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by Nick Swartsell 08.25.2015 39 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council private meeting amendment to go on November ballot; no more camping out for magnet school enrollment; former CPD captain in pro-weed ad

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Cincinnati City Council yesterday moved along at least one charter amendment proposal, putting it on the November ballot for voters to approve. That amendment would clarify when council can meet in executive session, away from the staring eyes of the public. Ohio state law allows some use of executive session for municipal governments, and the charter amendment proposed would specify limited times when council could get together for discussions behind closed doors. Those include discussions about certain sensitive property transactions, ongoing court cases, security measures for city facilities and personnel, certain information about development deals and some discussions about the city manager’s job.

The Charter Review Committee, a group charged with suggesting changes to the city’s governing document, had suggested four other amendments. At least one of those, a measure that would clarify how long the mayor has to refer legislation to council committees, seems to have died on the vine. While it sounds arcane, the issue has big, contentious implications. The mayor’s ability to hold on to legislation amounts to a so-called “pocket veto,” critics on council claim, or a way for the mayor to effectively kill council actions he doesn’t like. Mayor Mark Mallory used this power more than 200 times during his time as mayor. Cranley is opposed to the amendment, but he also claims that the pocket veto isn’t a real thing. Some council members agree, saying that the mayor clinging on to legislation could be challenged in court. One thing is clear, however: an amendment won’t clear up the issue. Advocates for the measure fell one short of the six council votes needed to put the amendment on the November ballot.  

Other amendments, including one that would give council the power to fire the city manager, are hanging in there and might be considered next week, just short of the deadline to get the proposals on the November ballot.

• In other council news, a new tax levy for parks improvement will also go on the upcoming ballot. The property tax boost of 1 mill would mean that owners of a $100,000 home would pay about $35 extra a year. Council’s vote is somewhat symbolic. Organizers of a petition drive collected enough signatures throughout the city to put the initiative up before voters. If voters approve the measure, it would raise about $5 million a year. About $1.25 million of that would go toward park maintenance. The rest would go to new projects decided by the mayor and the park board. Parks funding has been cut in half in the last decade and a half, Cranley has noted.

• A long-held tradition for Cincinnati parents is over, at least for now. Folks in the Cincinnati Public School district looking to get their kids into magnets like the Fairview German Language School will no longer be able to sign up on a first-come, first-served basis, but instead will be entered into a lottery system. That will eliminate the yearly camp-outs that parents undertake as they wait to sign their children up for those schools. CPS has cited fairness and safety concerns for ending the first-come, first-served practice. Last year’s camp out lasted 16 days. Enrollment for CPS’ high-demand magnet schools has several tiers. First are priority students who already have a sibling attending the school. Then a number of seats are set aside for students whose nearby schools are among the district’s lowest performers, an effort to offer those students a chance at a better education. The rest have been up for grabs. Until now, seat availability was through the first-come, first-served approach. Now, a computer will randomly choose who gets to enroll.

• City officials and business leaders yesterday launched Union Hall, a facility in Over-the-Rhine that is touted as a one stop shop for entrepreneurs looking for help in launching start-ups. The site on Vine Street houses startup incubator The Brandery, Cintrifuse and CincyTech, all of which are aimed at helping get startups off the ground. The historic building, which has been a brewery, night club and speakeasy, will house about 100 employees.

• A former Cincinnati Police captain is appearing in an ad advocating for legalized marijuana. Retired Capt. Howard Rahtz, a member of a marijuana policy task force led by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, is seen in the commercials supporting ResponsibleOhio’s legalization effort arguing that the state’s marijuana laws don’t work and that it’s time to reform them. Rahtz touts his time as a Cincinnati police officer, saying he learned a great deal about drug addiction during his service. Opponents of the ResponsibleOhio measure, which would legalize marijuana for anyone over the age of 21, but restrict commercial growth to 10 sites across the state, say they’ll be airing their own commercials. Groups like Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies say ResponsibleOhio’s plan amounts to an unfair monopoly that will only benefit the group’s rich investors.

by Nick Swartsell 08.24.2015 40 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Historic King Records site endangered; 'Nati air quality is nasty; Deez Nuts endorses Gov. Kasich

Good morning y’all. Hope your weekend was as fantastic as mine was. Yesterday I finally made it down to the Taft Museum to check out their exhibition of Edward Curtis photographs. Curtis spent 30 years in the early part of the 1900s photographing Native American tribes across the West. His work is technically stunning and in some ways, pretty problematic, contributing to some stereotypes and perceptions of Native peoples as a “vanishing race” living bygone lifestyles. The exhibit is interesting— the photographs are beautiful and the underlying questions they bring up are worth wrestling with.

