Good morning all. Here’s what I have today in terms of news.
Let’s start with Cincinnati City Council, where a lot of things went down yesterday.
Perhaps one of the more interesting moments yesterday involved a brief comment by Vice Mayor David Mann, who remarked on a recently-uncovered letter regarding police body cameras City Manager Harry Black penned to State Sens. Bill Sietz and Cecil Thomas back in November. That letter implored the lawmakers to work toward amending state laws governing that footage so that it would not be public record. The letter’s content drew rebuke from Mann, Mayor John Cranley and others on Council, who said it violated the spirit of the city’s 2001 collaborative agreement that rose from the police shooting death of unarmed teen Timothy Thomas and put the city at risk of another incident like the unrest and controversy that have recently gripped Chicago. Black apologized to Council and Cranley for the letter, stating that it was drawn up by a city lobbyist and that he did not read it as carefully as he should have. Mann has asked Black to send another letter to the senators stating that the city supports full transparency when it comes to body camera footage and that it should remain public record. The issue is especially relevant because Cincinnati police will soon launch widespread use of body cameras among officers. The July 19 shooting death of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose in Mount Auburn by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing was captured on Tensing’s body cam, leading to murder charges for the officer.
• Also in Council news: It was one step forward, one step back for the long-running debate about a parking plan in Over-the-Rhine. Vice Mayor Mann reintroduced a plan calling for 450 of the 1,200 parking spots in the neighborhood to be permitted for residents. Most of those would go for $108 a year, but some would be set aside for low-income residents at a cost of $18 a year. Cranley vetoed that plan back in May, but Mann thought he had a sixth vote to break that veto in Councilman Charlie Winburn. Winburn approached Mann and signed a statement supporting the plan after visiting with OTR residents living on Republic Street late last year. However, Winburn balked yesterday, saying he would not go against the mayor and accusing Mann and others on Council of trying to trick him. Puzzlingly, Winburn said he thought he was signing a statement of support for parking permits restricted to residents of Republic Street. The plan again passed Council with five votes and was again promptly vetoed by Cranley. Winburn and Cranley revealed they have their own proposal in the works to offer low-income residents parking opportunities in the neighborhood.
• Cincinnati City Council yesterday also voted to commission a study on moving a series of famous mosaics that once occupied the now-demolished Union Terminal concourse to a location indoors and away from sunlight at the Cincinnati Convention Center. Currently, the 1933 Winold Reiss mosaics are at CVG Airport. But alas, the concourse they occupy is also about to be torn down. The city brokered a deal with the airport and Hamilton County to fund their $3 million move to the convention center, where the current plan is to display them in a glass-encased display on the west side of the building at an additional cost of $750,000. But some worry that exposure to sunlight through those windows could damage the artwork. There are also criticisms about the location, which is in a rarely-visited part of downtown near I-75. The study will determine costs associated with moving the murals indoors at the center.
• Low-income workers are losing ground in Cincinnati and other major cities, a new study from the Brookings Institute finds. The bottom 20 percent of wage earners in the city made just over $10,000 a year in 2014 — 3 percent less than they made the year before and a huge 25 percent less than they made in the years preceding the 2008 great recession. That’s created a big income gap in the city: The top 5 percent of earners in the city make nearly 16 times the bottom 20 percent of earners. Nationally, the gap is only 9 times greater for top earners. That makes Cincinnati the fourth-worst city in the country for wage inequity. These numbers come even as the economy continues to add jobs, suggesting that increasing employment alone won’t help working poor residents here and in other cities like Boston, where the gap is highest. New Orleans and Atlanta had the second and third highest gaps, respectively.
• Cincinnati’s Music Hall is a little bit closer to its fundraising goal for renovations currently being undertaken on the historic landmark. And by “a little bit” I mean $3 million closer after a donation from the estate of the late Patricia and J. Ralph Corbett. That’s a lot of money, but also a small piece of the renovation’s $129 million overall price tag. The gift will go toward maintaining Corbett Tower, a banquet hall on the building’s third floor. So far, fundraisers for the renovation effort have received a $10 million from the city, $25 million in Ohio historic conservation tax credits, and millions in private philanthropic dollars. Restoration is currently underway, and is expected to kick into high gear in June, when the building will close entirely until fall 2017.
• Finally, for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, tonight is the night. It’s the sixth GOP presidential primary debate. We’re just a few weeks out from the make-or-break early primaries that could sink the GOP presidential hopeful’s campaign or give him a boost into the big leagues. I picture a Kasich training montage right now, with him in some weird sweatpants and sweatshirt combo jumping rope, shadow boxing, running up some stairs somewhere in South Carolina pre-debate and listening to “Eye of the Tiger” on repeat. He’ll need a strong performance against frontrunner Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been rising in the polls of late. Kasich has had his own rise recently as well, of course, tying with Cruz for second in many polls of GOP voters in New Hampshire. Kasich has set his sights on that early primary state, which goes to the polls Feb. 9, as his big proving ground. But he’ll need to do well tonight to do well there, and so the pressure is on.
