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by Nick Swartsell 07.23.2015 73 days ago
Posted In: News, Police at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Protesters Demand Deters Release Dubose Shooting Video

Family, friends demand transparency in investigation of police-involved shooting

A group of about 30 gathered outside Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters' office today to demand release of tapes showing events that led up to the death of Samuel Dubose, who was shot and killed by University of Cincinnati Police July 19 in Mount Auburn following a traffic stop for a missing front license plate. Many of those attending were family or friends of Dubose.

"We are not going away," said his cousin, Ebony Johnson, as she stood outside the prosecutor's office with a license plate. "We are not going anywhere until we get satisfaction and our cousin can rest in peace. I'm sure he's not at rest, because we're not at rest. The sooner this investigation is done and justice is served, we can rest and you won't hear any more from the Dubose family."

The Cincinnati Police Department has finished its probe into the shooting, but Deters says he’ll hold much of that evidence, including multiple videos of the incident, not releasing it to the public despite public records requests from local media, including CityBeat. University of Cincinnati officials indicated a willingness to release those videos during a news conference yesterday, but Deters says making that evidence public would jeopardize the chances of a fair trial for the officer involved, should charges be brought against him. Deters released a statement soon after the protest saying the law is on his side.

"If you do not want to look at the law and just use your common sense, it should be clear why we are not releasing the video only a few days after the incident occurred," the statement said. "We need time to look at everything and do a complete investigation so that the community is satisfied that we did a thorough job. The Grand Jury has not seen the video yet and we do not want to taint the Grand Jury process.  The video will be released at some point -- just not right now.”

Deters plans to wrap up his investigation sometime next week and present his findings to a grand jury. University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing shot and killed 43-year-old Dubose after a traffic stop initiated because Dubose didn’t have a front license plate. Dubose was driving on a suspended license. According to the official police line of events, Dubose struggled with Tensing over his car door and attempted to drive away. Tensing shot him at that point and then fell to the ground, sustaining minor injuries from Dubose’s car, officials say. Since that time, information has trickled out about the killing, though not nearly enough for Dubose’s family, friends and activists who have staged a number of protests demanding answers about the death of Dubose, who was the father of 13 children.

Protesters outside the Hamilton County Prosecutor's office demand release of evidence in Samuel Dubose shooting
Nick Swartsell

Nygel Miller says he was a friend of Samuel Dubose's from childhood. "We want justice," Miller says. "We want the release of those tapes. We want the officer charged. We want him removed from his duties. We want the officer to be talked about the way our young black men have been spoken about by this prosecutor."

Recently, Deters has been embroiled in controversy over his statements calling people his office prosecutes “soulless” and “thugs" after unrest on July 4 that resulted in items being thrown at police officers and the beating of an Indiana man by several men near Fountain Square.

Meanwhile, protests around Dubose's death have been peaceful so far. But tension is mounting, some say, fueled by distrust in a grand jury system that has failed to indict several officers who have shot unarmed black men in places like Ferguson, Mo. and Beavercreek, Ohio. The tension has an especially profound history in Cincinnati, which suffered days of civil unrest following the 2001 police shooting of unarmed Timothy Thomas. Though Cincinnati Police have undergone reforms since that time, instituting a nationally renowned plan called the Collaborative Agreement, pain remains here. Thirty-one people have died at the hands of police since 2000 in Cincinnati, including three high-profile deaths this year.

"I'm not sure I can continue to hold the anger down," said State Sen. Cecil Thomas, who evoked memories of 2001 at the rally today. "I'm urging him. Release the tapes and let the evidence speak for itself. ... We need that to bring the beginning of some closure to the family."

Thomas pointed to cases in places like Beavercreek, where John Crawford III was shot in a Walmart by Beavercreek police Aug 5, 2014. Officials refused to release security tapes of the incident for months afterward, though the Crawford family and their attorneys were allowed to view them. A grand jury convened by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine declined to indict Crawford's shooter, Officer Sean Williams. Thomas said that, given those events, it's hard for some in the community to believe justice will be served in Dubose's case.

"We want to make sure that the grand jury sees those tapes, unedited," Thomas said. "Right now there's a tremendous amount of distrust as to whether they're going to do the right thing. The prosecutor that was dealing with the Beavercreek situation was assigned from this office here. That begs the question — will this same prosecutor be assigned here if there is an indictment? We have to keep the pressure on, but we're going to be peaceful."
by Nick Swartsell 07.23.2015 73 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Deters won't release video in police shooting of Samuel Dubose; Graeter's flavor named among nation's best; Kasich flops on Facebook

Hey y’all. I’ve had the past couple mornings off, so my morning news output has been slacking. But I’m back with a big bunch of stuff to tell you about. Here we go.

Much of the news today is about the police shooting death of Samuel Dubose. CityBeat has been following this incident from the beginning. You can find our story on Dubose and his death here. An investigation into Dubose's killing is already finished after just a couple days, but you and I can’t see the evidence yet. The Cincinnati Police Department has finished its probe into the shooting, but Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has said he’ll hold much of that evidence, including multiple videos of the incident, not releasing it to the public despite public records requests from local media, including CityBeat. University of Cincinnati officials indicated a willingness to release those videos during a news conference yesterday, but Deters says making that evidence public would jeopardize the chances of a fair trial for the officer involved should charges be brought against him. CityBeat will continue to push for the release of the evidence in question.

