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by Nick Swartsell 01.05.2016 37 days ago
Posted In: News, Streetcar at 02:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Council Poised to Set Streetcar Hours

Transit project would run early during weekdays, stop before bars close

Though you’ll be waiting a while if you try to catch one any time soon, riders now have an idea of exactly what times they’ll be able to catch the coming streetcar when it starts picking up passengers in September.

Cincinnati City Council’s Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee approved operating hours presented by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority at its Jan. 5 meeting. That sets up full Council to approve those hours as soon as Jan. 6.

The streetcar will run Monday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. until midnight and from 6:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday. On Saturday, the cars will run the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown from 8 a.m. until 1 a.m. On Sundays and holidays, the transit vehicles will run from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The cars will run every 12 minutes during peak operating hours, which SORTA suggests will be Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. All other times, the cars will run every 15 minutes.

“We tried to build a schedule that would address a lot of concerns” raised at past City Council meetings and in public forums, says SORTA’s director of rail services Paul Grether. Those concerns mostly revolved around consistent start times for the vehicles, hours early enough for commuters to get to work and late operating hours to serve patrons of bars and restaurants in OTR and downtown.

Earlier suggestions for operating hours started later and ended earlier, except on weekends, when it would have run until 2 a.m.

Council members on the committee seemed satisfied with the schedule.

“We’ve had people downtown from the bars and nightlife places who have said how they’d like it to stay open late,” Transportation Committee Chair Amy Murray said at the Jan. 5 meeting. “And we’ve also talked to early-morning businesses to see what time the peak morning time is. I think this really sets it up. It seems like this really captures what people have been asking for.”

SORTA officials say seasonal schedules are possible, if necessary, and that data will be collected to track ridership trends. Three or four times a year, the transit agency will decide whether hours need to be adjusted. Major changes in the schedule would require public hearings, but unless those changes shift the amount of money being spent, no federal approval is needed.  

“Our schedule really does depend on how the people of Cincinnati utilize the streetcar,” said Councilman Kevin Flynn, the surprise swing vote who allowed the streetcar to go forward during a dramatic showdown between council and Mayor John Cranley in 2013. “The beauty of the contracts are that there is that flexibility. Once we see what the ridership numbers are, these times can be adjusted within reason.”

One thing riders shouldn’t count on — catching a ride on the streetcar after closing down the bar. Bars’ 2 a.m. closing time was a concern brought up by some in public hearings, but late-night partiers will have to take a cab or use a ride sharing service.

“This is not, for lack of a better word, a drunk bus,” Councilwoman Yvette Simspon said.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 01.05.2016 38 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Greater Cincinnati could see major development in 2016; SORTA to make recommendations for streetcar operating hours; Ohio's Democratic caucuses to meet tonight

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

• Change is coming this way, or so some say. Leaders of Madisonville say they hope 2016 could be the neighborhood's year for development. Some of the upcoming changes in the town include the opening of a restaurant and two apartments in the vacant FifthThird Building on Madison Road and Whetsel Avenue by the end of this month, and six new retailers are expected to open this spring. The Madisonville Urban Redevelopment Corp. has also hinted that more deals are possible to come this winter in terms of new apartments and retailers. 

• This is could also be a big year for the development of Cincinnati's brew trail in Over-The-Rhine. Construction of the first 2.3-mile leg of the trail is set to begin some time this year. Construction of the $5.2 million trail will take three years overall, and it will ultimately stretch from the Horseshoe Casino on Reading Road, down Liberty Street to McMicken Avenue. City officials are hoping upon completion that residents and tourists will be so inspired to grab lunch or a beer at one of the local businesses along the way as they stumble, er, walk down it. 

• An Over-The-Rhine-based real estate company has purchased the former Strietmann Biscuit Company Building and plans to renovate it into nearly 90,000 square feet of office space. Grandin Properties has purchased the more than 100-year-old building located on 12th Street and Central Parkway for $1.6 million and plans to spend between $12 and $15 million on renovations. The ultimate plan will include loft-style offices and very possibly room for another OTR restaurant. 

• SORTA plans to make its recommendation to city council's transportation committee today for the streetcar's hours of operation. The recommendations would have the streetcar commence operating at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday. It would stop operating at 11 p.m. on Sundays, at midnight Monday through Thursday and 1 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday — one whole hour shy of bar closings. It would run every 15 minutes except during peak hours where that interval would be 12 minutes, with peak hours defined as 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

• The Cincinnati Streetcar looks ready to run some time this year after a very long political struggle. But the excitement over the arrival of the shiny, new cars might have made Northern Kentucky forget the headache its controversy causes many Cincinnatians. Covington Mayor Sherry Carran says her city is now looking at the possibility of a streetcar. The Covington Business Council is planning a panel discussion on the possibility of a streetcar on Jan. 21, which will feature councilman Chris Seelbach and former mayor Roxanne Qualls.  

• The settlement of a Duke Energy Class Action lawsuit could mean a little more money for some Cincinnatians this winter. Ohioans who were a Duke customer and Ohio homeowner or renter between 2005 and 2008 and received a card in the mail from "Williams vs. Duke Energy" could be eligible for at least $200 from the company. Duke recently lost the lawsuit that claimed the company overcharged customers, but it has still not admitted it did anything wrong. It did, however, agree to refund $80 million to some of its customers. 

