News time. I haven't even had coffee yet and I did all this. Be impressed.
Troubled charter school VLT Academy in Over-the-Rhine is closing its doors, Superintendent Valerie Lee says. VLT, which we reported about last month in a story on charters, has faced some serious questions about its academic performance and financial structure. In Ohio, charter schools must have a sponsoring organization in order to operate. The school lost its sponsor in May and shortly thereafter sued the Ohio Department of Education over charges the ODE chased other sponsors away. A judge ordered ODE to sponsor the school and pay teachers’ salaries, though that order was stayed on appeal. Now VLT says it is out of money and must close. The school’s landlords say it owes them more than $1 million in back rent. VLT served about 600 students in the Pendleton area, nearly all of them low-income.
• Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says he’s committed to making t
he best of a terrible idea the new icon tax plan work. The plan to fund the renovation of Union Terminal, which county commissioners substituted for a larger plan that also included Music Hall, has been controversial to say the least. Sigman has the unenviable job of taking an unpopular plan that doesn’t have all the details worked out, negotiating political, engineering and fiscal realities and making it all function. Unresolved questions include the availability of private donations and historic tax credits factored into the original plan. It’s also unclear whether the Cincinnati Museum Center, which runs out of Union Terminal, will go along with the deal. If it doesn’t, county commissioners could pull their support as well.
“We just have to get the details down,” Siman old the Business Courier, noting that his job is to carry out the county’s work without political bias. “I will have to make it work.”
Meanwhile, folks are getting all worked up about the political implications behind Hamilton County Commissioners Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel's decision to cut the proverbial baby in half. Check out this opinion piece written by a former Hamilton County judge, who calls the move a "mix of chutzpah and ignorance." Oh, it gets harsher, too.
• Mayor Cranley participated in the installation of the first station for the city's bike share program, now called RedBike, on Fountain Square today at 11 a.m. He also became the program's first annual member. The bike share, run by a non-profit, will allow residents to use bikes for short trips and then drop them off at stations. The station at Fountain Square will be one of 35 throughout the city.
• Questions are being raised about an incident in which a man was shot and killed by police in a Beavercreek Walmart. Police came to the Walmart last week after another customer in the store called to report a man brandishing and loading an assault rifle. Officers fired upon John Crawford III after they asked him to drop the weapon and he did not. The exact progression of events is unclear and police investigating the incident have asked Walmart for security footage from store cameras. What is clear, however, is that the item Crawford was carrying was actually a pellet gun from the store, albeit realistic-looking. Crawford’s family has called the shooting unjustified, though police say that officers appear to have acted appropriately under the circumstances. An investigation is ongoing.
The death of Crawford, who is black, calls to mind the current (and unfortunately, perennial) national conversation around the shootings of young black men done in "self defense" or by law enforcement personnel. The latest incident in this issue's long, sad history is playing out right now in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed 18-year-old was shot by police while his hands were in the air last week.
Meanwhile, another law-enforcement use of force incident from last year is heading to court. The family of a man who died while in the custody of the Hamilton County Sherriff’s Office in 2013 is suing the county and the officers involved in the incident. Deputies tazed 59-year-old Gary Roell six times last August after responding to calls about Roell breaking windows and throwing flower pots at his condominium complex in Sycamore Township. When the deputies finally subdued him after a struggle, they realized he wasn’t breathing. Roell was pronounced dead a short time later. Roell was a long-term sufferer of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, his family says, and was off his medication at the time of the incident. The federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the family alleges that deputies used excessive force when attempting to subdue Roell.
• In happier news, everyone's favorite ice cream is planning to expand outside the
Graeter Greater Cincinnati area to Chicago and perhaps Nashville. Graeter's is looking to open 10 to 15 new locations in new markets, which could also include St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The $40 million a year company also sells to grocery stores, which has kept me alive in the past as I wandered away from Cincinnati.
• Here’s a cool thing: A professor at the University of Texas in Dallas devised a way to visually plot the most influential cities over the past 2,600 years. The data visualization shows the progression of cultural hubs through time by tracking the birth and death locations of more than 120,000 highly influential people. While it seems to only document the history of western civilization, unfortunately, it’s still a cool look at which cities have gained and lost cultural clout over time.
Since then they have accumulated enough hits to fill up any set to keep crowds entertained. With them teaming up with Chicago currently on tour, it brings a nostalgic rush of Rock live to audiences across the country.
CityBeat caught up with founding member and keyboard player Neal Doughty to get a feel of how life has changed over the years in the music business. The band performs at Riverbend Music Center Wednesday night. Find tickets/more info here.
CityBeat: I read in an interview that you found the name REO Speedwagon in an engineering class when you were in school in Illinois. I was curious if you ever finished your engineering degree.