Anyway, this isn’t morning art blabbering, it’s morning news. So let’s talk news, eh? The thing that caught my eye around town today is this story about the former King Records site in Evanston. I’ve been hearing buzz that part of it might be in danger, and turns out that may be true. The owner of one of the buildings at the historic site, which hosted early recording sessions by James Brown and a number of other significant musicians, has applied for a permit to demolish the structure. That’s led to an outcry from historic preservationists, music historians and general boosters for Cincinnati. The city’s planning commission Friday declared the site a local historic landmark, echoing a similar declaration by the city’s Historic Conservation Board. City Council has to give final approval to the designation, which it could do next month. In the meantime, the owner’s demolition permit application is on hold. Will the city be able to save this historic landmark, which could cost up to half a million dollars to stabilize? We’ll see.

• Stressed about pollution? Take a deep breath. Or maybe, uh, don’t. A new report says Cincinnati is among the worst cities in the country when it comes to air quality. Website 24/7 Wall St. analyzed air quality data from the American Lung Association and determined that the Greater Cincinnati metropolitan area is the eighth worst in the country for air pollution. The report compares the area to California’s central valley region, which landed seven cities in the bottom 10 of the air quality list. Like that region, Cincinnati is in a valley and has fairly high traffic volumes. But that’s not the only culprit here: coal plants play a big role in air pollution around Cincinnati, the ALA suggests. Take heart, though. We’re not the only Ohio city on the list. Cleveland came in at number 10 in the most polluted air ranking.

• So there’s a new interchange going in on I-71 into Walnut Hills and Avondale, and the State of Ohio has purchased millions in property near the future on and off ramps. Specifically, the state has spent nearly $4 million on 83 parcels of land around the project. When all is said and done, the state will have purchased 140 pieces of property, officials say. That’s part of a bigger land-buying frenzy in the historically low-income neighborhoods. The $106 million interchange looks likely to change the face of the area around Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Reading Road, with new development featuring a proposed tech corridor and other big developments. We first reported on the interchange last year. Stay tuned for more updates on how the development will affect Avondale, Corryville and Walnut Hills.

• Here’s your daily dose of Kasich news: does the Ohio governor and GOP presidential hopeful talk straight on the campaign trail when it comes to Ohio’s economy? Not quite, according to some fact checkers.  A recent Washington Post article dug into some of Kasich’s favorite claims about his role in Ohio’s economic recovery and issued one and two-pinocchio ratings (some shading of the facts and significant omissions/exaggerations, respectively) about his claims. Kasich’s claim that Ohio was “$8 billion in the hole” when he took office, for instance, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, according to the Post article. The state’s actual budget for the year Kasich took office saw significant revenue increases from an economic recovery that began before Kasich’s term, leading to significantly less shortfall than Kasich’s claim.

• Speaking of Kasich, we live in a world where I can say the following and it’s not just some vulgar joke I would text to my friends but actual (debatable) news: Deez Nuts has endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the GOP presidential primary. Deez Nuts is the name assumed by a 15-year-old Iowa farm boy who somehow raked in 9 percent of the vote in a recent poll of that primary state. Mr. Nuts has also endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. He is of course endorsing himself for the general election.

• Finally, in other GOP primary news, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was in Ohio recently courting the tea party and the Koch Brothers at the billionaire industrialists' Americans for Prosperity Summit. Bush promised to uphold the staunch conservative values of slashing government spending and you know, making it easier for rich folks to get richer at the summit. The event in Columbus drew a big group of conservative activists as well as a large number of protesters.

That’s it for me today. E-mail me your news tips or tweet at me with, well, whatever you want.

by Nick Swartsell 08.21.2015 43 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Has CPD's crime reduction plan worked?; opposition forms to Cranley's park plan; build your own donuts

Good morning all. Here’s the news today as we gear up for what I’m sure will be a rad weekend.

How's that crime plan going so far? At the beginning of the summer, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell was asked by City Manager Harry Black to draft a 90-day plan to reduce the number of shootings in the city, which has seen a major uptick in gun crime (though not murders or other violent crime) since this time last year. The plan to deploy more officers in busy places and spots where kids play and to create curfew centers for young people, was delayed at first by the June 19 shooting of officer Sonny Kim, but parts of it were implemented July 1. So… has it been working?

Blackwell touts CPD’s efforts at keeping crime rates from rising during a complicated summer full of major events like the MLB All-Star Game, outside incidents like the UC police shooting death of Samuel DuBose and the increasing challenges associated with the region’s heroin epidemic.

Shootings this summer have been up 30 percent over last year, and other violent crimes are roughly the same as past years. But that’s not necessarily the whole story. Taking a longer look at crime data, it’s apparent that the city’s recent uptick falls in line with past crime trends. The 291 shootings that have occurred so far this year are identical to the number for this time in 2013. Looking at data over a three-year period, violent crime is down nine percent.

