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by Nick Swartsell 06.26.2015 69 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
gaymarriage

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley unveils big parks plan; abortion restrictions advance through Ohio Senate; same-sex marriage legal across country after historic SCOTUS ruling

Goood morning y’all. I’m a bit bleary today, having spent yesterday on a bus to Columbus and back to watch the State Senate do its thang. More on that later, though.

In somber news, today is the funeral for Sonny Kim, the 27-year Cincinnati Police Department veteran who was shot to death last week while responding to a 911 call. The funeral service is being held at Xavier University’s Cintas Center, and Kim will be laid to rest at Gate of Heaven Cemetery. Tributes to Kim have poured in from around the city and across the country, and officers from places near and far have made the trip here to pay their respects. Thousands came to the visitation yesterday and are attending the funeral today.

• Mayor John Cranley made a big announcement yesterday, rolling out his plan for a huge revamp of Cincinnati’s parks. Cranley is proposing a property tax levy on the November ballot to raise about $5 million a year toward big parks and recreation revamps and new projects. In addition, the mayor has proposed issuing up to $100 million in bonds to fund those projects. Recipients of the money would include proposed bike trails like the Wasson Way Trail, a mountain bike trail through Mount Airy Forest, additions to one along the Mill Creek that could eventually extend from Queensgate to Carthage and beyond and the Oasis River Trail on the city’s south east side. The big bucks would also be used to revamp Inwood Park in Mount Auburn, Smale Riverfront Park downtown and Burnet Woods in Clifton. That last one has me a little worried. I’ve seen different descriptions of proposed changes to my favorite Cincy urban forest, and they sound harmless enough: updated parking lots, removing a road, installing a concession stand and restaurant at the park’s opening. But I also remember Cranley once remarking that the park was “creepy” because the trees are too dense there. Please don’t touch the trees. Other proposals include working to restore former King Records studios in Evanston and an urban campsite in Roselawn.

• Do you wanna know the top-paid CEOs for public companies in Cincinnati? Of course you do. Everyone wants to know about money and power brokers, right? The Cincinnati Business Courier just published its list of the highest earners, and it’s worth perusing so you know who’s got the cash and who’s got the clout. No surprises here, really. Procter & Gamble’s CEO A.G Lafley comes in at number one. He raked in $19.5 million in 2014. American Financial Group’s Carl and Craig Lindner came in at number two with a $15 million haul last year. Execs from Macy’s, Kroger and Ashland, Inc. rounded out the top five.

• The Ohio Senate has passed its version of the state’s budget, and today the Ohio House will vote on it as well. The big news about that, which I’ll be telling you about in detail next week, is that two anti-abortion provision that were squeezed into the budget last-minute look likely to make it through the process unscathed. One bans nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The other would require all clinics to get a variance within 60 days on requirements that they have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Cincinnati’s last remaining clinic providing abortions, a Planned Parenthood facility in Mount Auburn, has been waiting on a variance to that rule for more than a year. Under the proposed rule change, the Ohio Department of Health would have to issue the variance within two months or it would be automatically denied. If the Mount Auburn facility shuts down, Cincinnati would be the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to a clinic. The state House and Senate have already reconciled their differences and the votes are mainly ceremonial, meaning the last hope for preventing those rules is a line-item veto from Gov. John Kasich.

• Other points from the state budget: the state’s historic preservation tax credit program will live to see another day, despite threats to zero it out for two years. Journalists lose big because a provision in the budget will seal concealed handgun license records, meaning we won’t be able to file public records requests for that information. Oil and gas companies will dodge a new fracking tax proposed by Gov. John Kasich, which wasn’t included in the budget. The legislature said no thanks to Kasich’s proposed huge tax cut for high-income earners and businesses, but did implement a more moderate cut for businesses and income taxes across the board. Kasich got a compromise on cigarette taxes: the Senate budget raises them by 35 cents, less than the dollar Kasich wanted but at least some boost to offset the budget’s big tax cuts.

• Here's some news that isn't really new: even after yesterday's big Supreme Court decision upholding a key tenet of Obamacare, Ohio Republicans are still promising to kill the president's signature healthcare law. Yawn.

• South Carolina State Senator, civil rights leader and Charleston church shooting victim Clementa Pinckney is being laid to rest today. President Obama is delivering the eulogy. Other victims of the massacre are also being remember today and over the weekend.

• Finally, you’ve probably already heard about the fact that history happened today in a major way. After a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this morning, same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. You can read our coverage here. Click through all those links, get to know the Cincinnati plaintiffs in the case and what they’ve been fighting for, and hear Ohio’s reasoning for why it didn’t want to give up its ban.

That’s it for me. Tweet at me or e-mail me with info on where the celebrations will be this weekend.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.26.2015 69 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pride_ns

Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage Nationwide

In a 5-4 decision, court rules that 14th amendment requires all states to allow marriage between same sex couples

Just moments ago, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges, a set of cases challenging same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. The court ruled in a 5-4 opinion that the equal protection clause of the constitution requires all states to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples. 

"The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state," the decision, penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy reads. ""It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality," the decision later states.

The Supreme Court showdown arose from an earlier decision released by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals here in Cincinnati. That court upheld the same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. That decision put the Sixth Circuit at odds with other federal circuit courts, which had struck down marriage bans in other states. Lawyers for the plaintiffs appealed, bringing the case to the nation's highest court.

The Supreme Court case Obergefell vs. Hodges gets its name from Jim Obergefell, one of the plaintiffs, who hails from Cincinnati. Richard Hodges, the director of the Ohio Department of Health, is the named defendant. Cincinnatians

Brittani Henry-Rogers and Brittni Rogers are also among the plaintiffs. They're fighting to both be listed on their son Jayseon's birth certificate. You can read more about the Rogers and Obergefell and their involvement in this historic case in CityBeat's coverage here.

Marriage licenses will be available in Ohio counties immediately. In Hamilton County,. couples can obtain them from the Hamilton County Probate Court downtown among other locations.

The First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati has announced that Rev. Sharron Dittmar will be performing same-sex marriages to couples with marriage licenses free of charge June 30-July 2 at the Hamilton County Courthouse or at the First Unitarian Church in Avondale. You can reach the church at 513 351 6530.
Brittani Henry-Rogers and Brittni Rogers display son Jayseon’s birth certificate. The Rogers are part of the U.S. Supreme Court case over Ohio’s gay marriage ban.
Nick Swartsell

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.25.2015 70 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_streetcar_jf2

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar operating plan once again back to SORTA; parking garage mania; huge Supreme Court decisions

Hello all. Here’s what’s up this morning in Cincinnati. Before I begin, I want to repurpose a joke I made on Twitter as a (not really) serious proposition. Someone should be allowed to sell beer at City Hall. Heck, they could brew it in the basement. Two words: REVENUE STREAM. Am I right?

I say all this because yesterday was another crazy day at City Hall as Cincinnati City Council rushed through a number of last-minute deals before it goes on recess for the rest of the summer. It also got in more streetcar wrangling and a surprise twist fitting of any season finale. Council, which couldn’t come to an agreement previously on whether to choose a union or non-union streetcar operations contract, punted that decision to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which look poised to choose the cheaper, non-union option. That bid, called the turnkey scenario, would cost $4 million in the first year of operation, well less than the $4.7 million union-friendly bid called the management scenario. 

But City Manager Harry Black and Mayor John Cranley re-introduced that decision this week after Cranley pledged to allow $2 million from the city’s general fund to be used toward streetcar operations in an effort to pass the union-friendly operating agreement. That’s a big switch-up for Cranley, who previously pledged that he wouldn’t allow any extra city money to be used for the transit project. All seemed primed for the five Democrats on council to pass the union version of the contract. But Councilman Wendell Young, one of the Democratic coalition, voted against the measure. Young expressed serious concerns that the $2 million pledged by Cranley wouldn’t be enough, citing a letter by SORTA stating such. 

With the more expensive contract and less than enough money to operate the streetcar, Young expressed concern that operating hours for the streetcar would be cut. That could have put Cincinnati in a showdown with the Federal Transportation Administration since it stipulated the frequency of streetcar operations in its successful applications for millions in federal dollars for the project. So now, the ball is back in SORTA’s court, and the transit agency will almost certainly opt for the cheaper, non-union contract. Young and other Democrats decried what they called a false choice as yet another “game” turning the streetcar into a political football. Phew. Got all that? All right moving on.


• Cincinnatians in the 1880s had Music Hall. Local folks in the 1930s had Union Terminal. One-hundred years from now, architecture buffs and historians will look back fondly on this era as the golden age of magnificent edifices in which to leave your aging 1997 Toyota Corolla. What I mean to say is congrats, taxpayers! Soon, you’ll own more parking garages downtown and elsewhere. That’s great for me since I don’t own a car at all. Maybe I can park my bike in there. Council passed a number of big development deals yesterday, shoveling a ton of public cash to developers. These deals included more than $5 million in taxpayer money for a $34-million,130-unit apartment complex with commercial space and a parking garage at Eighth and Sycamore streets. That public money includes a $3.5 million city grant, which is awesome because I’m totally going to use one of those taxpayer funded apartments (I’m not) and a $2 million loan to 3CDC, which will build the city-owned parking garage. The development, undertaken by North Pointe Developers and North American Properties, will also receive a 15-year property tax abatement. On the other side of downtown, at Fourth and Race streets, the city will spend another $3 million to build another parking garage for another big development. An eight-story, 200-unit apartment building will sit atop that city-owned garage. Council also gave away some land, amending a deal with Model Group to give the developer property at Elder and Race streets in Over-the-Rhine for $1 upon the timely completion of a planned $21 million project that will bring 23 new apartments and 10 condos to that location. Should Model Group not finish the project in time, it will pay $106,000 for the land.

• Services for fallen Cincinnati Police officer Sonny Kim begin today at Xavier’s Cintas Center. A visitation for Kim will be held there starting at 1 p.m. Kim’s funeral is tomorrow at 11 a.m. Both are open to the public, which is asked to arrive and be seated by 10 a.m. tomorrow for the funeral. Officials say they expect crowds of thousands to attend, including officers from across the country. Kim died Friday after he and other officers were lured to Madisonville by a gunman who called 911 on himself.

• Wrong place. Wrong time. Incredibly unfortunate name. Mason City Councilman Richard Cox (can’t make this stuff up folks) is answering some tough questions today after he was spotted during a police sting at a motel room with a suspected sex worker. Authorities were led to the room by online ads and insider tips. Officers saw Cox leave a room occupied by the alleged sex worker, but Cox says he was simply there because an older man at a nearby store had asked him to deliver a note to the woman there, and Cox complied because he thought she was the man’s daughter. No charges have been filed in the incident.

