The demolition request is on the board's upcoming Monday meeting agenda, but the developers have asked the board to table it and reschedule the vote.
That request comes after the city's Urban Conservator Beth Johnson issued a report yesterday that rejected the developer's claim thatit cannot reuse the building and that restoring or preserving the building with result in a negative financial return.
Historic preservation advocates and affordable housing activists both have rallied around the building, which was designed by noted Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford's firm and, until five years ago, contained 114 units of single-room occupancy affordable housing. The Cincinnati Preservation Collective, the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, City Councilman Chris Seelbach and others held a press conference today outside the building decrying attempts to tear it down and calling for more affordable housing in the central business district.
The Dennison was the last of more than 20 downtown buildings containing such housing. The building was slated for redevelopment by Model Group for 63 units of permanent supportive housing to be operated by The Talbert House in 2013. However, that project fell through and the building was purchased by Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation affiliate CBD Holdings for $1.3 million that year. 3CDC then sold the building to Columbia, owned by the influential Joseph Automotive Group family, for $740,000 a month later. In filings to the Historic Conservation Board, attorneys for the Joseph family have indicated they purchased the property at least in part out of concern that supportive housing would devalue other properties it holds in the area.
It is unclear when the vote on the building will be rescheduled. Preservation activist Derek Bauman called the request by Columbia "shenanigans" and wondered if the vote would be rescheduled for a less-convenient time.
Columbia says the building is decrepit and unsafe, and says it would like to use the land it occupies as part of a large-scale development that would provide office space for an as-yet-undetermined Fortune 500 company.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today.
• A report released yesterday by the University of Cincinnati says that former UCPD chief Jason Goodrich pushed for aggressive traffic stops as a tactic for boxing out criminals from the neighborhoods around UC, then lied about that to investigators after the shooting death of unarmed black motorist Sam Dubose by UCPD officer Ray Tensing. Those enforcement techniques created what Goodrich reportedly called a “no fly zone,” which Dubose was in when he was pulled over for not having a front license plate in Mount Auburn. Goodrich and Major Timothy Thornton left UCPD in February. Tensing is scheduled to stand trial in Hamilton County Courts on murder and manslaughter charges in October.
• Cincinnati’s Urban Conservator Beth Johnson issued a report yesterday saying that developers seeking to tear down 716 Main Street, an 1892 structure built by the architecture firm of noted Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford, have not presented enough evidence to make their case. Owners Columbia REI, LLC — owned by powerful Cincinnati family the Josephs — have caused controversy with their request for permission to level the building, which sits in a historic district downtown. Johnson’s report notes that the owners seemed to have purchased the building with the intent to tear it down, and that there are other economically feasible uses for the structure that the owners didn’t consider. In documents Columbia filed with the Urban Conservation Board, which will decide the fate of the building Monday, the owners said they bought the building because they were concerned that planned permanent supportive housing there would decrease the value of other properties the group owns in the neighborhood. Columbia holds several parcels of land on the block, many of which also once held historic buildings. Columbia leveled some of those structures in the late 1980s, promising new buildings in their places, though today most of the parcels are parking lots. Columbia says it’s interested in using those plots, plus the Dennison’s, to build a headquarters for an as-yet-undetermined Fortune 500 company.
• Speaking of big developments, Clifton Heights may soon get a huge one. Developers M-G Securities, Nassau Investments and Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corp. are proposing a $75 million project at Vine and McMillan Streets on a now-vacant plot of land just west of Vine and south of Calhoun Street. That development could include a 195-room extended-stay hotel, 130 apartments, 350-400 space underground parking garage and an outdoor community area. The developers are calling it a potential gateway to Uptown neighborhoods.
• Are you a believer? You’d better be if you want to work for Northern Kentucky’s upcoming Noah’s Ark-themed park Ark Encounter. Workers seeking to fill the 300-400 food service and other jobs at the park will have to sign a form professing their Christian faith, founder Ken Ham says. That’s controversial because the park has wrangled with the state of Kentucky over a tourism sales tax rebate worth up to $18 million. It looks as though the park may get to have its cake and eat it too, receiving that tax break while also stipulating religious beliefs for its employees.
• U.S. Sen. Rob Portman had a nice visit yesterday with President Barack Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, but says he’s still not going to push for a confirmation hearing for him or vote for him if there was one. Portman said he was impressed with Garland, but that Obama should not be allowed to nominate a Supreme Court justice in “a very partisan year, and an election year.” That’s an echo of talking points from other Senate Republicans, including Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said he will not hold a vote on Garland. Democrats have hit the GOP hard on what they say is a highly unusual, obstructive maneuver. The court has been down a justice since conservative firebrand Antonin Scalia passed away earlier this year.
• So, yeah, Democrat presidential primary contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debated last night, and as predicted in this spot yesterday, the gloves came off. There was shouting. There was tension. Memories of the cordiality of the first debate were nowhere in mind. As expected, Clinton lit into Sanders on gun control, his weakest topic among liberals. Sanders blasted Clinton on her relationship to Wall Street. You get the picture. This was the last scheduled debate for the two, giving both time to take a breather and work on some new material before the primary fight ends this summer. You can read more about the debate here.
I’m out. Laterrrr.
The city staff report, written by Urban Conservator Beth Johnson, refutes Dennison owners the Joseph family of the Joseph Auto Group's claim that they cannot reuse the building and that restoring or preserving the building with result in a negative financial return.
Some of the evidence the report cites is a lack of attempt by the owner to sell or lease the building to another buyer who might be able to restore or use the property; documents from the Joseph family that indicate it bought the property with the intention of demolishing it for redevelopment; and a structural engineering report that found the building could still be used for residential purposes after minor structural updates.
The family purchased the building located at 716-718 Main Street in 2013 in part to block plans to turn the building into affordable housing, according to documents the family's legal team submitted to the Historic Conservation Board.