• Tonight Ohio Democrats will hold caucuses in all 16 of Ohio's congressional districts to choose candidates, meaning Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, for delegate and alternate at this year's Democratic National Convention, which will begin on July 25 in Philadelphia. To find out more information on Southwest Ohio's Democratic caucus meetings for districts 1, 2 and 8, taking place tonight, click here. 

• The Obama administration is expected today to announced an executive action that includes a package with 10 provisions attempting to increase gun control in the U.S. Possibly the biggest change would require gun sellers on the Internet and at gun shows to obtain a license and conduct background checks, closing the long-debate gun show "loop hole." Obama also wants to dedicate $500 million in federal funds to the country's neglected mental health system. Republican members of Congress have already spoken out against Obama's plan, saying he's overstepped his reach. The executive actions comes in the wake of the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. on Dec. 2, which killed 14 people. The New York Times reports that gun sales have spiked in the wake of the California shooting and Obama's announcement.

• Where are the most cycle-friendly cities in the world? Well, according to London's Guardian, they're in places like Denmark and the Netherlands, not surprisingly. But keep scrolling down, and eventually Cincinnati gets mentioned. Since 2000, the city has seen a 350-percent increase in cyclists on the road, but it still falls way short when it comes to bike commuters, who represent only 1 percent of all commuters. Once we get past this cold weather, I can't wait to start being one of those few bike commuters again.

Email any story tips to nkrebs@citybeat.com.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 01.04.2016 39 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Cincy to face many transportation issues in the new year; State hits six month mark for new prison drug treatment program; Kasich takes aim at Christie and Rubio

Happy New Year, Cincinnati! Hope everyone had a fun and safe kickoff to 2016. Here is your first round up of headlines this year. 

• So, 2016 will probably be the year of some exciting elections as we inch closer to November, but locally, Cincinnati faces many upcoming issues dealing with planes, trains, and automobiles. According to this Enquirer list, some major transportation issues to look out for include keeping an eye on the streetcar's operating deficit, figuring out who's going to spearhead the major task of repairing the western hills viaduct, watching CVG slowly and painfully turn into a multi-carrier airport and seeing if SORTA will push a transit tax proposal on this year's ballot. One issue absent from the list is a local non-profit's ambitious push to get more bike lanes in the city, and only time will tell how far that project will get by the end of this year. 

• The new year marks the six-month anniversary of a state program launched last summer to offer more drug addiction treatment options in Ohio's prisons. Last June, the state allocated $27.4 million in the budget to help pay for drug counselors to treat inmates with addiction issues three months before they are released. After they are released, they are eligible to sign up for Medicaid to help fund further treatment. The program is authorized to run through June of this year and is an attempt to reduce crime by taking away drugs as the motive for offenders with known addiction issues. Before the program launched last July, Ohio had released approximately 4,000 untreated inmates back out into the community who were either ineligible for treatment because they were serving less than six months or the programs were already full. Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has hopes to extend the program pending the legislature's approval of its funding in this upcoming year. 

• Gov. John Kasich started out this new year extending his attacks from Donald Trump to fellow GOP presidential candidates New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. During an interview with NBC News, Kasich claimed he has proven able to handle issues like taxes and jobs better than Christie, and said Rubio lacks experience. He even compared the one-term Senator to President Barack Obama, who was also a one-term Illinois Senator when he became president. Kasich, who is still hanging out at the bottom of polls, has stated throughout his campaign that he feels his years of experience have been overlooked. 

• Maybe 2016 will finally be the year of a total revolution in the United States. Or so the Bundy militia in Oregon hopes. The group is in its second day of occupying the federal buildings on the Malheur National Wildlife refuge in Harney County, Oregon, claiming that the feds took the land unconstitutionally in the early 1900s. The militia apparently came out to help two ranchers who are headed to prison for arson, but they were rejected by those they came to aid so they turned to reclaim the refuge instead. According to the Guardian, Harney County Sheriff David Ward isn't buying their claim that they came to support the two convicted arsonists. He believes they're trying to spark a revolution across the country.

Send me any story tips or last minute New Years resolutions to add to my growing list to nkrebs@citybeat.com.
 
 
by Natalie Krebs 12.31.2015 43 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Bevin plans to reform Kentucky Medicaid; Kasich gets new billionaire supporter; Cities worldwide increase security for New Year's Eve

Happy New Year, Cincy! Here are your final morning headlines of 2015. 

• It hasn't quite hit 2016 yet, but new Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin is already thinking ahead to 2017. The Republican governor has said that he plans to transform the state's Medicaid plan, which will take effect in January 2017 and will affect the approximately 1.3 million people who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Gov. Bevin says he's not quite sure what the plan will be yet and has enlisted a team of experts to help develop it, but hopes it will be something like Indiana's — complete with tiers of coverage, cancellation policies for people who have missed payments, premiums and co-pays. 

• Meanwhile, Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is still a GOP presidential candidate, has gotten the support of a former Bill Clinton billionaire donor. Billionaire investor Ron Burkle, who is worth approximately $1.58 billion and has mostly supported Democrats in the past, is scheduled to host a Jan. 12 fundraiser for Kasich at the Soho House in Los Angeles. Burkle, who made most of his money through grocery-chain investments, was also a supporter of Bill Clinton when he ran for president, and apparently maintained a close relationship after with the former president. Burkle also gave money to the Hilary Clinton 2000 Senate campaign and her first unsuccessful 2008 campaign for presidency. 