What’s more, many cities across the country have experience much greater upticks in crime this year, including big surges in Baltimore, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Mayor John Cranley has said that’s not good enough, however, and has vowed to continue reviewing data and strategies to bring crime down. Blackwell has also offered further steps, including keeping the city’s recreation centers open later so teens have places to go after they’re out of school. A $50,000 grant from private donors will help pay rec center staff during those extended hours.

Opposition is coalescing against Mayor Cranley’s recent proposal to raise property taxes to pay for a $100 million parks revamp. That measure, which will be on the November ballot, would include big changes to Mount Airy Forest on the city’s West Side and Burnet Woods in Clifton. Those changes don’t sit well with opponents, who say proposals they’ve seen so far remove far too many trees and change the character of the urban woods entirely. Mayor Cranley has said that early plans for the parks were preliminary and not final designs. One showed a restaurant in Burnet Woods, for instance, a detail that has been removed since.

Opponents of the plan, including local attorney Tim Mara, also object to the way in which the plan would go forward. Mara says he’s part of a “diverse” coalition opposed to the park plan, which will be launching a formal campaign in the coming weeks. Mara’s complaint: Should the ballot initiative pass, it would vest power over changes to the park with the mayor and the park board, giving Cincinnati City Council no say in what would be done to the parks. Cranley has vowed that any changes to the parks will go through a long public review and comment process. A number of major businesses have backed the plan, including United Dairy Farmers and Kroger.

The property tax boost would raise about $5 million a year, money that would then be used to issue bonds for the rest of the cost of the proposed projects. About a quarter of the money raised would also be banked for future park maintenance and upkeep.

• There is now a build-your-own donut bar in Cincinnati. Top This Donut Bar at University Station near Xavier allows you to just stroll in like you own the place and start dumping bacon and Andes bars and raspberry goo all over your donuts. That sounds amazing and I’m so glad it’s not on my walk to work.

• Let's head uptown, where the new Kroger they’re going to (finally, finally) build there. The Kroger on Short Vine in Coryville will be twice the size of the current store, which looks like a place your grandmother would have shopped in the 1970s when the fancy store across town wasn’t convenient. The new location will have more prepared food options, beer taps, and a number of other amenities. A replacement store at the location, near University of Cincinnati, has been in the works for a long time. Demolition on the current store will begin soon, after which the new store should be open in 12-14 months.

• We’ve all been there before, right? You’re in a shady corner of your local coffee shop or whatever and someone approaches you, looks around, and is all like, “Hey man, what do you think about some weed?” Well maybe that’s just me and I hang out in weird coffee shops. Anyway, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce will be holding listening sessions around the region so representatives of some of its 4,500-member businesses can give their two cents and help the organization determine how to come down on November’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative, a state constitutional amendment proposed by ResponsibleOhio. That proposal would make marijuana legal for anyone 21 and up, but would limit commercial growth to 10 sites owned by the group’s investors. The first listening session is taking place this morning at Coffee Emporium downtown. The next three will take place on Aug. 26 from 9-11 a.m. at Panera Bread locations in Newport, Union Township and Springdale.

That’s it for me. Hit me up with any news tips here.

by Nick Swartsell 08.20.2015 44 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
death penalty

Morning News and Stuff

Former Mason mayor going to prison; FDA says Ohio's plan to get execution drugs is illegal; Kasich suggests eliminating teachers' lounges, is only kind of joking

Good morning y’all. Here’s what’s happening around the city and beyond today.

Former Mason mayor and state representative Peter Beck was sentenced today to four years in prison on 13 felony convictions related to his role in defrauding investors by luring them into giving money to a failing technology company. Earlier this year, Beck was convicted of fraud, theft and perjury charges, though he was also found not guilty on 25 other charges. He faced up to 50 years in prison for his role in Christopher Technologies, which was already insolvent when Beck and other company leaders convinced investors to put money into it. Beck and his partners then spent that money elsewhere, leaving investors with nothing.

• The big story today is a big scum fest. Basically, some scummy hackers hacked a scummy website for gross married people to hook up with other people they aren’t married to and released a bunch of information about the site’s clients. Some of those clients used city of Cincinnati or other public email addresses to register for the site. Now some scummy news organizations are rolling around in the scum shower and we’re all just super gross and implicated by all this.

Recently, hackers broke into dating site Ashley Madison, which helps folks have illicit affairs. The hackers released reams of information about who uses the site, and lo and behold, accounts were created with email addresses corresponding to a city police officer, fire fighter and sewer worker. Other accounts with local public ties include one with an email address from someone in the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Cincinnati Public Schools and one from Kenton County Schools.

