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

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Nick Swartsell 08.17.2015 53 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 56 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 57 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 58 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 08.10.2015 60 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 63 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 64 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 65 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 Nick Swartsell 08.04.2015 66 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcars will be slightly delayed; Dubose family takes step toward civil suit; state lawmakers want to drug test welfare recipients

Good morning all! Here’s the news today.

It looks as if the city’s streetcars will arrive a month or two behind schedule, though the delay probably won’t push back the transit project’s start date next fall. CAF USA, which is building the cars, anticipates needing at least another month past its Sept. 17 construction deadline to finish the vehicles and might need as long as November to finish. The delay isn’t entirely out of the blue — CAF relies on subcontractors whose provision of key components can run behind, and each vehicle must pass a number of safety and quality control tests that can push back delivery dates.

• The family of Samuel Dubose, who was shot and killed July 19 by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, has filed opening paperwork in what could become a wrongful death lawsuit over the incident. Audrey Dubose, Samuel’s mother, has asked a judge to make her executor of his estate so she can pursue the lawsuit on behalf of the estate. It’s the first step toward a civil suit, possibly against the university, Tensing himself or both. Dubose was unarmed when Tensing shot him during a routine traffic stop in Mount Auburn, about a half-mile from UC’s campus. Tensing stated he was dragged by Dubose’s Honda Accord and had no choice but to shoot him. Another officer corroborated his story in a police report. But Tensing’s body camera footage shows an entirely different story, revealing he shot Dubose in the head before his car started moving. UC fired Tensing and a grand jury has indicted him on murder charges. He’s out on $1 million bond. UC has also created a new position, the Vice President of Public Safety, in the wake of the shooting.

More details continue to trickle out about the case. Yesterday, the Hamilton County Coroner’s office revealed that a gin bottle Dubose handed to officer Tensing during the traffic stop did not contain alcohol, as originally reported, but instead held a fragrance mixture Dubose was using as an air freshener.

• Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan and representatives from other area districts met yesterday to kick off the Greater Cincinnati School Advocacy Network, a group of 41 local districts from Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont Counties pushing back against state and federal mandates on teachers and education administration. The group’s meeting included calling out the increasing demands of high-stakes testing and data collection requirements among other unfunded requirements local districts say are overly onerous.

“Why does the state capitol need to know what class my child is in in third bell?” Ronan said at the meeting, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We struggle with the million pieces of data they want.”

But some education advocates say state-level accountability efforts are necessary to ensure that students are being offered a quality education and that push back against some of the testing and data standards is an attempt to dodge responsibility for school performance. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has supported some of these state-wide and federal mandates, including the controversial Common Core federal education standards. He has argued that the expectations are about preparing U.S. students to compete in a global marketplace.

• Republican state lawmakers are mulling a bill that would require welfare recipients in Ohio to pass drug tests. If applicants for assistance fail that test, they would be required to attend rehab and would be barred from state assistance for six months. State Rep. Ron Maag, a Republican from Salem Township, says the goal is to keep state funds out of the hands of drug dealers and to get help for addicts. Those who fail drug tests could still receive state assistance for their children through a third party, Maag says. The bill would set aside $100,000 for treatment of those who fail drug tests and would start with a test run in a few select Ohio counties. Similar laws in other states have had a rather dismal track record. A Tennessee law requiring drug tests for welfare recipients found only 37 drug users out of the 16,017 people tested. The state spent thousands of dollars on the tests. Further, the tests might not be constitutional, and the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has threatened a lawsuit should the bill pass here.

• Here's something awful: the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit against the Kenton County Sheriff's office over an incident in which a sheriff's deputy allegedly handcuffed two mentally disabled children at a Covington school, despite the fact the eight-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl did not pose a physical threat to anyone at the time. The ACLU filed the suit yesterday over the incident, which happened last year.

• Finally, will Gov. Kasich get to take the big stage and debate other GOP presidential hopefuls at the first official GOP primary debate in Cleveland Thursday? It’s coming down to the wire. Though Kasich has surged following his campaign announcement last month, he’s still small potatoes. He’s polling at about 3.5 percent and is hovering somewhere around ninth place in some polls. Fox News, which is hosting the debate, has said it will limit space in the event to the top 10 candidates. The network is expected to announce which 10 will get in later today. Kasich did attend a kind of warm-up candidate forum in New Hampshire yesterday along with 13 other contenders for the Republican nod. Not making the cut in Cleveland, however, would be somewhat humiliating for the home-state governor.