Home - Blogs - Users Blogs - Latest Blogs
by Natalie Krebs 08.18.2015 51 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 52 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 55 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 56 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 57 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 58 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!

by Natalie Krebs 08.10.2015 59 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

ResponsibleOhio launches TV ads; Covington ISD clears school resource officer in handcuffing of boy; CPD officer's widow pleads with department to keep fatal dash cam footage private

Good morning! I hope everyone had a great weekend. I managed to go check out the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and learned a lot about our nation's history and got to see a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. It's on display temporarily, so go check it out if you haven't already. But now back to the modern world, and here are today's headlines. 

• Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted hasn't announced yet if ResponsibleOhio's marijuana legalization amendment qualifies to be on the Nov. 3 ballot, but that hasn't stopped the investment group from launching television ads aimed at voters. The 15-second ads first ran last Thursday night during the GOP debates on Fox and gave little information. Instead, the ads direct the viewer to the organization's website where additional videos go more in-depth about the ResponsibleOhio's controversial plan to legalize marijuana for those 21 and over.

The group has been criticized for launching a plan that would create a monopoly on the industry by allowing only 10 commercial farms to grow the plant around the state. The group has recently changed the proposal so individual growers could have just four plants with the purchase of a $50 license. If approved for the ballot, the group's investors are expected to dump as much as $20 million
into pushing the amendment toward voters. Husted's office has said it expects to reach a decision by the end of next week. 

• An Kenton County d
eputy and school resource officer who handcuffed an 8-year-old boy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder last year was just complying with school policy, according to an independent investigator hired by Covington Independent School Districts. Superintendent Alvin Garrison sent out a letter to parents assuring that the act was compliant with the school's restraint policy and that their kids were indeed safe in school after the video surfaced of resource office Kevin Sumner handcuffing a kicking and screaming boy's forearms behind his back. The release of the video prompted a federal lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Kenton County Sheriff's Department claiming the act violated Kentucky law and the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

• The widow of Cincinnati Police Officer
Sonny Kim, who was killed in the line of duty, has asked the city not to release the dash camera footage that caught Kim's last moments. Trepierre Hummons shot Kim the morning of June 19 after the officer responded to a 911 call about a man with a gun at the corner of Whetsel Avenue and Rose Street in Madisonville. It was later revealed that Hummons had made the call. Hummons' father and grandmother also joined Jessica Kim in pleading with officials to keep the tape under wraps. Kim, who has seen the footage, said that it would not be beneficial in any sense and only cause more pain to the family. City Manager Harry Black has asked for the Law Department to review the public information request made by the Cincinnati Enquirer and other media outlets. The Cincinnati Police investigation of the incident is still ongoing.    

• Gov. John Kasich is playing it safe with his party by refusing to criticize leading presidential GOP contender Donald Trump for his sexist remarks against Fox's Megyn Kelly, one of the moderators during last Thursday's GOP debate
. In a Friday interview with CNN, Trump stated, "You could see blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her whatever," which his campaign followed up Saturday by claiming he was, of course, referring to her nose and nowhere else. Kasich, who made the interview rounds at the major networks yesterday, has widely praised Trump's performance during the debate and has responded to the incident in an ambiguous statement in which he refuses to actually name Trump. Kasich, who just barely made the top 10 to be included in the Fox News GOP debate, might be playing it safe with other Republican contenders but risks angering women voters, who also happen to make up half of the voting population.  

That's it for today. Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com or tweet me with story tips.                   

by Nick Swartsell 08.07.2015 62 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

GOP debate edition

Hey Cincy! Normally, we’d be talking local news today, but it’s a bit slow and yesterday’s GOP presidential primary debate yielded plenty to discuss, along with I’m sure more than a few debate drinking game-related hangovers. So let’s talk about that, shall we?

As previously noted, this was a big day for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who barely made the cutoff for the top 10 GOP contenders invited to participate. Despite being governor of the state in which the GOP will hold its national convention next year and choose its presidential nominee, Kasich narrowly averted having to participate in a so-called pre-debate “kids table” panel made up of also-rans like former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Hewlett Packard exec Carly Fiorina. That discussion presented a pretty sad scene inside the empty Quicken Loans Arena (the pre-debate panel wasn’t open to the public).

Kasich, however, was on the big stage with the GOP’s top national names and, by most accounts, made the most of the opportunity. While frontrunners like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush floundered a bit, Kasich was aggressive in pushing his balanced budget, tax cutting, privatizing vision, something he’s instituted in Ohio to rather mixed results. As we mentioned yesterday, though unemployment under Kasich has fallen in Ohio, the state’s median household income still lags behind its 1980s levels and the national median income. Kasich also got big applause for a somewhat dodgy answer to a question about gay marriage. Shifting from policy to personal life, Kasich said he would still love his daughters if they were gay. I would hope so. Meanwhile, the state of Ohio under Kasich spent tons of time and energy fighting a losing battle against marriage equality. So there’s that.

There were several fun moments at the debate, and by fun I mean terrifying because one of these guys could be the next leader of our country. And by “one of these guys,” I foremost mean Donald Trump, who has taken an early and stupefying lead among GOP voters, according to some polls. First, everyone got mad because the Donald wouldn’t declare himself loyal to the Republican party and didn’t rule out a third-party run if doesn’t get the GOP nomination. “If I’m the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent,” he said, hilariously. That’s nice of him. That ticked off Rand Paul, among other candidates, and some high-school friend-group-level bickering commenced. The Donald also made inflammatory comments about immigrants and women, but that’s hardly news these days, right?

Interestingly, there was little talk of the economy in the series of passive-aggressive tiffs debut debate. In fact, the candidates mentioned the middle class just twice, and one of those times was Christie referring to himself. Inequality got no mentions, though Kasich did nod to it obliquely in a couple statements. Maybe it’s because the topic isn’t exactly a winner right now for Republicans — unemployment is low, after all, and has been for a while. Instead, the GOP hopefuls chose to focus on “illegals” (their word) and the border, which they mentioned 25 times all together. They also mentioned Hillary Clinton nearly 20 times, which is a lot like talking a bunch about someone you say you don't care about. It just makes you sound like you have a crush on them or are scared of them. Or both.

So, did Kasich raise his profile with his performance? It’s too early to tell, but national commentators have at least tipped their hats to him post-debate, with some saying he came out on top.

That’s it for me today. Hope your weekend is good and debate free.

by Nick Swartsell 08.06.2015 63 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Council votes to halt off-campus UC police stops; Metro lets riders track buses in real time; advice to Kasich in song form

Good morning all. Here’s what’s up on this rainy Thursday.

Cincinnati City Council yesterday voted to temporarily suspend an agreement with the University of Cincinnati Police Department that allowed that agency to make traffic stops on streets beyond UC’s campus. The decision comes in the wake of the shooting by UC officer Ray Tensing of unarmed motorist Samuel Dubose a half-mile from campus in Mount Auburn. Council voted unanimously to pull back a memorandum of understanding between UC’s police force and the Cincinnati Police Department that allowed UC officers to do things like make traffic stops and other enforcement efforts off-campus. Now, officials from UC, CPD, and the city are working to hammer out a better protocol for campus police in light of Dubose’s death and revelations about the university department’s increasingly aggressive stance in the neighborhoods around the school.