• While I'm on the topic of billionaires, the rise in the split in wealth has been an ongoing hot topic this past year. To end out the year, The New York Times has published a story on the ways that the country's wealthiest avoid paying taxes. The country's tax rate on the wealthiest has slipped in the last decade. Twenty years ago, the top 400 earners paid 27 percent of their income in taxes. Now, that rate is less than 17 percent for a group that earns on average $336 million a year. It's a pretty interesting read that will also unfortunately make you feel very, very poor. 

• I moved to Cincinnati from Texas in the middle of 2015, and while I've enjoyed much of the city's German-inspired cuisine, some days I'd kill for a good taco. But that's just my opinion. So how does Ohio's food scene rank in comparison to the rest of the country's? Well, website Thrillist puts Ohio, home to White Castle, Wendy's and Skyline Chili, at number 28 — right in the middle. Kentucky with its bourbon-infused dishes right across the river came in at ninth, but at least we beat Indiana, whose apparent love of chain restaurants earned them the spot of number 41 on the list. But California tops the list — with Texas and its glorious world of tacos and barbecue, coming in second. 

• In the post-Paris attacks world, cities everywhere are tightening their security on New Year's Eve. Brussels cancelled its celebrations while Paris cancelled fireworks. New York City will put 6,000 officers, including 500 specially trained in terrorist attacks, in Times Square to monitor the expected crowd of 1 million.  

Be safe tonight, Cincinnati, and see you next year!
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.30.2015 43 days ago
Posted In: News at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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We've Got You Covered

A look back at some of CityBeat's favorite news features from 2015

CityBeat's news team has been all over the map this year. In the past 365 days, we've delved deep into college athletic funding, the experiences of refugee families in Cincinnati, new community ownership models for neighborhood grocery stores and any number of other issues.

Often, we’ve covered stories no other media outlet in Cincinnati thought to. Hopefully you enjoyed it. Here are some of our most unique news stories this year. 

Despite new development, Cincinnati is still a deeply segregated place.

Our story detailing the long history that has kept large portions of Cincinnati’s African-American population in low-income neighborhoods explored why many in our city struggle to access economic opportunity.

In the past year, intense tensions around race in America have re-emerged, sparking protests, civil unrest and reams of media coverage. But underneath issues around law enforcement’s role in black communities lie other problems. A pervasive and historically entrenched economic segregation in predominantly black neighborhoods continues to seal off many Cincinnatians, creating desperation and setting up extra barriers for residents of those communities. This lack of opportunity also informs the city’s much-publicized recent upswing in gun violence, its sky-high infant-mortality rate and a host of other problems.

City officials, neighborhood activists and experts have all offered ideas to alleviate this segregation, but it’s clear a complex, long-term and multi-faceted set of solutions is needed to improve the prospects of black Cincinnatians. 


UC officials approved an $86 million renovation of Nippert Stadium in 2013 despite unanimous opposition from the Faculty Senate, which recommended using Paul Brown Stadium for home football games. Work was completed this summer. Photo: Jesse Fox

UC students come for education, but their fees go to sports

Over the past decade, University of Cincinnati leaders have used student fees and tuition to cover a nearly five-fold increase in the university’s athletic department’s annual deficit while cutting academic spending per student by almost 25 percent.

In 2013, UC officials provided the athletic department with a $21.75 million subsidy, records show, using student fees and money from the school’s general fund, which is primarily funded by tuition. The total subsidy amounts to $1,024 out of the pocket of every full-time undergraduate student on UC’s main campus. The four-year price tag costs each student more than $4,000.

The situation at the University of Cincinnati is not unique. An investigation by a UC investigative journalism class, which was published by CityBeat, looked into the eight largest public universities in Ohio in the Football Bowl Subdivision, finding that with one exception, college administrators and trustees impose hidden fees and invisible taxes on thousands of working-class students who pay tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to keep money-losing athletic departments afloat.

Many of these same schools are cutting faculty jobs and slashing academic spending. Between 2005 and 2013, academic spending per full-time undergraduate student at UC, adjusted for inflation, dropped 24 percent, according to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a national group of current and former college presidents seeking to reform college athletics using research studies and, more recently, online databases. 

Are cooperative groceries the future in Cincinnati?

Cooperatively owned groceries are uncommon in Cincinnati, but over the past few years, the concept — a business owned and controlled by the people who work and shop there, instead of a large chain or local corporation — has started to gain steam here. The model has existed, and even thrived, elsewhere for years. Interest in co-ops has seen a big revival in the last decade as well, specifically as an alternative to big-box chain stores like Walmart. Unlike chains, supporters say, co-ops keep their profits in the community and allow for local input.

The increasing interest in this alternate model comes partly from necessity — neighborhoods like Clifton and Northside are popular places underserved by grocery stores, and the industry is only getting more difficult for those with more traditional business models in mind.

But even with the big efforts and big visions of nascent co-ops like Apple Street Market and Clifton Market, questions linger. The excitement for an alternative grocery model has reached a high point, but there are also a number of voices questioning if co-ops will work in a challenging grocery market.

Local efforts like Clifton Market have made strides, securing funding and setting construction dates. Despite doubts, Cincinnati’s age of the co-op might be around the corner. 