Deters, who has been embroiled in recent controversy over his statements calling people his office prosecutes “soulless” and “thugs,” plans to wrap up his investigation sometime next week and present his findings to a grand jury. University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing shot and killed 43-year-old Dubose in Mount Auburn July 19 after a traffic stop initiated because Dubose didn’t have a front license plate. Dubose was driving on a suspended license. According to the official police line of events, Dubose struggled with Tensing over his car door and attempted to drive away. Tensing shot him at that point and then fell to the ground, sustaining minor injuries from Dubose’s car, officials say. Since that time, information has trickled out about the killing, though not nearly enough for Dubose’s family, friends and activists who have staged a number of protests demanding answers about the father of thirteen’s death. The next is scheduled for 11 a.m. today outside Deters’ office downtown.

• Meanwhile, the university is mulling whether its police force should join the city’s collaborative agreement, a federally enforced community-police relations plan put in place after the city’s civil unrest in 2001 over the police shooting death of unarmed Timothy Thomas. That and possibly other reforms are moves the city of Cincinnati supports. UC will review training for its law enforcement officers as a result of the shooting, officials say. The university and the city will also form a committee on community-police relations, which will include city and university officials as well as other police use of force experts like State Senator Cecil Thomas, a former police officer and one of many people who helped push the city’s 2001 agreement.

“We have learned over a long period of time — having made our own mistakes — a pullover related to a license plate should not, in the normal course of events, lead to lethal force,” Mayor John Cranley said at a joint news conference with UC President Santa Ono yesterday. “Therefore, reform is in order.”

The rest of the news today, in short order:

• An all-day tech conference is happening today in Cincy. NewCo Cincinnati features presentations from 50 big names in the local and national start-up and technology industries, including everything from breweries to Procter & Gamble. The unique part of the conference: Attendees go to the businesses, spending time touring their facilities and checking out where the magic happens. The conference is global in scale: 15 events are taking place in cities like New York City, Istanbul and Austin, Texas.

• Cincinnati’s own Graeter’s Ice Cream flavor Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip has been named one of the Top 5 flavors in America by the Food Network. Breaking news: It’s pretty good. I still evangelize for Aglemesis Bros. over Graeter’s, but I’m happy to see the other rad ice cream company in town get some national props.

• So a 19-year-old named Justin Buchannan jumped onto the field at yesterday’s Reds game against the Cubs, filmed himself trying to say hi to the players, jumped over a fence and escaped. That’s pretty epic. He totally made it all the way back to his home in Indiana, too, and probably would never have been caught except he tweeted his video and agreed to interviews on local news. But he says it was worth it and he’s kind of OK with whatever trouble he may be in. That’s the spirit.

• Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday finally officially announced he’s running for president. Want to know more about the GOP hopeful’s record? His long, often controversial policy experience when it comes to education is a good place to start, maybe. Here’s a pretty handy rundown of what Kasich has done for (or, depending on who you talk with, to) public education in Ohio.

• Meanwhile, did Kasich make enough of a splash with his announcement to get a much-needed boost to his national profile? Well, there were a bunch of articles in national media about how Kasich could be a contender if only he could get more attention nationally, which is kind of a weird way to frame giving him more national attention. But the gov kinda flopped on social media, which is where all political decisions are made these days. Kasich stirred up about 261,000 interactions of Facebook in the day following his announcement. Compare that to Donald Trump, another GOP presidential contender (and god help us, he’s the front runner in some polls). Trump’s announcement that he was running for president got 6.4 million interactions on the social media site. Another favorite, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, rustled up 1.6 million interactions. Advice for Kasich: Either get an outlandish hairpiece and make disparaging remarks about protesters and war heroes, or post a lot more cat videos.

by Nick Swartsell 07.20.2015 76 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

UC police-involved shooting in Mount Auburn; Cranley suggests scrapping Central Parkway bike lane; Kasich group releases political ad

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

An unidentified University of Cincinnati police officer shot and killed 43-year-old Sam Dubose during a traffic stop at the corner of Rice and Valencia streets in Mount Auburn around 6:30 p.m. yesterday. Dubose, who has been identified by his family but not yet by law enforcement officials, died in his car from a single gunshot wound to the head. UC police say Dubose dragged an officer with his car before he was shot, resulting in minor injuries to the officer. The corner where Dubose was shot is about half a mile from UC’s campus. Cincinnati Police were subsequently called to the scene to investigate. We’ve made public records requests to both departments. So far, CPD has released only the initial incident report. We’ll update this story as we find out more.

• Mayor John Cranley on Friday suggested that the city “scrap” its Central Parkway bike lane in response to accidents that have occurred on the major downtown thoroughfare. Cranley called the lane a “disaster” that should be removed, pointing to confusion over parking on the street and ire from local business. The bike lane was completed last year after controversy from a few business owners along the route, who said the lane would take away their customers’ parking. A compromise was worked out to preserve much of that parking, but now lane opponents say the way cars must park on the route — in the parkway’s right lane, between traffic and the bike lane — has caused more accidents. A WLWT report says 33 automotive accidents have happened on the parkway since May. It says that multiple times, in fact, without revealing how many of those accidents were directly related to confusion over the lane. In a pretty befuddling oversight, it also doesn’t mention how many accidents happened during the same stretch of time before the lane went in. Hey, a bunch of accidents (way more accidents) happen on the nearby stretch of I-75. We’d better remove that as well. It’s unclear how many, if any, accidents involved cyclists. Cincinnati City Council approved the lanes before Cranley was elected, and a majority of council still stands behind the project. Personally, I have a better idea: If you’re driving your car on Central Parkway, pay attention to the road and don’t run into other cars.

