohio early voting; Cincinnati tops for design; race for governor heats up

Good morning all. I may be writing this news rundown from my porch at home, enjoying the amazing weather and eating Graeter’s black cherry ice cream for breakfast, but that doesn’t mean I’m not real, real serious about the news. Let’s do this.

As we reported yesterday, the Obama administration is expected to jump into the fight over early voting in Ohio. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made remarks, released yesterday, indicating that the Justice Department will file with the Ohio ACLU and other civil rights organizations already fighting reductions to early voting in the state. The administration has made voting rights a key issue following last year’s Supreme Court decision that rolled back certain sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

• The head of Cincinnati Metro resigned yesterday, according to a press release by the Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority. Metro’s CEO Terry Garcia Crews will step down immediately and will be temporarily replaced by Darryl Haley, who was Metro’s executive director of development. Metro will conduct a national search for her permanent replacement. In the press release, Crews says she’s leaving to focus on her family, including her parents, who live out of town, and to continue her transportation consulting business.

“I have great confidence in the leadership and the team at Metro and community leaders to carry forth the discussion and implementation of expanding public transportation in this community,” Garcia Crews said.

Metro gives about 17 million individual rides each year. Its role looks to grow as transit needs in the city expand and the streetcar comes online next year.

There was some drama in Over-the-Rhine last night, though the actual situation was not quite as intense as initial reports made it out to be. Police entered a building at 13th and Walnut to do an inspection at the request of the building’s owner. They came upon a man who fled from them. As he fled, a gun the man was carrying went off. Multiple news outlets reported the officers had been fired upon and that a standoff situation was developing. In reality, the gun accidentally went off as the man attempted to hide it in his pants. Which, yeah, probably not a great idea, but there you have it. The man fled to another building, threw the gun out a window and hid. He was arrested a short time later and faces multiple charges today. Still a scary scenario, but, you know, not exactly a police shootout.

A list put together by CityLab shows that Cincinnati is among the top cities in the country when it comes to design. While we all know the Queen City has some great graphic design and marketing talent, it’s surprising to see the city also ranks impressively high for industrial design. Our fair city is well-represented in nearly every category measured, which is pretty cool.

• Remember that guy who threatened to shoot down a helicopter a couple days ago? Yeah, a judge told him today to cool it with the guns for a while, and required him to turn over his firearms to authorities. I’m sure there are some hardcore gun rights activists out there fuming about how the government is infringing on his 1st Amendment right to express displeasure with helicopters and his 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, but me, I’m perfectly OK with it in this particular case. At least he didn't try hiding them in his pants.

• The race for Ohio governor is getting interesting. Democratic contender Ed FitzGerald’s campaign is citing polls that show him neck and neck with incumbent Gov. John Kasich, though, as with any poll that a campaign is excited about, it’s probably best to be wary. The poll was paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party and echoes another recent Democrat-funded poll showing FitzGerald within striking distance. However, both of these polls contradict earlier independent polling done this spring showing Kasich ahead by as many as 15 points.

FitzGerald’s campaign is getting proactive, though, dropping its first TV ad today. In the ad, FitzGerald implies that Gov. Kasich is all about the 1 percenters.

“Who is the promise of Ohio meant for?” FitzGerald asks in the 30 second spot. “Just the wealthy and well-connected?”

FitzGerald gives a shout out to “Ohioans who get up early and get it done every day,” which made me kind of feel bad about working from home while eating ice cream. He goes on to promise support for the state’s middle class, including more funding for teachers, police and firefighters. Though he never mentions Kasich by name, he hits on the idea that the current administration favors the wealthy again at the end of the ad.

Meanwhile, an attack site paid for by the Ohio Republican Party against the challenger called fitzgeraldforohio.com just sprung up. The site mostly attacks FitzGerald on his first choice of running mate, former lieutenant governor candidate Eric Kearney. Kearney quit the ticket in December last year after it was revealed he owed a large amount in back taxes. The site also features an ad linking FitzGerald to former Gov. Ted Strickland, who has endorsed FitzGerald. The ad argues that Strickland was bad for Ohio and FitzGerald would be, too.