• U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is cosponsoring two new bills designed to provide more help to opioid addicts. The Recovery Enhancement and Addiction Treatment act would expand treatment options for addicts, including lifting a limit on how many patients addiction treatment doctors can see in a year. That limit has left many in the state seeking treatment on long waiting lists. Another bill, the Jason Simcakoski bill, would provide more pain treatment options for military veterans. That bill is named after a Marine vet who fatally overdosed last summer. Ohio continues to struggle in the grips of a large-scale heroin and opioid crisis, with overdoses and overdose deaths on a steady incline. Overdose deaths in Ohio tripled between 2003 to 2013, when 2,100 died of drug overdoses.

• A huge U.S. Supreme Court decisions were announced today. SCOTUS upheld Affordable Care Act subsidies to states, including Ohio, meaning the ACA remains structurally sound. A challenge to the ability of the federal government to facilitate those subsidies called King v. Burwell could have shook Obama's signature healthcare law to its core; without the subsidies, many low-income residents in states with health care exchanges would not have been able to afford health care plans. Another important SCOTUS decision in a case around affordable housing in Texas delivered a huge victory for those looking to desegregate low-income, subsidized housing. Read more about that decision here. 

That’s it for me. I’m heading to Columbus to cover the final days of voting on the state’s budget, specifically some last minute provisions that Republican lawmakers have slipped into the financial plan that would make life very hard for Cincinnati’s last remaining abortion clinic and other clinics around the state. More soon. In the meantime, tweet at me or email with your suggestion for best lunch around the capitol.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.23.2015 72 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Council poised to approve big development bucks; shooting interrupts anti-violence march; Ohio mulls eliminating "pink tax"

Good morning all. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s going on today.

City Council’s budget and finance committee yesterday approved pushing more than $6 million in TIF funds into building a parking garage in Oakley. The 383-space garage would serve Oakley Station, which just landed its first big office tenant. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield will be bringing 400 office jobs to the development. Developers Al Neyer and USS Realty will put up the land for the garage. The city will pay the developer for the construction of the garage and lease the facility to them for 35 years. Neyer and USS will have the option to buy the building during that time, or purchase it from the city for $1 after the lease expires. TIF money takes property taxes from nearby new developments and reinvests those funds in other projects there instead of flowing them into the city’s general funds. The city must own a property to use TIF funds on it; thus the lease structure. A final council vote on the deal is expected today.

• Speaking of city money for development, the city will give more than $7 million in financial assistance to a downtown project at Eighth and Sycamore streets. That deal involves the development of a $35 million, 130-unit apartment building by North American Properties. The city will kick in a $3.5 million grant for the developer as well as $1.8 million in tax abatements for the project. In addition, the city will loan the Cincinnati Central City Development Corporation $2 million to build a parking garage and retail space as part of the deal. 3CDC will pay back that loan over the course of its 35-year lease. So how much money is all that, you ask? To give some perspective, the $7 million involved in the deal is about twice the amount of money the city has committed to human services funding for next fiscal year. But the development will create four full time and 24 part-time jobs worth about $2.2 million in income taxes, so there’s that.

• Mayor John Cranley has said he'll OK $2 million from the city's general fund for streetcar operations in an effort to ensure that SORTA approves a streetcar operations bid that uses union employees. But some city council members worry that the money won't be enough for the long-term operation of the streetcar, and are calling for more funds. Officials believe the project will cost about $4 million in its first year.

• The city’s dramatic struggle with gun violence continues. Last night during a march through Over-the-Rhine led by Bishop Bobby Hilton to protest gun violence, two men were shot in the neighborhood. One collapsed just half a block away from where the march took place. One, 18-year-old Justin Crutchfield, later died. Among those tending to Crutchfield was State Sen. Cecil Thomas, who was attending the rally. Thomas, a former police officer, has been active in OTR for years. Thomas said the majority of OTR residents don’t want any part in the violence and that it’s a small minority responsible for the crime. Many of the shootings have taken place during a pronounced spike in violence in the city, including last week’s shooting death of officer Sonny Kim, the first Cincinnati Police officer killed in the line of duty since 2000. CPD Chief Jeffrey Blackwell has drawn up a 90-day violence reduction plan at the request of City Manager Harry Black, but has delayed implementing that plan in the wake of Kim’s death.

• Very quick hit here: Cincinnati Red Bike is launching its first stations across the river in Northern Kentucky today, opening six new stations in Covington. Red Bike opened last fall and has since gained nearly 1,000 members, who have taken more than 46,000 rides.

• Are Pete Rose’s chances at reinstatement into Major League Baseball shot? Some say so. New evidence emerged Monday that Rose bet on baseball not just as a manager — the revelation that led to his suspension from the game in the first place — but also as a player. A notebook held by the federal government as it was investigating Rose has finally been released, and it details Rose’s wagers on the game as a player. Rose bet on the Reds, according to the evidence, though he never bet against his own team. The new revelations have many, including top sports commentators, predicting that Rose has lost any chance to gain reinstatement into the MLB, and thus a shot at the Hall of Fame.

• Finally, efforts are afoot at the state capital to abolish the so-called “pink tax” on feminine hygiene products. State Rep. Greta Johnson, D-Akron, is pushing the bill. She says women in Ohio spend $6-$10 a month on state taxes for hygiene products and that it’s time for Ohio to end the practice of putting state sales taxes on the items. Five other states have nixed their taxes on feminine hygiene products, including Maryland, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.22.2015 73 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
tedstrickland

Morning News and Stuff

Community supports fallen officer; Uptown Rental Properties buys entire Corryvillle block; Strickland leads in Senate race

Good morning y’all. Here’s what’s going on in Cincy as we all try to wake up and do work.

It’s been a somber few days in Cincinnati since Friday, when Cincinnati police officer Sonny Kim was shot and killed by a gunman in Madisonville. Though I can’t imagine how devastating that loss must be for his family, the community has come together to try and help them in their time of need. A GoFundMe account started by Mason Police Association President Derek Bauman has raised about $95,000 for the Kim family. University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono has announced his three sons will receive free undergraduate tuition at UC should they choose to go there.

Kim was responding to a 911 call about a man with a gun when he encountered 21-year-old Trepierre Hummons. Police say Hummons texted friends about his plan to commit “suicide by cop” and placed the 911 call himself to lure police to him. Hummons shot Kim before Hummons himself was killed by police. Kim was the first officer killed in the line of duty in Cincinnati in 15 years. Hummons was the 29th person killed by police in that time. Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell called Kim “one of our best,” citing the numerous commendations he’s received. In his off time, Kim, a resident of Evendale, ran a karate dojo in Symmes Township. Mayor John Cranley has asked Cincinnatians to wear blue Friday, June 26 in memory of Kim. In the wake of Kim’s shooting, Blackwell has announced a two-week delay in implementation of CPD’s recently announced 90-day violence reduction plan.

• Uptown Rental Properties, a major developer in Corryville and the surrounding areas, now owns an entire city block of properties in the neighborhood. The developer has purchased 11 properties from the New Nazarene Baptist Church as well as another single family home on the block, which it has been interested in for two decades. Uptown has yet to announce plans for the spaces, and the church itself is leasing the building it formerly owned from Uptown until it finds a new location. But the purchase could well be a sign that more major development is afoot in Corryville. Uptown Rental Properties has been very active in the area, currently building more than 250 apartments in two nearby developments collectively worth $55 million. The developer also has big plans for neighboring Mount Auburn, where it has planned another $55 million in apartments and office space.

• Speaking of development, the Cincinnati Planning Commission has given the green light to a Towne Properties development that would feature seven newly constructed 2,800-square-foot townhomes on Elm Street in Over-the-Rhine. However, the city’s Historic Conservation Board wants changes before the project goes forward, saying the buildings are “too short and squat” and should have more individuality overall, among other criticisms. As someone who has been criticized for these same shortcomings, I feel for these prospective buildings just a little. No one has ever told me that I “need more detailing around the corners” or that I need to be three stories tall to emphasize the verticality of my district, though, so that’s where my empathy ends. Towne will have to tweak the designs to meet the board’s suggestions and come back before it for final approval. The townhomes will be the Mount Adams-based developer’s first foray into Over-the-Rhine, and the development effort will led by former 3CDC VP Chad Munitz. Each townhome will have a garage and a private backyard. Expected starting price for each is $650,000.

• Marijuana legalization effort ResponsibleOhio faces a potential legislative roadblock even if its state constitutional amendment gets on the ballot and is approved by voters. State lawmakers are working to pass a ban on monopolies in the state constitution, a law that looks tailor-made to short circuit ResponsibleOhio’s efforts. If passed, that law would make the weed legalization effort’s proposal, which limits marijuana growth to 10 sites owned by the group’s investors, illegal before it even goes into effect. The anti-monopoly law must be passed by the state House and Senate and signed by Gov. Kasich before going into effect. ResponsibleOhio needs to collect more than 300,000 signatures this summer to get its initiative on the ballot. Its plan would legalize weed for anyone over 21, create the 10 grow sites and also allow for small amounts of non-commercial home growth.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich has said he would support removing the confederate flag from South Carolina state buildings if he lived there. In the wake of the tragedy in Charleston, S.C. last week where a white gunman killed nine black parishoners at a historically black church, a debate has raged about that state’s display of the flag above the state capitol building. Shooter Dylann Roof has expressed white supremacist ideals and sympathies and prominently displayed the flag on his car. The shooting has led to calls for removal of the flag from the capitol, and a number of liberal and conservative politicians have backed the idea.

• Democratic challenger and former Ohio governor Ted Strickland is leading over incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman in the 2016 race for Portman's Senate seat, a new poll shows. Strickland leads Portman by six points, according to a recently released Quinnipiac University poll. Meanwhile, Strickland’s Democratic primary challenger, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, continues to search for state-wide recognition. Eighty-five percent of voters across the state said they didn’t know enough about Sittenfeld to make a decision about him.

• Finally, as you might already know if you’ve been glued to SCOTUSblog like I have, the U.S. Supreme Court today did not release its decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges, the landmark case that could decide the national fate of same-sex marriage. The court has just a few more days on which it will release decisions before its term is up at the end of the month. Meanwhile, OTR resident Jim Obergefell, for whom the case is named, continues to wait.

Story tips? Ideas on where I could get a used touring bike? Tweet at your boy or do the email thing.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.18.2015 77 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_streetcar_jf2

Morning News and Stuff

City passes budget; last-minute state budget change could shut down clinics; mourning in Charleston, S.C.

Hey all. Here’s what’s up this morning.