• The University of Cincinnati might soon spend more than $70 million to renovate its Fifth Third Arena, according to plans released last week. The 26-year-old facility houses the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the women’s volleyball team and other athletic groups. The plans call for a reduction in the more than 13,000 seats now in the building and the creation of more premium, high-price seating like the 16 private suites the arena currently boasts. University officials say they haven’t made a decision about whether or not to carry out the renovations because they’re waiting on more information about the potential project.

• David Hansen, the Ohio Department of Education official responsible for the oversight of charter school sponsors has stepped down. Hansen resigned from his position after it was revealed last week that he omitted data from low-scoring online charter schools in reports about charter school sponsor performance in order to make charters look better. The reports possibly set up two charter sponsors run by Republican donors for more financial help from the state. Hansen has said he felt the poor performance data from the online charters “masked” better performance by other charter schools in the state.

• Well, Gov. John Kasich will announce that he’s seeking the GOP nomination for president tomorrow, which should come as no surprise to anyone, since he’s been campaigning for months. The timing is designed to give Kasich the biggest bump possible ahead of selection of the Republican contenders who will be invited to the party’s first debate in Cleveland later this year. Only the 10 highest-polling candidates will be invited to the debate, and there are (depending on who you ask) anywhere between 16 and several thousand people running for the GOP nod.

Ahead of his announcement, New Day for America, the nonprofit associated with Kasich’s almost-campaign, has released its first ad touting Kasich’s conservative record. There’s a minute-long version of the spot and a longer,

Read More

by Nick Swartsell 07.17.2015 79 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Toby Keith didn't love this bar that much; jilted Trump still hating on Macy's; DeWine to investigate Planned Parenthood

Good morning all. Here’s your news today.

Well, Toby Keith says his favorite bar has winners and losers, but it seems like Mr. Keith himself is on the losing end lately. The country star’s Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill location at The Banks was shuttered suddenly yesterday, reportedly due to being a year behind on its rent. That’s the fifth Toby Keith’s location to close recently; the chain’s Minneapolis, Houston, Mesa, Ariz. and Folsom, CA locations have also shut down. The bar is the fourth closure at Cincinnati’s highly-touted riverfront development, which has taken more than a decade to materialize. Last year, soul food restaurant Mahogany’s closed there with much controversy and original tenant Johnny Rockets has also pulled out of the development. Representatives with Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc., which handles leasing for the development, say they’re confident another tenant will fill the space in short order. Mahogany’s location is now filled with Santo Graal, while the Johnny Rocket’s location has yet to be filled.

• If you’re holding your breath that some how, some way, a new morgue and crime lab could still come to the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital, well, you can breathe now because it ain't gonna happen. Crews began tearing down the building yesterday. The hospital group had made efforts to donate the building to Hamilton County after closing the location in 2013. But after paying more than $1 million in upkeep costs for the building, Republican Hamilton County commissioners balked at the cost of retrofitting the facility to house the county’s critically-overcrowded crime lab, morgue and other county offices. Political considerations also played a part — Democrats, including commissioner Todd Portune, were opposed to a proposal that would have put the county’s board of elections at the location, saying it was too far removed from the neighborhoods were many low-income, non-driving voters lived. Mercy will hold onto the vacant land the hospital has occupied for now until it finds a suitable buyer.

• Breaking news: Donald Trump still doesn’t like Macy’s. After the GOP presidential nomination contender last month made some pretty racist comments about Mexicans, equating immigrants to rapists and murderers, Macy’s ceased carrying his line of paisley-infected menswear. Trump at the time said Macy’s didn’t account for much of his sales anyway, and that he wanted to pull out from the store. But that wasn’t enough, apparently. Trump has continued to dump on the Cincinnati-based retailer, saying they “suck and are bad for America.” Trump also revealed he was friends with Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren and felt personally betrayed by the department store’s decision. But wait, didn’t Trump say he decided to leave? Welcome to the wacky world of the Donald, who is currently one of the top-polling picks for the GOP presidential nomination. Pop up some popcorn because I could sit back and watch this feud between the megalomaniacal real estate tycoon and big old corporate entity all day. It’s like Godzilla vs. Mothra, only Godzilla had better hair than Trump does.

• I told you yesterday about the recent controversy over some low-scoring online charter schools left out of a report on the effectiveness of Ohio’s charter school authorization groups, a move that seems to have broken Ohio law. Republican State Auditor Dave Yost has since said he’s “concerned” about that omission and is examining the situation, but is not yet launching an official investigation. The groups measured in the study oversee charter schools across the state. The Ohio Department of Education’s Director of Quality School Choice and Funding David J. Hansen is responsible for the oversight, which left a number of online charter schools with “F” grades on state performance rankings out of a consideration of charter school performance. Hansen, incidentally, used to helm a pro-charter conservative education think tank called Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. He’s also the husband of Kasich’s presidential campaign manager, Beth Hansen. It’s unclear when or if an official state investigation into the omission will begin.

