UPDATE: Some courthouse officials are saying CityBeat's sources are wrong, and that no decision has been made on who will fill Clancy's former job. The officials say applications were being accepted until Jan. 5, and the judges will decide later. One option would be to keep the position vacant, at least temporarily, to save money. Other sources, however, are saying the selection of Jodie Leis-George and Casey DeNoma to share the job is a "done deal" and courthouse officials are seeking political cover for the choice. We shall see in the weeks to come.
Political columnist Howard Wilkinson and longtime photographer Michael Keating are among the 26 employees who are leaving The Enquirer as part of a buyout deal.
This week was the deadline for editors at the newspaper to decide whether to accept voluntary “early retirement” buyouts from employees. Although The Enquirer hasn’t released any details, current and former co-workers of Wilkinson and Keating have begun discussing their departures and posting their well wishes on social media sites.
So far, CityBeat’s emails sent this morning seeking comment haven’t been returned.
Gregory Korte, an ex-City Hall reporter at The Enquirer who now works at USA Today, posted, “I grew up reading Howard Wilkinson's politics column in the Cincinnati Enquirer. It's one of the reasons I got into this business, and I was delighted to work and learn alongside him for so long. And Michael E. Keating? The best political photographer I've ever worked with — he could turn a podium shot into pure art. A real reporter's photographer. Now they're both taking a buyout and retiring. The Enquirer has done just fine without me, but I can't imagine it without these two.”
Another former Enquirer reporter, Ben Fischer, posted, “Howard Wilkinson you're one of the all-time greats. And that goes for baseball fandom, general good guys AND political reporters. Everybody's going to miss your prose and insights this election season.”
Wilkinson confirmed the news on Facebook, adding, “Thanks to one an all. It's been a great ride. But you haven't heard the last from me ... or Michael either... Michael and I were a team; and got to see and do some amazing things over the years. I will always be grateful for that.”
The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s corporate owner, announced the buyout offer Feb. 9 and gave employees 45 days to decide whether to apply for the deal.
At the close of the offer period, editors reviewed applications and made final decisions; some people who apply for the deal potentially could've been turned down if their position is deemed essential to the newspaper’s operation.
Under the deal, newspaper employees who are age 56 or older and have at least 20 years of service with Gannett as of March 31 are eligible. Although executives said 785 employees meet the criteria, the deal only is being offered to 665 employees “due to ongoing operational needs at the company.”
Sources at The Enquirer say executives are looking to shed 26 employees at Cincinnati’s only remaining daily newspaper. It is believed that 19 of the positions will come from the newsroom, while six people will be affected in the advertising department, and one person in the online/digital content department.
As part of reductions mandated by Gannett, The Enquirer has laid off about 150 workers during the past two years. Also, employees have had to take five unpaid furloughs during the past three years.
Faced with the choice between job layoffs or a second round of unpaid furloughs for employees, executives at the financially troubled Gannett Co. announced today they were selecting the latter course.
Gannett, the parent firm of The Cincinnati Enquirer, announced a furlough program that will require most non-unionized workers to take at least five days of unpaid leave sometime in April, May or June. The move is expected to save the company about $20 million.
Cincinnati’s streetcar project lost big on Tuesday as voters ushered in ex-Councilman John Cranley over Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race and three non-incumbents who oppose the project to City Council, according to unofficial election results from the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
With all precincts reporting, Cranley handily defeated Qualls 58-42 percent. Cranley ran largely on his opposition to the $133 million streetcar, while Qualls promised to expand the project.
Voters also elected three non-incumbents to City Council: Democrat David Mann, Charterite Kevin Flynn and Republican Amy Murray. The three non-incumbents oppose the streetcar project, which means re-elected Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld, Republican Charlie Winburn and Independent Chris Smitherman are now part of a 6-3 majority on council that opposes the project.Democrats Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young — all supporters of the streetcar project — also won re-election. Incumbent Democrats Laure Quinlivan and Pam Thomas lost.
It’s unclear if the newly elected council and mayor will stop current construction on the streetcar once they take power in December, given concerns about contractual obligations and sunk costs that could make canceling the project costly in terms of dollars and Cincinnati’s business reputation.
But Cranley and the six anti-streetcar elects on City Council vested much of their campaigns on their opposition to the project, which they claim is too costly and the wrong priority for Cincinnati.