Hey hey all. Here’s what’s happening in Cincinnati and elsewhere today.
It’ll be a busy couple days at City Hall. Cincinnati City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee has a special meeting scheduled at noon to discuss the city’s tax budget, which has been a point of contention between some members of Council and Mayor John Cranley. Last week, Cranley vetoed the tax budget Council passed because of the millage rate on property taxes Council approved. Cranley called the proposed 5.6-mill rate a “tax hike.” Even though the millage rate is the same as last year’s, it is projected to bring in more tax dollars for the city. That violates an ordinance the city has had in effect since the late 1990s that keeps the property tax collections at $28.9 million a year. You can read all about that argument here. Cranley has also called special Council sessions for Thursday and Friday to discuss the issue.
• Council today will also vote on a proposed Over-the-Rhine parking plan that would allow the city to issue residential permits for parking in the neighborhood. That subject, which would set aside metered spots, residential spots and spots for workers, has also been contentious. You can read the details and the history of the plan here.
• Former Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken could soon take the reins of the city’s economic development agency. Luken has been tapped as the new head of the 10-member joint city/county board that runs the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Agency. That board is expected to vote today on his appointment, which it looks likely to approve. Luken is a close ally, even a mentor, to Mayor John Cranley, and his appointment could make relations much cozier between the agency and city administration. When he was mayor, Luken was instrumental in starting the Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation, which has spent more than $1 billion redeveloping Over-the-Rhine and downtown since it was founded in 2003.
• A tragic Cincinnati shooting is making national headlines today. Yesterday morning, a father in Price Hill mistakenly shot his son in the family’s basement. The son had returned home from waiting for the bus, and his father, thinking he was at school, thought an intruder was in the home. He then panicked and shot the 14-year-old in the neck. The son later died at Children’s Hospital. Cincinnati Police say the father is cooperating with their investigation. No charges have been filed at this point.
• So we all know that Saturday’s Bengals loss was painful, that certain behavior by a small percentage of fans and, yes, players as well, was somewhat embarrassing and that we’d love to put the whole thing behind us. But… will the rest of the country forget? Or has Cincinnati again embarrassed itself on the national stage? Have we added to the bad sports-related impressions and memories people have of Cincinnati, including Crosstown Shootout brawls, Marge Schott, the errant gambling of Pete Rose and on and on? Thankfully, most experts say no. They argue that goodwill generated by Cincinnati’s sterling MLB All-Star Game turn, as well as a general hype around the city’s energy and upswing outweigh any momentary negative associations a few rowdy fans or players may have caused. Let’s hope.
• Plaintiffs suing the Internal Revenue Service over delays in granting conservative groups nonprofit status can now file a class-action lawsuit together. The alleged delays came out of the IRS’ office in downtown Cincinnati, which handles nonprofit tax documents. Tea party groups from across the country allege that the tax agency was deliberately targeting them when it stalled on granting them tax-exempt status. IRS officials and the Obama administration say that the delay was caused by questions around rules prohibiting political groups from getting tax exemption. They point to liberal groups that also received extra scrutiny. In October, investigators announced that no criminal charges would be filed against IRS workers or officials in the case. The recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott allowing class action status pertains to a separate civil suit filed three years ago by the NorCal Tea Party Patriots.
• Mystery solved. Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a tea party favorite from Ohio, is the person who gave a ticket to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to controversial Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. Speculation had been floating around about who gave Davis the invite during the days leading up to yesterday’s big annual speech. Davis is best known as the Rowan County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which extended same-sex marriage rights to couples across the country. Davis spent a brief time in jail for her refusal to follow a court order to resume issuing the licenses. She attended the speech to serve as a "visible reminder of religious liberty," according to a spokesperson.
• In that speech, his final as president, Obama extolled the virtues of progress, tweaking somewhat those who have stood in the way of same-sex marriage rights, rights for immigrants and refugees, efforts to raise the minimum wage and fight climate change, among other agendas Obama has tried to advance during his time in office. But the tone of the speech was decidedly non-combative and seemed most aimed at setting the stage for the president’s legacy and future efforts by the Democratic Party.
Obama structured the talk around four points: Increasing economic opportunity, harnessing technology, defining America’s role in the world as it relates to security and moving on from the divisiveness of contemporary American politics toward something more positive. As you might expect, Obama touted the country’s economic recovery, calling America “the strongest, most durable economy in the world.” Conservatives have, of course, taken issue with that, given that economics will likely play a large role in the coming presidential election. They point out low workforce participation rates and the number of people on government assistance where Obama cites new job creation.