Traffic tickets and use of force incidents have increased dramatically in the past few years as the school has added more than 30 new police officers. UC police have drawn guns 16 times this year, according to documents reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer. Officers with that force did so only twice in 2014 and twice in 2013. Traffic stops in that time have gone up a staggering amount — from 615 in 2012 to a projected 3,400 or more in 2015, according to numbers cited by City Councilman Kevin Flynn. That increase has disproportionately affected people of color. Some 63 percent of those ticketed in the past year were African American, documents show. Council members say until those issues are addressed, UC police should hold off on making off-campus traffic stops.

• Maybe this seems like a small bit of news to the car-owning readers, but for folks like me it’s huge: Metro is making real-time bus data available to riders. This is an awesome feature for days like today, when it’s pouring down rain and I can look out my window to see an uncovered bus stop tantalizingly close to my house but too far away to sprint to once I’ve seen the bus coming. The public transit organization today launched a bus-tracking system that allows riders to call a special phone line, check out a website or download new apps to follow the bus they’re waiting for in real time. Riders can call 513-621-4455, visit go-metro.com or download Metro’s new free Bus Detective and Transit Apps to get the information. Info is available in English and Spanish.

• Cincinnati City Council needs one more vote to take up suggested changes to the city’s charter that would limit the mayor’s power. Among those changes is a provision that would end the mayor’s ability to pocket veto legislation by not referring it to council committees and another that would allow council to initiate the firing of the city manager.

The city’s Charter Review Task Force has been working on its suggestions for more than a year and this week delivered its final report on what it sees as pressing changes needed to the city’s governing document. Some of those changes don’t sit well with Mayor John Cranley, which is to be expected, since they would limit his power considerably. Council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young, Chris Seelbach and Kevin Flynn support the suggestions.

Flynn, who chairs Council’s Rules and Audit Committee, appointed the task force. Supporters on council yesterday said  the city’s current charter is vague and that it never intended to give the city’s mayor the sweeping powers that position now has. However, opponent Vice Mayor David Mann says the mayor can’t actually legally use the pocket veto and that a winnable legal battle could ensue should he try against the wrong council member. In the meantime, putting the pocket veto issue up for a vote could mean council would be stuck with it if voters decide to preserve that power. That leaves a few wildcards: Council member Amy Murray is mum about her stance on the proposed changes. Christopher Smitherman wants to give the mayor more power, not less. That leaves Republican Charlie Winburn, usually a staunch ally of Cranley. But Winburn vocally disapproved of former mayor Mark Mallory’s use of the pocket veto provision and has made noises about supporting council’s ability to hold the city manager accountable. Will he side against his ally Cranley? It’s a cliffhanger. Should council pass the recommendations, they’ll go on the November ballot.

• Should drivers be required to give bikers in the city more room on the road? Some groups think so. About half of states require a three foot passing distance between cars and bikers on the road. Ohio isn’t one of those states, but the city has passed similar rules requiring drivers to give bikes at least three feet when passing them. Now some bike activists say that distance isn’t far enough for safety, and some are pushing to get rules changed. The League of American Bicyclists, for instance, has issued a new set of safety recommendations it says improves upon the three-foot rule. Will the city take up these recommendations? Only time will tell.

• Finally, let me set a scene for you. Tonight is the night. Cleveland is the place. In a dim hotel room somewhere near the venue for the first official GOP 2016 presidential primary debate, Gov. John Kasich is staring into a mirror adjusting his tie, making tough faces and gestures and mouthing the words to this song as it blasts in the background. Well, if he's not listening to that classic Eminem joint, he should be.

Kasich, the underdog, number 10 out of 10 among invited debate contestants, must know this is a make or break moment for his quest to grab the Republican nomination for presidency. He’s been here before, back in 2000, and this is probably his last big shot. He’ll have to spar with the national names — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Scott Walker and yes, of course, Donald Trump — and also answer for his record, which on first glance looks strong but has some big weak points, as this recent editorial from Cleveland.com points out. Data suggests that his much-touted Ohio miracle is at times illusory. The state's median household income — $46,000 — is still less than the nearly $50,000 it was in 1984 when adjusted for inflation. We’re also well below the national average of $51,000 a year. Kasich has also presided over a disastrous turn for the state’s charter school system. He supports Common Core and has expanded Medicaid in the state. Some of these points will make him more vulnerable to a potential Democratic challenger. Some are things that hardline conservatives will hate him for. But all are fair game in the coming rhetorical bloodbath in Cleveland tonight.

That's it for me. E-mail or tweet at me with your favorite debate drinking games.

by Nick Swartsell 08.05.2015 64 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cincy could get fed money for tech jobs; someone flew a drone into Great American Tower; will Kasich get called off the bench?

Good morning all. I dunno about you, but I’m pretty drowsy today after too much mid-week fun last night. But we’re going to push through together and get this news thing taken care of, right? Right. Here’s what’s up today.

Cincinnati is one of 10 more cities newly eligible for more than $100 million in federal grants aimed at getting folks with employment barriers trained to work in the tech industry. The city’s designation as part of the White House’s TechHire Initiative means the city can apply for that money to fund innovative programs with local partners that seek to increase the number of tech workers in the region, a big issue here. Currently, there are somewhere around 1,600 unfilled tech positions in the Greater Cincinnati area, and some industry experts expect that number to skyrocket in the coming decade. City officials say they hope to use the TechHire designation to get 300 Cincinnatians into tech jobs, especially city residents who have a hard time finding job training and work due to issues with child care, language barriers and disabilities.

• Watch where you’re flying that drone, bro. An unknown person yesterday flew one of the unmanned aircrafts into the Great American Tower in what I can only imagine was an attempt to pluck that dumb tiara off the building and dump it into the Ohio River. The drone was unsuccessful at that presumed task, however, and managed only to break a window. Glass fell onto the building’s parking garage, but no one was hurt. Flying a drone around downtown is illegal, though I hope someday in the near future our civic leaders will carve out an exception to that rule so I can have drones deliver pizza to my office window.

• In the aftermath of the July 19 University of Cincinnati police shooting of Samuel Dubose, UC has created a new position to help oversee the school’s police department. Vice President of Safety and Reform Robin Engel has spent two decades working with and studying police, UC officials say, and is the best person to lead the school’s police reform initiatives during the current crisis. You can find out more about Engel and her background in this story, which outlines the major challenges she faces ahead. One issue: the increase in traffic tickets given by UC cops, especially off-campus, and the pervasive racial inequity of those tickets. In four years, the number of tickets given by UC cops has risen from 286 to 932, and the share of those tickets going to blacks has gone from 43 to 62 percent.