Neal Doughty: No. I did not finish the engineering degree. I went to college for five years and never graduated because when the band got started it was just a little dormitory, a couple guys in the dorm, playing for fun playing on weekends. Then the band got really, really popular and we started branching out to Ohio and Indiana and the first thing we knew is we were too busy to go to class. And if you are in engineering at the University of Illinois, you better go to class because it is not easy. So myself and Alan, our original drummer, neither one of us finished college. We stuck with the band. It was sink or swim in the music business. It was interesting telling my parents that I had dropped out of college after five years, but we were already supporting ourselves with this band. We are already actually making a living. My dad goes, “Hey I can’t argue with that. People go to five years of college and never do get a job.” They handled that OK and I am happy with how that turned out.
CB: I think you made the right choice. That is pretty hardcore to have a full-time band and finish school.
ND: Yeah, I have two nephews that are engineers and it’s a good area because I haven’t heard of an engineer who couldn’t find work. They were hired right out of college. I would have been happy either way. I am still interested in scientific things. I would have enjoyed it and been pretty good at it but this will do. It’s fine.
CB: You have been playing the hits for over 30 years. What is your favorite song to play live?
ND: I think my favorite song live, I love playing “Can’t Fight This Feeling” because I get to showcase the piano a bit on that intro. I also love playing “Back on the Road,” the song that Bruce sings. It is somehow the perfect tempo and a crowd who hasn’t been on their feet yet will always get up for that song.
Of course with all the changes and stories of our career, there isn’t one song we play live that I don’t like, which is a great luxury. A lot of bands don’t have that. We have been together so long and have so many records out that we can pick our favorite songs to play live and it usually turns out to be the favorites of the audience too. Most bands, they probably play some songs that at least two guys hate it, but we have been very lucky to have a lot of songs to choose from. I’m happy.
CB: What has been your greatest Rock star moment?
ND: My wife is in the room and she is laughing because I think she had something to do with my greatest Rock star moment. I don’t know if we should go into the details. We met at a show. We had known each other for a long time and had never quite gotten together. One night after the show, she pretty much attacked me in the dressing room in front of the entire crew. There were no clothes that came off. It was all very legal and everything. All I can say is within three months, instead of living at the beach in California I was living in Minnesota where it gets really cold. This was eight years ago and so far it has been totally worth it. Yes, that was my greatest Rock star moment … to have a woman that was so affectionate in front of so many people.
CB: That is the best story I have heard in a while.
ND: She is laughing her head off right now.
CB: There is nothing illegal about clothes coming off, by the way. It is fine.
ND: Everybody kept their clothes on. It was just kind of a message that I like you, a really nice way of saying I like you. In fact, I was supposed to leave town that night but the band got me a hotel room and a plane ticket. It turned out to be fairly innocent, but it was the start of a great relationship that is going eight years later. You definitely meet some of the wrong women on the road, and this is one of the rare instances where I met the right one.
CB: The internet and social media have totally changed the way bands can make it and get on the radio and get famous now. Do you think it is easier or harder for a band to make it today?
ND: It is a whole different thing. It used to be very, very hard to get a record contract. We were together four years just starting before we got somebody interested with us. We were lucky to be with Epic Records for so many years. They let us do like 10 records that weren’t hits until we had High Fidelity in 1980 and 1981. There is no record label that would give a band that many chances to turn in a hit.
On the other hand, now you can make a record on your telephone and upload it to the internet. If it goes viral, anything can happen. I live in a small town in Minnesota, and one of the students there, one of my wife’s English students, made a video on a broken iPhone with an out of tune piano and it went viral. It has 10 million views on YouTube and she now has a couple record companies fighting over her.
I don’t mind how it’s working today. If I were going to, in my old age, try to make a song of my own, I think I would like the fact I could make it at home, upload it to the Internet and see what happens. I have nephews who are in a Rock band. They have become the most popular band in the St Louis area just from all their sales online. I think it is a great equalizer. You no longer need a lot of money behind you to get a break and that’s good. Any kid in a basement has the same chance as somebody with a million dollars to spend in a studio and I think that’s truly great.
CB: Are there any new up and coming bands or current artists that you would want to collaborate with?
ND: I tend to like one song by an artist and just buy that one song, which you can do now. I tend to have this really crazy range of tastes in bands. I like Foster the People on one end and I like Brad Paisley on the other end of the scale. Brad happens to be a good friend of ours, so I may be biased.
My taste in music is so eclectic now, something that maybe couldn’t have happened before the Internet. You hear a song on a TV show in the music in the background and there was no way you would ever find out what that song was. A lot of the new groups that get discovered, that I like now, it started watching a TV show, with a great song in the background. You just now have to aim your phone at the TV and it will tell you who the band is. That is really the greatest invention ever. There are songs I hear on the radio or in a movie or in the background of a TV show and you could have searched for the rest of your life and never found it. Now, being able to find anything you might hear is my favorite thing that has happened to the music business. If you look at the playlist on my phone, you would think this guy is all over the map with the stuff he likes. I am very happy about that development.
CB: You have been on the road for many, many years. Do you keep journals or photographs? How do you keep the history of the touring and the memories?
