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by 02.25.2010
Posted In: Community, City Council, Neighborhoods at 03:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Berding's Proposal Prompts Boycott Call

A long-simmering dispute about how much oversight should be imposed on a contractor that doles out city money for neighborhood projects is heating up again.

Just when it looked like Cincinnati officials were about to restore a contract to Invest In Neighborhoods Inc. (IIN) to manage the city’s Neighborhood Support Program (NSP), a stumbling block has occurred.

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by 09.29.2010

Westwood Group Strongarms Summit

When CityBeat heard the Westwood Civic Association was planning a so-called “West Side Summit,” the group's leader responded that he was seeking input from various West Side neighborhood groups and that they could help set the agenda.

A recent e-mail exchange between WCA President John Sess and a Community Press reporter, however, in which Sess attempts to get publicity for the event, paints a somewhat different picture about its purpose.

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by Danny Cross 05.01.2012

Mock Rally For Western & Southern Scheduled For Wednesday

Group will show support for ‘bullying’ of Anna Louise Inn

UPDATE: The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless has canceled its Wednesday mock rally for Western & Southern Financial Group. The Coalition Tuesday evening released the following statement: "Due to a change in plans the mock 'Rally to Support Western and Southern' has been canceled. Stay tuned for upcoming gatherings and events to support the Women of the Anna Louise Inn as we fight for the right of self determination."

The following is CityBeat's Tuesday afternoon blog post in response to the event announcement:

The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless is helping to organize a mock rally to support what it believes is the bullying of the Anna Louise Inn women’s shelter by Western & Southern Financial Group. The mock group will be called “Citizens for Corporate Bullies” and will hold signs that say “Greed is Good,” “We Support Corporate Bullies,” “Poor Women Not Welcome” and “W&S Take Whatever You Want.” The event begins a noon May 2 at 4th and Sycamore streets.

The Coalition has created a fake persona who supports W&S’s desire to build condos to attract a more desirable class of residents and rhetorically asks, “Besides, what gives the Anna Louis Inn the right to stay in that building just because they own it and it’s been there for a hundred years?”

The protest is in response to ongoing legal issues surrounding the Inn’s proposed expansion and W&S’s development efforts in the neighborhood. CityBeat last October reported on the situation in a story titled, “Putting on the Pressure: Western & Southern won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” The following is an excerpt summarizing the situation then:

Last summer the facility’s owners rebuffed an offer from the powerful Western & Southern Financial Group to buy their property, triggering a heated legal battle. The company, located near the Anna Louise Inn in the affluent Lytle Park district on downtown’s eastern edge, wanted the site so it could demolish or redevelop the Inn and build upscale condominiums.

After the offer was rejected, the Anna Louise Inn continued with a long-planned renovation and was awarded a $2.7 million loan by Cincinnati City Council. That’s when Western & Southern filed a lawsuit against the Inn and the city, alleging zoning violations. 

The showdown pits the Inn, opened in 1909 with the help of prominent attorney Charles P. Taft, against a company that ranks in the Fortune 500 and is headed by CEO John Barrett, an ex-chairman of the Cincinnati Business Committee who is widely considered one of the most powerful men in the city.

The facility’s owners and some city officials say Western & Southern is trying to use its sizable financial resources publicly, along with its political clout behind the scenes, to strong-arm opponents and get what it wants.

Representatives for W&S have stated that the company's $3 million offer to purchase the building is fair and have also offered to aid the Inn in finding a new location.

WVXU reported that supporters of the Inn held a rally April 4 calling for a quick judgment in a court case that could delay funding for the renovation.

by Kevin Osborne 04.02.2012
Posted In: Courts, City Council, Spending, Neighborhoods, Poverty at 08:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Morning News and Stuff

The person hired 15 months ago to lead the Hamilton County Public Defender's Office is having extreme conflicts with her staff, according to an assessment done for the commission that oversees the office. Before she was hired here, Shelia Kyle-Reno headed a much smaller public defender's office based in Elizabethtown, Ky. “It is obvious that the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office is an office characterized by high conflict, mistrust, poor communication and a lack of a shared vision,” the report states. The office provides free legal services for poor people charged with crimes.