• A new law signed yesterday by Gov. John Kasich takes some restrictions off the drug naloxone, allowing the medicine to be more quickly and easily administered to heroin overdose victims. The new rules allow doctors to give the drug to individuals who can administer it to friends or family having an overdose. It also relaxes rules on pharmacies, who can now distribute it without a prescription in certain cases.

• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced he will investigate Ohio Planned Parenthood clinics after a video came to light earlier this week allegedly showing a high-level member of that organization talking about organs from aborted fetuses. A California-based conservative group says it posed as organ buyers and that the official, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, is shown discussing the sale of organs from fetuses. That’s illegal, though not-for-profit donation of organs with a woman’s permission is allowed in many states.. Planned Parenthood says that’s exactly what is going on in the video. Dr. Nucatola is heard at one point in the video saying, “nobody should be selling tissue. That’s just not the goal here.” Republican lawmakers in D.C. and a number of states have jumped on the video, calling it disgusting and demanding all public funding be stripped from Planned Parenthood. Despite denials of wrongdoing, Planned Parenthood did apologize for Nucatola’s tone and statements in the video, saying they didn’t reflect the organization’s goal of providing compassionate care. The group says Nucatola has been ‘reprimanded” for her statements. Though the video wasn’t filmed in Ohio, DeWine has vowed to investigate Planned Parenthood in the state to make sure they’re following all laws related to handling of fetal tissue.

That’s it for me today. Tweet at me or e-mail with suggestions for the best summer swimming spots. It’s getting hot out there.

by Nick Swartsell 07.16.2015 80 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
news pendleton

Morning News and Stuff

City to scrutinize minority contracts in wake of Evans investigation; grownups ride big wheels through Pendleton; Kasich campaign group hires pro-gay GOP group leader

Good morning Cincy. Here’s what’s up in the news today.

The city of Cincinnati is instituting new measures to vet minority-owned businesses in the wake of a federal investigation of Evans Landscaping, which is suspected of minority hiring fraud. Evans subcontracted to minority-owned Ergon Site Construction LLC for $1.9 million in demolition contracts with the city and more than $8 million in state contracts meant for minority-owned businesses. Lawsuits between the two companies have drawn scrutiny as to whether Evans was using Ergon as a “front” company to funnel contracts meant for minority-owned businesses to Evans. Ergon was formed in 2010 by an Evans IT consultant. Now, the city says it will better scrutinize the minority contracts it awards to make sure the minority-owned businesses it is awarding contracts to aren’t just fronts for larger companies.

• Kokosing Construction Company has been fined for its role in the fatal overpass collapse near I-75 that took the life of worker Brandon Carl in January. The out-of-service overpass was being demolished when it collapsed, killing Carl. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigated that accident and found that Kokosing didn’t do enough to inspect the overpass before placing heavy machinery on it that it could not support. OSHA has suggested $14,000 in fines against the company, which Kokosing has agreed to pay. The company will also utilize third-party firms to perform inspections over the next five years as part of the deal with OSHA.

• We’ve officially moved beyond adult kickball leagues as the vanguard of urban young professional weirdness. Adults on bigwheels are coming to Pendleton, the neighborhood just north of the Horseshoe Casino and just east of Over-the-Rhine. An event called Danger Wheel will take place this Saturday and involves 45 big wheel teams racing down the neighborhood’s streets. Each team paid $100 to be in the race, money that will be used to put up historical markers and planters around the neighborhood. Local brews, food trucks and music will also be on site for spectators. Question: Are the bigwheels standardized, or like, can someone come in with a souped-up super big wheel that runs on nitrous oxide and just take the whole thing?

• City Hall has a new assistant city manager, and unlike other recent big hires, he’s been promoted from within. John Juech is currently a senior policy advisor for City Manager Harry Black. Before that, he managed Vice Mayor David Mann’s office. The city’s other assistant city manager, Sheila Hill-Christian, is also new. She started in May. The duo replace outgoing Assistant City Manager Scott Stiles, who is departing to become city manager of Garden Grove, California, and Bill Moller, who departed his role for a job with the Uptown Consortium.

• Lawmakers filed a bipartisan bill in the Ohio House today that would abolish Ohio’s death penalty and replace it with a life without parole sentence. Lakewood Democrat Rep. Nickle Antonio and Miamisburg Republican Niraj Antani sponsored the bill. They argue high cost, moral problems and difficulty obtaining execution drugs are reasons why Ohio should stop executing inmates. This is the third time Antonio has filed the bill, and it’s unclear if it has better prospects among other lawmakers this time around. Antani says it’s an issue of limiting big government. “To me there can be no bigger government with no bigger power than the right to execute its own citizens," he said. "Even the chance that an innocent individual can be put to death is reason enough to repeal that."  

• Marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio received a final clearance to circulate petitions for a proposed law that would expunge certain drug convictions. The proposal, which needs about 92,000 signatures from Ohioans to come before the state legislature, would be a companion piece to the group’s marijuana legalization constitutional amendment, for which the group has collected more than 700,000 signatures across the state. Should at least 300,000 of those signatures prove valid, ResponsibleOhio’s proposal will go onto the November ballot. The group is proposing legalizing marijuana for anyone 21 and over but limiting commercial growth of the crop to 10 grow sites around the state controlled by the group’s investors. Should ResponsibleOhio get enough signatures for its companion expungement law, it will go before lawmakers next year.