The University of Cincinnati today released an independent report on its police personnel with details that give further context to the departure of its former police chief, Jason Goodrich.
The report by consulting company Exiger suggests Goodrich pushed for more traffic stops around UC and that he and UCPD Major Timothy Thornton were later "untruthful" about their knowledge of those stops. Stops increased by 400 percent during the year leading up to the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose by UCPD officer Ray Tensing, the report reveals, and those stops have been heavily disproportionate toward blacks.
"Five interviewees said that, at the start of Goodrich's tenure, he held one-on-one meetings with each UCPD officer," the report reads. "During these meetings, the Chief described his approach to proactive policing — namely, the areas around campus should be viewed as a 'box,' and UCPD would use traffic enforcement to 'stop' and root out anyone carrying drugs or guns, and individuals with warrants, in those zones. They were, according to the chief, to be effectively 'no fly zones,' through which, via excessive traffic enforcement, criminals would not want to drive."
In February, Goodrich and UCPD Major Timothy Thornton resigned from UCPD for then-undisclosed reasons. UC has promised a full slate of reforms to its department following DuBose's shooting death. The school fired Tensing, who is now charged with murder and manslaughter.
"In our initial interview, Chief Goodrich indicated that he was unaware of both the extent of, and motivation for, this substantial upsurge in stops," the report reads. "As Exiger learned from other interviews, the Chief had made similar assertions to several senior UC administrators at various times following the shooting. These assertions — both to Exiger and the administrators — could not be reconciled with interviews that Exiger conducted of sworn UCPD members, or with documents that Exiger had received by request pursuant to the Assignment. Exiger viewed this seemingly conflicting information as sufficiently troubling to bring the matter to the attention of the UC Administration, including the UC General Counsel."
After those revelations, the company set up interviews with UCPD personnel in late February. In those interviews, the report says, Thornton was also untruthful.
"During one of these first interviews, Major Timothy Thornton, Chief Goodrich’s second-in-command, made statements mirroring those of the Chief — that is, denying knowledge regarding the extent of, and motivation for, the sharp rise in traffic stops during the Chief’s tenure."
UC says it released the report in the name of transparency.
"Look across the country, around the world at what's happening here and the places where there are police-community relations problems and the way police agencies are responding," UC Vice President for Safety and Reform Robin Engel said, according to 12 News. "Look at Chicago, look what's happening in these places, that doesn't have to happen here. If there were mistakes then we need to understand what they were and we need to correct those problems and work with out community to make sure that we are policing in a way that they want to be policed. We need to move forward and are very transparent in a collaborative way. That's what we're trying to do here at the University of Cincinnati."
Goodrich joined UCPD in October of 2014. He previously worked as chief of police for Lamar University. Before that, he worked in Vanderbilt University's public safety office. Thornton joined the force in February 2015 and had also previously worked for Lamar University.
Students' religious expression is limited to non-instructional times like lunch periods and after-school activities. HB 425 would permit religious expression in the classroom and on exams and homework assignments, going so far as to prevent a teacher from punishing or rewarding a student's response that is based on his or her religious beliefs.
Rep. Bill Hayes, a Republican from Harrison Township, introduced the legislation back in January. He says the bill is simply to clarify what is permitted for religious expression in public schools.
"It seems that many school administrators, school boards, teachers, parents and even students are sometimes confused about the extent to which they may engage in religious expression in the school setting," Hayes said. "HB 425 seeks to address that very problem and respond to it."
Hayes previously introduced the same bill during the last legislative session, but the session ended before it made it to the House floor for a vote.
Rep. Michael Curtin, a Democrat from Columbus, brought up concerns about the bill from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, the only organization to testify against the bill in front of the House's Community and Family Advancement Committee in February.
The ACLU said the language of the bill is too broad, possibly forcing teachers to have to choose between obeying the law and enforcing academic standards in the classroom.
"If the assignment is on biology, human evolution, et cetera, and a student writes a paper on intelligent design or the Earth being 10,000 years old," Curtin said, "does the instructor have the ability to flunk that student for his paper being out of context?"
Rep. Stephanie Howse, a Democrat from Cleveland, disagreed that public schools should be required to accommodate students' religious beliefs to the bill's proposed extent.
"When we send our children to public schools, it's an expectation and a right that each of our children receive an unbiased education," Howse said. "It is upon this educational foundation that our children can build their values and choose a route of expression."
Good morning all. Here’s a quick look at news today.
Do we have a streetcar budget yet? Not quite. Cincinnati City Council this week came so, so close to nailing down a first-year operating budget for the transit project, but stumbled in the last yard before the end zone yesterday in what can only be described as a headache-inducing last-minute meltdown. (I know because I’m one of the ones who ended up with a headache from watching it go down). The issue? Councilman Kevin Flynn, who joined the 6-2 vote for the $4.2 million first-year budget in committee, balked in the final voting yesterday, citing concerns about where contingency and startup funds for the project are sourced from in the budget. Flynn indicated that if his concerns are addressed, he’ll vote for the budget. Meanwhile, the budget passed 5-4, but Mayor John Cranley threatened to veto it. So back to committee it goes so Council can hammer out what will likely be the final details. The budget is due to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority at the end of the month. The streetcar is expected to start operations sometime in September.
• Council also wrangled just a bit over a motion to ban city-funded travel to North Carolina and Mississippi, both of which have recently passed laws many say are anti-LGBT. Those laws allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals and also stipulate that trans individuals must use restrooms assigned to their physical gender traits, not their identified genders. The ban wouldn't cover emergency travel to those states — say in case of a hurricane or terrorist attack — but would otherwise keep city officials and employees from going to the state. The legislation also asks city administration to begin courting companies to move to Cincinnati that have indicated they'll leave the states in question over the anti-LGBT laws. The motion, introduced by Councilman Chris Seelbach, passed 7-2. Councilmembers Charlie Winburn and Amy Murray voted against the travel ban.