In a kind of strange twist, however, the ad seems to blame Strickland for many ills Ohio faced due to the great recession, including spiking unemployment and budget overruns. As if those same dynamics weren’t happening in nearly every state around the country during Strickland’s term from 2007 to 2011, when the recession was at its worst. The candidates’ next filing deadline is just a couple weeks away, and it will be interesting to see if either grab more big bucks. Stay tuned.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.15.2014 7 days ago
Posted In: Voting at 03:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Obama Administration to Join Ohio Early Voting Fight

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder says DOJ will use its power to defend the right to vote

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week said the Justice Department plans to join a lawsuit against the state of Ohio seeking to restore early voting in the state.

Holder revealed the DOJ’s intention to join the fight in Ohio over early voting during an interview about terrorism with ABC News in London July 11. That portion of the interview was unaired. Holder’s comments were revealed when the DOJ released transcripts to the press this week.

The Ohio suit, originally brought by the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups, claims the Republican-led elimination of early voting hours is unconstitutional because it will disproportionately affect minorities.

Ohio’s General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans, passed laws in February eliminating six early voting days and same-day voter registration. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted subsequently eliminated early voting the last two Sundays before elections and on weekday evenings in the days before elections.

Some of Husted’s cuts to early voting the Sunday before elections were undone by a federal district court judge, who ruled that the state must reinstitute early voting in the final three days before an election. Despite that victory, the other cuts have yet to be restored and are the grounds for the ACLU’s lawsuit.

In the interview, Holder said voting is “the most basic of our rights” and vowed that he “will use every power that I have, every ability that I have as Attorney General to defend that right to vote.”

Holder also said the DOJ will file in another voting rights case over Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which has seen a pitched battle in federal courts.

Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald applauded Holder’s comments in a news release today.

“I’m pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice will be joining the fight to protect voter rights in Ohio,” FitzGerald said in the release. “Under Governor Kasich, access to the polls has significantly decreased for hardworking Ohioans across the state.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.15.2014 7 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
to do_washington park opening_photo 3cdc

Morning News and Stuff

Charter school stays open, city settles Washington Park suit and the loftiest of living spaces

Morning, y'all. It's only Tuesday and there is already lots and lots going on. Here we go.

A Hamilton County Common Pleas judge has allowed troubled charter school VLT Academy to stay open and ordered the Ohio Department of Education to help fund it. In a decision yesterday, Judge Nadine Allen ordered ODE to become the school’s sponsoring organization and provide almost $300,000 to pay staff and administration there. The school, which serves about 600 students in Pendleton, was scheduled to close last month because its sponsoring organization did not renew its contract. Education Resource Consultants of Ohio declined to continue supporting the school due to its academic performance and financial situation.

Ohio law stipulates that charter schools must have a sponsor to operate. VLT tried unsuccessfully to obtain a new sponsor, asking several organizations including the Ohio Department of Education. When ODE declined, citing the school’s poor academic performance, VLT sued in Hamilton County Common Please Court. VLT argued that its performance was never poor enough to trigger automatic closure. The school says that ODE is playing politics and that it warned other potential sponsoring organizations not to sponsor the school. ODE acknowledges it made organizations aware of the school’s performance issues.

Allen ruled that ODE made it difficult for the school to find a new sponsor and that closing the school would do harm to its students. Ninety-nine percent of VLT’s students are economically disadvantaged. The school has lost a third of its student body, and subsequently almost $2 million in funding, in the past three years as Pendleton and Over-the-Rhine undergo demographic shifts.

• State Rep. Connie Pillich will hold a roundtable discussion today in Cincinnati as part of a state-wide tour around veterans’ issues. That tour began July 2 in Huber Heights. The meeting with local veterans will focus on financial challenges facing the military community, including the need for financial literacy education for veterans and state-level unemployment benefits for their spouses. Pillich is a Democrat who has represented Montgomery in the state legislature since 2009. She’s currently vacating that seat to challenge State Treasurer Josh Mandel. She’s touting her efforts on veterans issues and her service in the armed forces as she travels around the state to meet with veterans and their families. Before her political career, Pillich served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years and did support duties during Operation Desert Storm.