This smells fishy to me, though. Who is dumb enough to use their work email for this kind of thing? Further, is it really in the public interest to know who is trying to sleep with whom? Just use your private email address so we don’t have to hear about it, right? This whole gross thing is why I don’t want to get married, use the Internet, or really deal with people in any other way whatsoever. Thanks guys.

• The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which as its name suggests, is a giant business association here in the state, yesterday voted to oppose ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization constitutional amendment. The OCC is citing workplace safety concerns as the reason for its opposition. The organization is another big opponent of the constitutional amendment, which voters are set to approve or deny in November. ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would legalize weed in Ohio and create 10 marijuana farms throughout the state owned by the group’s investors. No other commercial growers would be permitted, though a small amount of marijuana could be grown for personal use with a special license. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association and a number of other large organizations have come out in opposition of the effort. Meanwhile, many statewide unions and other organizations and public figures have come out in support of the proposal. It’s shaping up to be a big battle right up until the ballot. You can read our whole rundown here.

• If I told you that someone you know was trying to illegally buy drugs overseas in order to kill people, would you be alarmed? I guess that depends on who you roll with. If you roll with the State of Ohio, for instance, it might not be news to you at all. The federal Food and Drug Administration has said not so fast to the state’s plan to import drugs from other countries so it can resume executing people. The FDA says Ohio’s plan to obtain sodium thiopental, which it can’t get in the U.S., is illegal.

The state’s plan has been necessitated by U.S. companies’ refusal to supply the necessary drugs for executions and by a highly-problematic 2014 execution here that used a replacement two-drug cocktail. That combination caused convicted killer Dennis McGuire to snort and gasp during his execution. It took him more than 26 minutes to die using the replacement drug cocktail, and similar combinations have caused other, sometimes gruesome, irregularities in executions in other states. After McGuire’s execution, the state placed a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty until it can secure more humane ways to execute inmates. There are currently no executions planned this year, but the state has 21 slated starting next year and stretching into 2019.

• It’s a good thing Ohio Gov. John Kasich isn’t running for king of America. If he was, teachers could kiss their lounges goodbye. Kasich made that strangely aggressive statement yesterday during an education forum in New Hampshire, a vital early primary state as Kasich battles with the hordes of GOP presidential hopefuls for a national look at the nomination. Kasich told an audience on the panel that if he were in charge, teachers wouldn’t have lounges where “they sit together and worry about ‘woe is us.’ ” Kasich went on to praise the work teachers do, but said teacher’s unions create an environment of fear and scare educators into thinking their wages and benefits will be taken away. Huh. Maybe it’s the low wages, high work hours, constant testing and uncertainty about funding that is playing into that mindset, but yeah, you’re probably right. Having a lounge to sit in definitely plays into the fear factor somehow. Next up: All teachers must eat in their cars at lunch time and not talk to anyone else at all.

by Natalie Krebs 08.18.2015 46 days ago
at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

ResponsibleOhio opponents speak up; discrepancies between life expectancy in Cincinnati's rich and poor neighborhoods; Kasich regrets the Iraq war

Now that ResponsibleOhio's initiative to legalize marijuana is officially on the Nov. 3 ballot, opposition has formalized against constitutional amendment that could legalize a weed monopoly. Yesterday, a coalition called Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies launched its coalition against the constitutional amendment that would only allow 10 Ohio farms to grow and sell the plant. The coalition includes the Avondale-based Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. In a press conference at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus yesterday, the group raised concerns that legalizing marijuana could increase its access to children and teens as well as give the false perception that the drug is safe. Cincinnati Children's Hospital told the Business Courier that it is particularly concerned with kids getting their hands on candy and baked goods that contained marijuana. The group was also concerned that the measure would allow an individual to possess a up to a half-pound of pot, or enough to roll about 500 joints. 

• ResponsibleOhio isn't the only constitutional amendment voters will face in November. State lawmakers have put a second initiative on the ballot to block the monopoly-centered business model ResponsibleOhio has proposed for marijuana farms. So what happens if the two conflicting amendments pass? According to Secretary of State Jon Husted, the amendment to block marijuana would prevail because it goes into effect first. 

• Hamilton County's public health department found Indian Hill residents can expect on average to live 17 years longer than Lincoln Heights residents. A study by the department's epidemiologists looked at 13 measures of health found a 17-year difference in life expectancy across the county most heavily coordinated with your zip code. The rates of heart disease, cancer and stroke were significantly higher in lower-income areas than in higher-income areas. Norwood, Lincoln Heights, Lockland, Cleves, Addyston and Elmwood Place have life expectancies between 69.9 and 73.3 years, while Indian Hill, Montgomery, Evendale, Wyoming, Terrace Park and Amberley Village have life expectancies from 81.8 to 87 years.