• Quick. Name the most underrated place in Kentucky. Did you save Covington? You win… something. Anyway, travel website Thrillist.com agrees with you, giving props to the city’s bourbon bars, historic districts and art galleries. It also praises the Roebling Suspension Bridge and calls Covington a… hipster enclave… whatever that is. Of course, the first thing the site mentions is the wonderful view of Cincinnati, and the last thing it suggests is grabbing a slice of Goodfellas Pizza, which is a chain restaurant. It is headquartered in the Cov, though, so I guess it counts. Anyway, pretty cool.
• Remember that big fight over legalizing marijuana last year? Republicans were pretty dead-set against efforts to do so, but now some are trotting out their own plan. State lawmakers have introduced a proposal to legalize medicinal marijuana by 2018. Under the plan, folks over 18 could buy edible marijuana products, patches, oils and probably the good ole fashioned green stuff with a doctor’s prescription. Lawmakers say they’ll work over the next year to figure out who would be allowed to grow the crops, and within two years, Ohio could join 24 other states that have legalized medicinal use of the drug.
• Democratic presidential primary contenders Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will square off in their final scheduled debate tonight. The debate comes as Sanders has made some big gains — though probably not big enough — by capturing some primary and caucus wins over the past few weeks. Clinton still has a commanding delegate lead, however, and has a much more feasible path to the nomination. That means tonight’s debate could be a knock-down, drag out fight as the two make their respective cases with an eye toward New York primary voters, who will go to the polls next week. That means Clinton will likely have to explain her stance on Wall Street regulations, where Sanders has run squarely to her left. Sanders, meanwhile, will have to deal with some baggage he’s been carrying around about gun control, a big issue in the state and one of the few areas where Clinton is seen as more liberal. Stay tuned. It’ll get real.
• Finally, Republicans in the House of Representatives seem likely to miss a statutory budget deadline as they fight over various ideologically-charged proposals for the government’s financial blueprint. That deadline is tomorrow, by the way, and the House seems nowhere close to coming to an agreement that would both satisfy its most conservative members and stand any chance of passing the Senate. That’s a big embarrassment for House Speaker Paul Ryan, some say, who took the reins from former speaker John Boehner last year. Ryan, who has recently had to beat back speculation that he’s hoping to be a surprise candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, says he’s hopeful the House will come together around a spending plan soon. Failure to pass the plan is more of an embarrassment than a catastrophe at this point — Congress can still pass individual bills funding the various departments of government, and spending levels were set in a biannual bill last year — but by statute, the House must pass a spending plan every year. Republicans, including Ryan, have lambasted Democrats in the past when it has appeared that the spending plans won’t materialize on time.
Cincinnati City Council today passed a ban on non-essential city-funded travel to North Carolina and Mississippi today in response to harsh laws passed in those states allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals and prohibiting transgender individuals from using restrooms that match the gender they identify with.
The motion, presented by Councilman Chris Seelbach and passed 6-2, also directs the city to reach out to companies that have indicated they are leaving those states due to the laws to try and convince them to come to Cincinnati.
The laws, passed in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage, have been highly controversial and look likely to face challenges in federal courts.
“Regardless of who you are or who you love, you should be protected from discrimination,” Seelbach said. “Anti-LGBT discrimination is not a Cincinnati value, and this motion is in that spirit.”
Councilman Charlie Winburn had pointed questions about the motion. He and Councilwoman Amy Murray, both Republicans, voted against the effort.
Winburn asked what "essential travel" meant and what Seelbach hoped to accomplish with the legislation.
“In essence, this would ban city personnel traveling to the states of North Carolina or Mississippi for any business purpose that isn’t an emergency situation, which could be if we had to go to North Carolina to obtain a commodity or deal with an emergency," City Manager Harry Black said, answering Winburn's first question. "That’s a highly unlikely scenario.”
Seelbach threw out the idea of terrorist attacks or a hurricane as possible scenarios in which city travel to the states would be allowed. Sending emergency crews or assistance wouldn’t be off the table in those cases.
Winburn wasn't convinced.
“The problem I have with this whole ordinance is — it’s wrong to target transgender or gay people, but it’s also wrong to target Republicans," Winburn said. “In passing this motion today, what do you plan to accomplish?”
"I guess my only concern is that this motion will do what you intend it to do. If we could all search our hearts and learned to love each other, we wouldn’t have to be passing things like this. I don’t think the laws change anything."
Seelbach said the motion would make a difference by sending a message and possibly netting Cincinnati more high-paying employers.
“The goal is to send a message that anti-gay discrimination won’t be tolerated by Cincinnati, that we won’t use taxpayer dollars to do business with states who have passed ideologically charged laws that target gay people," he said. "We want to lure these businesses, these good-paying jobs, to our city, because we’ve done a fantastic job welcoming LGBT individuals."
After years of wrangling, fretting and plenty of political tug-of-wars, and just six months before the streetcar is scheduled to start gliding passengers around downtown and Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati City Council almost passed the transit project's first-year operating budget today.
Council passed the budget out of the transportation committee earlier this week with a veto-proof 6-2 majority. But Councilman Kevin Flynn, who had been the swing vote in Council's 2013 battle with Mayor John Cranley to restart the streetcar, reversed course today and voted against the ordinance.
Without Flynn's vote, Cranley indicated he would veto the operating budget.
“I don’t feel in good conscience
that we can proceed if Mr. Flynn is unhappy," Cranley said. "My assumption as of yesterday was
that six people were supporting this.”
Flynn cited concerns about money set aside for contingencies in the first year of the streetcar's operation and start-up costs. His concerns boil down to where that money — $1.1 million for start-up costs and some $550,000 for contingencies — is coming from.