This building on Walnut Street, now called Branderyhaus, once housed Reginald Stroud’s karate studio and convenience store. Developers say tenants were relocated because the building needed major improvements.
Photo: Nick Swartsell

As Over-the-Rhine changes, some long-time residents find themselves forced to leave

Many have trumpeted the changes happening in Over-the-Rhine, a quickly redeveloping but historically low-income, predominantly black neighborhood. But for former residents like Reginald Stroud, who ran a convenience store and karate studio in a building on Walnut Street he lived in with his family, that redevelopment has led to some bitter realities. Stroud was forced to move to Northside this year after the building was redeveloped.

Recent Census data suggests that Stroud isn’t the only one departing OTR. The area’s demographic makeup seems to be changing in parts of the neighborhood that have seen large-scale redevelopment.  

Development in OTR has, until recently, been limited to the southern part of neighborhood, where the building Stroud lived in is located. Those efforts have changed the economic, and perhaps the racial, makeup of the area.

Developers and city officials say diversity is a key concern as OTR continues to change. And work is underway in other neighborhoods like Northside to find ways to encourage equitable economic development. But for former OTR residents like Stroud, those assurances provide little comfort.

UC suspends its campus sexual assault program, even as sexual assault continues to be a national issue

As University of Cincinnati students began filing onto campus to start classes this fall, a battle was raging over a program run by the UC Women’s Center designed to aid sexual assault survivors.
 
The debate — signaled by public meetings, a protest and a flurry of social media posts — centered around the role of the RECLAIM Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate Program. A round of training for the program was suspended this fall, causing concern among students.

RECLAIM participants say they were just a few days away from beginning the necessary 40-hour intensive training for the program, which offers sexual assault counseling and prevention strategies, when they received an email in early August from the Women’s Center stating that the training was cancelled.

Advocates say RECLAIM can’t exist without yearly training. UC says the program will continue, but as the university works to reschedule training, it has remained in flux.


A baptism at St. Leo Photo: Nick Swartsell

Refugees in Cincinnati find hardships in neglected neighborhoods, but also build community

Iraqi refugee Oday Kadhimand his family came to the United States a year ago after an arduous four-year wait and settled in Millvale. That neighborhood and its surrounding communities are part of the unseen Cincinnati, an area that houses many of the city’s more than 90,000 residents living below the federal poverty line. 
  


The neighborhood is also one of the city’s most violent, struggling with drug activity, shootings, break-ins and murders. For families like Kadhim’s, the violence is an echo of the very strife they’ve come here to escape.



Kadhim and his family aren’t the only ones who struggle with the neighborhood’s challenges. Two-hundred Burundian refugees have ended up there in the last decade, plus others who have arrived more recently. The total number of refugees in the neighborhood is unclear — even the organizations helping refugees get acclimated don’t keep long-term statistics — but it’s clear they’re a big presence there, and often a positive one.



Dozens of the refugees living in this often-ignored corner of the city have found unique and vibrant ways to build community, helping to energize a 125-year-old church just down the road in North Fairmount. Some see their presence as hope that the area can rise again. 

But for many like Kadhim, the neighborhood’s danger, isolation and poverty remain obstacles to achieving the dreams of peace and prosperity they believed they could find in the U.S.

A new court helps those who have been sex-trafficked start over

When Caroline (whose name CityBeat changed to protect her identity) came out as transgender during high school, her mother asked that she leave her house and neighborhood in Northern Kentucky. That rejection started a long, harrowing journey through sex trafficking and addiction from which it took Caroline years to recover. Now, a new court has helped her erase a criminal record she never should have had in the first place.

Caroline’s transgender status was part of her vulnerability. Her pimps worked a whole group of transgender women, playing on their insecurities and search for acceptance. She describes how traffickers would brand them — burning them with cigarettes or hot clothes hangers. Caroline suffered beatings and also mental and emotional abuse. Then there was the danger from the johns.

Two murders of transgender women in the past few years illustrate the dangers Caroline once faced. Twenty-eight-year-old Tiffany Edwards was killed in Walnut Hills in June 2014, and Kendall Hampton died there at age 26 in August 2012. Police suspect both were engaged in sex work at the time they died. Both, like Caroline, were women of color.

The CHANGE Court, presided over by Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Heather Russell, will give those like Caroline a chance to expunge convictions for acts done under the duress of sex trafficking. The court is part of a wider shift in attitudes away from viewing sex trafficked individuals as criminals. Social service and law enforcement agencies are increasingly seeing them as victims in need of help.

The court’s focus will go beyond folks like Caroline, who have already triumphed over the horrors of sex trafficking,  providing a road out of the world of coerced sex work for those who have yet to escape.


Two immigrant laborers working on a Warren County job site Photo: Mike Brown

Immigrant workers victimized by wage theft fight back

Imagine you work hard to put food on the table, but your employer isn’t paying you when it say it will — or at all. Now imagine you can’t take easily report it or take the employer to court.

Because employers capitalize on their fear of being deported, undocumented immigrant workers are frequently victims of wage theft, whether it’s being paid less than minimum wage, shorted hours, forced to work off the clock, not being paid overtime or not paid at all.

From 2005 through 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor collected more than $6.5 million in unpaid wages from Ohio construction companies for workers who were cheated out of minimum wage, overtime pay or the regional prevailing wages required for public projects. Some 5,500 workers were affected, but how many were undocumented immigrants wasn’t recorded by the agency. The $6.5 million collected by labor officials for all workers is likely only a fraction of the actual wage theft in the industry, union officials say.