Obama also cited policy victories in terms of health care and education, basically going down the list of his policy actions during his time in office and outlining optimistic if vague ways they could be expanded over the coming years.
Though the future was the explicit theme of the speech, it was hard not to hear it as a summation of Obama’s time in office and, by extension, of the tumultuous times the Obama presidency has overseen. Surprising omissions to this zeitgeist-citing, however, were the president’s only passing nods to recent struggles with racial and justice system issues, which have dominated headlines and social media chatter for well over a year and a half now. Despite this and several other omissions, however, the president’s speech is as good a prelude to the coming year as you’re likely to find. As a kind of goodbye, it’s also the note — along with coming primary elections — that will start the 2016 elections in earnest. Hope you’re ready for that.
Good morning all. Here’s what’s going on in the news today.
Cincinnati Public Schools will open a new school for talented and gifted students on the city’s West Side, officials have announced. The Cincinnati Gifted Academy, CPS’ other talented and gifted school, has been incredibly popular, generating waiting lists for students hoping to attend its Hyde Park campus. Now, the district will open another campus on Harrison Avenue. The elementary schools teach advanced classes in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, along with other specialty courses like Latin.
• Hamilton County Sheriff deputies will get body cameras by spring after Sheriff Jim Neil presented county commissioners with a plan to bring the devices to the department this week. The $1.3 million, five-year deal between the county and Taser International would include 230 body cameras, cloud storage for the data recorded by them and Tasers for the department. That last bit sweetens the deal for the county considerably, officials say — the department was faced with replacing its current supply of Tasers in the next year at a cost of $1.6 million. Neil says the measure is a way to increase transparency in the department, which does not currently use body or dashboard cameras.
• Speaking of the sheriff’s office, a Republican contender to challenge Neil in the November election will be able to stay on the county's primary ballot despite questions about the paperwork he filed for the election. The Hamilton County Board of Elections voted 4-0 yesterday to allow candidate Gary Lee to appear on the March primary ballot against Rich Vande Ryt. A Ryt supporter challenged Lee’s election filings, saying that he didn’t fill out all the necessary background check paperwork. The BOE, however, concluded that Lee had filed enough of the paperwork to qualify for the primary. The winner of that primary will face off against incumbent Neil in the general election this year.
• A pending U.S. Supreme Court decision could have big implications for Ohio unions, effectively turning the state into a right-to-work state. The court is considering arguments in a case out of California about compulsory union dues. If it decides unions are not allowed to require workers to pay so-called “fair share” dues in workplaces with collective bargaining, it could mean a huge loss of cohesiveness and clout for organized labor. In Ohio, that could mean the court undoing part of a decision made by Ohio voters in a 2011 referendum overturning SB5, a law that restricted public employees’ collective bargaining rights. Supporters of so-called “right to work” laws say they’re only fair for employees of union shops who don’t want to join up with organized labor. Opponents, however, say it will incentivize people to quit paying their dues, enjoying the benefits of collective bargaining without supporting it financially.
• Don’t look now, but Ohio Gov. John Kasich is rebounding in New Hampshire, a make-or-break state for the Republican presidential primary hopeful. Kasich is tied for second there behind Donald Trump, who has a commanding lead over the rest of the field. But Kasich’s second-place slot is an achievement in and of itself: It was not long ago that the big queso was running seventh. It’s a big deal for Kasich because both his campaign and the Republican party have identified the early primary state as a final chance for the veteran politician to prove himself viable as a primary contender. Meanwhile, his swing upward in the polls has secured Kasich a spot at the next GOP primary debate main stage, a lifeline for his candidacy. As recently as last week, there were questions about whether Kasich would make it to the main event, where participants are decided by their standing in the polls.
• Finally, President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address is tonight, and history-making Cincinnati resident Jim Obergefell will have a front-row seat. Obergefell is the Over-the-Rhine resident who is named in the case the Supreme Court heard when extending same-sex marriage rights across the country. Obergefell married John Arthur, his partner of 20 years, in 2013 as the latter was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. He sued Ohio over the right to be listed as Arthur’s spouse on his death certificate, challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The Supreme Court found that ban, and similar bans in other states, unconstitutional. Obergefell will sit with First Lady Michelle Obama and about 20 other White House guests at Obama’s address.
Good morning Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines to get your minds off the Bengals for a few minutes.
What does development have in store for Cincinnati this year? The Enquirer has listed 10 of the bigger projects that could kick off in 2016. Some of the projects including the expansion of the Findlay Market district, the creation of a financial district around Lytle Park and the REACH project, which will continue to renovate homes for single families in Evanston. Some of these projects appear to have lengths to go, like northern Kentucky's Ovation project, the $1 billion plan to develop its riverfront property, and not all projects pulled through last year, so whether some will get off the ground is yet to be seen.
