The demolition request is on the board's upcoming Monday meeting agenda, but the developers have asked the board to table it and reschedule the vote.
That request comes after the city's Urban Conservator Beth Johnson issued a report yesterday that rejected the developer's claim thatit cannot reuse the building and that restoring or preserving the building with result in a negative financial return.
Historic preservation advocates and affordable housing activists both have rallied around the building, which was designed by noted Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford's firm and, until five years ago, contained 114 units of single-room occupancy affordable housing. The Cincinnati Preservation Collective, the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, City Councilman Chris Seelbach and others held a press conference today outside the building decrying attempts to tear it down and calling for more affordable housing in the central business district.
The Dennison was the last of more than 20 downtown buildings containing such housing. The building was slated for redevelopment by Model Group for 63 units of permanent supportive housing to be operated by The Talbert House in 2013. However, that project fell through and the building was purchased by Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation affiliate CBD Holdings for $1.3 million that year. 3CDC then sold the building to Columbia, owned by the influential Joseph Automotive Group family, for $740,000 a month later. In filings to the Historic Conservation Board, attorneys for the Joseph family have indicated they purchased the property at least in part out of concern that supportive housing would devalue other properties it holds in the area.
It is unclear when the vote on the building will be rescheduled. Preservation activist Derek Bauman called the request by Columbia "shenanigans" and wondered if the vote would be rescheduled for a less-convenient time.
Columbia says the building is decrepit and unsafe, and says it would like to use the land it occupies as part of a large-scale development that would provide office space for an as-yet-undetermined Fortune 500 company.
We’re closing in on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, and today is the Ides of April (that means the 15th of the month), so let’s start with several notes about the Bard.
Cincinnati Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar continues this weekend (it’s onstage through May 7). You might recall that the emperor’s assassination happened on the Ides of March. We’re a month late, but it’s worth noting since that historic event was the impetus for one of Shakespeare’s great plays of Roman history. Caesar is the focal point, but the play’s most interesting characters are Brutus, the morally conflicted conspirator, and the ambitious Marc Antony, who has his own designs on the throne. It’s also worth noting this production, since it will be followed in May by Shakespeare’s other Roman story, Antony and Cleopatra. Many of the actors playing key roles in Julius Caesar will return in the second production. It’s a rare pairing of these two works, made possible by Cincy Shakes depth of talent in its resident acting company. I wrote about this project in a recent Curtain Call column. Tickets: 513-381-2273.
If a history play isn’t enough, then you might want to
head to the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood where Cincy Shakes is continuing
its education initiative, Project 38 Festival, working with more
than 1,600 students at 45+ different area schools to bring each of
Shakespeare’s 38 plays to life in creative ways. The celebration is
already underway (performances continue through Monday) in Washington
Park and the Woodward Theatre (1404 Main St.) — 43 free performances in
all. Eighteen performances feature exclusively Shakespearean text, while
others interpret the plays with music, dance, filmmaking and visual
arts. One is even told with computer animation. For the festival’s full
schedule, go here.
Know Theatre opens Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson this weekend. The Cincinnati Playhouse recently presented Gunderson’s intriguing show, The Revolutionists, a fantasy set during the French Revolution. The show at Know is rooted in real events, too, focusing on a group of brilliant women hired by the Harvard Observatory to catalog the stars. Directed by Tamara Winters, the production features a cast of excellent local professionals — Maggie Lou Rader, Justin McCombs and Miranda McGee (from Cincy Shakes) and Annie Fitzpatrick and Miranda McGee (regularly seen at Ensemble Theatre). It’s a fascinating story as well as a chance to experience another work by an award-winning young playwright. Tickets: 513-300-5669.
New Edgecliff Theatre opened the final production of its 2015-2016 season this week, Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things.
It’s an emotional drama about relationships and love and what you can
believe. Performances are at The Hoffner Lodge (4120 Hamilton Ave.,
Northside). Read my recent column for more about NET’s search for a
home. For NET tickets here.