Cincinnati City Council's budget and finance committee will hold a public hearing Tuesday evening to get input on what cuts to make to deal with a reduction in federal funding. The city is grappling with a $630,000 drop in grant funding for neighborhood projects and a $300,000 drop in funding for affordable housing. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is urging his colleagues to block a plan to spend $4.4 million to renovate City Hall's atrium so it can be rented for special events, and instead spend that money to avoid cuts in the other programs.

A 20-year-old soldier from Kentucky was killed in Afghanistan. The U.S. Defense Department said Army Spc. David W. Taylor, of Dixon, Ky., died on Thursday in Kandahar province. The military didn't say how Taylor died.

Here's some good news for people getting ready to graduate from college. Hiring of college graduates is expected to climb 10.02 percent on campuses in 2012, a increase from the previous estimate of 9.5 percent, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

A Republican-backed bill that would limit the amount of damages paid to consumers by businesses found to have engaged in deceptive practices is expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Kasich this week. The bill would exempt businesses from paying certain damages if a consumer rejects a settlement offer and is later awarded less in court. The National Consumer Law Center has said Ohio would have one of the weakest consumer protection laws in the nation if the bill is signed, reducing incentives for companies to change fradulent practices.

In news elsewhere, research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that Americans age 60 and older still owe about $36 billion in student loans, and more than 10 percent of those loans are delinquent. As a result, some Social Security checks are being garnished and debt collectors are harassing borrowers in their 80s about student loans that are decades old. Some economists say the long-touted benefits of a college degree are being diluted by rising tuition rates and the longevity of debt.

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and other Republicans seeking elective office this year are strenuously avoiding any mention or appearance with the most recent president from their party, George W. Bush. Although Romney recently picked up endorsements from Dubya's father and brother, George H.W. Bush and Jeb Bush respectively, POTUS No. 43 is keeping a low profile. Do you think it might be due to two bungled wars and the recession that started on his watch? Nah. (And yet they want to continue his policies.)

Some British politicians and civil rights activists are protesting plans by the government to give the intelligence service the ability to monitor the telephone calls, e-mails, text messages and Internet use of every person in the United Kingdom. Under the proposal, revealed in The Sunday Times of London, a law to be introduced later this year would allow the authorities to order Internet companies to install hardware enabling the government’s monitoring agency to examine individual communications without a warrant. George Orwell was right: Big Brother is watching you.

In what's becoming an increasingly frequent headline, TV commentator Keith Olbermann has been fired from another job. Olbermann was terminated Friday by Current TV, and replaced by ex-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Olbermann had hosted Countdown, which he brought from MSNBC after his exit there, since June. Sources say Olbermann was let go for various reasons including continual complaints about staff, refusing to toss to other peoples' shows or appear in advertisements with them.

Iraq's “fugitive” Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has rejected Baghdad's demand for Qatar to extradite him, stating he enjoys constitutional immunity and hasn't been convicted of any crime. Hashemi is accused of having operated a secret death squad in Iraq.
by Hannah McCartney 10.10.2013
Posted In: Neighborhoods, News, Drugs at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
elm men

Building Preservation Group Scrutinizes Transitional House

Anywhere but here.

That's the common response when city residents are asked where group homes for men and women experiencing homelessness and/or recovering from drug or alcohol addiction should be operated.

While most citizens seem to agree that the group recovery facilities like halfway homes and supportive housing are generally a good thing, there's one point everyone seems to disagree on: where to put them.

Most recently, a 100-unit supportive housing development that would house chronically homeless and disabled, low-income individuals became the subject of much ire when residents near the proposed site in Avondale complained the facility would threaten the safety and revival efforts in an area already oversaturated with low-income housing.  