Flynn said he doesn't believe that all the contingency money will be spent on true contingencies — that the city will need to use it for extra foreseeable expenses — and that the money for the cushion should come from an already-existing construction contingency fund that still has $900,000.
“That’s what I’m asking for, because we’ve been told construction is essentially completed and there’s $900,000 in construction contingency fund left," Flynn told Council after his surprise "no" vote.
"In transportation yesterday, we heard people
wanting to give free rides," Flynn said. "This is a very, very aggressive budget relative to
ridership, relative to advertising dollars and sponsorship dollars. We can’t
afford to give away free anything. And then, when I started thinking about this
ordinance more, when I voted for the streetcar, I said we would not be using
money form the general fund for the streetcar."
Much of the money in question comes from an increase in parking rates and hours in Over-the-Rhine and downtown. Other Council members pointed out, and Flynn acknowledged that the parking funds would not exist if Council hadn't changed parking policies to raise money for the streetcar. But he also said that since contingency money is left over for construction, it should be used first for start-up costs and contingencies. Flynn said he was worried that the construction contingency fund would evaporate if it wasn't used.
"I’ve been involved in enough construction projects to know — if there’s money left, they’ll find a way to spend it," he said. "I want to get that money out of there now.”
City Manager Harry Black sought to allay those concerns. “We are micromanaging the contingency side of the budget," he said.
"Any action related to the contingency must be approved by the city manager.”
There are other concerns — the construction contingency fund is tied up in a process involving the Federal Transportation Authority, and the city must technically ask the FTA to use it, city administration pointed out.
Preservationists are pushing back against a plan to demolish the historic Dennison Hotel building on Main Street. The Joseph family, of Joseph Automotive Group wealth, has released renderings of a potential Fortune 500 company's headquarters it could potentially develop, should the Historic Conservation Board OK the building's demolition. Opponents of demolition have been circulating copies of a Cincinnati Enquirer article from the 1980s via social media as an example of the Joseph family failing to deliver on promises of shiny new office complexes after demolishing historical buildings in the past. Documents filed by the family's attorney with the Historic Conservation Board show that the family purchased the Dennison Hotel in 2013 in part to stifle plans to convert the structure into affordable housing. The family will present its case for demolition in front of the Historic Conservation Board on April 18.
• Hamilton County library employee Rachel Dovel might file a federal lawsuit against the library for failing to cover her gender reassignment surgery via its insurance policy. Dovel, who has worked for the library for the past decade, has been transitioning from male to female for the past two years and said the library's insurance policy won't cover gender confirmation surgery necessary to complete her transition. The library's trustees are currently debating adding the procedure to the employee medical plan in August, but Dovel says she feels she's already waiting long enough.
• The University of Cincinnati Department of Public Safety announced it is launching a nationwide search for a new chief of police and assistant chief of police. Previous Police Chief Jason Goodrich and Major Tim Thornton both resigned last February following a review into the department after the July shooting death of Mount Auburn resident Samuel DuBose by UC Police Officer Ray Tensing. The 11-person search committee will be lead by S. Gregory Baker, UC's director of police community relations, starting at the end of April. The university said the search will go on until the right people are found.
• The issue of medical marijuana is inching back this year for Ohio. The Ohio House is expected to lay out its proposal for medical marijuana today. Both the House and the Senate have had separate hearing on the issue, and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, a Republican from Clarksville, says the legislation will likely be a joint effort. The Senate is currently wrapping up its own hearings on the issue. Polls have shown Ohioans support the legalization of medical marijuana. And it seems whatever plan legislators roll out will probably have a better shot at passing than ResponsibleOhio's failed attempt last election at getting voters to approve a constitutional amendment to legalize all marijuana.
• Donald Trump has fired back against those tricky Republicans who are trying to figure out a way to deny the GOP frontrunner the presidential nomination. As Republicans stumble toward a likely contested convention in Cleveland this July, Trump has started accusing the party of trying to steal the election from him. Trump told the crowd at a campaign event in upstate New York that the system is "absolutely rigged" and that the Republican National Committee should be "ashamed of itself." Trump, who has with 742 delegates, leading rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's 529 delegates, looks unlikely to secure the 1,237 delegates necessary to secure the nomination by July.
A potential lawsuit against the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County over the library’s lack of benefits for trans individuals could be the first of its kind in the country, putting Cincinnati on the map again for LGBT issues.
Library employee Rachel Dovel has been transitioning from male to female over the past two years. In February last year, she changed her name legally from Nathan and has come out as transgender. Now, she says she needs gender confirmation surgery to complete her transition and match her physical traits with the gender she identifies with. The library’s insurance doesn’t cover that procedure, however.
The library’s trustees say they haven’t made a decision one way or the other about the coverage and say they’re not trying to discriminate against Dovel. The board’s seven members — President Elizabeth LaMacchia, Vice President Allen G. Zaring IV, Secretary Barbara Trauth, Robert G. Hendon, Monica Donath Kohnen, William Moran and Ross Wright — are appointed to seven-year terms by the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas and the Hamilton County Commission.
The board will consider whether or not to acquire trans-inclusive benefits in August. The coverage will cost a little more than the library’s current plan, though advocates say that price increase is minimal. After a year-long fight to get the surgery, the end of the summer is too long to wait, Dovel says.
“It’s been really stressful,” Dovel says. “This is a surgery I need to get to feel like I’m moving on with my life and not transitioning forever. I just want to live a normal life and I thought I was going to be able to do that last year when I was trying to get the ball moving on getting the surgery scheduled. Transitioning is already hard enough.”
The delay has led Dovel and her attorney to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Pending the EEOC’s response, Dovel’s attorney says they are prepared to file a federal gender-discrimination lawsuit against the library.