• The Cincinnati Park Board settled a federal lawsuit today brought by several residents of Over-the-Rhine regarding rules put in place after the 2012 renovation at Washington Park. The residents said the rules, which forbade distributing food and clothing in the park and taking items out of trashcans, were drawn up without public scrutiny and designed to keep the homeless out of the park. The city dropped the rules in September 2012. The city has not commented on how it decided upon the rules in the first place. The amount of today’s settlement in the case wasn’t disclosed.

Architect Magazine pulled no punches in an editorial on General Electric’s proposed new building at The Banks yesterday.  Written by former Cincinnati Art Museum Director Aaron Betsky, a noted architecture critic, the piece caustically derided the building, and The Banks, for a gutless lack of panache.

“Cincinnati, a proud city with a great heritage busily squandering it, will be stuck with the results of its own shortsightedness,” Betsky wrote in the piece. Ouch.

• Gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald and attorney general hopeful David Pepper will ask the Ohio General Assembly to provide more money for heroin clinics today in a press conference in Columbus. The Democrats say clinics around the state face a $20 million shortfall after recent changes in the way federal money is distributed. The heroin crisis has been a big talking point for Pepper, who has criticized Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine over his handling of the surge in addiction-related deaths.

• The number of people commuting by bicycle is up 60 percent nationally from the year 2000, according to recent data from the U.S. Census. But that data also show another dynamic–most of that increase has come from relatively wealthy, white commuters who can afford to choose how they roll. Among low-income people, especially people of color, the desire for car ownership is much higher and the value placed on alternate means of commuting is much lower. This may be because people in low income neighborhoods face much longer commute times and an environment without the necessary infrastructure for safe cycling. But there are also probably social factors at play — cars are still strong symbols of success across all levels of society in the U.S., and low income commuters desire those symbols as much as anyone.

• Finally, if you’re looking for the next big (literally, huge) thing in hip living arrangements, I’ve got you covered. If a renovated row house makes you yawn, and a partially reconstructed loft space is just too domestic for you, how about living in a Boeing 727? Bruce Campbell (no, not THAT Bruce Campbell, though I can totally see this plane abode being the setting of a campy horror flick) of Oregon is leading the way on this brave new trend. Share with all your friends who are still really, really, into Lost.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.14.2014 8 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

First anniversary of streetcar contracts, compost gone wild and shooting at helicopters

One year ago today, the city signed contracts to start construction on the streetcar. Fast forward 365 days, and the new transit loop through downtown and Over-the-Rhine is quickly taking shape. Roads are closed as major sections of track go in. Workers are constructing concrete slabs for the passenger stops. The cars themselves are being built. And the city recently named downtown-based Kolar Design to do branding work for the streetcar. The Business Courier has photos of the progress so far. Or you can just drive through Over-the-Rhine and see for yourself. Just don’t take Race Street if you’re hoping to get downtown — it's still closed at 12th Street.

• We’ve all lived with roommates who don’t always take out their garbage. It’s gross. But I guess it could be worse. Like, tens of thousands of times worse. The city recently shut down a compost company called Cincy Compost in Winton Hills after two years of complaints from miles around about the ghastly smells emanating from what is effectively an 80,000 pound pile of rotting food, but things could get worse before they get better. The heap, which is piled two feet deep, needs to be cleaned up by the city now that the company is no longer in business. It seems the business didn’t get the correct balance of garbage for the compost process to work and was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of garbage it took in. It racked up 45 code violations while it was open. Now the city will have to spend $250,000 to kick-start the process and finish turning the garbage into soil. That involves stirring all that garbage around, basically, which is only going to make the smell worse in the short-term. Gross.

• Community groups in the city will be holding a rally calling for an end to violence in the city at 7 p.m. in Piatt Park today. Last week, four people were shot, one fatally, in two separate but related incidents at the park. Cincinnati saw a surge in shootings early in the year, though that trend has slowed and the city may not see an increase over last year’s 75 murders. Forty-two people have been murdered in the city this year, many with guns.