Now, a Ludlow, Ky., branch of a local entity operating transitional housing facilities for recovering addicts across the Greater Cincinnati area is facing scrutiny from the Ludlow Historic Society, a small advocacy group that works to promote and preserve the neighborhood's historic buildings.

In an email to society members obtained by CityBeat, Ludlow Historic Society President Ruth Bamberger wrote:

While we believe that ex-addicts need housing, the city has serious concerns with its ability under current law to control or limit housing to this population. The Ludlow Historic Society is likewise concerned because we are striving to maintain and improve our housing stock in Ludlow, and especially make the city a desirable place for young people to own their homes and raise their families.

Bamberger specifically cited concerns about the program’s legitimacy, its proximity to schools and its affect on the Ludlow housing market. 

New Foundations Transitional Living (NFTL), a for-profit, private transitional housing operator founded in 2010, runs seven sober houses across the Greater Cincinnati area for men and women who have successfully completed a detox or rehab program and have been discharged from the court system. 

NFTL also works with treatment centers and probation officers to monitor residents entering the program. The program supports itself completely from rental fees paid by patients in the program; residents are charged $322 per month for housing, amenities and some therapeutic and rehabilitation services. 

Transitional living facilities for drug and alcohol rehabilitation generally provide low-cost housing to people recovering from addiction interested in getting their lives back on track, while "halfway houses" usually cater to people recently released from incarceration that need more rehabilitation to assimilate back into society.

Jason Lee Overbey, director for New Foundations Transitional Living, thinks that Bamberger’s contempt is berthed from misinformation and stereotyping.  “New Foundations is not low-income housing,” he says. “We are not a shelter. We are an organization providing residents a safe place to reside — with structure, observation and assignments — to begin and maintain their journey in recovery."

Overbey says that all applicants go through an extensive screening prior to being accepted. NFTL doesn't accept sex offenders, arsonists or anyone with an open felony or misdemeanor warrant, and prospective residents also have to commit to stay drug- or alcohol-free and maintain employment.

“The people that live in our facilities dress nice, they smell nice, they’re educated,” he says. “A lot of our residents are professionals themselves. They pay taxes, shop, go to church, give back to the community in Ludlow. Who should we be more worried about, them or someone anonymous in the neighborhood who could be violent or actively abusing?”

The Ludlow, Ky., location, Elm Men's House, currently houses 13 patients who have either willingly checked themselves into the program and were accepted following a comprehensive application process or ordered to live in one of the facilities by a court, although those mandated comprise less than half of NFTL's residents.  

The Historical Society held a private meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8 in Ludlow's City Council chambers with City Administrator Brian Richmond. Overbey says the Historical Society has not responded to New Foundations' meeting requests.

Neither of the two buildings encompassing the Ludlow facility are actually designated as "historic."

There’s not much information on the community ripple effects of transitional housing, although one 2010 study found residents were achieving significant improvement or total abstinence, ultimately concluding:

The promising outcomes for SLH residents suggest that sober living houses might play more substantive roles for persons: 1) completing residential treatment, 2) attending outpatient treatment, 3) seeking non-treatment alternatives for recovery, and 4) entering the community after criminal justice incarceration.

The Ludlow Historic Society could not be reached for comment.

by Kevin Osborne 01.30.2012
Posted In: City Council, Youth, Neighborhoods, Community at 04:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Simpson Wants Youth Job Improvements

Cincinnati City Council is set to approve $960,000 to fund this year’s Summer Youth Employment Program, but the councilwoman overseeing the process wants to begin collecting data to track outcomes and increase efficiency.

Council’s Budget and Finance Committee this afternoon heard a presentation from city staffers about plans for the 2012 program, which is designed to provide employment and training for low-income youth.

