Good morning all. Here’s your news for this morning.
First, let's go to something we’ve been talking about here at CityBeat HQ for a little bit now: Who might oppose Mayor John Cranley in 2017? One of the top names on a lot of people's lips (and someone we’ve speculated might launch a campaign) over the past few months has been Democrat Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. This is kind of a non-news story, but Simpson has said she hasn’t ruled out that possibility. She gave the standard “I’m still focused on my current job” answer when asked by The Cincinnati Enquirer about the possibility but also said she would consider running against her fellow Democrat. Simpson and Cranley have vastly different styles and, at times, very different policy ideas. The two have butted heads often in Council, including over provisions for human services funding in the city’s budget process and former Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell’s firing last year.
• It’s official: The Hamilton County GOP has tapped Dennis Deters to fill the Hamilton County Commission seat vacated by outgoing commission head Greg Hartmann. The move has been widely expected since Deters, brother to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, filed to run for that slot in the 2016 election. The county GOP named Deters as a temporary fill-in after Hartmann abruptly announced he would not seek reelection and then that he would step down early. The temporary gig gives Deters a better chance at landing the full-time job: He’ll have almost a year of incumbency when he faces off against Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus, who looks to be a formidable opponent.
• Well, how do you like that? This is the third day in a row I’ve written a blurb about Ken Griffey, Jr., who will be wearing a Seattle Mariners hat in his Hall of Fame plaque. Yes, yes, he spent more of his professional years there, I guess. And scored way more home runs and by every other statistic had his best years there. But come on. Dude went to high school in Cincinnati and played for years with the Reds — as did his dad Ken Griffey, Sr. The Griffey name is a Cincinnati name. Wait, his dad played for the Mariners, too? Ugh. Fine. Take him, Seattle. We have a bunch of Hall of Famers of our own, and we invented professional baseball anyway.
• So, extending the theme of surprisingly famous Cincinnatians I’ve drawn out over the past few days, let’s get one more in there before the weekend. Did you know that a Cincy attorney made the cover of the New York Times Magazine recently? And that Rob Bilot, who works for a law firm usually tasked with defending big corporations, is on that cover for aggressively pursuing one of the world’s largest, DuPont, over environmental damage its caused in West Virginia? The story is a very good read and worth a look.
• Here’s something kind of unusual: the Ohio Republican Party has voted to endorse Gov. John Kasich’s bid in the GOP presidential primary. That may seem like a no-brainer — Kasich is governor of the state, after all, and one of the state party’s most powerful members — but state-level parties usually stay neutral in primaries so they can support party voters’ choice of candidate better in the general election. Party officials say they’ve made the move because Kasich is popular in the state and has a strong conservative record. The nod could be a big boost for Kasich: Republicans desperately need Ohio to win the presidential election.
• Finally, this is the same story nearly every month, but here it is again: the U.S. economy added nearly 300,000 jobs in December. Things are going pretty well, employment level-wise, unless you’re a miner, in which case things are probably not going so well on a number of levels. Mining jobs were one of the few categories that saw losses. But it’s not all good news. Like past positive job gains, this one comes with the caveat that wages remain flat for U.S. workers. There were zero wage gains in the month of December, and pay for employees across the country rose just 2.5 percent in 2015 overall.
Annnnd I’m out. E-mail or tweet me story tips or the best gear/tricks for cold-weather bicycling. Also, give me a shout if you have thoughts about the Netflix docu-drama Making a Murderer. I have so many half-baked thoughts about that show.
Good morning all. Here’s a very brief rundown of some big stories in the news today.
As we told you about yesterday, a law enforcement roundtable convened by Mayor John Cranley met in Bond Hill to discuss ways to reduce violence, especially gun violence, in Cincinnati neighborhoods. There were a few key takeaways from community leaders like Rev. Damon Lynch, Ozie Davis III, State Sen. Cecil Thomas and others. Some stressed the need to build off the city’s historic 2001 collaborative agreement, which sets community policing expectations and police accountability measures. Others pushed for juvenile justice reform, citing huge racial disparities in juvenile warrants issued by Hamilton County. Poverty was also highlighted as a key issue. There will be five community discussions around the issue of neighborhood violence throughout January and February.