• A group closely allied with Gov. John Kasich’s campaign has hired Matt David, a leader of a prominent pro-gay GOP group. David will work for New Day for America, a nonprofit supporting Kasich’s bid for president. In the past, David occupied a leadership role with Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, a pro-marriage equality group. Kasich has opposed gay marriage rights, but David’s hire could mean Kasich will attempt to make inroads into the LGBT community. Not that New Day for America’s new hire is a liberal: David worked on George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004 and John McCain’s presidential run in 2008. The staffing decision comes as Kasich gears up for his official campaign launch next week.

by Nick Swartsell 07.15.2015 81 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
joe deters

Morning News and Stuff

Deters: no hate crime charges for July 4 incident; Ohio Department of Education omitted failing charter school data; Obama announces initiative to provide broadband to low-income communities

Hey hey all. Our big, extended weekend basking in the MLB All-Star Game spotlight is over, and it seems like the city represented well. Our guy won the home run derby, we’ve got columnists expounding on the virtues of Cincinnati chili (and giving shoutouts to CityBeat) and even though the American League won the game, it was still a pretty fun time. Well done. But now it’s done.

The national media, hungover and chili-bloated, are packing up their gear. Snoop Dogg and the other A-listers have all gone home, or, more likely, to the super-exclusive ASG after party on a small island in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, a group of confused tourists is waking up after an all-night bender on a raft in the Ohio River composed entirely of a flotilla of thousands of discarded Red Bull cans and foam fingers. Someone get them out of there. All that means it’s back to the real world in Cincy. Here’s the news.

• Law enforcement and city officials say they’re pleased with how the ASG went down, with no violent incidents reported during the festivities. There was concern in the city after a July 4 incident on Fountain Square resulted in several arrests and an altercation left a man hospitalized, but city officials say the ASG, which drew an estimated 200,000 people to the city, went off without a hitch. The Cincinnati Police Department credits coordination among more than 25 organizations, including the Coast Guard, which helped patrol the Ohio River.

• Speaking of that July 4 incident, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced yesterday that his office would not be seeking hate crime charges against a group of men who allegedly beat 27-year-old Indiana man Christopher McKnight. McKnight is white, and his assailants were black. But Deters points out that there is no other evidence suggesting the crime was racially motivated. Deters has said he’ll be seeking felony charges against the four men suspected in the beating, calling them “a bunch of lawless thugs.” A video showing the altercation presents an ambiguous and incomplete record of the attack: It starts with one man fighting McKnight, followed by a few others jumping in as well while punching and kicking McKnight. At various times, McKnight is on the ground on the defensive, other times seemingly throwing punches, and at one point up moving around and raising his arms in a confrontational manner. Eventually, the action moves off-camera, where McKnight apparently sustained a broken nose, a concussion and wounds requiring stitches.

• The 19-year-old who turfed internationally recognized historic site and sacred Native American earthwork Serpent Mound will face a fine of about $4,000, community service, and a possible essay assignment about the site’s significance. Daniel Coleman Dargavelli hopped a curb and took a joyride over the site, leaving tire tracks along the ancient mound. Park officials say the damage is repairable but that the act showed serious disrespect for the sacred location.

• Did the Ohio Department of Education break the law by leaving out failing scores from online charter schools in an assessment of Ohio charter school performance? It seems so. The department’s charter school oversight director David Hansen admitted he omitted “F” grades for online charters from a report on charter school oversight. That report then showed charter schools and the organizations charged with overseeing them in a much more positive light. Hansen has said he did so because the failures of those schools “masked successes elsewhere” at more successful charters. But the omission is clearly against Ohio law, says State Sen. Peggy Lehner, who grilled Hansen yesterday on the missing data.

• Finally, President Barack Obama is set today to announce a test program designed to bring broadband Internet to more low-income households throughout the country. Obama will announce the initiative in the Choctaw Nation, a Native American community in Oklahoma, which will be one beneficiary of the pilot program. The initiative will also extend broadband access to about 275,000 households in 27 cities around the U.S. The eventual goal, according to the administration, is to extend high-speed internet access to every part of the country. Currently, a large gap exists in internet access for low-income communities. About 95 percent of households with adults with college degrees have access to internet, while only about 43 percent of households without high school diplomas have that access.

by Nick Swartsell 07.14.2015 82 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
rob portman

Morning News and Stuff

Lincoln Heights' struggles in national spotlight; Deters to address Fountain Square unrest; awkward times for Ohio GOPers

Good morning all. It’s news time, and the biggest news is something you probably already know: The Reds’ Todd Frazier won the MLB Home Run Derby last night in an amazing comeback, sending 14 over the fence in the final round of the tournament against Joc Pederson from the L.A. Dodgers. There were tons of fireworks, followed shortly afterward by a thunderstorm. It was that epic. This is only the second time someone has won the Derby on their home field — the Chicago Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg took the trophy at Wrigley Field in 1990. Frazier's victory is a great run-up to the big All-Star Game today.