• A year ago today, John Crawford III was shot to death by Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams in a Walmart there as he carried a toy rifle over his shoulder. Crawford was black and Williams was white. At the time, such shootings were an important, but tiny, blip on the nation’s radar. How times have changed. The police shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson five days later brought national attention to the issue, sparking deep unrest in the St. Louis satellite and around the country. Other shootings, including the recent death of Samuel Dubose at the hands of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, have kept the issue front and center in the national spotlight. Now, a year after Crawford’s shooting, a federal investigation into his death continues and has yet to yield many new details. Rallies and gatherings are planned tonight at Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton at 7 p.m. and at the Beavercreek Walmart where Crawford died at 6 p.m. Crawford’s family will be appearing at the Dayton event.

• Finally, Gov. John Kasich got some good news yesterday. Over the past few weeks, when I picture Kasich, I picture an eager high school third-string quarterback on the sidelines beseeching coach to put him in the game. In this scenario, “coach” is the GOP and “the game” is of course the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest. Yesterday, Kasich got word that he should suit up and start doing some warm ups, because he’s being called onto the field.

The Ohio guv made the cut for the first of six pre-primary debates, which takes place in Cleveland tomorrow. Kasich and U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky both eeked into the event, which has been limited to 10 slots. Kasich just edged past former Texas governor Rick Perry, who will stay at home in the Lone Star State, probably eating brisket and gazing longingly toward Cleveland. Just kidding. No one gazes longingly toward Cleveland. In any event, Kasich’s campaign announcement two weeks ago certain gave him a small boost — he’s now polling at about 3 percent, much better than the 1 percent he was at before he launched — but he’s still got a lot of work to do to catch up to GOP heavy-hitters former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and surprise quasi-frontrunner real estate magnate Donald Trump. Thursday’s debate may be a good chance for him to further set himself apart from the crowded field. Will Kasich’s surge continue? Will he pull off some kind of Rudy-esque triumph and make it to the big game? I would say the odds are long, but everyone loves an underdog.




by Natalie Krebs 10.08.2015 19 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

City Council votes to preserve Kings Records building; Study finds Cranley's park tax levy will bring $117 million; Half of Ohioans on board with legalizing weed

It's almost Friday, Cincy! Hang in there with me. I've got plenty of studies and polls to keep you going this morning. 

• City Council voted unanimously yesterday to designate the old Kings Records building a historic landmark. The future of the building has been controversial as city leaders and activists have fought to save the building. They hope that it renovation along with a nearby educational facility could revitalize Evanston. However, the building's owner, Dynamite Industries, has other ideas. They would like to demolish the building and may sue the city over its decision. Kings Records saw its heyday 1940s to the 1970s when it was the sixth largest record label in the world. Famous musicians like Otis Redding and James Brown spent time at the Evanston studio, and Brown recorded some of his greatest hits with the label.                

• A report commissioned by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and Cincinnati Business Committee found Mayor Cranley's proposed tax levy for city parks would have an economic impact of $117 million in the first ten years. Cranley has proposed a permanent property tax levy to revamp and maintain the city's parks with 16 different projects, like increasing hiking and biking trails to attract commuters. Some worry about the lack of oversight in Cranley's proposal and that his plan, which he has referred to as "park-o-nomics" could lead to the commercialization of public parks. 

• A just over half of Ohioians--53 percent to be exact--are on board with legalizing marijuana for recreational use compared to 44 percent who said they are not. The Quinnipiac poll found that 65 percent claim they would definitely not use marijuana it if it were legalized, however. The poll didn't specifically ask about Issue 3, but posed general questions about legalizing the drug. The survey found men were overall more supportive of it then women as were younger people more so than older folk.  

The same poll found that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former Ohio governor Ted Strickland at 46 percent support is slightly ahead of GOP candidate Rob Portman, who had 43 percent support. 

• While it might not yet have the tech reputation of San Francisco or Austin, website ValuePenguin.com ranked Cincinnati ninth on its list of mid-sized cities for web developers. According to its data, Cincinnati has about 910 web development jobs with an average salary of $65,390 and the cost of living here definitely beats that of San Francisco and Austin. The cities are placed into three categories based on population: large, mid-sized and small. You can check out the full list here. 

• Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn will be answering some tough questions from Congress this morning. The executive is scheduled to go before a U.S. House subcommittee investigating the discovery that VW has been cheating on their U.S. emissions tests. U.S. inspectors found nearly 500,000 cars starting with the 2009 models were equipped with software to distort the emissions produced during government tests. Horn is planning on telling Congress that he had only learned of the software a few week ago. VW and U.S. official have not yet announced how they will fix the recalled vehicles. 

• I went to my first Cincinnati Reds game against the Chicago Cubs last Wednesday. The Reds lost their last home game pretty badly, but the game redeemed itself slightly in the eighth inning when they managed to strike out the 11th Cubs batter. For this, I won a small LaRosa's pizza as did everyone else with a ticket to that game. So how many free pizzas has LaRosa's given out in the four years that they've offered this promotion? According to the Cincinnati Business Courier, 640,000. But this year they gave away one-third less pizzas as compared to last year. Attendance was down as Reds didn't quite do so well. Better luck next year, Reds! 

As usual, my email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com. Any story ideas or happenings are welcome.

by Nick Swartsell 10.07.2015 43 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cranley's Anti-Poverty Plan Gets Mixed Reviews

Supporters cheer the mayor's focus on childhood poverty, but critics say Cranley's proposals don't go far enough

Mayor John Cranley’s State of the City speech earlier this week touched on a number of issues the mayor has deemed priorities in the coming year — among them, the city’s sky-high childhood poverty rate.

Last year, according the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, 44.3 percent of the city’s children lived in poverty. That’s down from over 50 percent in 2012, when Cincinnati ranked second-highest in the country, but still double the national average of about 22 percent and nearly double Ohio’s average of 23 percent.

Cranley says he wants to find ways to lift 10,000 of Cincinnati’s 30,000 poor kids out of poverty in the next five years. To do that, he’s proposing convening a task force that will present recommendations for reaching that goal. The task force will present those recommendations June 30, 2016 — the day before the city’s new fiscal year.

Is that goal realistic? And does Cranley’s proposal to create a task force that will research ways to address childhood poverty in Cincinnati go far enough? Some say no, citing other Cranley proposals, including a parks charter amendment that would spend millions in property tax revenues to create new recreational attractions, that will spend much more money on things critics say are less pressing or effective.

Meanwhile, others applaud the fact the mayor is focusing on the problem and say they are willing to give his ideas time to play out.

City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson is among the critics of Cranley’s approach.

In an Oct. 6 editorial for The Cincinnati Enquirer, Simpson said the mayor’s big speech left out some key considerations — from the University of Cincinnati police shooting death of Samuel DuBose and ongoing racial issues in the city to progress made on the city’s streetcar system.

One of the speech’s big shortfalls, Simpson says, is the lack of a serious plan to address poverty in the city.