• Yesterday, Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame with a record-setting percentage of voter in the process giving him the nod. Griffey received 99.3 percent of the votes from those responsible for choosing inductees, the highest of any player ever.
• Local beer purveyor MadTree brewery is expanding, moving into an $18 million brewery and taproom it is constructing in Oakley. That brewery will be at the old RockTenn Co. paper mill on Madison Road. On top of the 4,500-square-foot bar, they’ll also have a pizza restaurant on site. Omg. I wonder if they’ll let me live there.
• By now, you’ve probably heard of the militiamen who have taken over a wildlife refuge in Oregon in protest of the federal government and two ranchers who have been imprisoned for arson. But did you know there’s a Cincinnatian among the two dozen or so armed men involved in the standoff? Pete Santilli hosts a conservative online radio show here. Well, usually he does. These days he’s hunkered down with the group in Oregon and acting as a sort of spokesman for them. He recently posted a nearly hour-and-a-half-long video of the scene at the wildlife refuge. Cincinnati always finds its way into national news somehow, I guess.
• More Cincinnatians in national news: Bill Sloat, a Hamilton County resident, former newspaper reporter (including freelance for CityBeat), has asked the Hamilton County Board of Elections to verify that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is eligible to run for president. The constitution stipulates that presidents must be naturalized U.S. citizens. Cruz was born in Canada, though his parents were citizens of the U.S. at the time, giving Cruz dual citizenship. Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship before announcing he was running for president. But Sloat, who says he thinks Cruz probably is qualified to run for the top job, has asked Hamilton County to wade into the question before it puts him on the March 15 GOP primary ballot.
• Finally, well, there’s no good way to say this, so let’s just come out with it. Schools in Ohio plummeted in national rankings last year, going from fifth in the country to 23rd. Driving a lot of that drop? The state’s skyrocketing achievement gap between rich and poor students. Ohio ranks 43rd in the nation by that measure. Massachusetts ranked highest in the country in the rankings. Nevada was last.
Good morning y’all. There are tons of things going on in the news today, so let’s get right to it.
Mayor John Cranley is convening a community policing roundtable this morning in Bond Hill that will feature Cincinnati Police Department Chief Eliot Isaac, City Manager Harry Black and more than 20 community leaders. The effort comes as gun violence in communities continues to be a subject of great concern among city leaders. While violent crime in the city as a whole has remained flat, shootings in 2015 rose 28 percent over 2014 levels. While those numbers are still well below peak levels recorded in past decades, city officials say they’re unacceptable. The roundtable discussion starts at 10 a.m. at 1740 Langdon Farm Road. Five other community listening sessions will also be held over the next two months, including sessions Jan. 11 at the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center, Jan. 25 at the Evanston Recreation Center, Feb. 1 at the Westwood Town Hall, Feb. 8 at the Bond Hill Community Center and Feb. 22 at the College Hill Community Center.
• As we mentioned yesterday, future riders of Cincinnati’s coming streetcar are one step closer to knowing what times they’ll be able to cruise the 3.6-mile loop. Cincinnati City Council’s Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee yesterday approved hours suggested by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Agency, priming full Council to give final approval today. The cars will start at 6:30 a.m. on weekdays for you OTR/downtown commuters. They’ll end at 1 a.m. on weekends for you OTR/downtown drinkers. For more, check out the full story linked above.