What’s needed, according to those officials, is the political will to adequately staff state and federal enforcement agencies so they can find violators without waiting for complainants to step forward. Ohio’s Bureau of Wage and Hour Administration, which enforces wage laws on public projects as well as minimum wage requirements and pay to minors, has just six investigators and one supervisor to cover the entire state.

Enforcing wage and hour laws is seen as “anti-business” among Ohio employers, chambers of commerce and its Republican-dominated government, some watchdog groups say, meaning that changing the situation seems a daunting political challenge.


Ice Cream Factory in Brighton Photo: Scott Beseler

Alternative spaces are changing and evolving in Cincinnati

The DIY ethos in Cincinnati is alive and well, though where and how under-the-radar spaces operate is in flux.

The city has been a surprising hotbed for self-funded, not-for-profit art, music and party spaces, which exist in a twilight world just beyond the economic, regulatory and social rules that usually bound more traditional, for-profit entertainment venues. They’ve been aided by the low rents and lax oversight often found in the city’s more neglected corners and by a community of people looking for something outside the norm. And proponents of these under-the-radar venues say they’re important for more than just a few boundary-pushing art shows.

Many say these venues have given otherwise-unavailable opportunities to generations of Cincinnati artists and musicians. What’s more, urban experts say, such DIY spaces are good for the social health of cities. But as interest in urban living continues to take hold in Cincinnati and those once-neglected pockets of the city attract the gaze of developers, the future of these unique places has become uncertain.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 12.30.2015 44 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

More than 100 people march in Cincy to protest Tamir Rice decision; Suburbanites lead votes against failed marijuana reform; Cincy ranks as top beer-loving city

Good morning Cincy! Here are your morning headlines.  

• A rally and march in Cincinnati last night drew more than 100 people protesting a Cuyahoga grand jury decision not to indict officers in the Cleveland police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The event drew a diverse group of activists and speakers from Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, local unions and workers’ rights advocates, representatives from Cincinnati’s Islamic community, the Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective and others. The rally began at Findlay Park in Over-the-Rhine followed by a march to Cincinnati Police Department District 1 headquarters in the West End. Attendees brought toys to symbolize Christmas gifts Rice was not able to receive this year due to his death. Those toys will be distributed to disadvantaged children in the community, BLM organizer Brian Taylor said.  
 
Earlier this week, a grand jury declined to bring charges against officers involved in Rice’s Nov. 2014 death, a move which has sparked outrage from Rice’s family and anti-police violence activists across the country. In Cincinnati, march organizers released a list of demands aimed at Cuyahoga County, including the firing of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, a reopening of the Rice case against officer Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, an indictment for those officers, and a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the shooting. At the rally and march in Cincinnati, activists also drew parallels to the July police shooting of Samuel DuBose, a black motorist killed by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing was charged with murder for that shooting, but has yet to stand trial. 

• The U.S. Department of Justice announced earlier this month that they will be suspending the equitable sharing program that allows police to keep a large chunk of money and property seized from individuals. Local law enforcement will still be allowed to do it, but they will no longer be able to keep up to 80 percent of it. The program is controversial because police are able to keep property from those who are never actually charged with a crime like Charles Clark II, who now famously had $11,000 in cash seized by police at the CVG airport in February of 2014. CPD says they use the reportedly received $1.1 million they received from the program between 2010 and the middle of 2015 to pay for outside training for their police force, but non-profits like Washington D.C.-based Institute of Justice say the current program is problematic because it's become a money grab for law enforcement. 

• Who exactly voted against ResponsibleOhio's failed attempt at marijuana reform this past election? According to an analysis by Mike Dawson, a Columbus-based election statistics expert, well-to-do suburbanites represented the group with the highest amount of opponents to the measure. Nearly 70 percent of voters in the suburbs of Toledo and Columbus voted against it, while 60 percent of Dayton, Cleveland and Cincinnati suburbanites opposed it. Urban voters favored the legalization 5 percentage points more. While many opposed Issue 3 because it limited the growth of marijuana to just 10 commercial farms, Dawson told the Associated Press that suburbanites also fear that marijuana will be a gateway drug in their communities. 

• Cincinnati ranks as one of the best cities in the U.S. for beer drinkers. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent time in this city with its many breweries, beer-centered bars and massive Oktoberfest that rivals Munich, but the website SmartAsset ranked Cincy as number 10 in the U.S. It beat out Columbus and Cleveland in the ranking, having 14 breweries and 4.7 microbreweries per 100,000 people. With the average beer costing a mere $3 a pint, I'll drink to that.    

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.28.2015 45 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 02:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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No Charges for Officers in Tamir Rice Shooting

Verdict from Cuyahoga County grand jury comes more than a year after 12-year-old's death

Cleveland police officers involved in the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice will not face criminal charges related to the child’s death, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office announced today.

A grand jury has been deliberating for months about the case, which has grabbed national attention as debate continues over police-involved shootings of people of color.

Rice was shot Nov. 22, 2014 while on a playground in Cleveland. A 911 caller reported that Rice was playing with a handgun, but told a dispatcher that it appeared to be fake. The dispatcher did not relay that information to officers. Surveillance footage shows the officers pulling within feet of Rice in a police cruiser. In the video, officer Timothy Loehmann exits the passenger side of the cruiser and shoots Rice within a few seconds. Loehmann and his partner, officer Frank Garmback, do not provide medical attention to Rice, instead waiting for an FBI agent to do so. Rice later died at the hospital.