• Gov. John Kasich told CNN he regrets supporting the Iraq invasion in 2003, but does support sending American troops back to the Middle East to fight the Islamic State. The GOP presidential nominee said that he made his decision a decade ago based just on erroneous reports of weapons of mass destruction, and had it not been for that small detail, he never would have supported it.

by Nick Swartsell 08.17.2015 47 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Former employees file lawsuit against Toby Keith bar; Ohio's Senate candidates have money, but not enough to swim in Scrooge McDuck-style; congrats Ohio, we bought $1 billion in booze last year

Good morning y’all. I hope your weekend was fantastic and your summer is winding down nicely. Here’s the news today.

Former employees of now-shuttered Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar at The Banks have filed a lawsuit claiming the bar’s management purposely concealed the fact that the bar was closing and issued paychecks that later bounced. The bar closed July 16 due to unpaid rent two days after the MLB All-Star Game. Employees filing the class action suit say they were given no notice of the closure and that the Chase Bank account that their last paychecks were issued from is empty. Representatives for the bar, which is part of a nationwide chain, have not responded to requests for comment on the closure or the lawsuit. The Cincinnati location and others across the country have been subject to a number of lawsuits.

• A controversial marijuana legalization effort just got more opposition. ResponsibleOhio recently received confirmation that its proposed amendment to the state constitution will be on the November ballot. Now the group is working to rally its supporters even as powerful opposition emerges. Both conservative officials including State Auditor David Yost, other legalization efforts like Ohioans to End Prohibition and others have come out against ResponsibleOhio’s plan, which would legalize marijuana but limit commercial production to 10 grow sites owned by the group’s investors. Now, a powerful trade group is also opposing the plan. The Ohio Manufacturer’s Association says it opposes the proposed amendment, citing possible workplace safety issues and the plan’s creation of what it calls a monopoly. ResponsibleOhio’s Ian James has called those concerns “fear mongering.”

• Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Friday struck down charter proposals in three Ohio counties that would have outlawed fracking there. Athens, Medina and Fulton Counties were mulling the charter amendments, which, if approved by voters, would have prohibited the drilling techniques. But Husted says those charter amendments violate the state’s constitution and will not be enforceable. The power to regulate fracking lies with the state, Husted argues, and not with local or county governments. Hm. I thought conservatives liked small government and hated state control of things?

• Welp, personal financial disclosures are in for U.S. Senate candidates looking to woo Ohio voters, and of course we’re all sitting in the edge of our seats like it’s the last damned episode of Serial or something. Err, at least I am. You don’t get a huge buzz from checking out financial disclosures? Does sitting Sen. Rob Portman have enough cash to float the yacht he could purchase with his cash? What about former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who was once one of the least-wealthy members of Congress? Has he upped his personal cash flow game? And how is hometown upstart and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld stacking up when it comes to, uh, stacking up?

Well, this piece has the answers for you. Portman is worth somewhere between $8 and $20 million — pretty respectable, though not top Senate-earner material. Strickland is worth somewhere between $300,000 and $700,000. Nothing to sneeze at, but he’d probably get picked on by the other kids in the Senate because his Nikes aren’t new enough. Meanwhile, Sittenfeld says he’s worth exactly $329,178. About half of that is in retirement accounts, because, you know, that’s gonna happen soon for the 30-year-old wiz kid. So wait, this guy’s younger than me and his retirement accounts have more in them than my bank account (by a long shot). Hold on, I need to go cry somewhere for a few minutes over my less than stellar life choices. Reason number 973 why I’m not running for Senate.

• Speaking of running for things, we have a guy running our state who is also running for president. Just in case you hadn’t heard about that. Gov. John Kasich has done pretty well for himself since last week’s first GOP primary debate, gaining some much-needed national attention for his campaign and even boosting his poll numbers in pivotal primary state New Hampshire. Kasich is now running third there behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush and real estate dude Donald Trump. Kasich has also grabbed a couple key endorsements, including one from Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. It’s a sign that Kasich is making headway in his quest for the presidency, though wider polling shows he’ s still got a way to go and is far down the list of national GOP favorites.

• Finally, if all this politics stuff makes you want to drink, you’re not alone. A new report from the Ohio Department of Commerce Sunday revealed that Ohioans set a record for liquor sales last year, buying nearly $1 billion of the stuff. Most of the 7 percent uptick from previous years comes from folks buying fancier, more expensive booze, not necessarily because people are grabbing five bottles of Boone's Farm instead of four.