• Speaking of the streetcar: The wise sage P-Diddy once said he couldn’t stop until he saw his name on a blimp. (Did that ever happen, btw? Can P-Diddy stop now?) Similarly, city leaders can’t stop until they see someone else’s name on the side of the streetcar. With the months ticking down until the first passengers step on board, the race is on to find sponsors willing to plunk down some big bucks to plant their logo on the side of the strange-looking space trains. A deal with a major corporation or other large organization could net the transit project’s operating fund between $100,000 and $300,000 a year. Hm. I wonder what Bad Boy Records marketing budget is running these days? Paging Puff…
• Maybe the political action committee supporting Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld could buy some streetcar-mounted campaign ads. (This seems incredibly problematic, actually, but it’s a great segue so let’s go with it.) New Leadership for Ohio, a super-PAC boosting Sittenfeld’s Senate Democratic primary bid against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, has raised a pretty impressive $733,501 over its 100-some-odd days of existence. The super-PAC says the number is a very real sign of the support Sittenfeld has across the state as he seeks the nod to go head-to-head with incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman. Sittenfeld’s campaign and other groups like New Leadership will need to keep making phone calls, though. Portman has a cool $11 million stacked for his re-election campaign. That’s P-Diddy money right there.
• Expect social media blitzes and other ads to come from the super-PAC’s big haul, including ads hitting both Strickland and Portman on their gun control records. Sittenfeld has come out a strong supporter of gun control efforts, including those introduced by President Barack Obama yesterday.
• This is a quick but good one. Hometown hero and baseball legend Ken Griffey, Jr. is poised to gain induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
What’s more, he could be the first-ever player to receive a unanimous vote
for entry into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. (Fellow former Red Tom
Seaver has come closest. He got 98 percent yesses on his induction
vote.) All that in Griffey’s first year of eligibility — Griffey retired
• Dang. Cincinnati people are super-famous and making prestigious lists all over the place: Two Cincinnati-based entrepreneurs just made Forbes magazine’s annual “30 under 30” list. Over-the-Rhine-based startup incubator Mortar founders Derrick Braziel and William Thomas received the honor for their work with the business booster, which focuses on helping those with good business ideas who have traditionally been left out of the startup game up. Mortar’s latest success: a holiday pop-up shop featuring participants’ products in Walnut Hills.
• Remember when your stoner friends were telling you that if you didn’t vote for ResponsibleOhio’s plan to legalize marijuana in the state, there would be no chance for a companion bill that wipes away low-level weed convictions? Well, that was some bad information, which is surprising because my stoner friends are generally very accurate and informed about the ins and outs of cannabis jurisprudence.
Secretary of State Jon Husted has pushed the so-called “Fresh Start Act” offered along with ResponsibleOhio’s proposed constitutional amendment on to Ohio’s General Assembly, where lawmakers will decide whether or not to institute it. The law could allow citizens in Ohio to apply to have convictions for certain low-level marijuana possession expunged. It’s unclear whether lawmakers will pass the bill, or how effective it would be without its complementary weed-legalization constitutional amendment, though multiple groups are working to get another legalization effort on the ballot this year.
• Finally, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is in danger of suffering a major blow to his already-lagging GOP presidential primary campaign. There are indications the big queso may not make it onto the grown-up stage at the next GOP debate next Thursday, which means he’ll be relegated to a second-tier debate with other low-polling candidates. That would be a huge setback: Kasich’s campaign at this point hinges on his breaking through to a national audience, which is most likely to happen with a few big moments in a solid debate performance. Right now, he’s trailing far behind highly charismatic and well-funded frontrunners like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and real estate hairpiece model Donald Trump.
Though you’ll be waiting a while if you try to catch one any time soon, riders now have an idea of exactly what times they’ll be able to catch the coming streetcar when it starts picking up passengers in September.
Cincinnati City Council’s Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee approved operating hours presented by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority at its Jan. 5 meeting. That sets up full Council to approve those hours as soon as Jan. 6.
The streetcar will run Monday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. until midnight and from 6:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday. On Saturday, the cars will run the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown from 8 a.m. until 1 a.m. On Sundays and holidays, the transit vehicles will run from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The cars will run every 12 minutes during peak operating hours, which SORTA suggests will be Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. All other times, the cars will run every 15 minutes.
“We tried to build a schedule that would address a lot of concerns” raised at past City Council meetings and in public forums, says SORTA’s director of rail services Paul Grether. Those concerns mostly revolved around consistent start times for the vehicles, hours early enough for commuters to get to work and late operating hours to serve patrons of bars and restaurants in OTR and downtown.
Earlier suggestions for operating hours started later and ended earlier, except on weekends, when it would have run until 2 a.m.