• A Texas-based company is planning to put more than $100 million in renovations into the three-building complex at Fourth and Walnut Centre. NewcrestImage LLC recently bought the complex downtown and plans to turn the buildings into up to three hotels with room for office space, retail and restaurants. CEO Mehul Patel says he aims to go high-end to attract a major hotel brand like Hilton or Hyatt. Patel hopes to put other fancy establishments to the complex like a "celebrity chef restaurant,' fitness center and a grocery store.
• Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman has endorsed GOP presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president. Portman originally said last summer he was planning to stay out of the race and is close to Bush family, having worked in under George H. W. Bush during his time as president. It is still unclear why the Republican Senator choose to endorse Kasich over Jeb Bush, although it's possible the connection could give both a fundraising boost as Portman runs for Senate re-election this year, most likely against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland.
• Cincinnati's Preschool Promise will hold a Town Hall meeting in Avondale 6 p.m. tonight at the Church of the Living God. Anyone interesting in learning more about the group's initiative to hatch a plan to make two years of quality preschool for every Cincinnati child affordable and get it on next year's ballot is welcome to come and ask questions.
• It was a bitter cold this morning as Cincinnatians learned of the death of rock star and icon David Bowie. The cold spell will continue, as will our mourning, with up to two inches of snow and below freezing temperatures predicted for tonight and for tomorrow morning's commute, so stay warm out there!
Mayor John Cranley today vetoed a tax budget passed by Cincinnati City Council Jan. 6.
That budget set the rate for property taxes in the city at 5.6 mills. Though the rate is the same as last year's, it could bring in more property tax revenue this year due to new development and other economic activity, violating a policy passed more than 15 years ago that requires the city to hold the amount of property taxes it collects at a preset level. However, there is some uncertainty about how much the rate would actually collect due to the number of tax abatements and special tax districts the city has given to developers in the past year.
In a statement released today, Cranley called the tax budget Council passed a "tax hike."
"In November, Cincinnati voters sent an unambiguous message that they oppose having their property taxes raised," Cranley said in the statement, referring to the decisive defeat of a ballot initiative he spearheaded aimed at funding major parks projects in the city through a property tax increase. "It is a message that I heard loudly and clearly, and it is a message that I have a duty to heed."
In some ways, the issue around the tax rate springs from the unusual way in which the city collects property taxes, which this Cincinnati Business Courier story explores. A boost in the amount of tax revenues the city collects would violate the aim of Cincinnati's property tax rollback, passed amid pressure from conservative groups in 1999. The measure stipulates that the city must collect the same dollar amount of property taxes each year — $28.9 million — regardless of inflation or other changes. As inflation inches up, that means the city is actually collecting less property tax each year. No other major Ohio city has a similar measure.
Critics say that has unnecessarily constrained the city's budget and made it more difficult to provide basic services for a now-growing (if only slightly) population. But proponents say it has saved taxpayers money. Some on City Council, including Vice Mayor David Mann, have suggested reevaluating the policy.
Mann blasted Cranley's veto today.
Since its passage, the rollback has meant nearly $95 million less going into the city's coffers. While that saves average homeowners some cash, the biggest benefit goes to larger, commercial property owners with higher land values, many of whom have also received large tax abatements from the city in recent years.
Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes projected a .71 percent increase in property tax receipts to by the city this year and proposed a 5.52 mill rate. None of that boost comes from higher appraisal values. The last property tax appraisal happened in 2011, with an update in 2014. The next reappraisal of property values won't start until 2017.
But some on Cincinnati City Council say that doesn't take into account those tax abatements and tax increment financing districts many new developments and property improvements in the city received. Thus, setting the millage at 5.52 could cause the city to undershoot its $28.9 million goal.
Last year, the 5.6 mill rate brought in about $29.4 million.
A mill is 1/1000th of a dollar. Property taxes are calculated by taking the assessed value of a home (which is 35 percent of the home's market value), multiplying it by the millage rate, and factoring in any exemptions or abatements. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $196 in property taxes next year under the 5.6 mill rate and $193.20 under the 5.52 rate.
Overall, the higher rate will bring in a few hundred thousand dollars more next year. What is as yet unknown is what that exact number will be.
Council passed the budget 6-3, enough votes to override the mayor's veto. Council independent Christopher Smitherman and Republicans Amy Murray and Wendell Young voted against it. Charterite Kevin Flynn voted for the measure, citing the question of abatements, but is generally against tax increases and could swing back.
Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said that in trying fiscal times, the city would be better off setting the rate slightly higher so it doesn't end up with a hole in its budget, citing a Cincinnati City Administration-forecast $14 million gap between expenditures and tax revenues next year.
Other Democrats on Council echoed that sentiment and challenged the notion that the tax budget they passed represented a "stealth tax increase." Councilman Chris Seelbach took to social media to dispute that characterization, which was echoed by a headline in The Cincinnati Enquirer.
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.