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by Kevin Osborne 04.30.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati City Council will soon create a working group of leaders from six neighborhoods near the planned downtown casino site. Once organized, the working group will examine ways to maximize the benefits from the visitors, jobs and tax revenue the new casino will bring, while dealing with any problems like possible increases in crime. The neighborhoods involved in the effort are downtown, Pendleton, Mount Adams, Mount Auburn, Over-the-Rhine and Walnut Hills.

A winner has finally been announced in a disputed judicial election from November 2010. Once a count of provisional ballots was completed Friday, Democrat Tracie Hunter was declared the victor over Republican John Williams by 71 votes. Because of the close margin, however, a recount likely will be held. Hunter seemingly lost the 2010 election by just 23 votes out of nearly 230,000 ballots cast by county voters, but 286 ballots weren't counted because they were cast by people who showed up to vote at the correct polling place but were misdirected by poll workers and voted at the wrong precinct table. Hunter filed a lawsuit, and two federal courts ultimately agreed the ballots should be tallied.

Since taking office in October, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler has cracked down on bail bond agents who owe money to the court system. During the past seven months, Winkler has collected $1.3 million of the $2.1 million owed by bond agents and their insurance companies. Since the early 1990s, several previous clerks of courts allowed some bond agents not to pay bonds forfeited when their clients didn’t appear in court, resulting in a large amount of forfeited but uncollected bonds owed to the governments involved in the cases.

The results of an investigation into the recent actions of Villa Hills Mayor Mike Martin will be released at a meeting tonight. Martin is accused of retaliatory behavior and comments, misuse of city facilities, violating the Open Records Act and burning city documents, according to WCPO-TV (Channel 9). Several council members have requested that Martin resign, but he has refused.

Motorists that use the Norwood Lateral to access southbound Interstate 75 will have to find a new route for the next 45 days. Beginning today, work to replace a bridge deck will require a closure of the ramp from westbound Norwood Lateral to southbound I-75. Traffic will be detoured to northbound I-75 to Paddock Road to southbound I-75.

In news elsewhere, the CIA is ignoring the Pakistani government's directives and has resumed the use of automated drone attacks within that nation's borders. The drone strikes killed four al-Qaeda-linked fighters Sunday in a girls’ school they had taken over in the North Waziristan tribal area. Some politicians said the drone strikes might set back negotiations over the reopening of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan that Pakistan blocked five months ago.

If the U.S. Supreme Court rules to strike down the federal government's mandate that individuals must buy health insurance, some observers say state governments might have to enact their own versions or pass other measures to draw healthy people into the system so their insurance markets remain viable. Ironically, lawmakers in the states opposing the federal mandate could face pressure from insurance companies to pass state mandates if the high court doesn’t also strike down the rules preventing them from charging more or denying coverage to sicker people.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said negotiations with Iran should be given time to work before launching a military strike against the nation's nuclear facilities. Olmert, who was prime minister from 2006-09, was in office when a suspected nuclear site in Syria was attacked in five years ago.

A few days after the United Kingdom entered into a double-dip recession, Spain has followed suit. The recession, defined as two months of “negative growth,” was blamed on weak domestic demand that was only partially compensated by exports, according to data from the National Statistics Institute. It was the first official estimate to confirm a recession. Gross domestic product fell 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights activist under house arrest in China, has escaped his captors and gone into hiding. A dissident who met Chen in Beijing after his escape said Chen scaled a wall by night to escape from his village in eastern China, past guards and surveillance equipment. A human rights group says Chen has taken shelter in the U.S. embassy, but American officials have not publicly confirmed the reports.
by 08.04.2011
Posted In: News, Community, Neighborhoods, Human Rights at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Harris, Walker to Lead CHRC

The Cincinnati Human Relations Commission (CHRC), a quasi-independent agency based at City Hall, has a new chairman and vice chairwoman.

The CHRC's board of directors has elected Robert Harris to serve as chairman, and Carla Walker to serve as vice chairwoman.