Council members on the committee seemed satisfied with the schedule.
“We’ve had people downtown from the bars and nightlife places who have said how they’d like it to stay open late,” Transportation Committee Chair Amy Murray said at the Jan. 5 meeting. “And we’ve also talked to early-morning businesses to see what time the peak morning time is. I think this really sets it up. It seems like this really captures what people have been asking for.”
SORTA officials say seasonal schedules are possible, if necessary, and that data will be collected to track ridership trends. Three or four times a year, the transit agency will decide whether hours need to be adjusted. Major changes in the schedule would require public hearings, but unless those changes shift the amount of money being spent, no federal approval is needed.
“Our schedule really does depend on how the people of Cincinnati utilize the streetcar,” said Councilman Kevin Flynn, the surprise swing vote who allowed the streetcar to go forward during a dramatic showdown between council and Mayor John Cranley in 2013. “The beauty of the contracts are that there is that flexibility. Once we see what the ridership numbers are, these times can be adjusted within reason.”
One thing riders shouldn’t count on — catching a ride on the streetcar after closing down the bar. Bars’ 2 a.m. closing time was a concern brought up by some in public hearings, but late-night partiers will have to take a cab or use a ride sharing service.
“This is not, for lack of a better word, a drunk bus,” Councilwoman Yvette Simspon said.
Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines.
• Change is coming this way, or so some say. Leaders of Madisonville say they hope 2016 could be the neighborhood's year for development. Some of the upcoming changes in the town include the opening of a restaurant and two apartments in the vacant FifthThird Building on Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue by the end of this month, and six new retailers are expected to open this spring. The Madisonville Urban Redevelopment Corp. has also hinted that more deals are possible to come this winter in terms of new apartments and retailers.
• This is could also be a big year for the development of Cincinnati's brew trail in Over-The-Rhine. Construction of the first 2.3-mile leg of the trail is set to begin some time this year. Construction of the $5.2 million trail will take three years overall, and it will ultimately stretch from the Horseshoe Casino on Reading Road, down Liberty Street to McMicken Avenue. City officials are hoping upon completion that residents and tourists will be so inspired to grab lunch or a beer at one of the local businesses along the way as they stumble, er, walk down it.
• An Over-The-Rhine-based real estate company has purchased the former Strietmann Biscuit Company Building and plans to renovate it into nearly 90,000 square feet of office space. Grandin Properties has purchased the more than 100-year-old building located on 12th Street and Central Parkway for $1.6 million and plans to spend between $12 and $15 million on renovations. The ultimate plan will include loft-style offices and very possibly room for another OTR restaurant.
• SORTA plans to make its recommendation to city council's transportation committee today for the streetcar's hours of operation. The recommendations would have the streetcar commence operating at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday. It would stop operating at 11 p.m. on Sundays, at midnight Monday through Thursday and 1 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday — one whole hour shy of bar closings. It would run every 15 minutes except during peak hours where that interval would be 12 minutes, with peak hours defined as 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
• The Cincinnati Streetcar looks ready to run some time this year after a very long political struggle. But the excitement over the arrival of the shiny, new cars might have made Northern Kentucky forget the headache its controversy causes many Cincinnatians. Covington Mayor Sherry Carran says her city is now looking at the possibility of a streetcar. The Covington Business Council is planning a panel discussion on the possibility of a streetcar on Jan. 21, which will feature councilman Chris Seelbach and former mayor Roxanne Qualls.
• The settlement of a Duke Energy Class Action lawsuit could mean a little more money for some Cincinnatians this winter. Ohioans who were a Duke customer and Ohio homeowner or renter between 2005 and 2008 and received a card in the mail from "Williams vs. Duke Energy" could be eligible for at least $200 from the company. Duke recently lost the lawsuit that claimed the company overcharged customers, but it has still not admitted it did anything wrong. It did, however, agree to refund $80 million to some of its customers.
• Tonight Ohio Democrats will hold caucuses in all 16 of Ohio's congressional districts to choose candidates, meaning Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, for delegate and alternate at this year's Democratic National Convention, which will begin on July 25 in Philadelphia. To find out more information on Southwest Ohio's Democratic caucus meetings for districts 1, 2 and 8, taking place tonight, click here.