A production with young audiences in mind kicks off this weekend with the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s “Off the Hill” staging of The Garden of Rikki Tikki Tavi adapted from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book by playwright Y York. It’s about a fierce mongoose and his enemy the cobra Nag. The show, directed by the Playhouse’s new director of education, Daunielle Rasmussen, debuts at the theater on Saturday (10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.); tickets are $5 at the box office. The show then tours throughout Greater Cincinnati, starting Sunday at 2 p.m. at Cedar Village Retirement Community in Mason. Full schedule here.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today.
• A report released yesterday by the University of Cincinnati says that former UCPD chief Jason Goodrich pushed for aggressive traffic stops as a tactic for boxing out criminals from the neighborhoods around UC, then lied about that to investigators after the shooting death of unarmed black motorist Sam Dubose by UCPD officer Ray Tensing. Those enforcement techniques created what Goodrich reportedly called a “no fly zone,” which Dubose was in when he was pulled over for not having a front license plate in Mount Auburn. Goodrich and Major Timothy Thornton left UCPD in February. Tensing is scheduled to stand trial in Hamilton County Courts on murder and manslaughter charges in October.
• Cincinnati’s Urban Conservator Beth Johnson issued a report yesterday saying that developers seeking to tear down 716 Main Street, an 1892 structure built by the architecture firm of noted Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford, have not presented enough evidence to make their case. Owners Columbia REI, LLC — owned by powerful Cincinnati family the Josephs — have caused controversy with their request for permission to level the building, which sits in a historic district downtown. Johnson’s report notes that the owners seemed to have purchased the building with the intent to tear it down, and that there are other economically feasible uses for the structure that the owners didn’t consider. In documents Columbia filed with the Urban Conservation Board, which will decide the fate of the building Monday, the owners said they bought the building because they were concerned that planned permanent supportive housing there would decrease the value of other properties the group owns in the neighborhood. Columbia holds several parcels of land on the block, many of which also once held historic buildings. Columbia leveled some of those structures in the late 1980s, promising new buildings in their places, though today most of the parcels are parking lots. Columbia says it’s interested in using those plots, plus the Dennison’s, to build a headquarters for an as-yet-undetermined Fortune 500 company.
• Speaking of big developments, Clifton Heights may soon get a huge one. Developers M-G Securities, Nassau Investments and Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corp. are proposing a $75 million project at Vine and McMillan Streets on a now-vacant plot of land just west of Vine and south of Calhoun Street. That development could include a 195-room extended-stay hotel, 130 apartments, 350-400 space underground parking garage and an outdoor community area. The developers are calling it a potential gateway to Uptown neighborhoods.
• Are you a believer? You’d better be if you want to work for Northern Kentucky’s upcoming Noah’s Ark-themed park Ark Encounter. Workers seeking to fill the 300-400 food service and other jobs at the park will have to sign a form professing their Christian faith, founder Ken Ham says. That’s controversial because the park has wrangled with the state of Kentucky over a tourism sales tax rebate worth up to $18 million. It looks as though the park may get to have its cake and eat it too, receiving that tax break while also stipulating religious beliefs for its employees.
• U.S. Sen. Rob Portman had a nice visit yesterday with President Barack Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but says he’s still not going to push for a confirmation hearing for him or vote for him if there was one. Portman said he was impressed with Garland, but that Obama should not be allowed to nominate a Supreme Court justice in “a very partisan year, and an election year.” That’s an echo of talking points from other Senate Republicans, including Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said he will not hold a vote on Garland. Democrats have hit the GOP hard on what they say is a highly unusual, obstructive maneuver. The court has been down a justice since conservative firebrand Antonin Scalia passed away earlier this year.