ND: No, once again, the Internet has helped with that. There were some lost photographs. We have had a million things happen that were great. Recently one of our old crew members from 30 years ago found a picture of John Entwistle jamming with us on stage in London, and Brian May for Queen hanging out with us in the dressing room that night. These old black and white pictures so people will actually believe that something that great happened to me. We found a picture of literally the house 157 Riverside Ave., which we rented in Rockport, Conn., where we did our first album. Now we found what it looks like recently. Then we also found they tore the thing down. Granted, it was not a national landmark, but seeing pictures of it a few years ago, we could see why they tore it down. It was about to fall down and we probably had something to do with that.
CB: You have had a few band members change over the years. How do you know you have a right fit?
ND: Well we have been kind of lucky we had only one real change happen and it all happened at the same time. Our current lineup has been together for 25 years, which is longer than the original group was together.
Back in the late 80’s, our original drummer Alan who I started the band with, and our original guitar player Gary both left around the same time. Alan couldn’t handle the road anymore because he was too attached to his family. He quit for the best of reasons, to be with his kids and wife. He opened a restaurant and is doing well. Gary started not handling the road well. The road brought out all of his demons. There was a point when he just couldn’t do it anymore because it’s too hard.
That really is when we got Brian, our drummer, and Dave, our guitar player, and that all happened very fast. We did a major set of auditions for drummers. I think we auditioned eight drummers in two days. Brian was the first one and we knew right then he was the guy we wanted. I asked Kevin if we had to listen to seven more drummers but he wanted to be fair to them. But Brian easily passed that audition. Dave Amato, our guitar player has a great background. He played with Ted Nugent. He has been on Motley Crue albums. He was a known studio guy in Los Angeles. He came over to Kevin’s house and we jammed for about half an hour and then immediately asked him to join the band. It was a perfect fit from the first note.
We were lucky to get Brian and Dave. They brought new energy into the band. I am not sure if we would be together now if it wasn’t for what those guys brought, which was new enthusiasm. We still call them the new guys after 25 years and they are getting kind of sick of it. That is the only real change we have made and it was 25 years ago. I am happy we still have our original vocalist which not every band is lucky enough to say that. We made one change and it has been great since.
CB: Do you have any regrets over the years?
ND: I have no personal regrets. I have done some incredibly, stupid, horrible things but I don’t regret them because they all led to where I am now and I am a very happy person right now.
CB: What can the fans expect when you come to Cincinnati this year?
ND: First of all, they can expect us to play a one hour set of our favorite songs and they’ll know all of them except for one surprise new song. I know the audience cringes when a band plays that new song because they want to hear the familiar stuff. This song is good, really good. We wouldn’t do it live otherwise. It’s got a hook right from the beginning. It has gotten nice mentions in our reviews so far.
Then Chicago comes on and does all of their hits. Then the lights go down and come back up three minutes later (with) both bands on stage doing three individual hits by each band. Six songs, literally the biggest hits of each band, played together, 14 individuals playing at the same time. That took about a 12-hour rehearsal to put that together and it is just amazing. The Phoenix newspaper called it one jaw-dropping moment after another. I have to agree. I am way in the back of the stage on that part and I love it because I can watch the whole thing. These guys from both bands are just running around having the best time of their life.
We have known some of the guys for Chicago for decades. Robert Lamm, one of the lead singers and writers was a neighbor in Beverly Hills back when I lived there 35 years ago and somehow we never toured with them.
We didn’t know if (the onstage collaboration) would work. They were a little more progressive, a little Jazz oriented, but they are still Rock & Roll. We are more Country or Folk. We weren’t sure the same audience would show up for both bands and it has worked beautifully. The shows so far have been virtual sellouts. The thing has blended so well.
Picture “Keep on Loving You” with that beautiful Chicago horn section. It gives me chills and I have been playing it 40 years. The crowd, the lights come up, and every camera comes out at the same time. They can’t believe … that we have that many people on stage and they are technically all playing together and we know what we are doing is more amazing. It is something you won’t see very often. We haven’t done anything like this. I am definitely having a really good time, we call it the grand finale. I am sure it shows to the audience we are having so much fun.
New week, new... err, news. Let's get to it.
Sean Patrick Feeney isn’t leaving just yet. The Democratic candidate, an IT consultant from North College Hill, is running for Republican Chris Monzel’s Hamilton County commissioner seat. Democratic challengers have expressed a lot more interest in that seat after Monzel's recent icon tax moves. But Feeney said he won’t be stepping aside for any of the party’s heavy hitters who may want jump into the race, at least until Democrats give him a solid answer on who will be taking his place and what that candidate’s game plan is.
“I’m looking to get the groundswell of support,” Feeney told the Business Courier. Feeney has raised a few hundred dollars for his campaign and is little known around the region but hopes to rally and take advantage of displeasure over Commissioner Monzel’s move to cleave Music Hall from the icon tax plan. Meanwhile, former Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken, former city council candidate Greg Landsman and former council member Jim Tarbell have all signaled some interest in running. For now, though, Feeney’s sticking to his guns, despite acknowledging that the Hamilton County Democratic Party has approached him about standing down. Feeney has received some criticism for not stepping down, including a tweet from Councilman Chris Seelbach comparing Feeney’s fundraising results to the $250,000 Landsman raised during his council bid.