Supporters argue the project will produce a three-to-one return on investment — an estimate derived from a 2007 study from consulting firm HDR and a follow-up assessment to the HDR study from the University of Cincinnati.
City Council’s new make-up will be five Democrats, two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent. That’s a shift from the current make-up of seven Democrats, one Republican and one Independent.
The new council slate will be the first to take up four-year terms following a city charter amendment voters approved in 2012.
Sittenfeld also landed a huge win and easily topped the City Council race with 10,000 more votes than Winburn, who, at 27,000 votes, got the second most ballots cast in his favor out of the nine council victors. Sittenfeld netted nearly 5,000 more votes than Cranley did in the mayoral race, although Cranley ran in a head-to-head race with Qualls while Sittenfeld was one of nine candidates voters could pick out of a pool of 21.
Citywide voter turnout ended up at roughly 28 percent.
Other election results:
Cincinnati voters rejected Issue 4, which would have privatized Cincinnati’s pension system for city employees, in a 78-22 percent vote.
In the Cincinnati Public Schools board election, Melanie Bates, Ericka Copeland-Dansby, Elisa Hoffman and Daniel Minera won the four seats up for grabs.
Hamilton County voters overwhelmingly approved property tax levies for the Cincinnati Zoo and Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in 80-20 percent votes.
This story was updated with the final reported results.
The Cincinnati Enquirer and its parent company Gannett went through another string of layoffs today, including the reported closing of the newspaper’s Kentucky office.
[CityBeat followed up on this story on Aug. 2 here.]
Jim Romenesko reported on his journalism industry blog that there were layoffs at The Kentucky Enquirer, the Kentucky edition of the local newspaper. One commenter on Gannett Blog echoed the report, saying the Kentucky offices had been closed down and moved to Cincinnati.
Gannett Blog reports 11 layoffs at Cincinnati branches, including the Community Press and Community Recorder. That coincides with more than 150 layoffs at newspapers around the country, according to the blog.
Because of Gannett’s secrecy with staffing issues, it’s difficult to confirm any specific report. No names have been provided yet.
CityBeat was tipped off about the layoffs earlier in the day by a source close to The Enquirer.
A spokesperson wasn’t available for questions about the layoffs, but Jeremy Gaines, vice president of communications at Gannett, told Romenesko, “Some USCP (U.S. Community Publishing) sites are making cuts to align their business plans with local market conditions.”
Gannett CEO Gracia Martore proudly claimed on July 22, “We are accelerating our transformation into the ‘New Gannett’ every day.”
Gary Mohr, director of ODRC, made the announcement while talking to legislative reporting service Gongwer in Columbus Tuesday.
“We're going to stay the course on those (sentencing reforms) and I think privatizing
additional prisons would take away from that reform effort that we have,
so I'm not anticipating privatizing any more prisons in the short term
here,” he told Gongwer.
Ohio became the first state to sell one of its own prisons to a private prison company in 2011. The ACLU criticized the move for its potential conflict of interest. The organization argued that the profit goal of private prison companies, which make money by holding as many prisoners as possible, fundamentally contradicts the public policy goal of keeping inmate reentry into prisons and prison populations as low as possible.
In his comments to Gongwer, Mohr said the state will now focus on lowering recidivism, not increasing privatization: “I don't think you can go through upheaval of a system and continue to put prioritization on reform at the same time. I think if we were to re-engage again on privatization of prisons, then we're going to take the eye off the ball a little bit, and I think we're making great progress. It's a matter of focus.”
In the past, the ACLU and other groups criticized Mohr's previous ties to private prison companies — particularly his private work for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) before he became the director for ODRC. CCA in 2011 became the first private company in Ohio's history to purchase a state prison. The connection presents another possible conflict of interest, and it is only one of the many connections between CCA and Gov. John Kasich's administration.
Mike Brickner, ACLU researcher and director of communications and public policy, praised ODRC's decision in a statement: “Despite millions spent by private companies trying to convince policy makers and local governments otherwise, numerous studies have shown private prisons put their own profit ahead of good public policy. ODRC is wise to see that the privatization model distracts from their important efforts to shrink inmate population and reduce recidivism.”
But Brickner also made further demands from the state: “ODRC should go a step further by making a commitment not to privatize additional prison services such as food and medical care. Arguments for privatizing these services use the same faulty logic as the arguments for privatizing entire prisons.”
CityBeat was not able to immediately reach ODRC for comment on Mohr’s announcement. This story will be updated if comments become available.