Other cases of police-involved shootings, including July 19 shooting death of motorist Samuel DuBose by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, have moved more quickly. Tensing was indicted on murder and manslaughter charges later that summer.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has said the long process was about doing a thorough investigation. But members of Rice’s family have said they think McGinty is making efforts to protect the officers and the Cleveland Police Department.

In a statement released following the grand jury's decision, the family accused McGinty of "abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment."

The family has held a dim view of the outcome of the case for months. The Rices cried foul, for instance, at a March court filing from the city of Cleveland which stated that Rice was responsible for his death, saying it was caused by “failure to exercise due care to avoid injury.”

The city later apologized for the wording of the legal document.

“In an attempt to protect all of our defenses, we used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive,” Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said at a news conference. “Very insensitive to tragedy in general, the family and the victim in particular.”

McGinty commissioned three law enforcement experts to draw up reports about the incident, all of which found the shooting “reasonable,” citing Loehmann’s lack of knowledge about Rice’s intentions and the realistic-looking pellet gun he was playing with.

But there are questions about the objectivity of those investigations.

Retired FBI training specialist Kimberly A. Crawford issued one of those reports. Attorneys for Rice’s family have pointed out that Crawford’s arguments for the acceptability of other law enforcement shootings have been rejected by the Department of Justice for being too lenient to officers. Another investigator, Denver District Deputy Attorney S. Lamar Sims, has made previous statements in support of Loehmann’s actions before undertaking his study.

While the Rice family’s attorneys cite these moves by the city and prosecutor McGinty as reasons to move the grand jury deliberations outside Cuyahoga County, McGinty has said that his office and the grand jury are impartial.

Officials with the prosecutor's office cited a "perfect storm of human error" and suggested that Rice looked much older than a typical 12-year-old when explaining the grand jury's verdict. The prosecutor's office also said that tapes show Rice pointing the toy gun at passersby near the recreation center earlier in the day.

Two other experts hired by the Rice family issued reports saying Rice’s killing was not justified and that officers responsible should be prosecuted. They point out the short succession of events and the fact that Rice did not have the gun in his hand at the time of his shooting. The toy was tucked in his pants at the time.

Rice’s death occurred just two days before a grand jury in St. Louis, Mo., declined to indict a white officer who shot unarmed 19-year-old Michael Brown. Like Brown, Rice has become a touchstone for activists who protest racially charged police shootings and who call for law enforcement reforms in the United States.

According to data culled by journalists at British publication The Guardian, more than 1,000 people have been killed in officer-involved shootings in the United States this year, including 30 in Ohio, the seventh-most of any state. Blacks are twice as likely as whites to die in those incidents. While a good number of those deaths came from armed confrontations, many others involved unarmed citizens.

Rice’s shooting happened just weeks before the Department of Justice released the scathing results of an 18-month investigation into the Cleveland Police Department’s use of force. Among the cases cited in that investigation: a 2012 incident in which 13 police officers fired almost 140 rounds at two unarmed occupants of a car that had been involved in a police chase. One officer reportedly stood on the hood of the couple's car and repeatedly fired rounds through its windshield. That officer was acquitted of criminal charges in May. Both occupants of the car died.

“We have concluded that we have reasonable cause to believe that CPD engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the report states. The report triggered an intensive consent decree between the Cleveland Police Department and the federal government, which will oversee changes in the department's use of force policies, training and other reforms.

In a letter earlier this month, Rice’s family called on the DOJ to investigate their son’s death. The DOJ said Dec. 15 that it is reviewing that request.

In Cincinnati, Black Lives Matter will rally Dec. 29 at 6 pm at Findlay Playground in Over-the-Rhine. Organizers ask attendees to bring toys to donate to local charities in honor of Rice.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.28.2015 46 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Leelah Alcorn remembered; Ohio legislature not representative of state; Kasich sees upswing in New Hampshire

Good morning all. Hope your holidays have been good and, if you’re into the giving and receiving gifts thing, that you got and gave some good ones. So what’s up with news?

Greater Cincinnati’s transgender community will gather this morning at 10 a.m. at the Woodward Theater in Over-the-Rhine to remember Leelah Alcorn, the teen who took her own life one year ago today by stepping into traffic on I-71 near Mason. An online note auto-published after her death described the isolation and depression Alcorn felt over her treatment by her parents and peers because of her transgender status. That note challenged others to “fix society” and make it a more accepting place for people with non-binary gender identities. Cincinnati has made some progress toward that end: Cincinnati City Council passed a ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors. That therapy seeks to turn LGBT people straight and is usually religiously based. Councilors in Cincinnati who practice that therapy on minors will receive a $200 fine. Cincinnati is the first city in the country to pass such a ban. Many transgender activists in the city say that’s a good start, but isn’t enough. They’re calling for increased help and protection for transgender people, especially the most vulnerable trans groups — people of color and minors who have become homeless because of their status. A number of trans people across the country in those vulnerable groups have been murdered in recent years.