“For those individuals living in poverty and organizations actively working on the root causes and effects of institutional, inter-generational poverty everyday, organizing a ‘summit’ and expecting it will lead to a one-third reduction in our childhood poverty rate in 5 years is, at best, out of touch and at worst, disrespectful,” Simpson wrote in the piece.

Simpson said Cranley’s statements are surprising considering the recent fight between the mayor’s office and City Council over human services funding in the city’s budget. Democrats on Council pushed for more money for programs traditionally funded through human services in the budget to get the city back on track toward devoting at least 1 percent of the budget toward such programs.

Council passed a resolution last fall asking the city to double funding for traditional human services programs. While making this year’s city budget, however, City Manager Harry Black ignored that resolution and put much of that money in new programs not usually associated with traditional human services. Meanwhile, federal money usually given to other programs was directed toward the mayor’s Hand Up Initiative, which looks to get more poor Cincinnatians into jobs making around $10 an hour through programs like Cincinnati Cooks! and Cincinnati Works. Those dynamics caused a big battle over the city budget.

Community activist Mike Moroski sits on the steering committee for Hand Up. He’s also the executive director of UpSpring, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the city’s childhood poverty problem. Moroski says he’s not always been a Cranley fan, but his time working on Hand Up has convinced him the mayor is responsive to input and new ideas. He says he’s willing to give Cranley’s anti-poverty ideas time to bear fruit.

“I voted for [Cranley’s 2013 mayoral opponent] Roxanne Qualls,” Moroski says. “I didn't think John Cranley would be a very good mayor.”

Moroski says he still disagrees with Cranley on some issues, including the streetcar, but says those issues aren’t as important as addressing the city’s big poverty problem. He says he believes the mayor — and City Council — are serious about working toward solving that problem and that he hopes city officials can work past politics together toward that end.
“Will Mayor Cranley's new Task Force do just that? I have no idea, but I am willing to be hopeful and wait and see,” Moroski said in an email yesterday. “I am not willing to dismiss it right out of the gate. Did he spend enough time on it last evening? I don't know — I am not going to pass judgment because it wasn't talked about enough — I am just happy it was talked about.”

The city has made some efforts to address its deep economic divisions, including a recent raft of ordinances that would help address the racial and gender disparities in its contracting practices. However, Cincinnati is still a place of stunning inequalities when it comes to the economic conditions of its neighborhoods, and ways to address those inequalities look to remain front and center in conversations about the city’s future.

"Mayor Cranley wants 2016 to be the year that we dig in and have real conversations about poverty and take action," Moroski says. "And I will support that. I will also support any initiative that any council member proposes that does the same. And, as I said, if any of these initiatives appear to be hollow, then I will pass judgment. But not until I see what plays out."

by Natalie Krebs 10.07.2015 43 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Morning News and Stuff

ResponsibleOhio under investigation for submitting fraudulent voter registration forms; Sittenfeld calls for opponents to renounce NRA support; Blue Lives Matter launches billboard campaign; U.S. under fire for Doctors Without Borders bombing

Hey Cincy! Here are your morning headlines.  

• There's potentially more trouble on the horizon for ResponsibleOhio less than a month before voters head to the polls to vote on its ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. The Hamilton County Board of Elections is looking into possible voter registration fraud after the board found that at least four of the registration forms filed by a company on behalf of the super PAC were signed by dead people and two were signed by people currently incarcerated and therefore illegible to vote. The registrations forms were submitted by the Strategic Network, a Columbus company specializing in political campaigns that is headed by Ian James, the man who also serves as executive director for ResponsibleOhio. The board made the decision yesterday to issue subpoenas to James and the other leaders of the Strategic Network. James denies any intentional illegal wrongdoing and claims that his company has a "zero tolerance policy" toward fraud. It’s unclear who filled out and submitted the voter registration forms, but submitting a fraudulent voter registration form is a felony offense. James claims that the group is required by law to turn over every voter registration form it collects, even those that are invalid. 

• Less than a week after the tragic shooting at a Roseburg, Ore. community college, city councilman and U.S. Senate candidate P.G. Sittenfeld issue a statement asking his opponents to renounce their support for the National Rifle Association. The NRA has previously endorsed Republican candidate Rob Portman and fellow Democratic opponent Ted Strickland in its famous rating program where it assigns a letter grade to politicians. In his video statement, Sittenfeld asks that his opponents "no longer chase A+ ratings from the same organization that blocked a universal background check bill following a horrific massacre of five and six-year old children in Newtown." Sittenfeld is trailing behind former Ohio governor and fellow Democrat Strickland, who is widely known across the state and has secured the endorsement from the state's Democratic party. 

• Cincinnati is sitting on some serious cash. At the end of the 2015 fiscal year, the city has $19 million left over, which turned out to be way more than the initial $3.9 million the city predicted to have at the end of June. In a memo to Mayor John Cranley, City Manager Harry Black has requested they should it safe and save most of it but also included a sizable wish list. Many of the items requested are related to law enforcement and crime reduction, which has been a hot topic since Cincinnati has experienced a spike in shootings and Black recently fired of former police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell. Some of the items, which must be approved by the city council, included spending $2 million on a down payment for Cincinnati Police body cameras, $500,000 for police overtime in spots with heavy crime, $200,000 for a witness protection program and $175,000 for a partnership with Hamilton County to a program to support the re-entry of offenders. 

• Surely you've heard of Black Lives Matter by now, the group that has been active for the past few years in bringing attention to the issue of police brutality against African-Americans. Well, a new group has popped up in support of police called Blue Lives Matter and they've launched a national billboard campaign with 14 billboards across the country. The group is hoping to spread awareness and fight what it sees as anti-police rhetoric in the wake of high profile police shootings, including the July shooting in Mount Auburn of Sam Dubose by a University of Cincinnati police officer.

• International aid group Doctors Without Borders appealed yesterday for an independent agency to investigate the bombing of one of its clinics in Afghanistan last Saturday by U.S. special operation forces. The bombing killed 22 patients and medical staff members, including three children, and injured 37 people. The U.S. has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was trying to take out Taliban militants, and did not mean to hit the aid clinic, but U.S. military officials' stories keep changing, which has prompted suspicion from the international community of the U.S.'s mission.   

As always, email me with story idea, comments or general concerns.

by Nick Swartsell 10.06.2015 67 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley touts more money for cops, park plan in State of the City; Council poised to vote on King historic status; area districts push back against charter schools

Good morning folks. Let’s talk about news today, eh?

First off, let me tell you about Mayor John Cranley’s second State of the City speech, which he gave to a crowd of about 700 movers, shakers and awkward journalists (at least one awkward journalist) last night at Great American Ball Park.

The mayor is obligated by the city charter to give folks an update on what he’s up to once a year, and for Cranley that meant talking about economic development deals and balancing the budget, asking city council for $800,000 for new violence prevention measures and promoting his somewhat controversial parks levy, which would create an amendment to the city charter and raise property taxes slightly to give big makeovers to a number of Cincinnati parks.