Anyway, on to other news. The Atlantic yesterday published a big article on Lincoln Heights, the community just north of Cincinnati that was at one time one of the first primarily black self-governing cities in the country. And for a while, things were good there. Factory jobs assured good middle-class incomes and well-kept neighborhoods and schools. Famed poet Nikki Giovanni, musicians the Isley Brothers and other notable folks hailed from the burb. But systemic forces, including the way the city was incorporated by Hamilton County, conspired to hobble the community, and today it’s a struggling suburb with high poverty, no police force and crumbling schools. I’ve pitched this article to mags before and I’m a little bummed someone beat me to it, but I’m glad it’s being covered.

• Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will hold a news conference at 11:30 a.m. today on the July 4 unrest at Fountain Square. Specifically, Deters is expected to address possible hate crime charges against three men accused of beating up Indiana native Christopher McKnight. Three men accused of the crime, who police arrested this week, are black. McKnight is white.

There has been some confusion about whether police believe the incident was racially motivated. An initial report by a responding officer called the altercation “anti-white” though police backpedaled on that assertion the next day. However, they reversed course again late last week when Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell asked the prosecutor’s office to pursue the hate crime charges. Video of part of the fight taken from a Metro bus doesn’t clear up the situation: It shows McKnight struggling with one individual, then shows a few others joining in the fight against him. McKnight is shown on both the defensive and pursuing and throwing punches during the altercation. Later, video shows him getting up and walking back and forth among the crowd with his hands up in an aggressive manner. He then wanders out of frame, where apparently a further fight took place that left him with a concussion and broken nose. It is unclear if police have more evidence that the altercation was racially motivated, or whether Deters will seek the hate crime charges in the case.  

• Major hotel company Winegardner and Hammons, Inc, and Eagle Realty, the real estate arm of Cincinnati-based insurance giant Western & Southern, yesterday received permission from the city’s Historic Conservation Board to go ahead with plans to turn the former Anna Louise Inn near Lytle Park downtown into a luxury hotel and restaurant. That approval comes after a number of aesthetic changes to the plans suggested at a conservation board meeting last month. Eagle purchased  the Anna Louise Inn after a protracted battle with Cincinnati Union Bethel, which had run a women’s shelter out of the building for more than a century. CUB had applied for state tax credits to help fund a renovation of the building. Western & Southern challenged the shelter’s receipt of those credits in court, arguing that the area wasn’t zoned for the building’s usage as a shelter. After lengthy court battles, CUB agreed to sell the building. The Anna Louise Inn recently relocated to Mount Auburn.

• Do you remember all those storms yesterday? Crazy stuff. All that wind and rain left more than 70,000 people in the region without power temporarily, according to Duke Energy. As of this morning, some 12,00 are still waiting for the lights to come back on. Some residents in North Avondale, Mount Healthy, North College Hill, Madisonville, Winton Woods, Fairfield and many other neighborhoods and suburbs in Ohio and Northern Kentucky remain without electricity. Some might have to wait days to have their power restored.

• GOP presidential politics in Ohio makes for some awkward situations, right? U.S. Sen. Rob Portman knows this all too well right now. Ohio’s Republican senator is currently polling behind his likely Democratic challenger, former governor Ted Strickland, in his battle for re-election in 2016. He needs a bit of help from his party, and, luckily, there’s a bright spot. Ohio will be a total political circus next year as both parties focus in on our state for the presidential election. That could play well for Portman, especially if Ohio Gov. John Kasich becomes the nominee.

Kasich’s presidential run would rally Republican voters around the state, an excitement that is almost sure to travel down-ballot and give Portman much-needed conservative votes. The only snag? Portman can’t really very wisely endorse Kasich. Portman has big ties to another GOP presidential hopeful, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has a much better chance of winning his party’s nomination at this point in the game. Portman needs Kasich, but he also doesn’t want to gamble on a long-shot candidate or burn his bridges with Bush. What’s a guy to do? Well, just stay quiet on the whole matter, it seems. Portman’s not endorsing anyone in the race. That’s tough luck for Kasich, who is having a bit of a hard time grabbing endorsements from some GOP bigwigs in Ohio, including Portman, Speaker of the House John Boehner and outspoken tea party U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan. U.S. Rep Steve Chabot, who represents Westwood, is also staying out of the primary endorsement game but puts Kasich’s chances among “the top five or six” GOP presidential nod hopefuls. Ouch.

That's it for me. Tweet at me. Email me. You know what's up.

by Nick Swartsell 07.13.2015 83 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Mother still searching for answers in police-involved shooting; three arrested for Fountain Square violence; can bike lanes ease economic and racial disparities?

Hey all! Was your All Star Game weekend rad? I spent the better part of mine far from the mass of ASG-related concerts and VIP invite-only parties, which are weird and a little like hosting a slightly unhip out-of-town guest who throws a party at your house for crusty old celebs on the other side of cultural relevancy (seriously, when was the last time you listened to a new Snoop Dogg track?) only you’re not invited. I’ll take Brighton or the Comet basement any day, though I hope if you hit up downtown you had a great time and got some autographs and free swag for your trouble.

Speaking of the ASG: If you’re trying to get into the actual game tomorrow and didn’t get your tickets a long time ago, it’ll cost ya now. Third-party tickets are running north of $800. That’s 100 $8 beers (is that the cost of a beer at the park? I'm sure it's something like that, right?) or a whole bunch of ballpark cheese coneys, just in case you’re keeping track.