 

Cincinnati City Council yesterday passed its $1 billion fiscal year 2016-2017 budget despite worries that wrangling between council and the mayor could spiral into a partial city government shutdown. The budget council passed looks similar to the one proposed by City Manager Harry Black, though it includes the full $3 million for United Way-vetted human services agencies council requested last November. Black’s original budget funded traditional human services at a much lower level.


The budget process this time around was full of last-minute deals and switcheroos by various council members. Vice Mayor David Mann, for instance, stepped across the line between his fellow Democrats on council and Mayor John Cranley to help engineer the final deal. Mann’s negotiations sometimes caused chagrin among his fellow Democrats — his vote against giving infant mortality agency Cradle Cincinnati $275,000 made that priority vulnerable to a veto, which Cranley took advantage of. All told, Cranley vetoed six ordinances containing Democratic council priorities, including a $400,000 grant for Clifton Market and $150,000 for bike lanes. Council had a majority of five votes on those spending measures but couldn’t muster the sixth to override the mayor. You can read all about the fiscal fun times in our coverage here.

 

• One thing council didn’t pass yesterday was an agreement about who will operate the streetcar. That means the Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority will step in to decide which bid to take — most likely the cheaper turnkey option, in which an outside management company chooses its own workers instead of unionized SORTA employees. That option came in at about $4 million, just under the city’s $4.2 million budget for operating the streetcar. Another management bid approved by council’s budget and finance committee Monday involved a company overseeing SORTA employees and came in at $4.7 million. SORTA officials have said in the past that they can’t take up a bid for which they don’t have the money, so it looks like the cheaper option will happen by default, despite pro-union Cranley and five Democrats on council backing the more expensive option.

 

• But hold up, wait, there’s controversy around those bids. The head of the Amalgamated Transit Union says SORTA is “playing games” with the bidding process and that a cheaper option involving unionized workers might be available. ATU head Troy Miller has been emailing council members saying that one of the bidders, a company called First Transit, didn’t make it as a final bid despite having a cheaper plan that used union workers. That plan would have cost about $4.1 million, just under budget. The company has called that option a turnkey proposal, but says it would use union members. Here’s more on that story in this article by WCPO.

 

• Speaking of SORTA, and in less divisive news, the agency has released real-time streaming bus-arrival data, which has enabled for the creation of a new app that allows users to track the progress of Metro buses. That app was developed by local tech company Gaslight and will be available starting today. That is amazing. Like, an app that actually does something useful in my life on a daily basis instead of just having me take pictures of the food I’m eating or posting about dogs or something.

 

• 3CDC will use at least some of the $45 million in federal new market tax credits it just received to change up Ziegler Park in Over-the-Rhine, officials with the development group announced today. The project, which will expand and renovate the park, according to 3CDC, is expected to cost $27 million. Programming in the park, including fitness classes and basketball leagues, will be part of the project. The development group has said it will not be eliminating basketball courts or the pool at the park, a major sticking point with community members during the developer’s changes to Washington Park on the other side of OTR in 2012.

 

• More last-minute changes to the state budget mean that some women’s health clinics that provide abortions might be in danger of closing, at least temporarily. Ohio law requires clinics to have admitting privileges with local hospitals, or to obtain a variance from the Ohio Department of Health. A new tweak to those laws in the state budget would require those clinics to obtain their variance from the state within 60 days or shut down. Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Campbell Surgical Center in Mount Auburn and the Women’s Med clinic in Dayton both operate on variances. The Planned Parenthood site in Cincinnati waited a full year to receive its variance last year and is currently awaiting another one. Women’s Med has waited two years for its exception. The state Senate expects to pass the budget today, after which it will negotiate its version with the Ohio House of Representatives ahead of a June 30 budget deadline.

 

• Finally, I don’t even know what to say about this other than to express some kind of unutterable sadness and anger. As you’ve probably already heard, nine people were shot to death while they prayed in a church in Charleston, South Carolina last night. The African Methodist Episcopal Church is an iconic, historically black church that has been serving black congregations since 1816. Charleston's Emanuel AME church, where the shooting took place, has been there since 1891 and has been a symbol of both refuge and resistance for the black community there. The suspected shooter, who was caught on video, is 21-year-old Dylann Roof, whose social media presence shows affiliation with or sympathy for white supremacist groups. Authorities are calling the shooting a hate crime. Among the dead, according to relatives, is South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, a civil rights leader and also the church’s pastor.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.17.2015 78 days ago
Posted In: News, Budget at 04:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Council Finally Passes FY 2016-2017 Budget

Spending plan restores human services funding, but Cranley vetoes other Democratic priorities

Cincinnati City Council today passed its FY 2016-2017 budget, a $1 billion spending plan that hews closely to the one drawn up by Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black, but with boosted human services funding originally left out of the plan. 

The budget boosts police officers and will spend $110 million on road repair and fleet maintenance, big priorities for Cranley. Cranley called the budget "great" today as it passed, saying it is structurally balanced and forward-looking.

But not everyone got what they wanted from the process, and heightened tensions between the mayor and council may have left some hard feelings. Cranley and council have been fighting back and forth during the budget process. This morning, Cranley compared Democratic council members to children on a WLW talk show. Democrats have fired back with their own harsh words.

Despite the political wrangling, the final budget resulted from a deal cut this morning between the mayor and members of council, including council conservatives and Democrat Vice Mayor David Mann. The compromise provided an extra $500,000 in funding for traditional human services vetted by the United Way, an amount above the $2.5 million in the city administration's previous budget proposal.

That brings human services up to the $3 million for United Way-chosen human services organizations council unanimously requested last November, an amount initially left out of Black's budget. The city aims to fund human services at 1.5 of its capital budget, a goal it hasn't hit in a decade. Today's deal brings the city to .8 percent of the capital budget.

But the deal also left the council's five Democrats facing a mayoral veto on other spending priorities: individual ordinances calling for a $400,000 grant to co-op Clifton Market, $150,000 for bike lanes, $24,000 for new bus stops in Bond Hill and more money for community organizations. 

"If the trade-off is we don't get bus shelters in Bond Hill or work on bike trails or public support for Clifton Market I think it is worth the trade-off," Mann, the Democrat who helped broker the deal, said during today's council meeting.

Those individual ordinances were the result of a move by Cranley to split up Democrats' original omnibus budget counter-proposal. That put the individual pieces at the mercy of Cranley's veto. Each measure received only five votes on council. Six are needed to override a mayoral veto. True to his word, Cranley vetoed all four of the ordinances he took issue with. Cranley says the move increases transparency and keeps extra pork out of the budget. Democrats, however, have accused the mayor of playing politics, noting that the city administration's $375 million operating budget still came in omnibus form. Several, including Democratic Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, have said that amounts to ignoring the majority of council.

A standoff over Cranley's capital budget and Democrats' unfunded priorities led to speculation that Cincinnati might undergo a partial government shutdown, but today's deal and subsequent vote effectively funds the city's government when the current budget expires June 30.

City Hall was less successful in making a decision about streetcar operations today, however. City Council couldn't agree on either of the two operating bids presented by the Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority, meaning that SORTA itself will now make the call. That means the agency will probably select the cheaper turnkey solution, in which a management company will be able to hire outside employees instead of using SORTA's union workers. That bid came in at $4 million for the first year of operations, under the city's maximum of $4.2 million. A union-friendly management bid came to $4.7 million. SORTA says it legally cannot enter into a contract for which it does not have funding.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.17.2015 78 days ago
at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_cityhall_jf052

Morning News and Stuff

Big day at City Hall; questions about Fairfield pool arrests intensify; state GOP nixes proposed fracking taxes

Hello Cincy. Let’s talk about the news today. It's going to be a crazy one with lots of action, or inaction, at City Hall.

Speaking of that: Mayor John Cranley had some choice words about Democrats on council as he took to WLW this morning to discuss the budget. Cranley explained his reasoning behind splitting up council's suggestions for the capital budget into separate ordinances, a move council Democrats have called “overtly political.”

“This is a real breakthrough — to be able to say we’re going to bring more transparency to these votes so we can isolate spending,” Cranley said. He then took some shots at council’s five Democrats. “Someone’s gotta play the heavy. Someone’s gotta say, ‘We can’t just pay for everything.’ Someone has to put them on adult supervision.”

Cranley’s comments come as council and City Hall are poised for a knock-down, drag-out battle over the city’s budget. Today’s council meeting should be very interesting — originally, council was expected to pass the city's financial plan today, but the political wrangling between Cranley and council could mean that key parts of the budget plan won’t pass at council's meeting. That has set off worries from some that the city could face a partial government shutdown. The city has until June 30 to pass its budget, but Democrats have expressed confidence a deal can be reached in that time.

Questions continue about a series of arrests June 9 at a Fairfield pool that some say amount to racially charged excessive use of force by police. Fairfield police pepper sprayed and arrested Krystal Dixon, 33, and members of her family after Fairfield Aquatic Center staff said the family refused to leave the facility. Staff members have said the family was asked to leave because one of the children didn’t have swim trunks. Dixon said she had trunks for the child, but that staff insisted they leave anyway. Police arrived and the incident quickly devolved into a tussle between officers and several pool-goers. Two adults, including Dixon, were arrested on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. A 12-year-old girl was charged with assault and a 15-year-old was charged with resisting arrest as well. Both were charged with disorderly conduct. Video of the arrests shows the police pressing Dixon's 12-year-old niece against a patrol car. Dixon and her supporters say the incident happened because she and her family are black. Forest Park faith leader Bishop Bobby Hilton has called the incident police brutality and said that the girl suffered broken ribs and a broken jaw at the hands of the officers. Police dispute this and say the officers acted appropriately. Dixon was in court today and will have a pretrial hearing on her charges July 8.

• The building that currently houses the Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine could soon be a new theater for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. The building is one of a number of locations that have been considered for the CSC, which has outgrown its current rented location on Race Street. The city’s 2016 budget has set aside $200,000 toward renovations of the location on 12th and Elm streets. The Drop Inn Center, which has been renamed Shelterhouse, will now be two locations — a women’s shelter in Mount Auburn that opened last week and a men’s shelter that will open in the fall in Queensgate. Cincinnati City Council approved the move last year.

• Speaking of shelters moving out of downtown: Plans and graphics have been released for the luxury hotel that will occupy the former Anna Louise Inn building in Lytle Park. Eagle Realty, the real estate arm of Western & Southern Financial Group, purchased the property from Cincinnati Union Bethel after protracted legal battles. CUB had operated a shelter there for more than 100 years. The Anna Louise Inn is now located in Mount Auburn.