Cranley also pledged to create a task force to explore ways to reduce childhood poverty and a healthcare initiative to reduce infant mortality in the city. He did all this while making a slightly convoluted metaphor about home runs and base hits and sharing a personal experience with the mythical double rainbow. We’ll be parsing the mayor’s proposals more precisely soon, but in the meantime, that’s the broad overview you need to know.

• As Cranley was making his speech last night, a group of around 50 gathered at City Hall to protest the looming closure of Cincinnati’s last women’s clinic that provides abortions. City Councilman Chris Seelbach spoke to the group, pledging support for Planned Parenthood and calling on fellow city officials to support the city’s last remaining clinic. A smaller group then marched to Great American Ball Park, chanting and holding signs asking Cranley to show support for the facility and for the pro-choice movement. The mayor, who has said he was unaware of the rally, did not make remarks to the group following his speech.

The Ohio Department of Health last month denied a license renewal for the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn. The clinic is run by Planned Parenthood and has stayed open by order of a federal judge as it awaits the results of an appeal to that decision. Planned Parenthood Southwestern Ohio and legal representatives for Women’s Med clinic in Dayton that faces a similar situation have also sued the state of Ohio over its increasingly strict restrictions on clinics that provide abortions. Should the clinics lose their appeal in federal court, both will shut down. Without a clinic, Cincinnati would become the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to abortion services.

• After a somewhat contentious Neighborhoods Committee meeting yesterday, Cincinnati City Council is expected to vote tomorrow on historic landmark status for the former King Records site in Evanston, the Cincinnati Business Courier reports. That designation could make it much harder to tear down the buildings but could also spark a big legal battle reminiscent of the struggle over the Gamble House, the historic Westwood abode built by the son of one of P&G’s founders. That 170-year-old building was torn down in 2013. The site in Evanston is significant for a number of reasons, one of which is that it’s the place where James Brown made many of his early recordings. One of the two buildings on the site is currently owned by Dynamic Industries, which would like to tear it down. Want to know more about Evanston, King Records and the push and pull between the current owners of the could-be historic site and those looking to preserve the building? We have a story on that.

• A group composed of 43 school districts in Greater Cincinnati, including Cincinnati Public Schools, is pushing back against charter school expansion in the state. The Greater Cincinnati School Advocacy Network recently called for greater accountability for charter schools and changes to the way in which they are funded. GCSAN says charters unfairly drain public money from public school districts while not providing a better alternative for low-income students as they were intended to do. CPS loses thousands of students to local charters each year. The district says it’s not totally opposed to the concept — it sponsors two charter schools itself  — but warns that voters in the district are tired of seeing their money spent on private charter schools that don’t perform well.

The push back comes as charters in Ohio face deep scrutiny over an Ohio Department of Education data fixing scandal, performance issues and questions about oversight. In general, charters in the state have laxer oversight from the ODE and lower performance standards. You can read our story about charters in Cincinnati and throughout the state here.

• How much tax revenue will be created from legalizing marijuana if voters pass a ballot initiative doing so this November? Like most controversial political questions, it depends entirely on whom you ask. The Ohio Department of Taxation estimates revenues somewhere between $133 and almost $300 million could flow from the sale of marijuana. Not surprisingly, ResponsibleOhio, which created the petition drive to get the issue on the November ballot, has higher numbers, saying legalization would create $2 billion in marijuana sales, bringing municipalities and counties more than $554 million in revenue. The state’s estimates vary depending on assumptions about how much of the current illicit marijuana market switches to legal usage.

But ResponsibleOhio says the state erred in considering how many people use marijuana in Ohio and say its number is based on more reliable federal drug usage studies. What’s a few hundred million dollars, though, am I right? ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would legalize marijuana usage and purchase for anyone over the age of 21. The proposal would also create more than 1,000 licenses similar to liquor licenses for the sale of the drug. However, the controversial part of the plan is that only 10 grow sites, all owned by ResponsibleOhio investors, would be allowed across the state. Voters will have a chance to weigh in on the proposal on the November ballot.

by Nick Swartsell 10.05.2015 3 days ago
Posted In: News, Cycling at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
to do_bright ride_photo urban basin bicycle club facebook page

Cincinnati Among Top Cities for Growth in Bicycle Commuting

Commuting by bike increased by 350 percent last year, the third-biggest increase among major cities

You may have seen recent 2014 American Community Survey data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showing that bicycle commuting continues to rise.

Cincinnati has been one of the cities leading the way in that growth, it turns out.

The League of American Bicyclists recently analyzed those ACS numbers and came up with data showing where cycling and bike commuting are biggest and growing fastest. While Cincinnati ranked 31st among the 70 biggest U.S. cities in terms of share of cyclists commuting to work (we’re at just under 1 percent), the number of bike commuters here is growing faster than just about anywhere else in the country.

Bike commuting in Cincinnati increased by 350 percent last year, according to the ACS. That’s more than any other major city besides Detroit, which saw a 403 percent boost, and Pittsburgh, which saw bicycle commuting go up by 360 percent.

Cincinnati easily beat out other Ohio cities, including Columbus (ranked 36th with .8 percent of commutes happening by bike) and Cleveland (ranked 40th with .7 percent).

The city with the top percentage of bicycle commuters is, predictably, Portland, Ore., where more than 7 percent of commutes are taken by bicycle. The city has more than 23,000 cyclists. Oregon is tops in terms of states when it comes to bike commuters, as well. Ohio is well down that list, ranking 36th.

As a bike commuter, I'm excited that I have more company on the roads. You can read the whole League of American Bicyclists report here.

by Nick Swartsell 10.05.2015 3 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Enquirer story on historic conservation board appears, disappears; Cranley to deliver state of the city address this evening; Kasich zeroes in on New Hampshire, where he trails

Hello all. Hope you enjoyed your weekend. Yesterday was the ideal day weatherwise, so if you stayed inside all day, well, that sucks for you. I went to a pumpkin festival at Lobenstein farms in Indiana, where I got a strange white pumpkin that I believe is probably haunted. I also had the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever eaten and some amazing fried chicken. So I’d say it all balances out. Anyway, none of that is news. This is news.

First — it’s the last day to go register to vote for the November election. Go do that now. Though there aren’t any major public officials to weigh in on this year, there are several very important ballot issues, including changes to the redistricting process for Ohio’s State House seats, whether to create a state-sanctioned,10-farm weed monopoly to legalize marijuana and whether to pass a levy that would provide millions to new park projects. So. Go register. I’ll wait.

Back? OK.

• Over the weekend, The Cincinnati Enquirer posted, then took down, a story about changes to the city’s urban conservator office and Historic Conservation Board, which help decide questions of historic preservation, demolition permits and the like. Basically, these bodies help mediate the push-pull between developers who want to build buildings at maximum profit and community members and historic preservation advocates who want to save old buildings that contribute to the character of Cincy’s neighborhoods.