• We’ve reported on the rising number of homeless shelters in Cincinnati have been seeing. A new report released today says the number of people spending the night on the street, sleeping in cars, under bridges and other places not designed for human habitation is also on the rise. Strategies to End Homelessness counted more than 1,500 people living on the streets in 2013, a 38-percent increase from 2012 and the highest number since 2006. Half of those surveyed by the organization identified as struggling with a mental illness. Fifty-two percent said they were struggling with addiction, and 68 percent said they had a disability of some kind. People living on the streets, as opposed to in a shelter, are more likely to be chronically homeless, the report says.
• A review of Cincinnati’s charter by a city task force has uncovered something surprising: Due to a long-overlooked provision, the city might get a vote on whether or not it should continue to fluoridate its water. The task force is working to rewrite the charter, stripping out antiquated language and unnecessary provisions. The group has been looking into Chapter XI, which stipulates that the city must vote in favor of fluoridation or halt putting the chemical in the water supply, something Greater Cincinnati Water Works says voters have never approved.
Fluoride was a hot-button topic when the chemical was first added to water supplies in the 1950s. Conspiracy theorists alleged fluoridation was a communist plot; more recent crackpots have called it a government mind-control technique. Health organizations like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention disagree, saying fluoridation is one of the nation’s greatest public health efforts because it can prevent tooth decay. Despite this, many developed countries in Europe don’t fluoridate. Ohio state law requires water be fluoridated, but that law can be overridden by a city if its residents vote to remove the chemical. Twenty-two cities in Ohio don’t fluoridate. A move to vote on the issue would first have to be approved by Cincinnati City Council.
•The Washington Post ranked Great American Ballpark's beer selection best of any ballpark in the country in terms of quality. The Reds' beer offerings were ranked second overall as well, based on a number of factors. 'Nuff said, but if you want more details, here's a story about the rankings.
• A federal judge today extended until January a temporary ban on executions in Ohio following controversy over lethal injection drugs. That means the three executions the state had scheduled for this year will be delayed until next year. The original moratorium was ordered after the Jan. 16 execution of Dennis McGuire. That execution took an unusual amount of time, and witnesses reported McGuire gasped and struggled, though prison officials concluded he felt no pain. Other executions around the country using similar drugs have taken longer and resulted in prolonged suffering of the prisoners being executed. The state has said it will use the same drugs used in the McGuire execution, just in higher doses. The judge has ordered a delay so the state's execution methods can be investigated more thoroughly.
• A big donor to Attorney General Mike DeWine’s campaign owes more than $100,000 in overdue sales taxes. But Sudhir Dubey, a Columbus businessman, had enough cash to put $12,000 in the AG’s campaign coffers July 26, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Just a few months prior, DeWine’s office brought a lawsuit against Dubey for the unpaid taxes. DeWine’s campaign denies knowing Dubey and says proceedings against the donor have gone forward despite the contribution. But his opponent, Democrat David Pepper, has seized on the connection.
“Here, someone with little to no history of political giving gives a $12,000 check to DeWine’s campaign only months after DeWine opened a case against him,” said Peter Koltak, Pepper’s campaign spokesman. “It’s clear that donors believe they influence DeWine’s decision-making by dumping big money into his campaign.”
• As Ebola continues to rage through western Africa, a debate has flamed up about who is receiving experimental treatments designed to shore up victims’ immune systems against the virus. Two American missionaries received the experimental treatment, called ZMapp, upon returning to the United States two weeks ago. Critics have questioned why Americans are getting these new treatments, but not Africans. Supporters of the move point out the unfortunate history of drug tests on impoverished, vulnerable populations, including the infamous Tuskegee experiment. The latest outbreak of the virus is the largest yet known. Nearly 1,000 people have died from the fever, which starts out with cold-like symptoms before destroying organs and causing uncontrollable hemorrhaging.
• I leave you with this hall-of-fame moment in the annals of social media bloopers. On Saturday, Local 12 News tweeted a link to a story about the LEGO toy company, which is releasing a line of scientist figures. But the novel part, Local 12 says, is that the figures are FEMALE. As scientists! Mind blowing. The tweet was especially unfortunately worded, asking fellow Twitterers whether the figures were “a good idea, or ridiculous?” Hm. The social media missive immediately received a number of mocking replies, including “FEMALES are allowed to vote. Good idea or ridiculous?”
After such a jam-packed week, today's morning news feels kind of light. There's only a major highway project that some say could cause neighborhood displacement, big questions on a deal to save two Cincinnati landmarks and a few other things going on. You know, a pretty slow news day.
• More questions are arising about the Hamilton County Commissioners’ plan to put a sales tax initiative for Union Terminal on the November ballot. The original plan designed by the Cultural Facilities Task Force folded Music Hall into the tax increase and was based on a long-term, nine-month study of both buildings’ needs, financing possibilities and charitable commitments from donors.