• Cincinnati’s Metro bus ridership is falling. The question is why. Ridership on the city’s public bus system fell 5.7 percent between January and April 2015, SORTA data shows. That’s troublesome to the transit authority. Most of the drop has come from lagging numbers on suburban express routes, including those going between downtown and Madeira, West Chester and Anderson Township. The falling numbers are tough because SORTA has considered asking taxpayers for more money next year in the form of a sales tax increase so it can expand service. Could this year's relatively low gas prices have played a role? I don't know, but it seems like a fair question to ask, considering many of the routes with falling ridership serve areas where tons of people also own cars they can drive if they chose. Meanwhile, it’s not all doom and gloom. The transit agency’s Metro Plus initiative between downtown and Kenwood has increased in ridership by more than 10 percent. Metro Plus mimics light rail by running more often and more quickly by virtue of fewer stops.

• Did controversial former attorney Eric Deters take a bunch of swag from a local restaurant? That’s what a recently filed lawsuit says, but Deters denies it. Deters was leasing out a building in Independence, Kentucky to Angelo’s Family Restaurant. The restaurant told Deters that it couldn’t pay the rent anymore and was closing. Its owners allege that Deters then locked up the doors to the building and sat on $10,000 worth of the restaurant’s stuff. Deters says the restaurant owes him $400,000 on the lease and that he’s just locked the building up until he and the restaurant settle up. The Angelo family, however, charge that Deters has sold, given away, or consumed their property — restaurant stock and equipment — and that they didn’t violate the terms of their lease.

• In state news, GOP state lawmakers have eliminated a tax on oil and natural gas drilling proposed by Gov. John Kasich from the state’s budget. The taxes on fracking-derived oil and natural gas have been a big priority for Kasich, as it was designed to help plug holes in the budget left by his proposed income tax cut. Twenty percent of the taxes collected would have also gone to counties in Ohio in which fracking takes place. Lawmakers cut that proposal, saying there wasn’t enough time to reach an agreement about it. They’ve instead pledged to create a task force to look into the idea later. The Ohio General Assembly is expected to vote on the budget this week. It must be passed by June 30, when the current fiscal year budget expires.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.16.2015 79 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ul_staff_washingtonpark_3cdc

Morning News and Stuff

Cincy budget battle gets real, folks freak out; Fairfield police accused of improper use of force; half of Ohio charter school's students found to be fictitious

Good morning y’all. Did you hear that the city government is grinding to a halt? Only not really, not yet at least.

You see, the city must have a financial plan in place by July 1 and there’s a battle afoot over the city’s capital budget. That funds a lot of things like road repairs, fleet updates and the like. But it’s different than the operating budget, which, you know, keeps the city government operating. You can find out more about the battle in our coverage yesterday, but it basically boils down to a struggle between city council, which is trying to get some of its priorities included in the capital budget, and the mayor, who has broken what is usually a single, omnibus budget ordinance down into individual pieces so he can veto parts he doesn’t like. Make no mistake: not passing a capital budget would be bad, bad, bad. It would mean that the city was out of compliance with state law, opening city government up to lawsuits and even temporary state oversight.  But the folks at City Hall have two weeks to hammer something out. In the meantime, at least we have the Cincinnati Enquirer to explain this situation to us. Yesterday’s headline blared, “Cincy faces government shutdown,” while an editorial today councils folks to “take a deep breath” because “the process is working as it should.” Great to see our intrepid daily has started reporting from multiple alternate dimensions instead of the single alternate dimension it normally covers.

• Last year, the federal tax credit geyser ran dry in Ohio for a minute, leaving groups like 3CDC and Cincinnati Development Fund without federal tax credits. It was the first time ever no projects in the state received credits. But that dry spell was short-lived. This year, 3CDC and CDF will get $45 million and $42 million respectively in new market tax credits for development projects. 3CDC has been Cincinnati’s major developer in downtown and Over-the-Rhine in the past decade, spending almost $1 billion in OTR in that time. CDF, meanwhile, has provided a quarter-billion dollars in loans in Greater Cincinnati, most of which have gone to affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods.

• Forest Park faith leader Bishop Bobby Hilton today made accusations that police in the city of Fairfield broke a 12-year-old’s jaw and fractured three of her ribs during an incident at a pool last week. Police were called to the Fairfield Aquatic Center last week to remove a group of teenagers who refused to leave after they were asked to vacate the area. Fairfield Police Chief Michael Dickey says the officers were defending themselves during the incident, a claim he says is backed up by video footage he’s witnessed. Dickey said he had not heard about the girl’s injuries until he was informed about Hilton’s news conference.

• A battle over tax credits isn’t stopping a Noah’s Ark themed attraction in Northern Kentucky. Religious group Answers in Genesis is going ahead with construction on the $84 million Ark Encounter park in Grant County despite a court battle around $18 million in state tax credits for the park. The application for those credits was eventually rejected by the state because of the group’s religious work and hiring stipulations that make potential employees profess their faith. Answers says it won’t use those hiring practices at the Ark Encounter park, but the state still says the attraction is part of its religious ministry, not just a tourist attraction. The project is about 20 percent complete, Answers says.

• Lawmakers in the Ohio Senate have walked back on a plan to eliminate the state’s historic preservation tax credit program for two years. Republican lawmakers tucked a provision that would have frozen the program as the state transitioned from a tax credit-based system to a grant system. That caused widespread criticism from across the state, convincing lawmakers to back off the proposal. Initially, it looked like $25 million in tax credits awarded to Cincinnati’s Music Hall  would be in jeopardy if the proposal was adopted, though lawmakers said that project and others already promised credits would receive them. Now, thanks to the uproar, Republicans in the Senate say they’ll remove the provision from the budget and form a commission to study shifting from credits to grants in the future.

• A really quick hit: a state audit at a now-defunct charter school found that half of the school’s students didn’t exist. State Auditor David Yost revealed yesterday that half of the 459 students listed by General Chappie James Leadership Academy in Montgomery County were fictitious. Yost says that the discrepancy seems to be a result of fraud and not simple record-keeping errors.

• Finally, on to national news. You’ve probably already heard about the strange case of former Washington State NAACP head Rachel Dolezal, who has for many years presented herself as a black woman even though both of her parents are white. Dolezal was thoroughly and embarrassingly outed by her parents recently, a move that rocketed Dolezal to all the wrong kinds of viral fame over the weekend. And it’s only gotten weirder from there: in an interview today, Dolezal says she's identified as black since the age of five and still considers herself black, in part because she has biracial children. But the story gets more befuddling still. Reports show that Dolezal sued Howard University, where she attended an MFA program, over what she claimed was discrimination… because she was white. This entire situation is so confusing and problematic I don’t even know what to say, so, there you go.

Hit me up on Twitter or send an old-fashioned e-mail, why don’t ya?

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.15.2015 80 days ago
Posted In: News, Budget at 03:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Council's Big Bad Budget Adventure

Council, mayor wrangle over spending priorities as deadline ticks closer

Cincinnati City Council's Budget and Finance Committee today wrangled over the city's upcoming, $1 billion budget, passing the operating portion of that financial plan but leaving a fight over capital spending for another day.

Basic services like police and fire aren't under threat in the budget battle — those are paid for from the city's $375 million operating budget, which council looks poised to pass. But other services could be temporarily shelved and the city could face legal action or state oversight if it doesn't pass a complete budget before its June 30 deadline.

A complex dance for power between council Democrats and Mayor John Cranley has left the capital part of the budget, which funds everything from road improvement to economic development to bike lanes, at an impasse.

The majority coalition of council members say Cranley is trying to block their will, but Cranley says the group is trying to force a shutdown.


“A majority of City Council seems poised to vote down the City’s Capital Budget and threaten a government shutdown because members couldn’t get their pet projects funded,” Cranley said in a harshly-worded statement June 15.  “Because some councilmembers were upset that their pet projects weren’t included, the City will not be able to repave our roads or replace our aging police cruisers, fire trucks and ambulances.”

The five Democratic council members — Yvette Simpson, Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Wendell Young and David Mann — have prioritized six expenditures in the budget that Cranley opposes. Those priorities were by and large left out of City Manager Harry Black's initial budget, so Democrats drew up their own omnibus budget proposal, which Cranley looked likely to veto wholesale, since he can't line-item veto things. At least, not officially.

Cranley says the budget Democrats on council have presented is structurally unbalanced because it uses one-time sources of money to pay for some of council members' spending priorities.

Cranley takes issue with six spending priorities Democrats on council have promoted, calling them wasteful. Those priorities include $400,000 for Clifton Market, a co-op looking to fill the vacant former Keller's IGA in Clifton, $24,000 for high-tech bus shelters in Bond Hill, $150,000 for repairing and building new bike lanes, an extra $500,000 for the city's human services fund, bringing it up to a level council unanimously voted to fund last year, and extra funds for the health department. Those extra expenditures would be paid for in part by pausing some of the city manager's proposed extensive $100 million in road repairs.

"I cannot support these items and hope that City Council won't either, but I am referring these items as stand-alone ordinances to the Budget Committee so that council will have the opportunity to have an up-or-down vote on all of the City Council requests," Cranley said in a statement this morning. "The people of Cincinnati created a Charter in which six votes are required to overcome a mayoral veto.  We should not try to subvert the Charter we took an oath to uphold."

Council Democrats met with Budget and Finance Chairman Charlie Winburn late last week to hammer out a compromise, and it looked as though things would be O.K. In the meantime, however, Cranley moved to have council's budget priorities broken down into 19 individual ordinances, giving him the ability to veto them on what amounts to a line-item basis.

"We worked with his budget chair. We sat down with Charlie Winburn and worked out a budget that his budget chair supported," Young says. "And then we get, 'you're trying to bankrupt the city.' If we're working with Charlie and something Charlie says he supports, and suddenly Cranley's having a hissy fit, we don't even know what it's all about. That's where we are."

Winburn said Cranley didn’t take up the compromise budget because he wasn’t “in the loop” about it.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld called presenting the operational budget as an omnibus document and council's captial budget as a series of ordinances "weird" and "overtly political." Sittenfeld said he felt like a majority of council's wishes were being disregarded by the move.

“Treating different items so differently raises suspicion I think for any member of the public,” Sittenfeld said. “I don’t see why funding for the health department or human services or Clifton Market would be separate. Some things are protected behind the veil of an omnibus, and some things aren’t. I’d say put it all together, and if the city administration or the mayor doesn’t want to do that, it’s kind of on them whether or not they want to shut down the city government.”

The maneuvering has caused the current impasse as the four Democrats in today's budget and finance committee meeting balked at voting for the administration's capital budget. That raised alarms from council conservatives, including Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman, who both cautioned against going down the road toward "a government shutdown."

That language echoes statements Cranley made in a news conference this morning when he accused council Democrats of attempting to shut down city government over their priorities and compared them to Republicans in Congress. Councilmembers Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young shot back.