“Rachel’s case against the library will be a case of first impression in the country, meaning no employer in the United States has refused to offer coverage for gender confirmation surgery, leading their employee to file a federal lawsuit,” Dovel’s attorney Josh Langdon said at a news conference April 12 in front of the downtown library. “Just like Obergefell v. Hodges, Cincinnati will literally make history with Rachel’s case.”
That case, in which Over-the-Rhine resident Jim Obergefell and a number of other plaintiffs sued the state of Ohio and other states over same-sex marriage bans, eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted in the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country.
Dovel and Langdon say they don’t want their situation to progress that far, but after fighting the library for a year, Langdon says, “We’re nearing the end of the rope."
“I hope they don’t force me to take it that far, but if that’s what it takes,” Dovel says. “This isn’t just about me. There could be future employees or their families who need this medically necessary care.”
Dovel, who works processing books for circulation, has been with the library for more than a decade. She says she believes in the library’s mission and would like to stay there, but also needs the medical care she’s working to get.
Dovel initially sought to have the surgery under the library’s health insurance policy. But she was informed that the policy under Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield did not offer coverage for the procedure. Dovel and attorneys challenged Anthem, saying the fact it did not offer the coverage violated gender discrimination clauses under the Affordable Care Act. The insurance company eventually complied, offering supplemental coverage for transgender care, including the procedure Dovel would like to receive. However, the library has yet to purchase that coverage.
A number of local corporations already offer such coverage, including Macy’s and Kroger. Trans advocates say procedures like the one Dovel is seeking are vital.
“More and more people are recognizing that these things are not only beneficial to transgender people, they’re medically necessary,” says Callie Wright, board member for local trans advocacy organization Heartland Trans Wellness Group. “This is not just us talking who want these surgeries. This is many organizations of medical and mental health professionals, who say these things are as necessary as any other medical treatment.”
The mental health dimension of transgender treatment was tragically illustrated by the death of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen who took her own life late in 2014 after her parents refused to permit her to undergo transition procedures.
The April 12 news conference brought local and national advocates including Heartland and a representative for national LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, Cincinnati Police Department LGBT outreach officers and Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach.
“This is about her health care, and her relationship with a medical doctor licensed by the state of Ohio, who says she needs these medical procedures to live her life as a healthy individual," Seelbach said. "That decision should be made between Rachel and her medical doctor, not a politically-appointed medical board.”
Seelbach touts Cincinnati as the first city in the Midwest to offer transgender-inclusive medical benefits and says that, overall, the city has made huge strides from a place that had very restrictive anti-LGBT rights legislation just a decade ago. He said he hopes the library will follow that example.
“It’s time to go forward, following the lead of the city and our corporate community,” Seelbach said. “It’s the right thing to do because of history, it’s the right thing to do because of Rachel’s health.”
Good morning all. Here’s what’s going on in the world today.
The city of Cincinnati has officially announced an opening date for the city’s streetcar. The transit project running through Over-the-Rhine and downtown will take its first passengers Sept. 9, beginning with an opening ceremony at some point mid-day. The project, which has been fraught with political battles and funding concerns, is being financed with increased parking revenues, advertising proceeds and other sources that aren’t part of the city’s general fund budget.
• Mayor John Cranley yesterday rolled out more of his proposals for the city’s budget, which involve some $30 million for neighborhood projects. He spoke at a news conference in Avondale about projects he’d like to see funded in that neighborhood under his proposed fiscal plan, including a renewed Avondale Towne Center with a Save-A-Lot grocery store. Avondale has been trying to get a full-service grocery store since Aldi left the neighborhood about eight years ago. The city would chip in about $2 million to get development started under Cranley’s plan. The mayor did acknowledge that neighborhood activists had hoped for a higher-scale store such as a Kroger but that the Save-A-Lot will be expected to stock fresh produce and other necessities. Cranley yesterday also announced he would provide $3.2 million for a new community development corporation in Bond Hill and Roselawn.
• Cranley is set to pitch another round of investments today in the city’s East Side neighborhoods. He’s also expected to announce that the city will purchase the land necessary to build the Wasson Way bike trail. That $11.8 million, 4.1-mile stretch of former railway is vital to the completion of the trail, which would pass through a number of East Side neighborhoods on its way to Uptown. If the city doesn’t purchase the land by the end of July, the price will jump by nearly $600,000. It’s unclear where the construction money for the project will come from. The city applied for a federal TIGER grant last year to help fund building costs for the bike trail but was turned down.
• Wait. Hold on. Do I agree on something with U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, the tea party crusader from Northern Kentucky? It would… kind of appear so. Massie owes the GOP $24,000 in “party dues,” i.e. money from his fundraising coffers the party expects in order to stay in its good graces. Massie has criticized the practice, which is also used to determine who gets which committee assignment in the House. Particular assignments have particular dollar amounts assigned to them, and the more influential the committee, the more money a House member is expected to kick in. Massie is slamming this system, saying it means the best fundraisers, not the best lawmakers, get oversized influence in the legislative process. In what may be the only example of partisan agreement between a tea party member and the rest of Congress, some Democrats agree with him. I also think it sounds pretty messed up.
• What policies will law enforcement officers and departments have to follow regarding body cameras across Ohio?
Good morning all. Lots to talk about today so let’s get to it!
The 13 children of Samuel DuBose will each receive more than $200,000 as part of a settlement between the family and the University of Cincinnati, a Hamilton County judge ruled yesterday. DuBose was shot and killed by UC police officer Ray Tensing July 19 last year. In addition to the money for his children, DuBose’s mother Audrey DuBose will receive $90,000, his six siblings will receive $32,000 each and his father Sam Johnson will receive $25,000, Judge Ralph Winlker announced yesterday. The settlement, which also includes other elements such as college tuition for DuBose’s children, resolves a civil suit against the university. Criminal proceedings are ongoing against former officer Tensing, who is charged with murder and manslaughter. He’s scheduled to stand trial on those charges in October.