During the course of researching and reporting last week's story on prison privatization in Ohio, CityBeat found the ODRC to be dismissive of our interest in speaking with Mohr or a spokesperson about private prisons. During two weeks of correspondence, CityBeat received numerous excuses as to why the ODRC couldn't grant an interview and eventually received two emails with the exact same statement — one from ODRC, a state
department, and one from Management and Training Corporation, a private
company that manages prisons in Ohio. The statement added a strange twist to the already-suspicious fact that the ODRC didn't want to talk about its prison privatization plan with the media. A full explanation of the issues ODRC posed to the reporting process can be found in the editor's note at the end of the cover story.
Cincinnati native Whitney Holwadel Smith, born April 10, 1984, died April 4, 2009, of suicide at the United States Penitentiary (USP) in Terre Haute. Smith had reportedly been depressed and emotionally broken after being forced to spend more than a year in the Segregated Housing Unit (The Hole).
Smith grew up in Mount Lookout and was sentenced to the Dayton Correctional Institution as an adult for his first robbery at 17-years-old. From 2002-2003 he wrote a regular column on prison life and his struggle to rehabilitate for XRay Cincinnati Magazine which I published. Smith was released in 2005 and convicted the same year for bank robbery. He was sentenced to more than six years at the USP Terre Haute. Smith's blog, Super Friends: The life and times of an inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute has been published since November 2008. It was notable for being an unusually lucid and frank account of prison life. Smith's writing was variously acerbic, humorous, brutal and hopeful.
After his 2005 release, Whit lived in my home. He was a kind young man with a good heart and a broken one, too. He was my friend. After many discussions in both the outside world and behind barbed wire fences, I still don't fully understand why he committed the crimes he did. He walked through his short life with a corrupted mind that led him to poor choices again and again. His choices to be a criminal were his and he deserved his time, but I also earnestly believe he was let down by a justice system that should help offenders rehabilitate — that is to restore dignity — rather than beat them down into someone more jaded and injured than they were at the time of their arrest. My 2005 CityBeat article Prisoners Forever articlewas inspired by Whit's journey through the prison system.
A memorial for Whit will be held on Wednesday, April 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the Civic Garden Center, 2715 Reading Rd. at 2:30 p.m. It is open to the public.
If you would like to make a donation in Whit's memory, the family has asked that those be made to Circle Tail, an animal shelter in Loveland, Ohio. Whit had recently told his father, Jeff Smith, that he hoped to volunteer at an animal shelter when he got out of prison. Circle Tail works with a several prisons to foster their shelter animals before they are placed in a permanent home.
Activists continue to protest Western & Southern’s treatment of the Anna Louise Inn, which has been helping women in the Lytle Park neighborhood for more than a century. CityBeat last week reported the details of Western & Southern’s failure to purchase the property when it had the chance and the company’s subsequent attempts to force the Inn to leave the neighborhood anyway.
The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, released a statement on Saturday describing the protest banner as proof for local and national leaders that Western & Southern’s actions won’t be tolerated. The statement read: “We will continue to up the ante until you stop attacking the hard-working women of the Anna Louise Inn.”
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said in an email to CityBeat that the plane flew for two 30-minute stints on Sunday. Spring said protesters distributed 2,000 flyers outside the tournament’s gates and that the people who learned what Western & Southern was doing generally expressed frustration. The banner was made possible by contributions from several local organizations, including Occupy Work and Wages, Amos Project, the Homeless Coalition, SEIU Local 1, Mount Auburn Presbyterian church and other concerned citizens and groups.
The banner asks people to go to stpws.com to learn more. The website redirects to www.southernwestern.net, which is the site where activists finally were able to publish a satirical video parodying a Western & Southern spokesperson proud of his company’s attacks on the Anna Louise Inn. The video was originally posted in June to YouTube and Vimeo, but was removed for copyright infringement shortly after Western & Southern found out about it. Western & Southern didn’t return CityBeat’s calls back then asking whether or not W&S was involved in forcing the removal of the video. The website includes a change.org petition asking Western & Southern to stop suing the Anna Louise Inn.
Cincinnati’s Historic Conservation Board is scheduled to hear arguments on Aug. 27 that could lead to a conditional use permit and allow the Anna Louise Inn to move forward with a renovation Western & Southern stalled by suing the Inn. It will take place 3 p.m. on the seventh floor of 805 Central Ave.
Read this week's CityBeat cover story on the issue here.