• So, yeah, Democrat presidential primary contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debated last night, and as predicted in this spot yesterday, the gloves came off. There was shouting. There was tension. Memories of the cordiality of the first debate were nowhere in mind. As expected, Clinton lit into Sanders on gun control, his weakest topic among liberals. Sanders blasted Clinton on her relationship to Wall Street. You get the picture. This was the last scheduled debate for the two, giving both time to take a breather and work on some new material before the primary fight ends this summer. You can read more about the debate here.
I’m out. Laterrrr.
The city staff report, written by Urban Conservator Beth Johnson, refutes Dennison owners the Joseph family of the Joseph Auto Group's claim that they cannot reuse the building and that restoring or preserving the building with result in a negative financial return.
Some of the evidence the report cites is a lack of attempt by the owner to sell or lease the building to another buyer who might be able to restore or use the property; documents from the Joseph family that indicate it bought the property with the intention of demolishing it for redevelopment; and a structural engineering report that found the building could still be used for residential purposes after minor structural updates.
The family purchased the building located at 716-718 Main Street in 2013 in part to block plans to turn the building into affordable housing, according to documents the family's legal team submitted to the Historic Conservation Board.
The University of Cincinnati today released an independent report on its police personnel with details that give further context to the departure of its former police chief, Jason Goodrich.
The report by consulting company Exiger suggests Goodrich pushed for more traffic stops around UC and that he and UCPD Major Timothy Thornton were later "untruthful" about their knowledge of those stops. Stops increased by 400 percent during the year leading up to the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose by UCPD officer Ray Tensing, the report reveals, and those stops have been heavily disproportionate toward blacks.
"Five interviewees said that, at the start of Goodrich's tenure, he held one-on-one meetings with each UCPD officer," the report reads. "During these meetings, the Chief described his approach to proactive policing — namely, the areas around campus should be viewed as a 'box,' and UCPD would use traffic enforcement to 'stop' and root out anyone carrying drugs or guns, and individuals with warrants, in those zones. They were, according to the chief, to be effectively 'no fly zones,' through which, via excessive traffic enforcement, criminals would not want to drive."
In February, Goodrich and UCPD Major Timothy Thornton resigned from UCPD for then-undisclosed reasons. UC has promised a full slate of reforms to its department following DuBose's shooting death. The school fired Tensing, who is now charged with murder and manslaughter.
"In our initial interview, Chief Goodrich indicated that he was unaware of both the extent of, and motivation for, this substantial upsurge in stops," the report reads. "As Exiger learned from other interviews, the Chief had made similar assertions to several senior UC administrators at various times following the shooting. These assertions — both to Exiger and the administrators — could not be reconciled with interviews that Exiger conducted of sworn UCPD members, or with documents that Exiger had received by request pursuant to the Assignment. Exiger viewed this seemingly conflicting information as sufficiently troubling to bring the matter to the attention of the UC Administration, including the UC General Counsel."
After those revelations, the company set up interviews with UCPD personnel in late February. In those interviews, the report says, Thornton was also untruthful.
"During one of these first interviews, Major Timothy Thornton, Chief Goodrich’s second-in-command, made statements mirroring those of the Chief — that is, denying knowledge regarding the extent of, and motivation for, the sharp rise in traffic stops during the Chief’s tenure."
UC says it released the report in the name of transparency.
"Look across the country, around the world at what's happening here and the places where there are police-community relations problems and the way police agencies are responding," UC Vice President for Safety and Reform Robin Engel said, according to 12 News. "Look at Chicago, look what's happening in these places, that doesn't have to happen here. If there were mistakes then we need to understand what they were and we need to correct those problems and work with out community to make sure that we are policing in a way that they want to be policed. We need to move forward and are very transparent in a collaborative way. That's what we're trying to do here at the University of Cincinnati."
Goodrich joined UCPD in October of 2014. He previously worked as chief of police for Lamar University. Before that, he worked in Vanderbilt University's public safety office. Thornton joined the force in February 2015 and had also previously worked for Lamar University.