• The Obama administration is expected today to announced an executive action that includes a package with 10 provisions attempting to increase gun control in the U.S. Possibly the biggest change would require gun sellers on the Internet and at gun shows to obtain a license and conduct background checks, closing the long-debate gun show "loop hole." Obama also wants to dedicate $500 million in federal funds to the country's neglected mental health system. Republican members of Congress have already spoken out against Obama's plan, saying he's overstepped his reach. The executive actions comes in the wake of the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. on Dec. 2, which killed 14 people. The New York Times reports that gun sales have spiked in the wake of the California shooting and Obama's announcement.
Happy New Year, Cincinnati! Hope everyone had a fun and safe kickoff to 2016. Here is your first round up of headlines this year.
• So, 2016 will probably be the year of some exciting elections as we inch closer to November, but locally, Cincinnati faces many upcoming issues dealing with planes, trains, and automobiles. According to this Enquirer list, some major transportation issues to look out for include keeping an eye on the streetcar's operating deficit, figuring out who's going to spearhead the major task of repairing the western hills viaduct, watching CVG slowly and painfully turn into a multi-carrier airport and seeing if SORTA will push a transit tax proposal on this year's ballot. One issue absent from the list is a local non-profit's ambitious push to get more bike lanes in the city, and only time will tell how far that project will get by the end of this year.
• The new year marks the six-month anniversary of a state program launched last summer to offer more drug addiction treatment options in Ohio's prisons. Last June, the state allocated $27.4 million in the budget to help pay for drug counselors to treat inmates with addiction issues three months before they are released. After they are released, they are eligible to sign up for Medicaid to help fund further treatment. The program is authorized to run through June of this year and is an attempt to reduce crime by taking away drugs as the motive for offenders with known addiction issues. Before the program launched last July, Ohio had released approximately 4,000 untreated inmates back out into the community who were either ineligible for treatment because they were serving less than six months or the programs were already full. Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has hopes to extend the program pending the legislature's approval of its funding in this upcoming year.
• Gov. John Kasich started out this new year extending his attacks from Donald Trump to fellow GOP presidential candidates New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. During an interview with NBC News, Kasich claimed he has proven able to handle issues like taxes and jobs better than Christie, and said Rubio lacks experience. He even compared the one-term Senator to President Barack Obama, who was also a one-term Illinois Senator when he became president. Kasich, who is still hanging out at the bottom of polls, has stated throughout his campaign that he feels his years of experience have been overlooked.
CityBeat's news team has been all over the map this year. In the past 365 days, we've delved deep into college athletic funding, the experiences of refugee families in Cincinnati, new community ownership models for neighborhood grocery stores and any number of other issues.
Often, we’ve covered stories no other media outlet in Cincinnati thought to. Hopefully you enjoyed it. Here are some of our most unique news stories this year.
Despite new development, Cincinnati is still a deeply segregated place.
Our story detailing the long history that has kept large portions of Cincinnati’s African-American population in low-income neighborhoods explored why many in our city struggle to access economic opportunity.
In the past year, intense tensions around race in America have re-emerged, sparking protests, civil unrest and reams of media coverage. But underneath issues around law enforcement’s role in black communities lie other problems. A pervasive and historically entrenched economic segregation in predominantly black neighborhoods continues to seal off many Cincinnatians, creating desperation and setting up extra barriers for residents of those communities. This lack of opportunity also informs the city’s much-publicized recent upswing in gun violence, its sky-high infant-mortality rate and a host of other problems.
City officials, neighborhood activists and experts have all offered ideas to alleviate this segregation, but it’s clear a complex, long-term and multi-faceted set of solutions is needed to improve the prospects of black Cincinnatians.
UC students come for education, but their fees go to sports
In 2013, UC officials provided the athletic department with a $21.75 million subsidy, records show, using student fees and money from the school’s general fund, which is primarily funded by tuition. The total subsidy amounts to $1,024 out of the pocket of every full-time undergraduate student on UC’s main campus. The four-year price tag costs each student more than $4,000.