"I defy anybody to look at the budget we've proposed and see how that shuts the city down," Young said. "That's just not what we're trying to do. I'm really offended that he'd even say that about us."

"The concern that we as members of council have is that a budget was prepared by the city manager, and then the mayor had the opportunity to weigh in on it, and then it got to us," Simpson said. "It's our turn as policy makers to say, 'here's where we would make adjustments.' "

Council was scheduled to vote on the budget June 17, but it's unclear whether it will pass at that meeting. The city has until June 30 to pass a budget. If it does not, Cincinnati's city government could be subject to legal action, or even state oversight, as it is required by state law to have a full budget passed. The city's current budget expires July 1.

 
 

 

 

by Nick Swartsell 09.03.2015 6 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jeffrey blackwell

Morning News and Stuff

FOP might cast no-confidence vote for Blackwell; voters will not get opportunity to approve most charter change proposals; Cincinnati, city of snobs?

Good morning all. Here’s what’s happening in the news today.

Cincinnati’s Fraternal Order of Police is set to cast a vote of no confidence regarding CPD Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, according to union leadership. Union President Kathy Harrell is convening the Sept. 14 meeting to address what she says are issues around low morale, staffing and other concerns from officers. Though Harrell says she believes officers will cast the no confidence vote, that’s not set in stone, and the meeting will include an open forum during which officers can voice their opinions.

The meeting comes as Cincinnati experiences something of a spike in gun violence, which is up 30 percent from last year. Some other crimes are also up slightly — as a whole,  violent crime has risen 3 percent since this time last year — but that follows an abnormally quiet year last year, and overall crime rates line up with the past few years in the city. Other cities have also seen upticks in crime, some much more drastic than Cincinnati. But city leaders have said that’s no excuse and have pushed for new crime reduction measures. Blackwell introduced a 90-day crime reduction plan earlier this summer, which has gotten mixed reviews from the city manager, mayor and other leaders. Earlier in the summer, questions swirled around whether Blackwell was departing the force; city documents outlining his exit were detailed in media reports, though they were never signed and the chief stayed on. In June, black police union the Sentinels unanimously voted their support for the chief.

Blackwell called a news conference last night to address the pending FOP no-confidence vote, saying he felt sure he would remain chief and highlighting the efforts he has made to build community engagement and fight crime. He also stressed that staffing for the department is at a six-year high. The FOP hasn’t had a meeting like the one planned for next week in a decade, and officers in Cincinnati have never cast a no-confidence vote over a chief.

• If you were looking forward to voting on major changes to our city's governing system, well, sorry 'bout that. There were few surprises out of City Hall yesterday as Cincinnati City Council and Mayor John Cranley blocked the most substantive of suggested amendments to the city’s charter from appearing before voters in November. A measure allowing Council to fire the city manager and another that would have enabled it to engage in executive session both failed to gather enough votes to make it onto the November ballot. Some on Council, including council members Yvette Simpson and Kevin Flynn, supported bringing those changes to voters.

But the executive session amendment failed to reach the six-vote threshold needed to overturn last week’s mayoral veto. Cranley says he vetoed the amendment because it would bring more secrecy to government by allowing Council to meet in private. Simpson argued that executive session, which is permissible under state law and is used by most municipal councils in the state, would actually allow elected representatives to play a bigger role in decisions the city administration makes. Simpson pointed out that some information circulating within City Hall related to economic development deals, court cases, security and other issues must be kept confidential.

However, since Council must conduct all its business in public, it can’t be made privy to that information until it’s time to vote on it. That means elected representatives only get to engage in the final stages of decision making and aren’t involved in cutting economic development deals, for instance, until the final deal is reached. Simpson slammed that dynamic, saying that it means city administration and the mayor are allowed to hold private meetings and hash out private deals without Council’s knowledge. But City Manager Harry Black said Council is able to exercise oversight over any part of the deal-making process and can challenge the confidentiality of any information possessed by the city administration. Cranley said having access to such information as mayor is one of “the privileges of the position” and pointed out that executive and legislative roles must necessarily differ in City Hall.

The executive session amendment garnered five votes from Council. Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld, Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman voted against it. Councilman Chris Seelbach was absent from voting, but had previously indicated to media that he would not reprise his earlier “yes” vote on the amendment, making it unlikely the measure would overcome Cranley’s veto.

Cranley also railed against the provision allowing Council to fire the city manager, saying it would create an atmosphere where the city’s top executive would fear for his job “every week.” Cranley cited the dynamics of Council in the 1990s, before Council’s ability to fire the manager was revoked, to illustrate his point. However, some council members pushed back at his assertion. Sittenfeld, for example, said having nine council members overseeing the city manager seemed more democratic and more stable than having only the mayor do so.

Council did place two amendments on the November ballot. One would clean up archaic language in the city’s charter and also change the date of the city’s mayoral primary. The other would shift start dates for the mayor and council members from early December to early January.

OK. Look at me rambling on. Here are some quick hits for the rest of your news.

• The Cincinnati Zoo announced yesterday it will spend $12 million on an expansion of its gorilla exhibit, building an indoor greenhouse for the primates that will match the animals’ current outdoor area.

• Is Cincinnati one of the most unfriendly cities in the world?

Read More

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 09.02.2015 31 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news-abortionclinics-700x615

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar builder burns midnight oil to complete vehicles; legal challenge to mayor's park proposal; Kasich speaks the language of youth

Hey hey all. Here’s what’s happening in the city and beyond this morning.

The company making Cincinnati’s streetcars, CAF USA, will be adding extra shifts at its manufacturing facility in New York in order to avoid being any later on delivering the vehicles. CAF originally told the city that the cars would be delivered by the end of this month. But a few weeks ago, the company revealed that they might not be ready until December, stoking apprehension that the delay could cause the entire transit project’s start date to be pushed back. The streetcar is supposed to start operating, with passengers, this time next year. Between now and then, a good deal of testing will need to be done on the cars, both at the manufacturing facility and here in Cincinnati, where the cars will have to take log a number of test miles before they can take passengers. However, officials with the city and with CAF say the delay won’t cause any lag in the project’s launch. The company has given the city a progress update on the vehicles and has said the first of the five cars could be delivered as early as October.

• Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Ohio yesterday filed a lawsuit against the state over recently passed new laws governing abortion access. CityBeat has covered the ongoing battle extensively, and you can read the backstory here, here, and here. Shorter version: A provision tucked into Ohio’s budget and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in June would give the Ohio Department of Health 60 days to approve an abortion provider’s license renewal or variance request. After that period, the request would be automatically denied and a clinic would lose its ability to perform the procedure. In its federal suit, Planned Parenthood says that presents an unconstitutional barrier to abortion access. Cincinnati’s last remaining clinic, Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, could be in jeopardy of closing due to that new rule. That would make Cincinnati the largest metro area in the country without direct access to an abortion clinic. The Mount Auburn clinic waited for more than a year to have its last variance request granted by ODH. After Planned Parenthood filed a previous lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio laws that require clinics have hospital admitting privileges, but forbidding public hospitals from entering into such agreements, the department finally issued the clinic an exception to those rules. Now, the facility could be in danger of closing again thanks to the new restrictions Planned Parenthood is challenging.

• Mayor John Cranley’s proposed ballot initiative for city park upgrades is getting a legal challenge from one staunch opponent. Cincinnati attorney Don Mooney filed an objection to the initiative earlier this week, saying the wording of the ballot proposal is misleading and incomplete. Supporters of the initiative have already gained the needed signatures to place the proposal on the November ballot. Cranley’s proposal would boost property taxes to pay for upkeep to the city’s park as well as fund major changes to several, including Clifton’s Burnet Woods. The proposal is designed to raise about $5 million a year in property tax revenues. But that 75 percent of that money could be used on debt service for bonds the city would issue to raise tens of millions of dollars for the parks project. Therein lies the rub, or at least one of them: Mooney charges that the ballot initiative as written doesn’t make clear that it would allow the city, through the mayor and park board, to take on millions in debt. Mooney also criticizes the power given the mayor to make decisions about what to do with that money. Under the initiative’s current language, parks projects funded by the money would be proposed by the mayor and approved by the parks board without the approval of Cincinnati City Council. Mooney calls that a mayoral power grab.

• If you’re wondering what the long-promised new Kroger location in Corryville will look like, the grocery chain finally has some renderings for you to gander at. Kroger released some images of how the store should look when completed next year. At nearly 70,000 square feet, the location will nearly double the size of the current Kroger at the south end of Corryville’s Short Vine strip. Current plans flip the store’s orientation, putting its entrance facing Jefferson Street and the University of Cincinnati’s campus.

• Finally, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is a hip, with it guy. He knows what the kids like. They like Snapchat. They like bacon. They like GOP presidential primary candidates who are down with Snapchat and bacon. That’s why Kasich’s campaign pioneered a new kind of political ad today on the photo and video sharing app. The ad uses a filter on the app to render Kasich’s campaign logo as strips of bacon, which the app is running in early primary state New Hampshire from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. today. In his next move to win millennial voters, Kasich will post anonymously on Yik Yak with a special, super-secret guest verse on an A$AP Rocky song rapped entirely in Doge speak about his foreign policy platform. Such hip! Much vote!

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 09.01.2015 49 hours ago
Posted In: News at 03:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_protester_7-9 copy

Planned Parenthood Sues Ohio Over Abortion Access

Suit claims new state laws unjustly limit women's access to abortion

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio filed a federal lawsuit today against the state of Ohio, charging that "hostile policies" passed by the state in the last few years greatly restrict women's access to abortions.

The suit comes after new restrictions were slipped into Ohio's budget earlier this year. Among those restrictions was a clause that automatically suspends a clinic's license to provide abortions if the Ohio Department of Health does not respond to a license renewal application or request for variance to other restrictions within 60 days. In the past, ODH has taken a year or more to respond to applications from clinics in Cincinnati and elsewhere in the state.

New rules on abortion providers have come about in the past few years as conservative state lawmakers have sought to clamp down on abortion providers. Some lawmakers say the laws are about patient safety, while others admit they are intended to decrease the number of abortions performed in Ohio. Since the laws have been passed, the number of clinics in Ohio has dwindled from 14 to just nine.

Restrictions passed in 2009 required clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and a subsequent law passed in 2013 forbade publicly funded hospitals from entering into those agreements. That rule cost Cincinnati's last clinic providing abortions, the Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn, its transfer agreement with UC Hospital.

The center, run by Planned Parenthood, has since had to apply for variances to those rules, which it qualifies for because it has individual physicians who can admit patients to hospitals. Delays from the ODH granting a variance to those restrictions have put the future of Cincinnati's last operating clinic providing abortions in jeopardy. The center waited more than a year for its variance request, which the ODH finally granted after Planned Parenthood filed an earlier lawsuit against Ohio.