Students' religious expression is limited to non-instructional times like lunch periods and after-school activities. HB 425 would permit religious expression in the classroom and on exams and homework assignments, going so far as to prevent a teacher from punishing or rewarding a student's response that is based on his or her religious beliefs.
Rep. Bill Hayes, a Republican from Harrison Township, introduced the legislation back in January. He says the bill is simply to clarify what is permitted for religious expression in public schools.
"It seems that many school administrators, school boards, teachers, parents and even students are sometimes confused about the extent to which they may engage in religious expression in the school setting," Hayes said. "HB 425 seeks to address that very problem and respond to it."
Hayes previously introduced the same bill during the last legislative session, but the session ended before it made it to the House floor for a vote.
Rep. Michael Curtin, a Democrat from Columbus, brought up concerns about the bill from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, the only organization to testify against the bill in front of the House's Community and Family Advancement Committee in February.
The ACLU said the language of the bill is too broad, possibly forcing teachers to have to choose between obeying the law and enforcing academic standards in the classroom.
"If the assignment is on biology, human evolution, et cetera, and a student writes a paper on intelligent design or the Earth being 10,000 years old," Curtin said, "does the instructor have the ability to flunk that student for his paper being out of context?"
Rep. Stephanie Howse, a Democrat from Cleveland, disagreed that public schools should be required to accommodate students' religious beliefs to the bill's proposed extent.
"When we send our children to public schools, it's an expectation and a right that each of our children receive an unbiased education," Howse said. "It is upon this educational foundation that our children can build their values and choose a route of expression."
Good morning all. Here’s a quick look at news today.
Do we have a streetcar budget yet? Not quite. Cincinnati City Council this week came so, so close to nailing down a first-year operating budget for the transit project, but stumbled in the last yard before the end zone yesterday in what can only be described as a headache-inducing last-minute meltdown. (I know because I’m one of the ones who ended up with a headache from watching it go down). The issue? Councilman Kevin Flynn, who joined the 6-2 vote for the $4.2 million first-year budget in committee, balked in the final voting yesterday, citing concerns about where contingency and startup funds for the project are sourced from in the budget. Flynn indicated that if his concerns are addressed, he’ll vote for the budget. Meanwhile, the budget passed 5-4, but Mayor John Cranley threatened to veto it. So back to committee it goes so Council can hammer out what will likely be the final details. The budget is due to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority at the end of the month. The streetcar is expected to start operations sometime in September.
• Council also wrangled just a bit over a motion to ban city-funded travel to North Carolina and Mississippi, both of which have recently passed laws many say are anti-LGBT. Those laws allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals and also stipulate that trans individuals must use restrooms assigned to their physical gender traits, not their identified genders. The ban wouldn't cover emergency travel to those states — say in case of a hurricane or terrorist attack — but would otherwise keep city officials and employees from going to the state. The legislation also asks city administration to begin courting companies to move to Cincinnati that have indicated they'll leave the states in question over the anti-LGBT laws. The motion, introduced by Councilman Chris Seelbach, passed 7-2. Councilmembers Charlie Winburn and Amy Murray voted against the travel ban.
• Quick. Name the most underrated place in Kentucky. Did you save Covington? You win… something. Anyway, travel website Thrillist.com agrees with you, giving props to the city’s bourbon bars, historic districts and art galleries. It also praises the Roebling Suspension Bridge and calls Covington a… hipster enclave… whatever that is. Of course, the first thing the site mentions is the wonderful view of Cincinnati, and the last thing it suggests is grabbing a slice of Goodfellas Pizza, which is a chain restaurant. It is headquartered in the Cov, though, so I guess it counts. Anyway, pretty cool.
• Remember that big fight over legalizing marijuana last year? Republicans were pretty dead-set against efforts to do so, but now some are trotting out their own plan. State lawmakers have introduced a proposal to legalize medicinal marijuana by 2018. Under the plan, folks over 18 could buy edible marijuana products, patches, oils and probably the good ole fashioned green stuff with a doctor’s prescription. Lawmakers say they’ll work over the next year to figure out who would be allowed to grow the crops, and within two years, Ohio could join 24 other states that have legalized medicinal use of the drug.