• Cincinnati City Council members are requesting the recently completed audit of the region’s Metropolitan Sewer District ahead of the city's budget process, but City Manager Harry Black says they shouldn't rush. The audit, which resulted from revelations that MSD spent millions on contracts it didn’t properly put through a bidding process, is still with the city’s lawyers in a working draft form, Black says. But with work on the city’s budget looming, council members like Kevin Flynn and Chris Seelbach say the time is now to reveal the results of the audit. Things got testy when Council pushed for more information from the audit at yesterday’s budget and finance committee meeting, with Black resisting requests for that information and Seelbach accusing the city manager of giving him an eye roll. Oh snap.
• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is at the White House today meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and state and local government officials as part of a discussion on gun violence. Sittenfeld made gun control a big part of his campaign when he was running for Senate against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. Sittenfeld lost that race but has pledged to continue efforts to curtail shootings. He told WVXU he is there to learn more about strategies for curbing gun violence and that he doesn’t think the invite has anything to do with his former Senate campaign. President Barack Obama and VP Biden endorsed Strickland in that race.
• This is a weird article. Breaking news: The city has a lot of stairs. Some of them are crumbling. More breaking news: The city isn’t exactly rushing to pay to fix them. Thus concludes your breaking news update about something you probably already knew about. The steps are a big part of the city’s walking infrastructure (I take them every day). But they’ve been neglected since, well, probably since people started moving out of the city. The money it would take to fix them is also an infinitesimally small portion of the city’s budget at a time when Mayor John Cranley is discussing throwing $30 million to a few city neighborhoods.
• A federal judge has temporarily blocked an Ohio law that would strip $1.4 million in public money from Planned Parenthood in the state. That money goes to providing health screenings for low-income women, not to providing abortions. The temporary restraining order keeping Ohio from enforcing the law, which passed in February, comes as a larger court fight around the measure continues. You can read more about all of that in our story here.
• Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost yesterday announced the results of surprise headcounts at Ohio charter schools, saying at least some of the schools had very few or no students attending on the days of the unannounced visits. Yost said the extremely low attendance numbers at three charters in the state suggests they might be operating illegally as distance learning schools instead of the brick and mortar schools they’re certified to operate as. It’s the latest revelation in a bad stretch for the state’s charters, which have faced allegations of mismanagement and an Ohio Department of Education data rigging scandal that artificially inflated charter school performance by omitting some low-performing online schools. Yost visited 14 drop-out recovery schools around the state and found an average attendance of just 34 percent.
• The revelations, as well as other frustrations with the state’s public schools, had the auditor spitting hot fire at the ODE yesterday, calling it “among the worst, if not the worst-run agency in state government.” Yost cited poor charter school accountability and performance as well as a slow roll out for ODE’s new data management system as among the sources for his frustration with the agency.
• Finally, more presidential politics, because I know you need more of that in your life. Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in Ohio, according to the latest polls asking voters about the upcoming general election. But it’s not the blowout you might expect. Clinton’s up 44 percent to Trump’s 39 percent in the Buckeye State — less than her primary opponent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who bests Trump 48 percent to 39 percent in the CBS/YouGov poll. Voters have a pretty negative opinion of both candidates, however — 55 percent view Clinton negatively and 59 percent feel the same about Trump.
That’s it for me. See you tomorrow. Tweet or email in the meantime.
Hey hey Cincinnati. Hope you got outside and soaked up the perfect weather this weekend. Now it’s back to the real world, where news happens.
The directors of every city of Cincinnati department received raises this past year, according to city records reported by The Cincinnati Enquirer. In total, those raises are costing city taxpayers $234,000 more a year. Some of the city’s 25 department heads got those pay bumps despite making few of their stated goals and receiving rather mixed performance reviews. Top salary getters include Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, whose $162,000 paycheck is 20 percent more than his predecessor Chief Jeffrey Blackwell made. Fire Chief Richard Braun, who is now also making $162,000, saw his pay raised 16 percent. Those raises came during a time when the city projected as much as a $14 million budget deficit. That deficit was cut in half by more recent economic projections, but could still trigger cuts to the city’s human services and economic development efforts, among other services. The city manager’s recently released budget calls for a 1 percent raise for all city employees, and police and fire personnel are negotiating to get a 3 percent bump.
• Speaking of the budget, Mayor John Cranley is set to unveil his ideas for the city’s financial plan today at 11 a.m. at Westwood Town Hall, according to a news release from the mayor's office. On the agenda: $30 million for neighborhood projects in that neighborhood and in places like West Price Hill, North Avondale, Bond Hill and others. City Manager Black released his budget proposal Thursday, and Cranley has two weeks to submit his version to City Council. He’ll be presenting his version of the budget at town halls throughout the week.
• We haven’t even survived 2016 yet, but we’re already talking about the election after it. Last week, we told you about the increasing focus around Cincinnati’s 2017 mayoral and City Council races. Now, after revelations that Councilwoman Yvette Simpson sent out a memo to potential firms that could help her in a bid opposing fellow Dem Cranley, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke is asking party members to focus on this year’s election. Burke has said it’s too early to focus on next year just yet when there are big races at the county level — most notably a pitched fight for control of the Hamilton County Commission. State Rep. Denise Driehaus is running to grab a seat on that body, and if she pulls out a victory against Republican interim commissioner Dennis Deters, the three-member group that oversees the county could have a Democrat majority for the first time in years. But the call for unity from Burke comes as the party is experiencing tension between two factions in the city: younger, more progressive Dems who tended to support the streetcar and who push for items like increases in human services funding, and more established, moderate Democrats like Mayor Cranley.
• That battle continues to shape up: progressive 2013 City Council candidate Michelle Dillingham is launching her bid for a Council seat in the 2017 election tonight at Bromwell’s Harth-Lounge at 6 p.m. Dillingham came in 12th in that race and hopes to turn support for her from progressives into a Council seat this time around.