Lately, there have been shake ups on both the board and with the urban conservator, who was unceremoniously removed from his post in late August. Meanwhile, four of the board’s six members are newcomers who have contributed to Mayor John Cranley’s campaign. Some, including some Over-the-Rhine community leaders, see this as a politicizing of these decision-making bodies and a possible weakening of the city’s historic preservation safeguards to the benefit of developers friendly with Cranley. But others defend the changes, saying rotation on the board is healthy to get fresh perspectives on historic conservation. The Enquirer says it took down the story because it accidentally posted an unedited version a couple days ahead of schedule. You can read the original version, which does contain some errors, in this Facebook post by transit activist and OTR resident Derek Bauman. It will be interesting to read the final version of that story when it finally comes out.

• A group of activists will take to City Hall today to protest the pending closing of Cincinnati’s last women’s clinic that provides abortions. More than 100 people are confirmed for the rally on a Facebook event posted by the group, which says it is protesting to get city officials to express support for abortion rights and opposition to the clinic’s closure. Several Democratic city officials have already expressed support for Planned Parenthood.

The Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, which is run by Planned Parenthood, was denied a license renewal by the Ohio Department of Health last week. It is staying open pending an appeal of that decision, but could close immediately if federal courts find in favor of the state. That would make Cincinnati the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to abortions. The Women’s Med Clinic in Dayton faces a similar situation with the ODH; if both shut down, the entirety of Southwestern Ohio would be without direct access to abortion services. Today’s rally begins at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

• Meanwhile, most city officials will be away from City Hall at Great American Ball Park this afternoon for Mayor John Cranley’s second state of the city speech, where he’ll unveil his priorities for the coming year. Among those priorities is a task force aimed at lifting 10,000 children and 5,000 adults out of poverty. The task force will be expected to deliver a set of action steps by June 30 for that goal. In 2012, more than half of the city’s children lived in poverty. That ratio has gone down to 44 percent since, but it’s unclear why that is. Whatever the reason, city officials say that’s still far too many kids without basic needs. Ohio’s childhood poverty rate is 23 percent and the nation’s is 22.

Cranley will likely talk about other priorities he has for the coming year, including an initiative to raise millions for Cincinnati parks by putting a permanent property tax levy into the city’s charter so the city can issue bonds for capital projects in the parks. Projects such as the Wasson Way bike trail, a redevelopment of Burnet Woods and other money-intensive efforts are on the slate should that levy pass in November.

Here are some quick notes about state and national politics/other news:

• The state of Ohio is getting tons of money for charter schools, despite recent scandals about data-fixing in the Ohio Department of Education and generally lagging performance from those schools. The U.S. Department of Education is awarding eight states money for their charter programs, and Ohio is among them. Despite being the lowest-performing of the eight, the state could receive more than $70 million for the privately run, publicly funded schools, the most of any of the eight states. The story linked above has more information and is definitely worth a read.

• U.S. Sen. Rob Portman has raised a big old mountain of cash from Republican donors in his re-election bid. Portman will face either former Ohio governor Ted Strickland or Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld in the general election next year, both of whom trail Portman’s $2 million quarterly fundraising haul significantly. That’s not the whole story, however. Democratic primary frontrunner Strickland is polling dead even with Portman and in some polls surpassing him, despite the fundraising deficit. Many political observers predict the race to be among the most costly in the country as Dems and the GOP battle it out for control of the Senate in a presidential election year. Outside groups are already pouring money into Ohio against Strickland.

• Ohio governor and GOP presidential primary contender John Kasich has called New Hampshire, an early primary state, essential to his bid for his party’s nomination and indicated this weekend that a bad showing there would be the end of his campaign. Unfortunately, he’s also lagging there, dropping from second behind Donald Trump in a poll last month to seventh in a poll taken this month. The guv just opened his campaign headquarters in the state, which has its primary in about four months.

• Probably not a surprise, but Republicans are still fighting over who will replace U.S. Rep. John Boehner of West Chester in his powerful speaker of the house role. Boehner resigned from Congress recently amid infighting over a possible government shutdown by hardline right wing Republicans. His second-in-command, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, seems to be the favorite for the position, but recent slip-ups by McCarthy and an announcement that Utah’s Rep. Jason Chaffetz is also running for the role have increased the uncertainty about who will take the reigns for Republicans, who control the House of Representatives with a large majority.

• Finally, stock up on those solid color neon hoodies now. American Apparel announced bankruptcy today. The company, which sells basic clothing items that are made in America, has lost money every year since 2010. It suffered a blow last year as founder Dov Charney was ousted amid widespread allegations that he engaged in sexual harassment against employees. The company says its retail locations, including the one in Cincinnati, will remain open amid the bankruptcy.

by Nick Swartsell 10.02.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Will the Freedom Center get a charter school?; Sheriff Jones won't run for Boehner's seat; Vatican clarifies on Kim Davis visit

Hey all! Here’s a brief news rundown for your Friday. Let’s get to the weekend already.

Is a charter school coming to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center? It could happen, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Carpe Diem is a charter sponsored by Cincinnati Public Schools that operates out of Aiken High School. The school has expressed interest in opening up another CPS-sponsored charter in the Freedom Center, though nothing official has been planned yet. The charter’s CEO has said he’d be interested in having the school open as soon as next fall, though CPS has yet to make a decision about whether it wants another charter, saying such a school would need to perform as well or better than traditional public schools in the city. CPS currently sponsors two charters. Charters in Cincinnati and Ohio in general have a mixed record over the past decade, with some performing as well or better than public schools while many others have lagged and been shut down for performance issues or ethics violations.

• What’s the most Instagramed spot in Ohio? It’s the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, according to a review of social media data by travel website busbud.com. The site looked at which attractions in every state generated the most hashtags on the popular, Facebook-owned image-posting social media app. The zoo joins the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the White House in D.C. and the Space Needle in Seattle as one of the most popular spots for ‘gramming in the country. I would have guessed Washington Park, but yeah. Pretty cool for the zoo.

• Apologies in advance for fans of Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, because I have some disappointing news for you. The staunchly anti-immigrant sheriff, who has gained a national profile due to his aggressive stance on conservative issues and appearances on talk shows discussing those views, won’t be running for U.S. Rep. John Boehner’s congressional seat. As we reported last week, Jones had indicated he was interested in campaigning for the spot, which Boehner vacated Friday after years of fighting with congressional conservatives as speaker of the house. But Jones has since announced that, while Congress could “use someone like him,” he’s better off staying in Butler County.

• A Chicago-based investor in ResponsibleOhio’s plan to legalize marijuana in the state has backed out, according to the group. Meanwhile, Youngstown-based Brian Kessler, whose father invented the Hula-Hoop, is in to take his place. Kessler is now one of the 22 investors who have gone public about their role funding ResponsibleOhio’s drive to pass an amendment to the Ohio constitution that would legalize marijuana and create 10 constitutionally mandated grow sites across the state. The identity of another 30 investors has not been made public by the group.