The commissioners’ new plan, proposed by Chris Monzel and supported by anti-tax groups like COAST and the Cincinnati Tea Party cuts Music Hall from the deal. These groups had asked a number of questions about the original plan, but as the Business Courier reports, their own plan raises even more questions about private donations, cuts to spending on architectural elements of the renovation — and much more. The rundown of the new plan is worth a read and includes a pretty interesting question — was this plan, thrown together by anti-tax groups at the last minute, designed to fail at the ballot in November?
The Courier also has an opinion piece on Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s apparent change of heart about the deal. Hartmann looked to be the swing vote between fellow Republican Monzel’s opposition and Democrat Todd Portune’s acceptance of the Task Force’s original plan. He initially signaled that he thought he county and the city would reach a deal on both landmarks, then changed his tune. The commentary piece today explores the politics behind that change up.
• All the ire over the icon tax has inspired Democrats to take another look at Monzel’s commissioner seat. He’s up for reelection in November, and people suddenly are interested in running against him, including former Mayor Charlier Luken and former City Councilman and Cincinnati personality Jim Tarbell. But the Democrats already have a candidate, albeit a relatively inactive one. Sean Patrick Feeney of North College Hill is the party’s official candidate for the spot. He’s raised about $100 for his campaign. Hamilton County Democrats hope to have an official decision about their candidate by 4 p.m. today.
• Work started on the new I-71 interchange at Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive yesterday. The city hopes the new crossroads will bring new jobs and renewal to Avondale and Corryville, two of the city’s more neglected low-income neighborhoods. The update to the area has been on the drawing board for years, and yesterday’s groundbreaking represents a culmination of efforts and support from state, city and local groups. The city has pledged $20 million toward the project, and the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments has thrown in $25 million. More than 700 acres of land are expected to be redeveloped as the city works to attract new businesses and other tenants, including medical and research facilities.
All that development has many in the surrounding communities nervous, however, especially given the neighborhoods’ history with highway construction. Many black residents in Avondale and Corryville first came to the neighborhood when parts of the West End were bulldozed to make way for I-75 in the 1960s. Those folks saw a highway disrupt their lives again a decade later when I-71 bisected the neighborhood. City officials say every effort is being taken to involve residents in the ongoing planning efforts.
• A project to restore and move an historic fountain on Clifton Avenue in the gaslight district will start today. Efforts are underway to restore and shift the Probasco Fountain, which currently sits right along the street in Clifton in front of the Clifton Community Arts Center. The project will move the fountain, constructed in 1887, seven feet away from the street. Work is expected to take about 14 weeks.
• A report from the Ohio Department of Education says that Cincinnati Public Schools’ data improved for the 2013-2014 school year, but that its prior year data shows signs of misleading practices. In the past, ODE has found instances of so-called data scrubbing in attendance reports and other documentation from CPS. In 2012 -2013 data, ODE found 24 students were improperly reported truant, a revelation that affects attendance records and will spark a review and possible revision of the district’s report card. ODE reviewed 1,088 student records. Other big urban school districts had similar discrepancies in 2012-2013. Columbus had 141 students improperly reported out of more than 6,000 records reviewed, and Toledo had 86 out of more than 1,400. A former principal at a school in the Columbus Public School district has admitted to data manipulation related to these discrepancies and is currently under investigation to determine if she will keep her job.
• The White House went on lockdown yesterday — well, more of a lockdown than it’s always on, I guess — when a toddler crawled through the bars of the fence in front of the facility. Secret Service agents scrambled to get the child, who was eventually returned to his parents. The Secret Service had fun with the scare after the fact.
“We were going to wait until he learned to talk to question him,” said Secret Service Spokesman Edwin Donovan. Donovan said instead of a heavy-duty four-hour interrogation, the toddler got a time out.
Civil rights leader and former presidential hopeful Rev. Jesse Jackson wants to drum up support for a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing all Americans the right to vote, and he came to Cincinnati yesterday on his quest to get it.
Jackson appeared at yesterday's Cincinnati City Council meeting to make his case, highlighting the fact that voting rules are often left up to state and local authorities, creating a “separate and unequal” system. The constitution guarantees free speech and the right to bear arms, he said, but neglects to explicitly extend voting as a right to all citizens.
“For too long, too few Americans could vote to call this country, legitimately, a democracy.” Jackson said, noting that before the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which sought to abolish Jim Crow laws suppressing the black vote, “America survived apart.” He called the act of voting “perhaps the most fundamental landmark in this democracy.” Yesterday was the 49th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
Despite the progress made by the Voting Rights Act, a constitutional amendment is still needed, Jackson said. He highlighted recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down some sections of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the byzantine system of state, county and local rules that govern voting. There are more than 13,000 local municipalities and voting jurisdictions in the United States.
Despite the high hurdles in front of his idea, Jackson had little trouble getting some symbolic help from city council yesterday, which voted 7-0 to pass a motion expressing support for his efforts. Councilman Christopher Smitherman was not at the meeting and Councilwoman Amy Murray abstained from the vote.
Council members had high praise for Jackson.
“We appreciate your presence, we appreciate your leadership on so many issues of so much importance,” said Vice Mayor David Mann.