• A historic building in Covington will get at least a little more time safe from the wrecking ball. Kenton County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Summe told Bavarian Brewery owners Columbia Sussex that they can’t demolish the 100-year-old building. The structure, which sits in a historic district, once held Jillian’s nightclub. Columbia-Sussex originally wanted to put a casino on the property, but Kentucky legislators have yet to pass a law that would allow that to happen. Now, the company says the only way it can see a return on investment is by demolishing the building. Covington’s Urban Design Review Board previously denied a permit application for that demolition, and Judge Summe’s ruling affirms that position. Columbia-Sussex can appeal her decision, however.
• Finally, University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono made big news over the weekend with his admission that he suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts as a younger man. Ono made the revelation at a fundraiser Saturday for mental health-awareness group 1N5, whose name is a reference to research that shows one in five individuals in the United States suffers from mental illness. Ono said that by talking about his past struggles, he hoped to show that mental illness is treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.
Good morning y’all! Here are your morning headlines.
• Councilwoman Yvette Simpson might have released the first shred of evidence that she’s running for mayor next year. Simpson sent a letter to consulting firms this month searching for someone who could help with a “campaign against an incumbent executive office holder,” aka Mayor John Cranley. Simpson won’t officially say yet whether she’s going to take a shot at Cranley’s spot or just run for a third term on Council in 2017 but says she’ll make a decision by the end of this year.
• It’s that super exciting time of year when the city lays out its budget for next year. Yesterday, City Manager Harry Black presented his plan for a $1.2 billion city budget that includes raises for city employees, cuts to the human service department and the city’s economic development programs and building a new marina. Yep, the city wants the Parks Department to build a marina along the Ohio River. Mayor Cranley has two weeks to present the budget to Council, which will then approve or amend it some time before the next fiscal year begins on July 1.
• The University of Cincinnati Department of Public Safety says it is down to three candidates to lead the department. The candidates were chosen by an outside consulting firm and include the director of public safety at Oregon State University, a previous CPD officer with more than 20 years experience and police deputy chief at Ohio State. The department is also down to two candidates for assistant chief, including a CPD Department Captain. UC will present the candidates to the public during open forums will be held May 23-25. Former Police Chief Jason Goodrich and Assistant Chief Tim Thornton resigned in February in the wake of the shooting of Mount Auburn resident Samuel DuBose by former UC police officer Ray Tensing.
• Judge Tracie Hunter will not be going to jail today. The suspended juvenile court judge was supposed to start her 60-day jail sentence today, but a judge suspended her sentence after Hunter filed a petition claiming misconduct by the special prosecutor and judge during her trial. Federal Judge Timothy Black ruled Hunter can remain free during the proceedings. A jury convicted Hunter of unlawful interest in a public contract for helping her brother in a discipline hearing 19 months ago.
• Could U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown become Vice President Brown? Yesterday, Sen. Brown was seen parading around with current VP Joe Biden in Columbus, leading to rumors that the progressive senator could be Hillary Clinton’s pick for running mate. Nothing is certain yet, as Biden told White House reporters that Brown would be a “great pick” but then went on to highlight other strong Democratic contenders without hinting at a favorite.
• Oklahoma’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill yesterday that would subject doctors to felony charges and revoke their medical licenses for performing abortions. The bill — which is most restrictive abortion bill passed yet — is still waiting on a signature from Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. If signed in to law, it will almost certainly be challenged in state or federal court where legal experts say it will likely be declared unconstitutional.
News tips go here.
Good morning all. Let’s talk about that news stuff.
Cincinnati’s population increased slightly again last year, though not as much as the surrounding suburbs. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the Queen City’s population grew to 298,550 people from the 298,041 who lived here in 2014. That’s a .17 percent bump — smaller than the metropolitan area’s growth rate of .4 percent. But hey, at least we’re not losing people like we were just a decade ago, and like cities such as Cleveland, St. Louis and Pittsburgh still are. Other cities in our region outperformed us in population growth, however, including Columbus, Indianapolis and Louisville, which each added a couple thousand people. So, Cincy’s doing OK when it comes to rebounding from decades of population loss, but could be doing better. Personally, I’d like to see us get above 300,000 again, so please, invite 1,450 of your closest friends to move here. Just as long as they’re not jerks.
• Did you know that your sewer bills have helped pay the salaries of the Cincinnati Park Board? It’s true, apparently. Due to some joint cooperation between the city’s Metropolitan Sewer District and the parks, money from MSD goes to personnel like Parks Director Willie Carden. That money exchange started when parks began helping MSD with some green infrastructure projects, but now some county officials are questioning whether the funding should go so far as to pay administrative salaries. Both MSD and parks have been mired in recent oversight issues around spending, so this revelation will probably anger some folks. You can read more about the situation here.
• Soon, you’ll be able to hop on Metro buses and the streetcar using a mobile app to pay your fare. Officials with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority Tuesday announced an agreement with Passport, which makes payment apps. The contract between the two means that riders will be able to pay via a Passport app and show Metro and streetcar drivers their tickets on their phone. That will eliminate the need to carry cash for many customers, SORTA officials say. The app will also let riders track their bus as it makes its way to the bus stop, which is pretty cool.
• Hamilton County Democrats have tapped a big-name political consultant to help turn the county blue in the 2016 election. Candidates for county-wide office have pooled campaign funds to hire Ernie Davis, a longtime political consultant for the party. Davis will help strategize ways to convince voters to elect down-ballot candidates come November, including Hamilton County Commission candidate Denise Driehaus, Aftab Pureval for clerk of courts and others. Driehaus is in a highly competitive race with Dennis Deters for the Commission seat, which Deters currently holds after the surprise departure of former commissioner Greg Hartmann. Pureval faces a tougher challenge against current Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler, a well-established Republican.