• So everyone got all riled up about the Pope’s visit with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis last week. Now the Vatican is clarifying that meeting... kind of. Davis, you’ll remember, refused to issue marriage licenses even in the wake of this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the country. Davis was eventually found in contempt of court and went to jail for her refusal on religious grounds to issue the licenses. Fast forward a bit. Davis recently revealed that when the pope was here in the U.S. a couple weeks back, she was granted a 15-minute visit with the religious leader. This was something of a shock to many progressives, who were still applauding Pope Francis' statements before Congress on climate change and income inequality. Many, of course, took the visit as a signal that the pope agreed with Davis on her stand. Now, however, the Vatican is saying that the visit was requested by Davis and doesn’t mean that the pope supported her point of view or her actions. Annnnnd… that’s about all the church said. So. Hm.

• Finally, you’ve certainly already heard about the horrific school shooting in Oregon yesterday, but it seems strange not to mention it in a news round up. So here’s a story with what we know so far. As your humble morning news blogger, can I suggest we simply pause to feel for those involved and not instantly begin fighting about this? No? OK.

That’s it for me. Twitter, email, etc. You know what’s up.

by Nick Swartsell 10.01.2015 7 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

City passes paternity leave plan; Denise Driehaus to run for county commish; state passes "ban the box" legislation

Hey hey! Good morning Cincy. How’s it going? Here’s what’s up in the news today.

Yesterday the city officially announced the results of a long-awaited study about disparities in the companies it hires to take on taxpayer-funded projects as well as several measures it plans to take to address those inequities. According to the Croson Study, only about 2.7 percent of the city’s contracts went to black-owned businesses and only about 6.2 percent went to businesses owned by women. This despite the fact that black and women owned businesses in the city have the capacity to do 20 percent of that work, the study says. You can read more about the study and the city’s proposed solutions, which include race and gender-based contracting requirements, in our online story yesterday. City contracts represent more than $1 billion in spending, and city officials say getting that pie split up more equitably could go a long way toward addressing the deep economic inequalities in the city.

• Cincinnati City Council yesterday passed legislation that gives all city employees six weeks of parental leave after they have or adopt a baby, including 28 days at 70 percent of their pay. Council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson proposed the new paternity leave policy, which the city administration estimates will cost about $225,000 a year. Council voted 7-2 to pass the proposal. Seelbach, Simpson and other backers say the slight cost to the city is worth it, saying it’s the right thing to do and that it will help the city recruit the best and brightest employees. Council members Kevin Flynn and Amy Murray voted against the measure, in part because they believe leave offered to employees should be decided through negotiations with the city employees union.

• One of Cincinnati’s iconic but currently empty churches will be born again as an event center, developers say. Towne Properties, which has its headquarters in a portion of the building, will redevelop the former Holy Cross Monastery, which overlooks the city from its lofty perch in Mount Adams, turning it into an upscale space for weddings and other events.  The church has been empty since 1977, and Towne has owned it since 1980. The developer has been puzzled over what to do with the property, considering a hotel or office space for the building. But none of that worked out on paper and so the historic 12,000-square-foot church, built in 1873, has remained empty except for some pretty amazing art exhibits that have popped up from time to time there. I remember seeing Shinji Turner-Yamamoto’s beautiful Global Tree Project at the monastery back in the day. It’s an incredible place.

• Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus has officially announced she’s running for Hamilton County commissioner against sitting Republican commish Greg Hartmann next year. Driehaus, a Clifton resident with a long history of service in local and state politics, is prohibited by term limits from running for another stint as state rep. Hartmann first got the commissioners job in 2008 when he ran unopposed for the post, replacing outgoing commish Pat DeWine. Before that, he mounted an unsuccessful bid for Ohio Secretary of State.

• The Ohio General Assembly yesterday passed so-called “ban the box” legislation that strikes questions about prospective employees’ criminal records from public job applications. The state struck a similar question from its job applications in June, but now an application for any public job in Ohio won’t have questions about an applicant’s criminal history. Proponents say that will help ex-offenders get a new start and decrease the chances they’ll end up in prison again. You can read about the ban the box effort in our in-depth feature story on the subject published in June.

• Finally, in national news, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is raising nearly as much money as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the two duel it out in the Democratic primary for the 2016 presidential nomination. Sanders raised $26 million in the last fundraising quarter to presumed frontrunner Clinton’s $28 million. That’s kind of crazy because Sanders is an independent, not a Democrat, and he’s been running around for years telling people he’s a socialist. Not exactly the most obvious path to the White House. Clinton, meanwhile, is named Clinton and has the vast fundraising network of her former president husband Bill and plenty of backers from her time as a senator. But then, when the top GOP contender for the presidential nomination is Donald Trump, all the rules we all thought were well understood and set in stone go flying out the window.

That’s it for me! Email or tweet at me and let me know if Washington Park is open to us commoners (aka the public) today. You know what I'm talking about if you passed by yesterday.

by Nick Swartsell 09.30.2015 8 days ago
Posted In: News at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

City Unveils Efforts to Address Contracting Disparities

Croson Study reveals that minority and women owned businesses receive few contracts, have capacity to do much more

City of Cincinnati officials today unveiled the final draft of a long-awaited study of gender and racial disparities in the city’s contracting practices, as well as ordinances that might address some of those inequalities, including race and gender based requirements for contractors.

The so-called Croson Study shows that between 2009 and 2013, black-owned businesses were awarded only 2.7 percent of the city’s contracts, totaling about $5 million, despite blacks making up more than 45 percent of the city’s population. Businesses owned by women fared only slightly better during the study’s time frame, getting only 6.2 percent of the city’s contracts. Eighteen percent of busineses in Cincinnati are owned by blacks, and nearly 30 percent are owned by women.

Mayor John Cranley cast the report as a positive step toward more equitable contracting for the city.

“We’re finally here after a long amount of hard work,” Cranley said during a ceremony today at City Hall featuring a wide array of about two dozen city officials, faith leaders, members of the business community, activists and others. “We have a lot of great things happening in the city, but we’re not perfect, and, clearly, the city’s procurement process has not reflected the diversity of our city.” 

Councilman Wendell Young also praised the study, but sounded a much more somber note.

“Since we’ve confirmed what we already know, how hard are we willing to work to address the problems?” he asked. “It’s true that the city of Cincinnati is making great progress. It’s also true that a significant part of this community is not feeling that progress. Cincinnati has many distinctions that we’re not proud of."

Young citing the city’s sky-high infant mortality, childhood poverty and black unemployment rates.

“Today we’re at the point where we have the road map and the confirmation. From today on we find out if we have the political will, the ability, the skill and whether the work we do can make a difference. We won’t be the first, but we’re going to find a way to make this work. And if we can’t do that, heaven help us all.”

The report also revealed that 70 percent of the city's $1.2 billion in prime contracts went to a small group of businesses, a fact that many on city council found disturbing.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman said that fact should make not just minority and female-owned businesses angry, but anyone who has competed for a city contract.