The situation at the University of Cincinnati is not unique. An investigation by a UC investigative journalism class, which was published by CityBeat, looked into the eight largest public universities in Ohio in the Football Bowl Subdivision, finding that with one exception, college administrators and trustees impose hidden fees and invisible taxes on thousands of working-class students who pay tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to keep money-losing athletic departments afloat.
Many of these same schools are cutting faculty jobs and slashing academic spending. Between 2005 and 2013, academic spending per full-time undergraduate student at UC, adjusted for inflation, dropped 24 percent, according to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a national group of current and former college presidents seeking to reform college athletics using research studies and, more recently, online databases.
Are cooperative groceries the future in Cincinnati?
As Over-the-Rhine changes, some long-time residents find themselves forced to leave
Recent Census data suggests that Stroud isn’t the only one departing OTR. The area’s demographic makeup seems to be changing in parts of the neighborhood that have seen large-scale redevelopment.
Development in OTR has, until recently, been limited to the southern part of neighborhood, where the building Stroud lived in is located. Those efforts have changed the economic, and perhaps the racial, makeup of the area.
Developers and city officials say diversity is a key concern as OTR continues to change. And work is underway in other neighborhoods like Northside to find ways to encourage equitable economic development. But for former OTR residents like Stroud, those assurances provide little comfort.
UC suspends its campus sexual assault program, even as sexual assault continues to be a national issue
Refugees in Cincinnati find hardships in neglected neighborhoods, but also build community
The neighborhood is also one of the city’s most violent, struggling with drug activity, shootings, break-ins and murders. For families like Kadhim’s, the violence is an echo of the very strife they’ve come here to escape.
Kadhim and his family aren’t the only ones who struggle with the neighborhood’s challenges. Two-hundred Burundian refugees have ended up there in the last decade, plus others who have arrived more recently. The total number of refugees in the neighborhood is unclear — even the organizations helping refugees get acclimated don’t keep long-term statistics — but it’s clear they’re a big presence there, and often a positive one.
Dozens of the refugees living in this often-ignored corner of the city have found unique and vibrant ways to build community, helping to energize a 125-year-old church just down the road in North Fairmount. Some see their presence as hope that the area can rise again. But for many like Kadhim, the neighborhood’s danger, isolation and poverty remain obstacles to achieving the dreams of peace and prosperity they believed they could find in the U.S.
A new court helps those who have been sex-trafficked start over
(whose name CityBeat changed to protect her identity) came out as transgender during high school, her mother asked that she
leave her house and neighborhood in Northern Kentucky. That rejection
started a long, harrowing journey through sex trafficking and addiction from which it took Caroline years to recover. Now, a new court has helped her erase a criminal record she never should have had in the first place.
Caroline’s transgender status was part of her vulnerability. Her pimps worked a whole group of transgender
women, playing on their insecurities and search for acceptance. She
describes how traffickers would brand them — burning them with
cigarettes or hot clothes hangers. Caroline suffered beatings and also
mental and emotional abuse. Then there was the danger from the johns.
Two murders of transgender women in the past few years illustrate the dangers Caroline once faced. Twenty-eight-year-old Tiffany Edwards was killed in Walnut Hills in June 2014, and Kendall Hampton died there at age 26 in August 2012. Police suspect both were engaged in sex work at the time they died. Both, like Caroline, were women of color.
Court, presided over by Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Heather
Russell, will give those like Caroline a chance to expunge convictions
for acts done under the duress of sex trafficking. The court is part of a wider shift in
attitudes away from viewing sex trafficked individuals as criminals.
Social service and law enforcement agencies are increasingly seeing them
as victims in need of help.
The court’s focus will go beyond folks like Caroline, who have already triumphed over the horrors of sex trafficking, providing a road out of the world of coerced sex work for those who have yet to escape.
Immigrant workers victimized by wage theft fight back
Imagine you work hard to put food on the table, but your employer isn’t paying you when it say it will — or at all. Now imagine you can’t take easily report it or take the employer to court.