• One guy who will not be at that rally, I’d imagine, is this dude, who threatened to shoot down a University of Cincinnati Health Air Care helicopter yesterday. Angry that the helicopter was flying too low over his Green Township house, Leonard Pflanz is accused of driving to Mercy West Hospital and telling the helicopter’s pilot that he would shoot him if he did it again. Pflanz is appearing in court this morning over charges stemming from the threat.

• General Motors may soon be in some big trouble with federal prosecutors, who are investigating whether the company made false statements about a defect in some of its cars that has killed at least 13 people. The defect relates to an ignition switch problem that has caused some GM cars to lose power while operating. The feds accuse GM of making misleading statements to the public about the defect, downplaying the dangers of the defective switches. The company has already been fined $35 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for dragging its feet in response to the problem. Some believe GM’s ultimate liability could end up being even more than the $1.2 billion Toyota was ordered to pay earlier this year over similar charges.

• Finally, Smithsonian Magazine reports that skin cells may be able to detect odors and that some of these odors may aid the body in the healing process. Basically, this means the whole surface of your body is receptive to smells in one way or another. This is interesting, maybe even great news, unless of course you live near a failed composting facility or something.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.11.2014 11 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
japps5_jilliantellep

Morning News and Stuff

Gay blood drive, CPD out in force for Bunbury, Esquire visits Cincy

We're mere hours from freedom, folks. I'll be quick today and give you the morning news rundown in short order so you’re ready for the weekend.

If you’re a gay or bisexual man, the Food and Drug Administration won’t let you give blood. A blood drive today at UC’s Hoxworth Blood Center in Corryville is drawing attention to that rule hoping to get it changed. The FDA first instituted the policy in 1984 at the height of the AIDS crisis.

Gay and bisexual men are encouraged to bring eligible proxy donors to Hoxworth today as well as sign a national petition to the White House asking it to reconsider the rule. Organizers hope to get 50 donors, and if you want to give to the cause, get to Hoxworth or call for an appointment before 4:30 today. The center has computers where you can sign the petition, which needs 100,000 signatures nationally by the end of the month. The blood drive is part of a national gay blood drive taking place in 60 cities today.

• After a pretty harrowing week downtown (four people were shot in two incidents near Piatt Park, one of whom died of his injuries) the Cincinnati Police Department says it will be out in force this weekend for Bunbury Music Festival.  CPD has instituted a no vacation policy for officers over the next few days so they can cover downtown and the rest of the city. Apologies to all the hard-working officers out there who were looking forward to partying with Andrew W.K.

Police Chief Ken Blackwell says it’s part of a larger effort to make sure police are ready for big summer events. These include the National Urban League Conference coming the last weekend in July, which features a keynote address by Vice President Joe Biden. That weekend will also be an all-hands-on-deck scenario, Blackwell says.

“The bottom line is that we took an oath to protect the city, and sometimes police work calls on you to work long hours and do stuff you ordinarily wouldn't want to do,” he told WLWT yesterday.

• Those fancy New Yorkers at Esquire stumbled across our quaint little river town yesterday, it seems, and decided it was noteworthy enough to write about. Overall, it’s a super-positive piece about the city, which is awesome. There are some stumbles in the article, though–originally it spelled the city’s name as “Cincinatti,” called Vine Street “Vine Avenue” (both since fixed) and asserted that local treasure and all-around swell bar Japp’s Since 1879 has been serving for 120 years. That's especially befuddling because the name implies it’s been open for 135 years, though it actually opened in 2011. Also puzzling is the writer’s assertion that revitalization in the city is without “inherent class warfare.” As far as I can tell, that’s been a pretty visible fight here in the city for decades, but, you know. These are small quibbles. The piece does highlight some great spots in town, including Japp’s, Everybody’s Records (no Shake-It, though!) and Holtman’s Donuts. It also enlightened me on a possible place to get a haircut downtown. Anyway, you should check out the article, even if it’s only to copy edit it further.

• Finally, here’s an interesting article about how ride share company Uber is restructuring how much it charges for rides, and why that matters in the grand scheme of urban transportation. With Uber and Lyft becoming more of a force in the Cincinnati area, it’s a good read.

 
 
 
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