“These kinds of movements always start in the grassroots and move toward the top,” said Councilman Wendell Young. “I’m glad that a good start is being made here in Cincinnati.”
The Bill of Rights does not mention voting among the rights it enumerates.
Recent battles over early voting in Ohio illustrate the lack of a national standard and the patchwork of rules from state to state when it comes to voting accessibility. Ohio Republicans have moved to restrict early voting times in the state, including evenings and Sundays leading up to elections, when many black voters go to the polls.
Ohio’s General Assembly passed laws in February eliminating six early voting days and same-day voter registration. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, subsequently eliminated early voting the last two Sundays before elections and on weekday evenings during the days before elections.
The move has caused ire among voting rights activists and has led to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Justice Department last month signaled it would join the ACLU in that suit.
Husted’s cuts to early voting the Sunday before elections were undone when a federal district court judge ruled that the state must reinstitute early voting during the final three days before an election. Despite that victory, the other cuts have yet to be restored and are the grounds for the ACLU suit.
“We want to end the confusion around the right to vote as a fundamental right,” Jackson said of his proposal. He came to Cincinnati to make his case, he said, because the city has played an important role in social justice issues.
“This place has a certain history, beyond just a museum, a certain living history in this quest for social justice,” Jackson said, referencing the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and highlighting important visits by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The city has seen more than its share of race-related turmoil as well, of course, including the police shooting of unarmed black men and the resulting civil unrest in 2001, the city's stubborn income inequality, which weighs most heavily on minority residents, and other issues.
Still, the city has made progress, Young said.
"It hasn't always been that way here, but one of the things that makes me so very proud to be a Cincinnatian is that at the end of the day, we get it right."
Jackson’s proposed amendment faces a long road. Only 17 amendments have been passed since the initial 10 found in the Bill of Rights were ratified in 1791, the last of which, dealing with congressional pay raises, was passed in 1992.
Two-thirds of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate must vote to pass an amendment; given the current state of Congress, that’s an exceedingly tall order. Then three-quarters of the nation’s state legislatures must approve the amendment. A constitutional convention convened by two-thirds of the state legislatures can also make amendments, though none of the 27 we have now have been passed this way.
The Cincinnati Enquirer news department has seen some hard times this week, taking down stories about rich people getting arrested and now admitting that it was a bad idea to publish a trashy collection of mug shots and arrest reports about people who are likely mentally unstable or addicted to drugs.
CityBeat reported yesterday that The Enquirer took down a story about police arresting Robert S. Castellini, son of Reds owner Bob Castellini, and his wife Sunday night for allegedly fighting in front of their children. Enquirer Editor Carolyn Washburn explained in an email to CityBeat that the story wasn’t pulled because any super-powerful local business leaders whose team is hosting the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game complained. She says neither the Castellinis nor anyone else contacted The Enquirer about the story. Someone in the news department apparently used flawed news judgment and then someone else posted the story online before it had been properly vetted by editors. Nothing sinister — just general, run-of-the-mill incompetence.
"An editor determined — and I agreed — that it did not meet our news standards for publication," Washburn wrote to CityBeat in an email Wednesday evening. "The Mr. Castellini in question is not a public figure, has nothing to do with the Reds, etc. We don't report every domestic charge in the community. But while that was being discussed, someone posted it. We quickly took it down but not before it began to get traction."
CityBeat asked Washburn how the alleged crimes The Enquirer published in Monday's "arrest roundup" meet the paper’s news standards for publication based on these general guidelines. The story, titled “Arrest roundup: Woman pees on Findlay Market,” was published just an hour after “Reds' owners' son, daughter-in-law arrested.” The pee story detailed arrests involving a guy spitting on people at a bus stop, a dude masturbating on the steps of a church, a woman caught with drug paraphernalia after stealing Fig Newtons from a UDF and another lady allegedly urinating on Findlay Market while “acting bizarre.”The story on Castellini was deleted, but the arrest roundup lives on.
Washburn says the arrest roundup was just another news-gathering fuckup.
“That was an aberration and not something we'll be doing more of,” she wrote in an email to CityBeat this morning. “That's not the kind of coverage we want to do.”
If true that The Enquirer’s news department plans to back off dramatic stories about poor people going to jail, perhaps focusing more on the causes of poverty than the effects, it would be a good day for the tens of thousands of impoverished, mentally ill and drug-addicted Cincinnatians continually underserved by city budgets that underfund human services.
In the meantime, someone is still covering the Enquirer pee beat with gusto, although this one seems fairly deserved — Art Modell definitely screwed Cleveland over back in the day.
Phew! Yesterday was a crazy day to be a reporter in Cincinnati. This will be an all-local, all politics morning news update. Since we’ve already talked about a lot of the issues at play in the past couple morning news rundowns, I’ll just hit you with the highlights today.