If the center were to cease providing abortions, Cincinnati would become the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to abortion services. If another, similarly endangered clinic in Dayton were also shuttered, Southwest Ohio would be entirely without a clinic.

Officials with Planned Parenthood say the state's new laws are about politics, not patient safety.

"Despite what these politicians claim, medical experts have made it clear that these restrictions don’t enhance patient safety — just the opposite," Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio CEO Jerry Lawson said in a statement about the lawsuit. "Politicians in Ohio should be helping more women access health care — not making it harder."

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 09.01.2015 54 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
gay-marriage-rights

Morning News and Stuff

Seelbach won't back executive session amendment; Pendleton affordable housing to get makeover; Rowan County Clerk still not doing her job because liberty

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

First, a man died last night after he was Tased by police in Over-the-Rhine. Cincinnati police responded to the Shell station on Liberty Street after reports the man was trying to rob a woman in a car there. When officers arrived, they say the man would not respond to verbal commands. He was Tased in the chest and detained. He later died from his injuries after going into cardiac arrest. Police rules prohibit Taser shots to the head, neck or chest areas unless officers or bystanders are in immediate danger. Police use of Tasers in Cincinnati has resulted in a number of deaths, including that of Everette Howard, who died after he was Tased by University of Cincinnati police in 2011. After Howard’s death, UC police banned use of Tasers.

UPDATE: In a news conferences about the incident, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said that the deceased, James Carney III, 48, was actively assaulting a woman in a car parked at an ATM. He did not comply and was Tased first in the back and then in the chest. He fell unconscious at that point and had to be removed from the car window. Blackwell has said there is no ATM camera, gas station security camera or body camera footage of the incident. We will update as more information becomes available.

• Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach will not vote again to support an amendment to the city of Cincinnati’s charter that would allow Council to meet in executive session. That’s big news because it leaves supporters of the amendment on Council one vote short of the six votes they need to override Mayor John Cranley’s veto of that amendment. The change to the charter, one of five suggested by the non-partisan Charter Review Task Force, looked like a slam dunk after Council passed it 6-3 last week. Cranley subsequently vetoed the change, but even he admitted it was mostly a symbolic move. The amendment looked to be headed for the November ballot for voters to approve or reject, but now its future is uncertain.

• A number of affordable housing units in Pendleton are getting a $5 million makeover. Five buildings that are part of the eight-building, 40-unit Cutter Apartments will be renovated by new owners Over-the-Rhine Community Housing and Wallick-Hendy Development, who bought the buildings last month. The 32 units are being renovated with help from a city of Cincinnati eight-year property tax exemption and will remain subsidized housing. Federal historic tax credits should also help fund the renovations. The buildings date back as far as the late 1800s.

• Mayor Cranley today announced he will unveil
at a 2 p.m. news conference a paid parental leave policy proposal (phew that’s a lot of alliteration) for city of Cincinnati employees. We'll update with details about that proposal as they're released. Currently, city employees can get up to six weeks of paid maternity leave depending on circumstances. Councilman Chris Seelbach has applauded the move while pointing out he and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson advanced a similar proposal this spring.

“While Councilwoman Simpson and I were excluded from the mayor's discussions and ultimate announcement,” Seelbach said in a post on social media, “I applaud him for coming around to support this important initiative for our workforce.”

• Let’s head south for a minute. The County Clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or really, any couples since the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land earlier this summer is… still refusing to do so because, well, Jesus. County Clerk Kim Davis is standing her ground even after the nation’s highest court yesterday slapped down her request for a stay on a lower court’s decision ordering her to issue the licenses.

Why? Because issuing licenses to two people who love each other and wish to be treated as a legal couple by the state would somehow infringe on Davis’ religious liberty. Yes. A county employee denying rights to someone is an exercise of liberty somehow, according to Davis. You know, if I got a job at Chick Fil-A and then refused to serve people because my religious beliefs said that people shouldn’t eat chicken, I would be fired. Davis should probably also be fired. But that could take a long time as doing so would likely set off a renewed round of legal wrangling.

• Finally, while we’re talking about the Supreme Court, here’s a pretty interesting New Yorker article about some upcoming decisions the court might hand down that could be very dismaying for liberals. Cases on abortion, affirmative action and unions could turn out disappointing for progressives, the article argues, despite big wins for lefties over the summer.

I’m out. Catch me in the twitterverse or put a letter in my ole email box whydontcha?

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 08.31.2015 3 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
todo_cincinnatibeerweek

Morning News and Stuff

Urban League releases study on racial disparities; Kroger to install beer taps, hold tastings; Kasich moves up to third in GOP ranking

Good morning y’all. I’m still super-drowsy from the weekend, which means it was a good one, right? Hope yours was also great. Let’s talk about that news stuff, shall we?

A new report released today from the Greater Cincinnati Urban League highlights what a lot of folks already know, even if they didn’t have the specific numbers in front of them to prove it: The disparities between blacks in Cincinnati and the city as a whole are huge.
The report’s in-depth data further buttresses findings CityBeat published last week in an investigation into the city’s deep racial and economic divides, which you can read here.

The study, called “The State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities” details some of the disturbing realities for residents of the Greater Cincinnati area. According to the report, 76 percent of the city’s 14,000 families in poverty are black. Black men here die an average of 10 years sooner than white men, and black women die an average of six years sooner. The infant mortality rate in Hamilton County for black infants, 18.4 per 1,000, is more than triple that of white infants in the county. Black-owned businesses in Cincinnati are far rarer here than in other cities. We have 6.9 per 1,000 residents. Raleigh, North Carolina, on the other hand, has 18.8 per 1,000. The study is the first of its kind the Greater Cincinnati Urban League has released since 1995, and while it shows that the city has made great strides in police-community relations, it has much work to do in terms of economic segregation.

• Was training on the way for University of Cincinnati police officers that could have prevented the Samuel DuBose shooting? At least some officials with the department think so, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. DuBose was shot in the head and killed July 19 by UC police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing has been indicted on murder charges for the incident after his body camera showed him shooting DuBose with little warning after a routine traffic stop.

The department was in the process of buying new firearms training equipment in the weeks prior to the shooting, officials say. That training equipment could have prevented DuBose’s tragic death, UC Police Chief Jason Goodrich has said. In addition, more changes to training protocols could prevent a similar situation in the future, Goodrich and other UC officials say. These include more thorough monitoring of body camera footage, “contact cards” that better track the demographics of those officers stop and a new data system that tracks officers’ use of force. Records reported by the Enquirer show that UC police have increased their activity around the university campus in recent years, that officers have stopped and ticketed black motorists disproportionately and that officers have drawn their guns more frequently than in the past. Goodrich, however, says that some of that data is more complex than it might first appear — university officers have been called to respond to more felony warrants, which more typically involve drawing a weapon. The university has also increased the number of officers it employs, which has led to an increase in stops overall, officials say.

• In some lighter news, Kroger will begin installing beer taps and holding tasting sessions in some of its regional locations in order to, uh, tap into (ugh sorry) increasing demand for craft and local brews. Among the first stores to get the amenity this fall will be the new, enormous Kroger location in Oakley. The chain’s replacement for its current Corryville location will also get the taps when it opens in 2017.

• If you’re anything like my friends, you’ve probably worn at least one pair of Tom’s shoes in your lifetime. The company promotes a “buy one, donate one” model: For every pair you cop, a pair gets sent to people in a less-fortunate country. Tomorrow, the company’s so-called chief giving officer, Sebastian Fries, will be in town giving a keynote speech on Tom’s social enterprise model at the Cincinnati Museum Center, kicking off the city’s Social Enterprise Week. The series of events, created by Flywheel Cincinnati, is designed to celebrate and promote companies that have a social service dimension to their business model. Several locals involved in social enterprise businesses will join Fries in a panel discussion, and a range of other activities will take place throughout the week. 

• The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber has announced its support Mayor John Cranley’s proposed Cincinnati parks revamp funded by a potential property tax hike. But, uh, they’d rather you don’t try to spark up a joint in a future revamped Burnet Woods. The Chamber has also announced they’re opposing state ballot initiative Issue 3, which is ResponsibleOhio’s proposal to legalize marijuana in Ohio. That proposed constitutional amendment would make it cool in the eyes of the law for anyone 21 and up to smoke weed, but would limit commercial growth of the plant to 10 grow sites across the state owned by the group’s investors. The chamber says it’s concerned about the proposed constitutional amendment’s effect on workplace safety, saying it will negatively impact business’ ability to maintain a drug-free work environment. Both the state marijuana proposal and the county property tax hike will be on the November ballot for voters to approve or reject.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich is moving on up in the GOP presidential primary. D.C. politics publication The Hill ranks Kasich number three on its August list of Republican primary contenders, a serious jump up from his previous spot at number 10 last month. Some polls put Kasich ahead of former Florida governor and presumed frontrunner Jeb Bush in key primary states. Kasich, however, still trails real estate dude and hair piece model Donald Trump, who is somehow lodged in the number one slot in the GOP primary circus sideshow, err, race. Kasich has some big challenges ahead, however, including some staunchly conservative primary states coming up he’ll have to do well in despite the fact many rabid conservatives perceive him as a moderate. Which is pretty weird and terrifying, given the guv’s pretty conservative record in the state.

• Finally, one time this guy from Ohio got a mountain in Alaska named after him right before he even became president. Turns out, that peak would later become the tallest in the country when Alaska became a state in 1959. But President William McKinley never visited Alaska, and the state officially changed the name of Mount McKinley back to its original indigenous moniker, Denali, in 1980. Now the federal government has also announced it will begin officially recognizing the mountain as Denali, not Mount McKinley, which really makes a ton of sense, given that naming it after McKinley was a decision made by some rando adventurer traveling with a couple prospectors who really seems to have done so on a whim. But the change has Ohio lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, all in a huff. Many Republican lawmakers and even Democrat or two in the state have called the renaming a “political stunt” and a “constitutional overreach” by President Barack Obama, because of course they would say that. Meanwhile, there are some who believe that the mountain was named after McKinley in a sublime act of trolling against silver prospectors. McKinley, after all, was running on a platform advocating the gold standard.

That’s it for me. Tweet or email me with news tips or Mount McKinley-inspired rage.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 08.28.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ac_bp_pete rose_

Morning News and Stuff

Study shows kids have more health issues in low-income Cincy neighborhoods; Hamilton County bailiff accused of stealing property during evictions; decision on Rose reinstatement coming by end of year

Good morning all! Hope your Friday is starting off well. It’s gorgeous outside, so maybe cut work a little early if you can, eh?