• You might have guessed that outspoken immigration critic Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones has something to say about Cincinnati City Council’s recent move to recognize alternate IDs for those without state-issued identification, including undocumented immigrants. You’d be right. Like any reputable, professional public servant, Jones weighed in on the issue in a tweet asking Butler County officials not to recognize cards provided by the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati.
“I am asking butler county not 2 except Cincinnati mark cards for illegals,” Jones tweeted recently. He later clarified that he meant “MARCC ID cards,” though he has yet to confirm that he meant to use the word “accept” instead of “except.”
• Northern Kentucky University will cut more than 100 jobs in response to budget cuts to higher education from recently elected Governor Matt Bevin. NKU will eliminate 37 faculty positions and 68 staff and administrative positions as part of the attempt to make do with less money from the state. The move will save the school about $8 million. Funding for higher education in Kentucky has been sliding for most of the decade, officials with the school say, forcing tough situations for all the state’s public universities. The funding crunch has gotten worse in the state’s most recent budget, however, as Bevin looks to drastically cut state spending.
• Health officials in Ohio are scrambling to find replacement clinics that can administer services like HIV and cancer screenings ahead of a state move to cut federal and state funding for such services from Planned Parenthood. Many health officials say it’s challenging to find other clinics that can step into the void left by the controversial health organization, which state lawmakers say shouldn’t receive public money because it provides abortions. The $1 million conservatives are withholding from Planned Parenthood didn’t go to providing that service, but instead went to other health services. Lawmakers say the money will be rerouted to other clinics that don’t provide abortions, but critics say there aren’t enough clinics with the capacity to take over for Planned Parenthood.
Hey all. It's news time.
Let’s start out with some good news today, shall we? Yesterday, MadTree Brewering Co. hosted a ground-breaking celebration for their new Oakley brewing facility, MadTree 2.0. That facility in a former manufacturing site in Oakley will have 50,000 square feet of production space and another 10,000 square feet for a beer garden. The move is a sign of the brewery’s growth: The new site will allow MadTree to quadruple its production and the beer garden is twice the size of its current taproom.
• The controversial Dennison Hotel might soon be designated an “endangered” historic site by a statewide preservation nonprofit. Columbus-based Preservation Ohio is set to announce its list of endangered buildings across the state today. Local preservationists have nominated the Dennison, constructed downtown in 1892 by the firm of noted architect Samuel Hannaford. That designation won’t necessarily provide more legal protection for the building, which could soon face demolition by owners the Joseph family pending a May 26 Historic Conservation Board vote. But appearing on the list can draw more attention and support for historic structures, preservationists say.
• As we’ve talked about here and elsewhere in CityBeat a lot, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is still walking off a loss in the Democratic Party’s Ohio primary against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland for the chance to challenge U.S. Sen. Rob Portman for his Senate seat. So what’s a young man who just lost a Senate race to do? Sittenfeld is weighing his professional options, it seems. He told WCPO recently that he has yet to decide whether to seek a third term on Cincinnati City Council. Sittenfeld, just 31, was the top vote-getter in his first run for the office. If he doesn’t do that, he might jump into a startup venture and wait until he’s a bit more seasoned to continue his career in politics. In the meantime, he’s going full-tilt on Council, and has some solid summer plans: getting married.
• The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is one of my favorite places, like, ever, which makes this story all the more heartbreaking. Overdoses at the main branch of the library downtown have increased significantly as the heroin crisis continues to grip our region. The main branch is on pace to see 18 overdoses this year — as many as the last two years combined. Solutions to the problem might be difficult, police say, and the situation is just one sign of the larger opiate problem that has taken hold in Ohio and other parts of the country. That problem persists, even as treatment options for addiction have narrowed for many low-income people.
• Finally, how’d that Democratic presidential primary contest go just south of the Ohio River last night? It was a nail-biter. Dem frontrunner Hillary Clinton ended up pulling out a slim victory over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. She took 46.8 percent of the vote, netting 29 delegates, to Sanders’ 46.3 percent of the vote and 27 delegates.
The contest didn’t matter much numerically — Clinton still has a comfortable lead in the overall primary, and Sanders only the narrowest path to victory, even with his win in Oregon’s primary last night. But Clinton desperately wants to put the primary behind her and focus on the general election, where she’s likely to face off against GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump. The problem for her: Democratic voters aren’t lining up behind her yet, instead continuing to support Sanders’ populist campaign and somewhat more liberal message. Upcoming early June primaries should put Clinton over the top numbers-wise for the nomination, but even after she sews up the primary, she’ll have a bigger task: wooing Sanders supporters to back her in the general election. That may be a big hill to climb, given what happened in Nevada last week and the overall contentiousness of the Democratic primary this season.
• University of Cincinnati construction partner Skanska and Megan Construction announced Monday that it has signed a $70 million deal to begin renovating the Bearcats' basketball arena in June. The University says it's still fundraising to come up with the rest of the money for the planned $87 million renovation of Fifth Third Arena. The announcement appears to be UC's latest attempt to flaunt its feathers to convince Big 12 officials to allow the university to join the conference, which UC has been trying to join for two years. UC officials are scheduled to meet with Big 12 officials in Dallas in two weeks.
• The Centers for Disease Control is concerned that Kentucky's heroin crisis is leading to another possible crisis: an AIDS/HIV outbreak. The CDC has ranked Kentucky as the state with the highest risk for an HIV outbreak, placing thirteen of the state's counties on its top 20 at-risk list. The federal agency began analyzing every U.S. county after the virus rapidly spread through needle sharing in rural Scott County, Indiana, which has a population of just 20,000 people, and found 220 counties posed a high risk for an outbreak, which includes nearby Brown and Adams counties in Ohio.