• On to real news. About 30 protesters gathered with Erica Hicks-Woods and Rodriquis Woods, the parents of QuanDavier Hicks, outside Cincinnati Police Department District 1 headquarters in the West End Friday afternoon. Hicks’ parents drove from Atlanta for the rally and to ask questions of Cincinnati police about their son’s death. CPD officer Doris Scott shot the younger Hicks on a second-story stairwell near his Northside apartment after Hicks pointed a rifle at Scott and her partner, according to police. But Hicks-Woods says that version of events doesn’t add up to her, and she’s seeking more information. Hicks-Woods says police have barely spoken to her since the incident and that she’s been brushed off by the case’s lead investigator, who had promised her a meeting that day that was later cancelled. After rallying at the CPD station, Hicks-Woods spoke with Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, who promised a longer meeting over the weekend. She says she was also able to claim some of her son’s belongs which had previously been held, including a cellphone and a ring. An investigation into Hicks’ death is ongoing. CityBeat has requested all available public documents on the incident and will update the story as it unfolds.

• Authorities have arrested three men in connection with a beating that took place on Fountain Square July 4. Indiana resident Christopher McKnight was kicked and punched by a group of men during a period of unrest on the square. A video of the earlier portion of the incident shows McKnight wrestling against one man, then getting into a larger tussle with a few others before getting up, putting one of his shoes back on and walking back and forth in a crowd and raising his arms in an aggressive manner. Later, the altercation apparently continued, and McKnight sustained a concussion and other injuries requiring stitches. McKnight is white, and his assailants are black, which has led to suspicion that the attack was racially motivated. The responding officer on the scene initially described the attack as “anti-white” in police reports. CPD officials first disputed that assertion, but then said the incident may indeed have been a hate-crime. So far, police haven’t presented evidence or witness accounts supporting or disproving the hate crime accusation. Arrest documents for Raeshaun Hand, Antonio Tremble and Steven Montgomery, who were apprehended in connection with the attack, don’t show any indication they are charged with hate crimes at this point. The three face felonious assault charges. Police are looking for a fourth man suspected of participating in the incident as well.

• Here’s police item number three: Documents show the city administration offered CPD Chief Jeffrey Blackwell a year’s salary, or $136,000, a year extension of his health benefits, a $5,000 lump-sum payment and other concessions if he chose to leave the department. In return, Blackwell would have agreed not to sue the city, and both Blackwell and the city would have agreed not to make disparaging comments about each other to the media. Blackwell’s hypothetical departure made news earlier this summer when it was revealed the city had drawn up his walking papers. Blackwell said he wasn’t interested in leaving. City Manager Harry Black, who had the agreement drawn up, as well as Mayor John Cranley, both said they also wanted Blackwell to stay. The documents detailing the terms of the severance were released by the city at 5 p.m. last Friday, just before the city’s All-Star Game festivities kicked off in earnest. A Cincinnati Business Courier story questioned the timing of that release, saying it follows “a longstanding political and government strategy of pushing inconvenient news out at a time when few are paying attention.” Dang.

• The trial for the man accused of making threats to poison Speaker of the House John Boehner begins today. That charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years in prison. Michael Hoyt, 44, was a bartender at Boehner’s West Chester country club when he made threats to shoot Boehner or put something in his drink because he believed Boehner was the devil. Hoyt has a history of mental illness, and his attorneys have filed documents indicating they’ll be entering an insanity plea in the case.

• As Gov. John Kasich continues his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, questions are being raised about his administration’s transparency. Several groups concerned with government accountability have dinged Kasich’s record on the issue, saying Ohio’s government is much less transparent than it was when he took office. Among big red flags critics point to: the governor’s JobsOhio program, a private entity that runs on state liquor receipts in order to provide incentives to private companies looking to create jobs in Ohio. Fellow Republican Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost fought an unsuccessful battle with Kasich to be able to audit that organization last year. The administration, of course, has pushed back on charges that Kasich’s tenure has seen a more opaque state government. You can read more about Kasich’s record with government transparency in this Columbus Dispatch article.

• Two quick things nationally before I go: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, officially announced his candidacy for president today. Walker is among the frontrunners in the throng of guys running for the GOP nod. He’s a conservative darling who has won a bunch of props from far-righters for busting up bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s public employees, among other staunchly conservative policy moves.

• Finally, real fast: Here’s a fascinating article about how bike lanes might be able to increase racial and economic equity in communities. True? A bunch of bike-boosting b.s.? Check out the article and decide for yourself. I think it’s a pretty interesting concept and a good way to expand the conversation about alternate means of transportation and the wider economic implications thereof.

I’m out! Tweet. Email. Etc.

by Nick Swartsell 07.10.2015 86 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Want to rent a room in OTR for $500... a night?; county clerks in Kentucky buck same-sex marriage ruling; Ohio considers amending grand jury process

So let’s talk a little about news today.

In case you like, didn’t see the 500 MLB All-Star Game headlines on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s website today, well, that’s happening. Two-hundred-thousand people are headed downtown. Traffic will be bad. Parking will be worse. Prepare yourself.