• Democratic presidential primary contenders Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will square off in their final scheduled debate tonight. The debate comes as Sanders has made some big gains — though probably not big enough — by capturing some primary and caucus wins over the past few weeks. Clinton still has a commanding delegate lead, however, and has a much more feasible path to the nomination. That means tonight’s debate could be a knock-down, drag out fight as the two make their respective cases with an eye toward New York primary voters, who will go to the polls next week. That means Clinton will likely have to explain her stance on Wall Street regulations, where Sanders has run squarely to her left. Sanders, meanwhile, will have to deal with some baggage he’s been carrying around about gun control, a big issue in the state and one of the few areas where Clinton is seen as more liberal. Stay tuned. It’ll get real.
• Finally, Republicans in the House of Representatives seem likely to miss a statutory budget deadline as they fight over various ideologically-charged proposals for the government’s financial blueprint. That deadline is tomorrow, by the way, and the House seems nowhere close to coming to an agreement that would both satisfy its most conservative members and stand any chance of passing the Senate. That’s a big embarrassment for House Speaker Paul Ryan, some say, who took the reins from former speaker John Boehner last year. Ryan, who has recently had to beat back speculation that he’s hoping to be a surprise candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, says he’s hopeful the House will come together around a spending plan soon. Failure to pass the plan is more of an embarrassment than a catastrophe at this point — Congress can still pass individual bills funding the various departments of government, and spending levels were set in a biannual bill last year — but by statute, the House must pass a spending plan every year. Republicans, including Ryan, have lambasted Democrats in the past when it has appeared that the spending plans won’t materialize on time.
Cincinnati City Council today passed a ban on non-essential city-funded travel to North Carolina and Mississippi today in response to harsh laws passed in those states allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals and prohibiting transgender individuals from using restrooms that match the gender they identify with.
The motion, presented by Councilman Chris Seelbach and passed 6-2, also directs the city to reach out to companies that have indicated they are leaving those states due to the laws to try and convince them to come to Cincinnati.
The laws, passed in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage, have been highly controversial and look likely to face challenges in federal courts.
“Regardless of who you are or who you love, you should be protected from discrimination,” Seelbach said. “Anti-LGBT discrimination is not a Cincinnati value, and this motion is in that spirit.”
Councilman Charlie Winburn had pointed questions about the motion. He and Councilwoman Amy Murray, both Republicans, voted against the effort.
Winburn asked what "essential travel" meant and what Seelbach hoped to accomplish with the legislation.
“In essence, this would ban city personnel traveling to the states of North Carolina or Mississippi for any business purpose that isn’t an emergency situation, which could be if we had to go to North Carolina to obtain a commodity or deal with an emergency," City Manager Harry Black said, answering Winburn's first question. "That’s a highly unlikely scenario.”
Seelbach threw out the idea of terrorist attacks or a hurricane as possible scenarios in which city travel to the states would be allowed. Sending emergency crews or assistance wouldn’t be off the table in those cases.
Winburn wasn't convinced.
“The problem I have with this whole ordinance is — it’s wrong to target transgender or gay people, but it’s also wrong to target Republicans," Winburn said. “In passing this motion today, what do you plan to accomplish?”
"I guess my only concern is that this motion will do what you intend it to do. If we could all search our hearts and learned to love each other, we wouldn’t have to be passing things like this. I don’t think the laws change anything."
Seelbach said the motion would make a difference by sending a message and possibly netting Cincinnati more high-paying employers.
“The goal is to send a message that anti-gay discrimination won’t be tolerated by Cincinnati, that we won’t use taxpayer dollars to do business with states who have passed ideologically charged laws that target gay people," he said. "We want to lure these businesses, these good-paying jobs, to our city, because we’ve done a fantastic job welcoming LGBT individuals."