Because employers capitalize on their fear of being deported, undocumented immigrant workers are frequently victims of wage theft, whether it’s being paid less than minimum wage, shorted hours, forced to work off the clock, not being paid overtime or not paid at all.
From 2005 through 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor collected more than $6.5 million in unpaid wages from Ohio construction companies for workers who were cheated out of minimum wage, overtime pay or the regional prevailing wages required for public projects. Some 5,500 workers were affected, but how many were undocumented immigrants wasn’t recorded by the agency. The $6.5 million collected by labor officials for all workers is likely only a fraction of the actual wage theft in the industry, union officials say.
What’s needed, according to those officials, is the political will to adequately staff state and federal enforcement agencies so they can find violators without waiting for complainants to step forward. Ohio’s Bureau of Wage and Hour Administration, which enforces wage laws on public projects as well as minimum wage requirements and pay to minors, has just six investigators and one supervisor to cover the entire state.
Enforcing wage and hour laws is seen as “anti-business” among Ohio employers, chambers of commerce and its Republican-dominated government, some watchdog groups say, meaning that changing the situation seems a daunting political challenge.
Alternative spaces are changing and evolving in Cincinnati
The city has been a surprising hotbed for self-funded, not-for-profit art, music and party spaces, which exist in a twilight world just beyond the economic, regulatory and social rules that usually bound more traditional, for-profit entertainment venues. They’ve been aided by the low rents and lax oversight often found in the city’s more neglected corners and by a community of people looking for something outside the norm. And proponents of these under-the-radar venues say they’re important for more than just a few boundary-pushing art shows.
Many say these venues have given otherwise-unavailable opportunities to generations of Cincinnati artists and musicians. What’s more, urban experts say, such DIY spaces are good for the social health of cities. But as interest in urban living continues to take hold in Cincinnati and those once-neglected pockets of the city attract the gaze of developers, the future of these unique places has become uncertain.
Good morning Cincy! Here are your morning headlines.
• The U.S. Department of Justice announced earlier this month that they will be suspending the equitable sharing program that allows police to keep a large chunk of money and property seized from individuals. Local law enforcement will still be allowed to do it, but they will no longer be able to keep up to 80 percent of it. The program is controversial because police are able to keep property from those who are never actually charged with a crime like Charles Clark II, who now famously had $11,000 in cash seized by police at the CVG airport in February of 2014. CPD says they use the reportedly received $1.1 million they received from the program between 2010 and the middle of 2015 to pay for outside training for their police force, but non-profits like Washington D.C.-based Institute of Justice say the current program is problematic because it's become a money grab for law enforcement.
• Who exactly voted against ResponsibleOhio's failed attempt at marijuana reform this past election? According to an analysis by Mike Dawson, a Columbus-based election statistics expert, well-to-do suburbanites represented the group with the highest amount of opponents to the measure. Nearly 70 percent of voters in the suburbs of Toledo and Columbus voted against it, while 60 percent of Dayton, Cleveland and Cincinnati suburbanites opposed it. Urban voters favored the legalization 5 percentage points more. While many opposed Issue 3 because it limited the growth of marijuana to just 10 commercial farms, Dawson told the Associated Press that suburbanites also fear that marijuana will be a gateway drug in their communities.
• Cincinnati ranks as one of the best cities in the U.S. for beer drinkers. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent time in this city with its many breweries, beer-centered bars and massive Oktoberfest that rivals Munich, but the website SmartAsset ranked Cincy as number 10 in the U.S. It beat out Columbus and Cleveland in the ranking, having 14 breweries and 4.7 microbreweries per 100,000 people. With the average beer costing a mere $3 a pint, I'll drink to that.
Cleveland police officers involved in the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice will not face criminal charges related to the child’s death, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office announced today.
A grand jury has been deliberating for months about the case, which has grabbed national attention as debate continues over police-involved shootings of people of color.