That's it for me. Tweet at me or email news tips, the best taco toppings, or your favorite flavor/combination of flavors of Boone's Farm. I like them all because I'm a journalist and that's how we roll.

by Natalie Krebs 08.14.2015 50 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Morning News and Stuff

Rec Centers to offer longer hours for eight weeks; Cranley barbecues the crime wave; Former Xavier assistant basketball coach accused of sexual abuse; Regional study could mean more train services between Cincy and Chicago

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced yesterday at a press conference at Lincoln Recreation Center in the West End that the city will be rolling out an eight week pilot program partnership between the city, the Cincinnati Police Department and the city's recreation centers to keep five of Cincinnati's recreation centers open longer hours and open up a Lower Price Hill school for community use. Starting this Saturday, the Bush, Evanston, Hirsch, Millvale and Price Hills recreation centers will be open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will stay open until 9 p.m. on weekdays. Oyler School will start granting community members access to its facilities. The eight pilot program will cost $50,000 dollars with $25,000 coming from the city and another $25,000 from an anonymous private donor. At the end of its run, the program will be evaluated and possibly extended into other recreation centers and schools depending on its effectiveness.   

Sittenfeld hinted that part of the push for the program has come from a recent spike in gun violence over the past few months, saying, "part of the reason we feel a lot of urgency on this is that everybody knows that summer can be a little bit hotter time of year, and just not in terms of the temperature."

• Mayor John Cranley is also out and about trying to reduce the city's crime wave. Cranley was spotted last week at a barbecue put together by Cincinnati Works in East Westwood, one of the highest crime neighborhoods in the city, talking with community leaders about their concerns. In June, the city pushed out an ambitious 90 day plan to reduce citywide shootings by 5 percent and overall crime by 10 percent, but some priorities have been dropped since the July shooting of Officer Sonny Kim, including curfew enforcement. 

• A Xavier University basketball player has filed a complaint of sexual abuse against former assistant coach, Bryce McKey. The 20-year-old player alleged that last May McKey invited her over to his northern Kentucky home, gave her several alcoholic beverages, fondled her twice and then tried to kiss her as she left. The player also claims that McKey tried to offer her money to not file a complaint in the days that followed. McKey, who has since left Xavier for a position an assistant coach for the University of Maryland's women's basketball team, has been suspended indefinitely from his new job and is scheduled to be arraigned this morning at the Kenton County Courthouse. He could face up to 90 days in jail or a fine of $250 dollars if convicted. 

• A Cincinnati-based state Senator has introduced a bill that would keep cops from being able to pull over motorists just for missing a front license plate. The lack of a front plate lead to a traffic stop last month in Mount Auburn in which unarmed 43-year-old Samuel Dubose was shot by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing.  Sen Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) has proposed a bill making the lack of a front license place a secondary, rather than primary offense. So in order to be ticketed for it, a motorist must have been pulled over for another offense. Thomas, who is a former police officer, has titled the bill the "Dubose was Beacon Act."

• The Federal Railroad Administration is funding a regional study that could potentially increase train service between Cincinnati and Chicago. The FRA is planning to announce a study of a region-wide service that could increase service between the two cities. The Midwest and Southeast are the two regions chosen by Congress to spend $2.8 million on studying and planning rail networks. The federal money will flow through the Ohio Department of Transportation. That's wonderful news for rail advocates. Gov. John Kasich, who is not much of a fan of commuter rail, cancelled the Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland Amtrak route in 2011, a project which had $400 million from the federal government.

• Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has just announced the former secretary of state and Democratic prez hopeful will visit Cincinnati next month. Clinton will swing through the area Sept. 10 for a fundraising event and campaign stop. Clinton so far has been the easy frontrunner for the Democratic nod, but she's faced some opposition of late from Vermont's U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has campaigned on a more left-leaning, populist message.

by Nick Swartsell 08.13.2015 51 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Legal pot will be on ballot; UC to spend big bucks on reform; Assange investigation dropped

Good morning all. Here’s a quick rundown of the news happening in Cincy and beyond today.

First, let’s flip the script and talk about some big statewide news: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted yesterday approved pot legalization group ResponsibleOhio’s petition drive, meaning the group’s proposed constitutional amendment will appear on November’s ballot for voters to approve or deny. The group has pulled off a sort of dramatic, buzzer-beating feat by landing the initiative on the ballot. Earlier this summer, it fell almost 30,000 signatures short on its first try, but got a short extension. ResponsibleOhio’s plan takes a page from Ohio’s casino playbook, calling for legalizing marijuana for anyone over 21, but restricting commercial growth of the crop to 10 grow sites owned by the group’s investors.