• Local news is a little slow this week, but plenty is happening statewide. Let’s zoom out for a minute. Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld continues to make the rounds in Ohio as he seeks to become the Democratic party’s nominee in the race for Republican Rob Portman’s U.S. Senate seat. Meanwhile, former Ohio governor and Dem frontrunner Ted Strickland has played a quieter waiting game, appearing at a few small events and releasing little in the way of policy statements or other missives aimed at wading into the political fray. That’s probably strategic: Polling shows Strickland, a well-known political force throughout Ohio, has carried a lead over incumbent Portman even as Sittenfeld trails both. Still, some statewide political figures are saying Strickland needs to start bringing substantive ideas to his campaign as Sittenfeld hits him with criticisms on gun control, climate change and other progressive issues. The Democratic underdog has also challenged Strickland to debates, but the frontrunner has so far been mum about facing off. Political experts believe Strickland will continue to ignore Sittenfeld unless he makes inroads with prospective voters.

• Is the Ohio legislature truly representative of the state? If you break it down demographically, it would seem not. Among those least represented in the state house: women, who make up 51 percent of Ohio’s population but hold just 25 percent of its legislative seats. Other groups, including Hispanics, are also under-represented, according to a report in the Dayton Daily News. It’s more than just a numbers game — the lack of representation means that public policy doesn’t take into account Ohio’s various populations and perspectives.

“With someone not in the room, a group not in the room representing different genders, sexual orientations, races — it’s a bunch of people guessing what that must be like,” state Rep. Dan Ramos told the paper. Ramos, a Democrat from Loraine, is one of just three Hispanic members to ever serve in the Ohio General Assembly. Though the state house has slowly become more representative over time, there is still a long way to go, some lawmakers say. That will take big social changes. Women are just as likely to win elections as men, some studies suggest, but are less likely to be in a position to run for office in the first place due to societal gender roles, parenting responsibilities and other factors.

• A grand jury decision could come any day in the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old with a toy gun shot by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann last November, the Associated Press reports. But the Rice family believes Loehmann won’t be charged in the shooting, according to their attorney, who has accused Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty of using the grand jury proceedings to “engineer denying justice” to the family. It’s been well over a year since the shooting, which was sparked by a 911 call from a man waiting for a bus. That call stipulated that the gun Rice had was probably fake, but a dispatcher didn’t relay that information to officers. The cruiser Loehmann was riding in stopped just feet from Rice. Loehmann jumped out and shot the boy within seconds of exiting the vehicle. The grand jury has heard testimony from experts convened by McGinty, who say the shooting was reasonable given what Loehmann knew about the situation, and other experts gathered by the Rice family who say Loehmann should be charged with the child’s death. The case has received national attention as police shootings of black citizens continue to rouse protests and calls for change.

• Will Ohio governor and GOP presidential hopeful John Kasich’s fortunes turn around in the wild world of the Republican presidential primary? At least one poll suggests there might be a glimmer of hope yet for the perpetual presidential underdog. A new Quinnipiac poll out of New Hampshire has Kasich third only to Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the state, which holds the country’s second primary Feb. 9. That’s a big step up for Kasich — he was running sixth in New Hampshire earlier this month. In the past weeks, Kasich has stepped up his ground game in the state with more campaign staff and appearances there. The Kasich campaign has gone all-in on New Hampshire, indicating if the candidate doesn’t do well there, he may well pack it in and call it a day. But even as Kasich makes some progress in the Granite State, he’s still struggling in Iowa, another vital state hold its primary Feb. 1.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.23.2015 51 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Dennis Deters wants to borrow his brother's name for commissioners election; Clifton Market set to begin construction; Bevin strikes county clerk names from marriage licenses

Good morning, all. Here’s a quick rundown of the news before a retreat into a hole to finish all the things I need to finish so I can then finish my holiday shopping.

Some people like Joe Deters, Hamilton County’s prosecutor. That’s none of my business. But do they like him enough to check his name on a ballot twice? That could be the situation voters face next year in the Hamilton County commission race for a seat current commission head Republican Greg Hartmann will vacate on Monday. Kinda. Joe’s running for reelection as prosecutor, and his brother, Dennis Deters, is running in next year's race for the seat against well-known Democrat Denise Driehaus. However, he’s registered for that race as Dennis Joseph Deters. That’s raised the ire of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, which has called the move a cheap trick aimed at capitalizing on the Republican prosecutor’s name recognition among county voters. They point out that on property records and past registrations, the commissioner candidate has listed his name as Dennis P. Deters. Dems fired off a letter to the Ohio Secretary of State yesterday seeking to block Dennis Deters from using “Joseph” on the ballot. This is going to be a very interesting race, folks.

• A long-time anchor in the Clifton business district will get new life starting in February. Grocery cooperative Clifton Market has closed on a nearly $3 million construction loan from the National Cooperative Bank, allowing it to move forward with plans to establish a co-operative grocery store. The rest of the more than $5 million project has been funded by more than 1,000 share holders and nearly 200 shareholder loans to the co-op. The project will also get a 12-year tax exemption passed by Cincinnati City Council earlier this month. The grocery will occupy the former Keller’s IGA building on Ludlow Avenue, which will see construction starting Feb. 1. The store should be open by next summer.

• While I may be panicked about my holiday shopping, I’m not as panicked as the folks who drove a van through a display window at Saks Fifth Avenue downtown this morning in a pretty ballsy smash-and-grab scheme. The perps then jumped into another waiting car with about $11,000 in purses and sped off Police are looking for them now. Have no fear, holiday luxury item shoppers. Saks Fifth Avenue is apparently open, albeit with extra police presence.