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by Maija Zummo 06.08.2010
Posted In: Community, Neighborhoods, Urban Planning at 06:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Urbanophile Blog Loves Our Assets

Urban analyst Aaron M. Renn is a consultant, speaker, writer and blogger on a mission to "help America's cities thrive and find sustainable success in the 21st century." His popular blog, The Urbanophile, examines different cities and explores a variety of urban planning topics, including innovative strategies for urban success.

Aaron recently posted a lovely long song to our fine city saying we have "the greatest collection of assets of any city [our] size in America," even going so far as to say that the Queen City has an "embarrassment of riches."

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by Kevin Osborne 04.16.2012

Morning News and Stuff

The Enquirer ran a lengthy, glowing article over the weekend about the ongoing redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine and 3CDC's central role in helping it occur — all of which is well and good. But the piece, which contained more than 1,900 words, could only find space for 125 words critical of the effort and none at all for a direct quote from 3CDC's critics. (That's about 1/16th for the those keeping track at home.) Maybe that's because Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan sits on 3CDC's executive committee and is in charge of publicity for the group, which was yet another fact curiously missing from the article.

Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, Hamilton County's new coroner, attended a screening of the film, Bully, over the weekend. Her appearance was part of an effort to draw attention to bullying and child abuse during Child Abuse Awareness Month. The documentary relates the tales of several students across the United States who have been tormented by their peers. Its distributor, The Weinstein Co., released the film without a rating after the MPAA announced it would give it a “NC-17” rating for coarse language, which would've prohibited anyone under the age of 17 — the movie's primary audience — from seeing it.

Cincinnati Reds superstar Joey Votto hit a two-run double in the 11th inning Sunday, which allowed his team to avoid a four-game sweep by giving it an 8-5 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Some Covington business leaders are upset that a current plan to build a new span to replace the Brent Spence Bridge doesn't include any exits into the city's downtown. As proposed, motorists on southbound Interstate 75 would have to exit the highway about a mile earlier, near Ezzard Charles Drive in Cincinnati, to reach the Northern Kentucky locale.

Just up I-75 a bit, a new report reveals the city of Dayton has the highest office vacancy rate among the nation’s metropolitan areas, and the portion of its office space that is unoccupied is at least at a 13-year high. The struggling Rust Belt city had about 27.3 percent of its office space vacant in the first quarter of this year, according to Reis Inc., a New York-based commercial real estate research group.

In news elsewhere, Taliban insurgents and government security forces clashed over the weekend in Afghanistan. A series of insurgent attacks Sunday left four civilians and 11 members of the security forces dead. Afterward, security forces launched a counter-offensive that killed three dozen assailants, including some suicide bombers.

President Hamid Karzai linked Sunday's militant attacks to intelligence failures, especially on the part of NATO. In his first response to the attacks, Karzai praised the performance of the Afghan security forces. He gave tribute to the "bravery and sacrifice of the security forces who quickly and timely reacted to contain the terrorists," a French news agency reported.

The trial began today for Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-Islamic militant who allegedly killed 77 people last summer during a shooting rampage in Norway. Breivik, 33, was defiant at the proceedings. Asked by a judge whether he wished to plead guilty, Breivik replied, “I acknowledge the acts but I don’t plead guilty as I claim I was doing it in self-defense.” He has previously said his actions were meant to discourage further Islamic immigration.

As the deadline looms for the filing of federal income tax returns, a new Gallup Poll finds Americans fall into two almost evenly matched camps: those who believe the amount they pay in federal income tax is too high (46 percent) and those who consider it "about right" (47 percent). Just 3 percent consider their taxes too low.

The United States and China have been discreetly engaging in "war games" amid rising anger in Washington over the scale and audacity of Beijing-organized cyber attacks on western governments and Big Business, London's Guardian newspaper has reported. State Department and Pentagon officials, along with their Chinese counterparts, were involved in two war games last year that were designed to help prevent a sudden military escalation between the sides if either felt they were being targeted. Another session is planned for May.