• The University of Cincinnati is shelling out for high-level salaries in order to reform its police department. The university’s reform team includes four positions related to implementing changes in UC’s law enforcement force after university police officer Ray Tensing shot unarmed motorist Samuel DuBose to death last month. New hires include new Public Safety Director James Whalen, who will make $165,000 a year, Director of Police and Community Relations Greg Baker, who formerly served as head of the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV), who will make $119,000, and Vice President of Safety and Reform Robin Engel, a former UC criminal justice professor. Engel’s current salary is $216,000 a year, and that’s expected to rise with her new position. Also on the team implementing reforms is current UC Police Chief Jason Goodrich, who makes $140,000 a year. The university will also spend thousands of dollars on consultants, investigators and public relations firms. UC officials have admitted that its police force needs change and that mistakes were made in DuBose’s traffic stop.

• Mayor John Cranley is holding community meetings this week to discuss ways to limit violence in Cincinnati neighborhoods. The sessions will allow community leaders in Over-the-Rhine, Winton Hills, Evanston and East Price Hill to speak out about possible solutions to increasing gun violence in their neighborhoods. Cranley held the first meeting yesterday in OTR. Another takes place today at 11 a.m. at the Winton Hills Rec Center. More meetings will happen Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Evanston and Thursday at 4 p.m. in Price Hill. The Cincinnati Human Relations Commission is facilitating the meetings.

• The highest court has ruled, but in some places, including nearby, the battle isn’t over. Despite a Supreme Court ruling compelling states to recognize and perform same-sex marriages, and despite a further federal court injunction ordering Rowan County Kentucky officials to abide by that ruling, the county clerk’s office there is still turning away marriage license applicants, one same-sex couple says. David Moore and David Ermold, partners for 17 years, say they’re still not able to obtain a license from the clerk’s office, or from a county judge they’ve also reached out to. That’s a violation of court orders. The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting a legal battle on the couples’ behalf.

• Finally, in international news, Swedish prosecutors have dropped their investigations into Wikileaks whistleblower Julian Assange. Assange had been charged with some real creepy stuff involving sexual assault, but Sweden’s statute of limitations on the investigation into those accusations expired today. Two women have come forward and accused Assange of rape. But his supporters claim the charges were retribution for the huge cache of confidential government information Assange has leaked over the years, information that has put the U.S. and other governments in very awkward positions. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for three years to avoid being extradited to Sweden or the United States. He founded Wikileaks in 2006 and has released thousands of classified documents from the U.S. and European governments since that time.

That’s it for me. Be sure to check out our news feature this week about displacement in Over-the-Rhine. In the meantime, tweet or email with your thoughts, hate mail, love letters, what have you.

by Natalie Krebs 08.12.2015 52 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Deters holds on to dash cam footage of Officer Kim; Tucker's gets community support to reopen; Cincy's new soccer team

The police dash camera footage of the aftermath of the shooting of Cincinnati Police Officer Sonny Kim is now in the hands of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. Kim was shot and killed June 19, police say by Madisonville resident Trepierre Hummons who was then shot and killed by CPD Officer Tom Sandmann. Deters says he's using the footage to investigate the shooting of Hummons by Sandmann. A grand jury will convene this month once the police finish their end of the investigation. Local media outlets have submitted numerous public information requests to get the video showing the moments just after the officer was fatally shot. Many details of the shooting are still unclear. Jessica Kim, Officer Kim's widow, has recently pleaded with the city not to release the video, claiming that the video wouldn't be of any value to the public and would instead cause more emotional distress to the family.  

• Tucker's Restaurant in Over-the-Rhine has gotten significant community support to help open the restaurant's doors again after a July 27 fire caused major damage. The Tucker family estimates that it will cost between $35,000 and $50,000 to get the restaurant in working condition again. Frequent customers have pitched in to help with repairs and start crowdfunding campaigns that have raised more than $13,000 for the family. The family opened the restaurant in 1946, and the fire, which started in the kitchen after hours, resulted in the most significant damages the restaurant has experienced. Joe Tucker said the restaurant will look pretty much the same and hopes to re-open it in four to six weeks.

• Cincinnati is getting soccer team! Well, actually, a second soccer team. FC Cincinnati will begin playing next spring at the University of Cincinnati's newly renovated Nippert Stadium. The team will be owned by the prominent Cincinnati Lindner family, who have a history of investment in Cincinnati sports teams — mainly the Reds. It will be part of the United Soccer League, a second tier league in U.S. soccer, but could, in time, move up to Major League Soccer. Cincinnati's other soccer team, the Saints, play in the National Premier League, a league below the USL. The Saints draw about 250 people per game, while USL games draw more than 3,000 fans. Details will be announced in a press conference today.  