In the meantime, here’s the news. A new study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center suggests that living in high-poverty areas might lead to more sickness among young children. Hospitalization rates for maladies like bronchitis and pneumonia among young children are very different across Hamilton County, the study found, with children in high-poverty areas making many more hospital trips for such problems than kids in better-off neighborhoods and suburbs. The study tracked hospital visits by census tract and found so-called “hot spots” with high hospitalization rates in low-income inner-city areas. Those areas often correspond with areas that have lower life expectancies and higher infant mortality rates.

The Children’s study illustrates just one of the many consequences of Cincinnati’s deep economic segregation, a set of dynamics we explore in depth in this week’s cover story. If you haven’t already, give it a look.

• This is pretty messed up: A Hamilton County Sheriff’s bailiff has been accused of stealing tenant property during evictions, selling it and pocketing the money. Deputy Bailiff Michael Garvey was arrested yesterday and faces charges of theft in office after officials say he took money and jewelry from the site of an eviction. He later tried to sell the jewelry. He’s currently being held in the Hamilton County Justice Center. Garvey has been a bailiff with Hamilton County for at least eight years.

• The Cincinnati Police Department is adding more officers to street patrols in a number of city neighborhoods starting next month. Twenty-four additional officers will patrol Districts 2 and 4 starting Sept. 13. District 2 includes East Walnut Hills, Evanston, Hyde Park, Madisonville, Pleasant Ridge and other East Side neighborhoods. District 4 includes Mount Auburn, Corryville, Walnut Hills, Avondale and other central neighborhoods. Chief Jeffrey Blackwell called the reassignments “phase two” of a safety plan that began with a 90-day summer initiative designed to curb an increase in gun violence in some city neighborhoods.

• U.S. Senate hopeful and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is going on the offensive against his Democratic primary opponent Ted Strickland, slamming the former Ohio governor yesterday at a news conference on the steps of City Hall for his lack of opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. That project is a contentious oil and gas conduit that would stretch between oil-rich areas in Alberta, Canada and Texas oil refineries. Environmental activists have decried the pipeline’s potential effects on the local environments it will pass through as well as its overall potential to increase oil consumption. President Barack Obama might soon deny a permit to build the pipeline after years of controversy over the project. Strickland earlier this week commented that he wouldn’t weigh in on the “divisive” subject because it didn’t impact Ohio. Sittenfeld has taken issue with that.

“Leaders lead,” Sittenfeld said at the news conference. “They don’t bob and weave and evade and equivocate.”

Sittenfeld also used the 15-minute press event to challenge Strickland to a series of six debates leading up to the Democratic primary. Strickland thus far has not agreed to any public debates between the candidates, probably because he’s in a very strong position and doesn’t need to. Polls show him neck and neck, or even slightly ahead, of incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman, despite Portman having a heavy fundraising advantage. Sittenfeld trails a distant third, and polls show him with little name recognition outside the Cincinnati area. Sittenfeld, however, says the race is still young and that his poll numbers and fundraising are improving.

• Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said yesterday that the MLB will decide by the end of the year whether or not to reinstate Cincinnati Reds hit king Pete Rose into the league, opening up the doors for Rose to be included in the MLB Hall of Fame. Rose was ousted from the league indefinitely in 1989 after an investigation showed he had bet on baseball while he was a manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He denied those allegations for a decade and a half. More recent revelations show Rose may well have bet on the game as early as 1984, while he was still a player-manager. Rose and his supporters argue he’s paid his debt for the wrongdoing and that he deserves to be re-admitted.

• Finally, state lawmakers are continuing to weigh a measure that would bring more accountability, and possibly funding changes, to the state’s charter school system. That system has come under fire lately after criminal investigations into charter school operators and revelations of data manipulation by the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school accountability arm. House Bill 2, which is currently being hashed out by state lawmakers, would put new accountability measures in place. Meanwhile, educational advocates, including the state’s teacher’s union and many local school leaders, are pushing lawmakers to address funding disparities as well. The way charter schools are funded now unfairly siphons money from public schools toward private, sometimes for-profit schools that don’t produce better results, advocates argue. Funding changes aren’t on the table yet for reform legislation, however, and it seems unlikely that the Republican-led Ohio General Assembly will take up suggested changes to the state’s charter funding mechanism.

That’s it for me. Email or tweet at me with news tips or fun stuff to do this weekend. I’m out.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 08.27.2015 7 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cranley veto

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley vetoes secret council meetings; The city racks up late fees; Charter school suddenly closes; Pakistan extradites former Ohio state deputy treasurer

Happy Thursday, Cincy! Better yet, tomorrow's Friday. So here's today's headlines to make the week pass a little quicker. 

• Mayor John Cranley vetoed a Nov. 3 ballot-bound charter yesterday that would allow city council to meet in secret about certain topics, including property sales, the city manager's performance and some economic development deals. The charter amendment ballot initiative was passed by council on Monday with a vote of 6-3, with Councilmembers P.G. Sittenfeld, Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman voting against it. Despite Cranley's veto, the amendment isn't dead. The mayor admits it could very well end up back on the ballot as council appears to have the six votes needed to override his veto. The mayor said he vetoed the amendment allowing Council to use executive session for transparency reasons. The special executive sessions would have been restricted to items like assessing the city manager's performance, buying or selling property, disputes possibly ending up in court, security arrangements and items required to be kept secret by law.  

• Have trouble paying your bills on time? So does the city of Cincinnati! A city audit from January 2014 through July of this year found that taxpayers spent an additional $130,000 from late fees on the city's electrical bills. Taxpayers have been shelling out just under $7,000 on average per month for late fees for the first half of 2015. The city previously escaped Duke Energy's late fees as the company didn't charge them to the the government until a crackdown in 2014. City Manager Harry Black says a fix has reportedly come out of the City's Innovation Lab, but Councilman Kevin Flynn has expressed anger over the fees saying it shouldn't have taken a year to catch. 

Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, the political action committee trying to legalize marijuana, has accused Secretary of State Jon Husted of intentionally putting confusing language on its Nov. 3 ballot initiative. James accused Husted, who opposes the legalization, of using the word "monopoly," which he calls a "loaded term" on the ballot to confuse voters. The term has been floating around the group's initiative a lot, which would enact a constitutional amendment to legalize the plant, but restrict its growth to just 10 commercial farms in the state owned by the PAC's investors. State initiative 3 as of now will read, “Grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.” ResponsibleOhio says it's actually unfair to call it a monopoly when the amendment would allow for 1,150 retail stores that are not operated by investors.

In other weed news, gazing upon ResponsibleOhio's new mascot, Buddie, might make you feel like you've already smoked a couple Js. He has a marijuana bud for a head. Just gonna leave it right here for you to check out. The mascot has caused controversy because critics say he/she/it is too cartoonish and could be viewed as an attempt to entice kids to smoke weed.

• A Columbus charter school has abruptly closed its doors just after the start of the school year leaving 300 students stranded. FCI Academy was suspended by its Toledo sponsor, Education Service Center of Lake Erie West, for mismanagement, but apparently things had been going downhill for the charter school for awhile. The Columbus Dispatch reports that it found the school was keeping afloat for so long by deferring debt, borrowing money and not paying federal withholding and Medicare taxes. The school also received Fs from the state report card on things like graduation rates, gap closing and overall value-added. But despite these setbacks, the school is still determined to keep fighting, according to a note left on the school's locked door in front of its deserted parking lot on Wednesday. In the summer of 2014, FCI Academy laid off 17 employees, and a 2013 state audit showed a $700,000 operating deficit.  

• Former Ohio state deputy treasurer Amer Ahmed has been extradited by Pakistan to the U.S. to begin serving a 15 year sentence for bribery, wire fraud and money laundering. Amer was sentenced to prison by U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson of Columbus late last year. He and three co-conspirators were ordered to pay $3.2 million to the feds. He plead guilty to federal charges in 2013 then fled to Pakistan using fake travel documents. Ahmed served under Democratic state Treasurer Kevin L. Boyce until his defeat in 2010. During his tenure, he devised a plan to direct Ohio state brokerage business to a Canton securities broker. 

• One thing I noticed when I moved to Cincinnati is that people here love their chili.  Cincinnatians flock to the nearest Skyline after a long night of drinking the way the rest of the country flocks to IHOP. So with that, I am truly sorry to report the passing of the final surviving founder of Skyline, William Nicholas “Bill” Lambrinides on Tuesday at the age of 87. Lambrinides worked with his father, Nicolas, a Greek immigrant, and his two brothers, Lambert, Jim, Christie and John to open the first restaurant in 1949. The store has since grown to 110 locations to bring late-night happiness to folks in four states.

That's it for today! Email me with story tips!

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 08.26.2015 8 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Naming rights for streetcar up for grabs; activists demand more community involvement in UC reforms; Columbus Dispatch demands charter school public records

Hey all. Here’s a brief rundown of the news this morning.

So, do you want to see your name written really big on something attention-grabbing and controversial that will zoom around downtown most of the day and night? Do you have hundreds of thousands of dollars you’re not quite sure what to do with? Here’s an idea: buy some naming rights to the streetcar. Officials with the newly-created Cincinnati Street Railway, a nonprofit promoting the streetcar, are reaching out to marketing firms to help design advertising packages for corporate sponsors for the project. Similar marketing pushes in other cities with streetcars have netted millions in advertising revenues to go toward operation of the transit systems. Locally, some officials say the naming rights could net as much as $250,000 a year, though others say the project’s controversial nature makes it uncertain if big local corporations will want to put their names on it. A suggestion: maybe reach out to deep-pocketed, eccentric megalomaniacs? Perhaps Donald Trump will want to raise his profile here in town next year? What could be better than seeing The Donald’s giant face careening toward you on the front of a streetcar as you spend time in OTR just before the election? Though, hm, come to think of it, streetcar supporters may not be his target demographic.

• I’m not sure this is much news to anyone, but I’m going to say it anyway. We have an amazing library system here in Hamilton County. From its Maker Space to its innovative programming and events to the sheer amount of material available to check out, we have a rare thing here. And the numbers show it. Last year, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was the fifth-busiest library in the country, checking out more than 18 million items, according to data from the Public Library Association. Now, granted, at least a couple hundred of these check-outs were me borrowing the library’s DVD copies of the Bill and Ted movies, but still. Pretty impressive. The library moved up a spot on the ranking from 2013, when it was the sixth-busiest in the country. More than 600,000 people have library cards with the system. Not bad for the country’s 28th-biggest metropolitan area.