The big story locally was Hamilton County Commissioners’ vote to put a five-year, .25 percent sales tax increase to fund renovations to Union Terminal on the November ballot. However, that deal differs from one originally proposed by the Cultural Facilities Task Force, which folded Music Hall renovations into a 14-year .25 percent tax increase. The new plan is a last-minute change up by Republican commissioners Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel. Both say the city hasn’t put enough skin in the game and that the county has history with Union Terminal but none with Music Hall. Needless to say, Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati City Council were not happy with that. Read my full story from yesterday here.
• The other big story yesterday was the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals hearings on lawsuits challenging gay marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan. About 600 people showed up to demonstrate downtown at the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse and nearby Fountain Square. Most came to protest the bans and show solidarity with the plaintiffs in the cases, though a few dozen demonstrators came in support of the bans, praying near the steps of the courthouse. Among those showing support were State Rep. Denise Driehaus, D-Cincinnati, and Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper.
Two of the six cases being considered are from Ohio; both revolve around same sex couples who wish to have their marriages recognized on official state documents such as birth and death certificates.
Attorneys for Ohio argued that voters passed the state’s gay marriage ban and that the court shouldn’t dismantle a law passed by a democratic process. That line of argument differs from states like Kentucky, which say the state government has an interest in incentivizing straight marriage for procreative purposes.
Though the three judges on the panel hearing the arguments in the cases were often hard to read and hammered both sides with tough questions, Kentucky’s argument did not seem well-received. Judge Jeffery Sutton, one of two judges on the panel appointed by former President George W. Bush, said that marriage isn’t about procreation but about love and affection. It was harder to read how judges might rule on Ohio’s line of reasoning, however, and Sutton at one point admonished marriage ban opponents, saying that appealing to voters might serve their cause better.
Brittney Rogers and Brittney Henry-Rogers of Cincinnati are two of the plaintiffs. They sat in court with their newborn son, who was born to Henry-Rogers through artificial insemination. They said they wanted Ohio to recognize them both as his parents.
“We’re not just doing this for our rights,” Rogers said. “This is for him.”
Al Gerhardstein, who is representing the plaintiffs, said the case is about children like the Rogers’.
“We’ve gone 28 years and we’ve accomplished a great deal in 28 years. But what is the status we’re at right now? We’re at three couples, in this case, who come to Ohio and their children are only recognized as having one parent. But they have two parents. The state should be enhancing families, recognizing families, not ignoring basic parental rights. These kids are discriminated against and hurt a great deal by this policy. It’s wrong…. and we think the Supreme Court will ultimately say that.”
• The other, other big news yesterday was City Council’s unanimous vote to approve the appointment of Harry Black as city manager. Interim City Manager Scott Stiles got high praise from the council, and Mayor John Cranley emphasized that his choice to tap Black did not reflect on Stiles’ performance during his nine-month stint at the job. Stiles will go back to his old position as assistant city manager.
Some members of council, especially those who have taken positions in opposition to Mayor Cranley, did express skepticism about Black. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson had asked hard questions of Black during a Tuesday vetting session that stretched two-and-a-half hours. And Councilman Chris Seelbach said he wasn’t “100 percent” when it came to Black’s appointment.
“I’m concerned about the specifics of your vision for the city,” Seelbach said, noting that he needs to hear more details about Black’s ideas before he’s sold. “I hope you use my skepticism as fuel to do the best job possible.”
Black has said he’ll need to time to assess where the city stands before making detailed proposals beyond the broad ideas he discussed in an introductory news conference and council’s vetting session.
• Also big news: Civil rights leader and former presidential hopeful Rev. Jesse Jackson visited Cincinnati yesterday to rally support for a proposed constitutional amendment that would explicitly guarantee voting rights for all Americans. Council passed a motion7-0 supporting the proposed amendment. Any concrete action on such a change to the constitution is a long way off, of course, but it says something about the city that Jackson started his tour to round up support for the effort here in Cincinnati. Stay tuned for a full story on his visit.
Finally, some quick hits:
• The Cincinnati Enquirer says they took down a story detailing the arrest of Robert S. Castellini, son of Reds owner Bob Castellini, and his wife because covering the domestic dispute between two non-public figures was an editorial mistake. Meanwhile, a story about strange arrests for minor crimes in the city, complete with huge mugshots, remains up, though Editor Carolyn Washburn admits that coverage was also an error.
• Jeff Ruby's restaurant is still sinking, and there's an investigation to find out why.
• A really rad Nam June Paik sculpture of a giant retro-futuristic robot is coming back to downtown.
• I stand corrected: Wikimedia contacted me to point out that a morning news item I wrote yesterday involving a monkey, a selfie, and a litigious photographer is inaccurate. The company doesn't actually think a monkey who took a selfie with a British photographer's camera owns the copyright to that picture. They're simply arguing that the photographer who owns the camera doesn't have the copyright and can't force Wikimedia to take the picture down or compensate him. Glad that's all cleared up.
Hamilton County Commissioners voted today to axe Music Hall from a proposed sales tax increase designed to pay for renovations to that structure and Union Terminal. Now, only Union Terminal will benefit from the potential tax hike, which county voters will decide on in November. Voters won't get a chance to decide whether a similar hike will pay for Music Hall.
Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati City Council are not happy about the change-up.
“As mayor of this city, I’m deeply offended when we’re treated as second-class citizens in our own county,” Cranley said during a vote approving the city’s contribution to renovations at today’s council meeting. “We have done our part. We will pay the tax if it is passed. In no other jurisdiction, not even Hamilton County, is being asked to cut its budget … for these institutions.”
Cranley said asking city taxpayers for more money represents a kind of double taxation, since they would also be paying the county sales tax increase.
Ostensibly, council was voting to approve annual payments toward upkeep of both Union Terminal and Music Hall for 25 years. The $200,000 yearly commitment to each building adds up to $10 million. Cranley floated the plan last week as a demonstration of the city’s commitment to the landmark buildings.
Council approved that money unanimously, but that vote is mostly symbolic now that the fragile plan to fund both renovations with a tax hike, first proposed by a cadre of area business leaders called the Cultural Facilities Task Force, has fallen through. Hamilton County Commissioners Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel said the proposed contributions, which the city already makes, don’t represent a renewed effort to fix the buildings.
The city has also pledged another $10 million toward Music Hall repairs. Those contributions weren’t enough for Hartmann, who had been the swing vote on the three-member commission. He signaled he would not vote for the original 14-year, .25 percent sales tax increase designed to raise much of the $331 million needed to repair the buildings.
Instead, he voted with fellow Republican Monzel today for an alternate tax measure that left Music Hall out of the deal, raising $170 million over five years for renovations to Union Terminal only. Democrat Todd Portune, who supported the original plan, voted against the new deal.
Former P&G CEO Bob McDonald, who led the task force designing the original deal, said the new plan jeopardizes more than $40 million in private donations, as well as historic preservation tax credits.
"The idea that somehow there’s going to be more money falling from space or that this money will be put forward for an alternate plan is a fallacious assumption," McDonald told the Cincinnati Business Courier. "That money has been committed to us personally for this plan.”
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld called the development “frustrating.”
“I’m not here to add gasoline to the fire, but I think logic is a fair expectation of our elected leaders, and after people have said repeatedly that plans haven’t been vetted, that questions haven’t been answered, they’ve now moved forward with something that has no vetting,” Sittenfeld said, referring to criticisms of the original plan by anti-tax groups like COAST. “I hope people don’t forget what happened eight blocks from City Hall anytime soon.”
Monzel said that the plan's details would
be worked out in the coming weeks, and that he wants to keep the county
from overextending itself.
“Going back through the real-estate records, it’s clear that time and time again the city has stepped forward,” said Councilman Kevin Flynn. He highlighted the city’s rescue of Union Terminal from a failed plan to turn it into a mall in the 1980s. The city bought the building from a developer after the plan crashed and burned. Flynn also said the city has made significant contributions to 136-year-old Music Hall's upkeep since the 1800s.
such indecency by individuals who are likely afflicted by mental health and
substance abuse problems is obviously of intense public interest (if anyone
poops anywhere near CityBeat, we
goddam sure want to know about it), this stellar roundup of arrests nearly took
a backseat to the drama that unfolded in Indian Hill the night before — Robert
S. Castellini, the 46-year-old son of Reds owner Bob Castellini, and his wife
Deanna were arrested and charged with domestic violence for fighting in front
of their children.
Crime reporter Kimball Perry was all over the story, as he
has a long history of detailing the crayest of the cray in Hamilton County
courtrooms, reporting on Monday that both Robert and Deanna went in front of a
judge that morning and how court documents described "visible scratch
marks around the neck of Ms. Castellini” and Robert having "visible
scratches around his neck and shoulder.
Despite such drama and intrigue — three Castellinis work in the Reds front office and Robert’s lawyer is Hamilton County GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou — The Enquirer appears to have pulled the story from its website as of Tuesday afternoon. Here’s what comes up when you go through Google and click on Perry’s story, titled “Reds' owners' son, daughter-in-law arrested”:Fortunately for those who for so long have turned to The Enquirer for awesome stories about (mostly poor) people's problems, you can still find the cached page:
As Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) wrote in 2001: “The Idaho Statesman has a curious definition of 'fact checking.' The business editor of the Gannett-owned daily, Jim Bartimo, resigned when he was told that a story he had worked on about Micron Technologies, the area's largest employer, had to be sent for pre-publication 'review'... to Micron Technologies.”
Previously The Statesman's business news practices were examined by The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, in articles from January and February 2000. Kurtz's article revealed that The Statesman reporter covering the Micron beat was married to a Micron employee.
When Kurtz asked Washburn about the paper's Micron coverage and whether it was afraid to be too critical, she replied, “It's not that it has anything to do with their being the biggest employer. What we write can affect a lot of people in this community. It can affect the stock price.”
WKRC Local 12 also reported the arrests on Monday, and its video and online version are still live here.
Robert S. Castellini is due back in court Aug. 18, and
Deanna’s case is scheduled to continue Aug. 21, not that anyone really gives a
shit. If Perry’s article miraculously reappears this story will be updated.