• Gov. John Kasich has made his way to New Hampshire with the presidential campaign strategy that victory there could mean victory everywhere! Kasich addressed a crowd of about 130 and covered topics including abortion, climate change and made sure to give a shout out to Donald Trump for bringing in 24 million viewers to the Fox News GOP debate last Thursday. He also got the endorsement of former New Hampshire Attorney General Tom Rath, who served as a national adviser on the campaigns of Mitt Romney, Bob Dole and fellow GOP candidate Jeb Bush's brother, GW. The GOP presidential candidate has gotten a small bump from the polls after his appearance on the Fox debate but still remains in eighth place. A recent Suffolk University poll put Trump at the top with 17 percent followed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 12 percent. Kasich is currently at 3 percent.     

• A Harvard sociology professor has put together a map of Cincinnati based on job industry location in the city. Professor Robert Manduca was inspired by University of Virginia Professor Dustin Cable's detailed racial distribution map for the U.S. and used that same method to map where different industries are located. In this blog post, there are also the maps for Cleveland, Columbus and the entire state of Ohio to compare.  

My email is nkrebs@citybeat.com and Twitter is here so drop me a message or a story tip!
by Natalie Krebs 08.11.2015 53 days ago
at 09:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Historical Conservation Board appointee has a destructive past; Union Terminal's renovation to start next summer; no answer from streetcar company on delay

Good morning Cincy! Here are today's headlines. 

• Shree Kulkarni, the developer appointed to Cincinnati's Historic Conservation Board by City Manager Harry Black, has a history of destruction. In 2012, Kulkarni waged a two-year battled with the board to demolish a building in the Fourth Street Historic District that he claimed he was going to rehabilitate. He eventually convinced a judge to allow him to tear down the building, located on Fifth Street across from the Duke Energy Convention Center, and made it into a parking lot — after he had previously torn down a building adjacent to it. The developer also ran into criticism from the Over-The-Rhine Foundation when he posted a Tweet last week questioning the board's decision not to tear down the Davis Furniture building. His Twitter account has since been deleted. Kulkarni also donated $8,300 to Mayor Cranley's mayoral campaign in 2013, Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld's council campaign in in 2013 and $10,400 to Sittenfeld's campaign for U.S. Senate. In an interview with the Cincinnati Business Courier, Mayor Cranley refused to say whether he asked Black to appoint Kulkarni. Council approved Kulkarni's appointment 8-1, with just Councilwoman Yvette Simpson voting against it. 

• Union Terminal is undergoing a $212 million renovation starting next June or July that will last for two years. The construction will close parts of the historic building for months at a time, including the natural history museum and regional history museum. Last fall, voters approved a five-year, quarter-percent sales tax increase to fund $175 million of the project. The rest will come from state grants, historic tax credits and private donations. If taxpayer money happens to fall short, the museum will have to raise the rest. Hamilton County Commissioners will vote Wednesday on a development agreement to set construction rules and get the project going. 

• A letter sent from the city to streetcar company CAF USA questioning the expected delay of the cars has gone unanswered. Last week, it was announced that Cincinnati would not be getting the first four or five streetcars from CAF USA by the Sept. 17 deadline. This could delay the massive, controversial project's Sept. 15 opening and has left City Chief Procurement Officer Patrick Duhaney "deeply frustrated," according to a letter obtained by the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Elmira Heights, New York company is under contract to build the cars for nearly $21 million and is to pay a fine of $1,000 for every day Cincinnati has to spend waiting for the cars to show up. 

• The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct, the state Supreme Court's ethics panel, has ruled that Ohio judges who perform marriages cannot refuse to perform gay weddings based on "personal, moral or religious objections." The panel reached the decision on Monday after it received requests for guidance following the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling June 26 to overturn the ban on same sex marriage. A few Ohio judges, mostly in smaller counties, have refused to perform same-sex weddings. The ruling stated concern that judges who refused to perform these marriages could be seen as less than impartial by the public, and those who refuse could be breaking their oath of office and could face ethics violations.

• Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach has called on Gov. John Kasich to introduce legislation to prohibit discrimination against LGBT Ohioans when it comes to employment and housing. During the Fox News debate last Thursday, Kasich said he attended a gay wedding and called on LGBT Americans to be treated with respect. Ohio State Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) says she plans to introduce non-discrimination legislation into the next General Assembly. While some Ohio municipalities have enacted LGBT non-discrimation laws, there has yet to be statewide legislation passed.

• Meanwhile Gov. Kasich, who is hot on the presidential trail, said Sunday night in an interview with CNN that he'd sign legislation requiring police officers to wear body cameras, after the July 19 shooting of Mount Auburn resident Samuel DuBose by a University of Cincinnati police officer. Activists have called for the use of police body cameras after the footage obtained from Officer Ray Tensing's camera lead to his indictment for murder and worldwide attention to the incident.

Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com or tweet me with story ideas!