• Local faith leaders and activists are demanding more community involvement in changes the University of Cincinnati is undertaking in the wake of the Samuel DuBose shooting. Dubose was killed last month by UC police officer Ray Tensing after a routine traffic stop. Since that time, the university has vowed reform of its police department, including adjustments to off-campus patrols and joining in on the city’s collaborative agreement, which Cincinnati Police Department already abides by. That agreement was drawn up after the police shooting death of Timothy Thomas in 2001 caused days of civil unrest in Cincinnati. Activists and faith leaders are asking that UC compensate the DuBose family for his death, as well as submit to an external investigation into the school’s policing practices. A group including community activist Iris Roley, University of Cincinnati activist Alexander Shelton, Bishop Bobby Hilton, Pastor KZ Smith and others met with UC officials yesterday in a private meeting later described by Shelton as “tense” at times. UC President Santa Ono and newly-hired Vice President of Safety and Reform Robin Engel were among representatives for the university.

• Damn. Here’s the Columbus Dispatch throwing down about charter school transparency. In an editorial published today, the paper slams state officials for not releasing documents about the Ohio Board of Education’s omission of some data on poor-performing online charter schools in the state. The failure to include that data in reports about charter school performance led to an inflated evaluation for at least one organization that sponsors charters in the state. ODE official David Hansen was responsible for that data collection. He resigned following revelations of the omissions. His wife, incidentally, heads Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign. He’s a big, big supporter of charters in the state. The Dispatch, along with a number of other publications, has filed numerous public records requests for documents about the decision to withhold the less-than-flattering charter data, according to the editorial. And now they’re getting tired of waiting, it seems.

“If state Superintendent of Education Richard Ross is not covering up something embarrassing or illegal at the Ohio Department of Education, his recent actions aren’t helping his credibility,” the piece begins.

• Let’s circle back around to Donald Trump, since he’s leading national GOP presidential primary polls, and it seems like the whole world is kinda revolving around his circus of a campaign at the moment. The Donald  may well have taken it upon himself to offend Spanish-speaking Americans as much as possible lately, which is a questionable campaign strategy at best. In the past, Trump hasn’t done himself any favors with this large portion of the American population, describing Mexicans immigrants as "rapists" and criminals. But in true Trump fashion, he’s taken it a step further. Yesterday, he had Spanish-language news station Univision's lead anchor Jorge Ramos physically removed from a news conference for asking a question out of turn. He eventually let Ramos back in, but the exchange was heated, awkward and really just a bad idea all around. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists fired off a statement last night condemning Trump for the confrontation. Spanish-language media has covered Trump more extensively than mainstream media because the leading GOP contender keeps talking about his immigrant plan, which includes building a wall along the southern border and ending birthright citizenship.

That’s it for me. See ya tomorrow.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 08.25.2015 9 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council private meeting amendment to go on November ballot; no more camping out for magnet school enrollment; former CPD captain in pro-weed ad

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Cincinnati City Council yesterday moved along at least one charter amendment proposal, putting it on the November ballot for voters to approve. That amendment would clarify when council can meet in executive session, away from the staring eyes of the public. Ohio state law allows some use of executive session for municipal governments, and the charter amendment proposed would specify limited times when council could get together for discussions behind closed doors. Those include discussions about certain sensitive property transactions, ongoing court cases, security measures for city facilities and personnel, certain information about development deals and some discussions about the city manager’s job.

The Charter Review Committee, a group charged with suggesting changes to the city’s governing document, had suggested four other amendments. At least one of those, a measure that would clarify how long the mayor has to refer legislation to council committees, seems to have died on the vine. While it sounds arcane, the issue has big, contentious implications. The mayor’s ability to hold on to legislation amounts to a so-called “pocket veto,” critics on council claim, or a way for the mayor to effectively kill council actions he doesn’t like. Mayor Mark Mallory used this power more than 200 times during his time as mayor. Cranley is opposed to the amendment, but he also claims that the pocket veto isn’t a real thing. Some council members agree, saying that the mayor clinging on to legislation could be challenged in court. One thing is clear, however: an amendment won’t clear up the issue. Advocates for the measure fell one short of the six council votes needed to put the amendment on the November ballot.  

Other amendments, including one that would give council the power to fire the city manager, are hanging in there and might be considered next week, just short of the deadline to get the proposals on the November ballot.

• In other council news, a new tax levy for parks improvement will also go on the upcoming ballot. The property tax boost of 1 mill would mean that owners of a $100,000 home would pay about $35 extra a year. Council’s vote is somewhat symbolic. Organizers of a petition drive collected enough signatures throughout the city to put the initiative up before voters. If voters approve the measure, it would raise about $5 million a year. About $1.25 million of that would go toward park maintenance. The rest would go to new projects decided by the mayor and the park board. Parks funding has been cut in half in the last decade and a half, Cranley has noted.

• A long-held tradition for Cincinnati parents is over, at least for now. Folks in the Cincinnati Public School district looking to get their kids into magnets like the Fairview German Language School will no longer be able to sign up on a first-come, first-served basis, but instead will be entered into a lottery system. That will eliminate the yearly camp-outs that parents undertake as they wait to sign their children up for those schools. CPS has cited fairness and safety concerns for ending the first-come, first-served practice. Last year’s camp out lasted 16 days. Enrollment for CPS’ high-demand magnet schools has several tiers. First are priority students who already have a sibling attending the school. Then a number of seats are set aside for students whose nearby schools are among the district’s lowest performers, an effort to offer those students a chance at a better education. The rest have been up for grabs. Until now, seat availability was through the first-come, first-served approach. Now, a computer will randomly choose who gets to enroll.

• City officials and business leaders yesterday launched Union Hall, a facility in Over-the-Rhine that is touted as a one stop shop for entrepreneurs looking for help in launching start-ups. The site on Vine Street houses startup incubator The Brandery, Cintrifuse and CincyTech, all of which are aimed at helping get startups off the ground. The historic building, which has been a brewery, night club and speakeasy, will house about 100 employees.

• A former Cincinnati Police captain is appearing in an ad advocating for legalized marijuana. Retired Capt. Howard Rahtz, a member of a marijuana policy task force led by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, is seen in the commercials supporting ResponsibleOhio’s legalization effort arguing that the state’s marijuana laws don’t work and that it’s time to reform them. Rahtz touts his time as a Cincinnati police officer, saying he learned a great deal about drug addiction during his service. Opponents of the ResponsibleOhio measure, which would legalize marijuana for anyone over the age of 21, but restrict commercial growth to 10 sites across the state, say they’ll be airing their own commercials. Groups like Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies say ResponsibleOhio’s plan amounts to an unfair monopoly that will only benefit the group’s rich investors.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 08.24.2015 10 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pollution

Morning News and Stuff

Historic King Records site endangered; 'Nati air quality is nasty; Deez Nuts endorses Gov. Kasich

Good morning y’all. Hope your weekend was as fantastic as mine was. Yesterday I finally made it down to the Taft Museum to check out their exhibition of Edward Curtis photographs. Curtis spent 30 years in the early part of the 1900s photographing Native American tribes across the West. His work is technically stunning and in some ways, pretty problematic, contributing to some stereotypes and perceptions of Native peoples as a “vanishing race” living bygone lifestyles. The exhibit is interesting— the photographs are beautiful and the underlying questions they bring up are worth wrestling with.

Anyway, this isn’t morning art blabbering, it’s morning news. So let’s talk news, eh? The thing that caught my eye around town today is this story about the former King Records site in Evanston. I’ve been hearing buzz that part of it might be in danger, and turns out that may be true. The owner of one of the buildings at the historic site, which hosted early recording sessions by James Brown and a number of other significant musicians, has applied for a permit to demolish the structure. That’s led to an outcry from historic preservationists, music historians and general boosters for Cincinnati. The city’s planning commission Friday declared the site a local historic landmark, echoing a similar declaration by the city’s Historic Conservation Board. City Council has to give final approval to the designation, which it could do next month. In the meantime, the owner’s demolition permit application is on hold. Will the city be able to save this historic landmark, which could cost up to half a million dollars to stabilize? We’ll see.

• Stressed about pollution? Take a deep breath. Or maybe, uh, don’t. A new report says Cincinnati is among the worst cities in the country when it comes to air quality. Website 24/7 Wall St. analyzed air quality data from the American Lung Association and determined that the Greater Cincinnati metropolitan area is the eighth worst in the country for air pollution. The report compares the area to California’s central valley region, which landed seven cities in the bottom 10 of the air quality list. Like that region, Cincinnati is in a valley and has fairly high traffic volumes. But that’s not the only culprit here: coal plants play a big role in air pollution around Cincinnati, the ALA suggests. Take heart, though. We’re not the only Ohio city on the list. Cleveland came in at number 10 in the most polluted air ranking.

• So there’s a new interchange going in on I-71 into Walnut Hills and Avondale, and the State of Ohio has purchased millions in property near the future on and off ramps. Specifically, the state has spent nearly $4 million on 83 parcels of land around the project. When all is said and done, the state will have purchased 140 pieces of property, officials say. That’s part of a bigger land-buying frenzy in the historically low-income neighborhoods. The $106 million interchange looks likely to change the face of the area around Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Reading Road, with new development featuring a proposed tech corridor and other big developments. We first reported on the interchange last year. Stay tuned for more updates on how the development will affect Avondale, Corryville and Walnut Hills.

• Here’s your daily dose of Kasich news: does the Ohio governor and GOP presidential hopeful talk straight on the campaign trail when it comes to Ohio’s economy? Not quite, according to some fact checkers.  A recent Washington Post article dug into some of Kasich’s favorite claims about his role in Ohio’s economic recovery and issued one and two-pinocchio ratings (some shading of the facts and significant omissions/exaggerations, respectively) about his claims. Kasich’s claim that Ohio was “$8 billion in the hole” when he took office, for instance, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, according to the Post article. The state’s actual budget for the year Kasich took office saw significant revenue increases from an economic recovery that began before Kasich’s term, leading to significantly less shortfall than Kasich’s claim.

• Speaking of Kasich, we live in a world where I can say the following and it’s not just some vulgar joke I would text to my friends but actual (debatable) news: Deez Nuts has endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the GOP presidential primary. Deez Nuts is the name assumed by a 15-year-old Iowa farm boy who somehow raked in 9 percent of the vote in a recent poll of that primary state. Mr. Nuts has also endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. He is of course endorsing himself for the general election.

• Finally, in other GOP primary news, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was in Ohio recently courting the tea party and the Koch Brothers at the billionaire industrialists' Americans for Prosperity Summit. Bush promised to uphold the staunch conservative values of slashing government spending and you know, making it easier for rich folks to get richer at the summit. The event in Columbus drew a big group of conservative activists as well as a large number of protesters.

That’s it for me today. E-mail me your news tips or tweet at me with, well, whatever you want.

 
 
 
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