• Kentucky marriage licenses will no longer carry the name of the county clerk who issued them after an executive order from brand new governor Republican Matt Bevin. That order comes after Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis raised controversy over this summer’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Davis claimed her religious rights are violated by that court order, and that her name on a marriage license for a gay couple is a sin. The resulting legal battle over Davis’ refusal to issue licenses landed her in jail briefly. Bevin promised that he would enact the executive order during his campaign for governor, which some political pundits say may have influenced staunch social conservatives to turn out and vote for him. Now, 15 days into his term, Bevin has made good on that promise.

• As you may know, Cincinnati has gained population for the first time in decades over recent years. But that trend doesn’t hold true for the rest of the Buckeye State. A recent study found Ohio among the biggest losers when it came to population loss among states. Though we’re not as bad as New York, which lost an incredible 653,000 people (though, hey, they also have a ton of people) to domestic migration. Now, New York’s population still grew slightly in that same time period due to births and immigration from other countries. But alas. Ohio lost the sixth-most population to domestic migration last year, with about 150,000 people streaming out to greener pastures or, well, probably actually Texas or Florida or something. Those states topped the list when it came to gaining population from migration. Texas gained more than 735,000 people, for example.

• Finally, here's your daily update on the presidential election that hasn't even really started yet but is already driving me crazy. A few days ago, Donald Trump used the word “schlonged” to describe Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Democratic primary defeat to Barack Obama. We all know this by now. But, did you know that “schlonged” isn’t actually a dirty word, according to The Donald? No, the dishonest and godless horde of journalists who exist simply to oppress Trump have merely distorted your view of the word, according to the GOP presidential primary candidate. It doesn’t actually mean male genitalia at all. It simply means to defeat badly, according to Trump, and it is his enemies in the media who want to tell you otherwise. Of course. Trump’s use of the word, which is indeed a slang term for, uh, male genitalia, set off a new round of controversy over the outspoken and many say factually challenged candidate. So far, Trump’s dalliances with both sexist language and sheer disregard for factual information have done nothing to his poll numbers: He’s still the frontrunner in the GOP primary.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 12.22.2015 52 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Police Chief Eliot Isaac sworn in; Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann to step down next week; Grand jury rules no indictments in death of Sandra Bland

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

• So maybe many of us are getting ready to sit back, relax and take a few days off for the holidays, but not Cincinnati's newest police chief, Eliot Isaac. Isaac was sworn in as Cincinnati's first black police chief last night at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. In a ceremony witnessed by more than 200 people, Isaac told the crowd the recent uptick in violence was "unacceptable," and, according to the Enquirer, said, "Tomorrow morning, we roll up our sleeves and we go to work." Isaac was officially offered the position by city manager Harry Black two weeks ago after going through a brief community vetting process. He was the only candidate for the position.  

• While Chief Eliot was being sworn in last night, Cincinnati police officers were also voting Fraternal Order of Police President Kathy Harrell out of her position. In a vote of 2-1, Harrell was replaced by Dan Hils, a sergeant in District Three who has spent 28 years with the department. Harrell has served as president for the last six years and was pulled out into the spotlight when former CPD chief Jeffrey Blackwell was fired last September. Hils ran a campaign centered around officers' pay, which appear to be increasing as revenue is decreasing. Apparently, it paid off for him. He beat Harrell in a vote of 507 to 207. 

• Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann has just announced this morning that he will resign some time next week. Hartmann recently announced he was not running for re-election last month, but said he expected to finish out his term. The move clears the way for the GOP's executive committee to appoint a replacement to finish out his term. Attorney Dennis Deters has filed to run as a Republican candidate and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters also said he's considering throwing his hat in the ring against Democratic State Rep Denise Driehaus who is leaving her position at the State House because of term limits. 

• I'm currently experiencing my first Cincinnati winter, and so far compared to Minnesota, where I grew up, it's nothing, but I've heard it can get pretty chilly. But maybe this is one of the reasons Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman applied for the position of city manager of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Virginia Beach media has reported that he is one of the two finalists for the job. Sigman came close to being fired by the county board earlier this year, and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said that people generally only last a few years in Sigman's position. So maybe his interest in the position isn't weather-related after all.  

• Last-minute Christmas shopping is hard with the crowds, full parking lots and general aggression the holiday season brings out in all of us, but add racial profiling on top of that, and it makes Christmas trips to the mall nearly impossible. Bengals running back James Wilder Jr. says he was out shopping at a Toys R Us in Florence, Ky. yesterday when he claims a store manager accused him of stealing. Wilder posted several tweets and a video claiming a store manager stopped him just after he arrived and accused him of trying to walk out of the store with a cart full of toys earlier. Wilder said he was at least able to buy the video game he needed for his nephew before leaving the store.  

A Texas grand jury has ruled not to indict anyone in the July death of Sandra Bland. Bland was arrested on July 10 during a traffic stop for failing to signal a turn in Waller County, Texas. She as found dead three days later in her cell, and apparently hanged herself with a plastic garbage bag. Her death was ruled a suicide, but her family has disputed the idea that Bland would kill herself. The event resulted in national protests about the way African-Americans are treated in police custody.

Happy holidays, Cincinnati! Remember to send me story tips or awkward family holiday photos .
 
 

 

 

 
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