"That's one hell of a country club," he said.

Cranley touted steps the city has already taken toward diversifying its contracting, including recently establishing the city’s new Department of Economic Inclusion and making changes to its Small Business Enterprise (SBE) program. But he also said the Croson Study and its suggestions are huge parts of the solution.

The study makes several suggestions for improvements in the city’s contracting process on four different monetary levels, from under $5,000 to more than $250,000, on both the prime contract and subcontract levels. Some recommended solutions are based on race and gender categories, while others are neutral.

On the subcontracting level, Cincinnati City Council will consider ordinances which create a Minority Business Enterprise program and a Women Business Enterprise program, allowing such businesses to compete with each other for certain set-aside contracts.

On the much larger prime contracting level, businesses will be given points on some bids if they are at least 51 percent owned by minorities or women.

Some council members, including Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, want the city to go farther in ensuring better equity in awarding contracts at the $1 billion prime contracting level. Both Simpson and Councilman Chris Seelbach offered pointed questions about what more could be done at the prime contracting level to ensure a greater piece of that large pie goes to minority- and women-owned businesses.

The city usually awards prime contracts to companies, which then hire subcontractors. City Manager Harry Black pointed out that the city will make requirements for businesses winning prime bids as to the level of minority subcontractors they should hire. Businesses winning contracts with the city of more than $50,000 will be required to subcontract 17 percent black-owned businesses for construction work and 14 percent black-owned businesses for other services, and 14 and 16 percent businesses owned by women for those categories respectively.

One recommendation made by the Croson Study that the city has not yet considered is ending so-called master agreements, or contracts with companies that can be used by multiple city departments on separate projects and which can be subject to multi-year renewals without re-bidding.

“The city should eliminate the use of master agreements and follow the competitive bidding standards for all contracts,” the study states in its conclusion.

One point that every city official agrees upon, however, is that minority- and female-owned businesses are up to the task of doing more projects on taxpayers' behalf.

The study shows that black-owned businesses in the city have the capacity to take on up to 20 percent of the city’s contracts. Businesses owned by women see a similar capacity gap: The report shows female-owned businesses have the ability to tackle another 20 percent of the city’s contracts.

“To all my colleagues here, please do not use the word ‘capacity,’ " Smitherman said.

Though the report is clear, the details involved in increasing minority contracts awarded by the city are complex. Part of the complication comes from the legal realities around what the city can and can’t do to increase minority contracting.

The Croson Study gets its name from a U.S. Supreme Court case, City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson, in which the Virginia city was sued by a contractor over its contract diversity initiatives. The Supreme Court ruled Richmond’s setbacks of contracts for minority businesses unconstitutional and set a standard of strict scrutiny, the highest legal standard, for municipal contracting diversity programs.

That means that cities risk lawsuits if they don’t demonstrate a very clear need to enact gender- or race-specific contracting guidelines and cannot show that those guidelines are narrowly tailored to address disparities without discriminating against other businesses.

Cincinnati has already been through such a lawsuit in 2004, when Cleveland Construction Company unsuccessfully sued the city over its contracting diversity policies. The company claimed that the city’s Small Business Enterprise (SBE) program, which was used in part to score the bids from Cleveland and other companies, created unconstitutional racial and gender classifications and violated its rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment. An initial decision from the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas agreed with that claim, and the city amended the race- and gender-related parts of its SBE program. The case went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which eventually ruled in favor of the city.

The Croson Study offers some protection from future lawsuits, say city officials and representatives from Mason Tillman Associates, which conducted the 338-page report. The report quantifies the extent of Cincinnati’s contracting diversity problems and puts forward recommendations, many poised to be passed by council, that are tailored to address them.

“It gives us a legal basis to do what we need to do to be a city that will work for everybody and not just for a few,” Cranley said.

by Natalie Krebs 09.30.2015 8 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Campbell County Schools superintendent retires after domestic violence charges; child poverty still a problem for Cincy; Kim Davis meets the Pope?

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

• Campbell County Schools Superintendent Glen Miller abruptly announced his retirement after he was charged with domestic violence. Miller has been on paid administrative leave since he was arrested last Wednesday night at his Erlanger home after his daughter called 911 to report that he has struck his wife in the head and neck. Miller told police his wife's injuries were a result of an accident, but his story didn't quite match his wife and daughter's versions. He was booked into Kenton County Detention Center and charged with domestic violence that same evening just after midnight and released the following afternoon. Miller has been superintendent of Campbell County Schools for four years. His retirement will go into effect November 1. In the meantime, Associate Superintendent Shelli Wilson will be placed in charge of the district. 

• Cincinnati State is considering a partnership with private testing and consulting firm Pearson to attempt to boost its enrollment and retention rates. The college seems to have hit a rough patch. Current enrollment is just below 10,000, 10 percent lower than a year ago, it faces a state-mandated tuition freeze and president O'dell Owens recently departed after tensions with the board of trustees. Cincinnati State is reportedly discussing a 10-year contract with Pearson that would give the company control of its $550,000 marketing and recruiting budget in exchange for 20 percent of students' tuition recruited above the college's quota of 4,000. If it goes through, this contract would be the first for the New York-based company, which earns much of its revenue through K-12 standardized test preparation. Given the college's not-so-great reputation for relying heavily on test scores, the college's faculty senate has urged the administration to wait on the contract until the results of spring recruitment are in. 

• Child poverty is down in Cincinnati, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, but the rate is way above state and national averages. According to the survey, child poverty is down to 44.1 percent from 51.3 percent in 2012, but it's double the national average of 21.7 percent and near double the state average of 22.9 percent. City Health Commissioner Noble Maseru has suggested targeting the poorest zip codes first to begin to further bringing that number down, but no concrete plan has been put in place. 

• Infamous Rowan County clerk Kim Davis apparently secretly met with Pope Francis. According to Davis's lawyer, officials sneaked Davis and her husband, Joe, into the Vatican Embassy in Washington D.C. last Thursday afternoon where the Pope gave her rosary beads and told her to "stay strong." During his first visit to the U.S., Pope Francis did not publicly support Davis by name but instead stated that "conscious objection is a right that is a part of every human right." Davis spent time in the Carter County Detention Center for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She and her husband were conveniently already in Washington D.C. to accept an award from conservative group, the Family Research Council. 

• Cincinnati is a travel hotspot, or at least, "on the verge of a hip explosion," according to Forbes Travel Guide. According to the magazine, Cincinnati has a hilly landscape much like San Francisco's without the San Francisco prices, and the newly gentrified, or "revitalized," Over-the-Rhine is like Brooklyn before the hipsters took it over. Other reasons the third-largest city in Ohio makes "the perfect weekend getaway" include Skyline cheese coneys, a ton of German beers and Kentucky whiskeys to choose from and a "surprisingly impressive array of luxury hotel options." 

That's it for today! Email is nkrebs@citybeat.com, and I'd love to hear from you!