Rice was shot Nov. 22, 2014 while on a playground in Cleveland. A 911 caller reported that Rice was playing with a handgun, but told a dispatcher that it appeared to be fake. The dispatcher did not relay that information to officers. Surveillance footage shows the officers pulling within feet of Rice in a police cruiser. In the video, officer Timothy Loehmann exits the passenger side of the cruiser and shoots Rice within a few seconds. Loehmann and his partner, officer Frank Garmback, do not provide medical attention to Rice, instead waiting for an FBI agent to do so. Rice later died at the hospital.
Other cases of police-involved shootings, including July 19 shooting death of motorist Samuel DuBose by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, have moved more quickly. Tensing was indicted on murder and manslaughter charges later that summer.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has said the long process was about doing a thorough investigation. But members of Rice’s family have said they think McGinty is making efforts to protect the officers and the Cleveland Police Department.
In a statement released following the grand jury's decision, the family accused McGinty of "abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment."
The family has held a dim view of the outcome of the case for months. The Rices cried foul, for instance, at a March court filing from the city of Cleveland which stated that Rice was responsible for his death, saying it was caused by “failure to exercise due care to avoid injury.”
The city later apologized for the wording of the legal document.
“In an attempt to protect all of our defenses, we used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive,” Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said at a news conference. “Very insensitive to tragedy in general, the family and the victim in particular.”
McGinty commissioned three law enforcement experts to draw up reports about the incident, all of which found the shooting “reasonable,” citing Loehmann’s lack of knowledge about Rice’s intentions and the realistic-looking pellet gun he was playing with.
But there are questions about the objectivity of those investigations.
Retired FBI training specialist Kimberly A. Crawford issued one of those reports. Attorneys for Rice’s family have pointed out that Crawford’s arguments for the acceptability of other law enforcement shootings have been rejected by the Department of Justice for being too lenient to officers. Another investigator, Denver District Deputy Attorney S. Lamar Sims, has made previous statements in support of Loehmann’s actions before undertaking his study.
While the Rice family’s attorneys cite these moves by the city and prosecutor McGinty as reasons to move the grand jury deliberations outside Cuyahoga County, McGinty has said that his office and the grand jury are impartial.
Officials with the prosecutor's office cited a "perfect storm of human error" and suggested that Rice looked much older than a typical 12-year-old when explaining the grand jury's verdict. The prosecutor's office also said that tapes show Rice pointing the toy gun at passersby near the recreation center earlier in the day.
Two other experts hired by the Rice family issued reports saying Rice’s killing was not justified and that officers responsible should be prosecuted. They point out the short succession of events and the fact that Rice did not have the gun in his hand at the time of his shooting. The toy was tucked in his pants at the time.
Rice’s death occurred just two days before a grand jury in St. Louis, Mo., declined to indict a white officer who shot unarmed 19-year-old Michael Brown. Like Brown, Rice has become a touchstone for activists who protest racially charged police shootings and who call for law enforcement reforms in the United States.
According to data culled by journalists at British publication The Guardian, more than 1,000 people have been killed in officer-involved shootings in the United States this year, including 30 in Ohio, the seventh-most of any state. Blacks are twice as likely as whites to die in those incidents. While a good number of those deaths came from armed confrontations, many others involved unarmed citizens.
Rice’s shooting happened just weeks before the Department of Justice released the scathing results of an 18-month investigation into the Cleveland Police Department’s use of force. Among the cases cited in that investigation: a 2012 incident in which 13 police officers fired almost 140 rounds at two unarmed occupants of a car that had been involved in a police chase. One officer reportedly stood on the hood of the couple's car and repeatedly fired rounds through its windshield. That officer was acquitted of criminal charges in May. Both occupants of the car died.
“We have concluded that we have reasonable cause to believe that CPD engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the report states. The report triggered an intensive consent decree between the Cleveland Police Department and the federal government, which will oversee changes in the department's use of force policies, training and other reforms.
In a letter earlier this month, Rice’s family called on the DOJ to investigate their son’s death. The DOJ said Dec. 15 that it is reviewing that request.
In Cincinnati, Black Lives Matter will rally Dec. 29 at 6 pm at Findlay Playground in Over-the-Rhine. Organizers ask attendees to bring toys to donate to local charities in honor of Rice.