All that headache is probably worth it if you own an apartment or house anywhere near downtown and are willing to let some strangers crash there. Average prices to stay in Over-the-Rhine or downtown are more than $500 on room rental site Airbnb. No, that’s not monthly. That’s for one night. It’s a 25-percent increase from prices two months ago. The spike is simple economics — there are few hotel rooms left in town after MLB reserved 95 percent of them during the days around the game. That’s left people searching around in the sharing economy, where costs range from the very affordable for a place out in the ‘burbs to a $4,999 a night three-bedroom house with sweeping views in Bellevue, Ky. That five grand is pretty much a down payment on a house in my neighborhood, but whatever you need to party, I guess.

• The city’s police force is out in full force for the festivities, patrolling downtown by the hundreds. With the nation’s eyes on Cincy, city leaders are stressing the need for calm, professional policing, especially after last weekend’s unrest downtown following a concert injured two officers and lead to several arrests. CPD will be getting some help as well from a mounted unit borrowed from the Columbus police. That unit, paid for by the private group the Cincinnati Police Foundation, will patrol downtown on horses.  

• Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown has joined 56 other county clerks in asking Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to call a special session of the state’s legislature in order to take up a law creating religious exemptions to the Supreme Court’s recent decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Brown, and other clerks across the state, say their religious freedoms are being violated because they’re being forced to license a practice they say is against their beliefs. Brown refused to issue any marriage licenses the day the decision came down last month but has since resumed the practice. Other clerks, however, have been more defiant. Casey Davis, who is the county clerk in uh… Casey County (Really? Really.) has refused to grant same-sex marriage licenses. Gov. Beshear met with Davis yesterday and told him to begin granting the licenses or step down from his job. Davis has refused to do either, saying he will go to jail for his religious beliefs if necessary.

• A panel responsible for recommending changes to Ohio’s constitution is considering reforms to the state’s grand jury system following controversial officer-involved shootings here and across the country. The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission is currently mulling recommendations made by the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations convened by Gov. John Kasich last year after the police shooting deaths of John Crawford III in Beavercreek and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, among others. Among those recommendations: requiring judicial oversight in grand jury proceedings, releasing some testimony from proceedings to improve the transparency of the process and requiring grand juries review all officer-involved incidents resulting in death or injury, unless other independent investigations are conducted. Currently, there is some question about whether those changes should be made at the constitutional or legislative level, with lawmakers debating what exactly determines how Ohio’s grand jury system should operate. But whether or not the issue is constitutional or a matter for lawmakers, advocates say, it’s a good time to reconsider the state’s grand jury methods. They haven’t been examined by lawmakers in about 60 years.

• Finally, in national news, after a contentious vote yesterday, South Carolina today officially took down the Confederate flag that had been flying over the grounds of the state capital for more than 50 years.The flag was removed from the dome of the building itself in 2000, and its final banishment from the grounds takes place after the horrific shooting of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston by white supremacist Dylann Roof.

That’s it for me. Enjoy this All Star weekend! Oh, and come join our wiffle ball home run derby at Rhinegeist on Sunday. It’s gonna be fun.

by Nick Swartsell 07.09.2015 87 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Police say beating was hate crime; state investigating landscaper over diversity fraud; South Carolina removes Confederate flag

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

Cincinnati police have asked Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to pursue hate crime charges in connection with an attack on a man at Fountain Square Saturday night. That announcement marks a pronounced change of tone for the police, who earlier said the act did not appear to be racially motivated and that an officer on the scene who called the incident “anti-white” spoke in error. Twenty-seven-year-old Christopher McKnight, who is white, was attacked by several men, all black, following a period of unrest on Fountain Square in which two officers were injured and several arrests were made. Video of the incident taken from a Metro bus appears to show McKnight engaged in a one-on-one fight with another individual at first; soon, however, others also join in. One teen in a red shirt is shown trying to keep others from ganging up on McKnight, dragging another attacker off of him at one point. Soon, though, several teens attack McKnight, who is sometimes on the defensive, other times seen throwing punches. A couple minutes into the video, McKnight is seen getting up, putting one of his shoes back on and stalking back and forth along the sidewalk unaccosted by the crowd, eventually raising his arms in a challenging manner. He then walks out of frame of the camera. The video does not show what started the fight or an apparently later altercation that left McKnight bloodied on the sidewalk. Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell has said he’s recommending Deters pursue the hate crime charge against McKnight’s unidentified attackers. No suspects have been arrested in the incident.

• The national office of the NAACP has filed a U.S. District Court lawsuit against former leadership of Cincinnati’s local chapter, advancing long-running controversy over the city’s branch of the civil rights organization. The drama started when Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman resigned as president last year. Ishton Morton stepped in to take his place, but the national NAACP suspended Morton, his wife and another member, Lettie Reid, from the organization, saying they weren’t focused on civil rights work. The NAACP lawsuit alleges that the three have continued to present themselves as local NAACP leaders despite the fact they are no longer members of the organization, conducting fundraising and spending the branch’s money without national authorization. The national group has asked a federal judge to yank incorporation from Cincinnati’s chapter and order its former leaders, including one-time president Ishton Morton, to pay $300,000 in damages. Morton and his allies say the national office is trying to dictate local affairs at the Cincinnati branch, and he’s vowed to fight the lawsuit. There’s a deep political element in the fight: Some within the local chapter have bristled at the rightward drift of the branch, which started under Smitherman and saw the civil right group allying with staunch conservative groups like the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes. Critics say the chapter’s activities in that time have drifted away from civil rights advocacy. Backers, however, say the branch is reflective of local wishes and that the national office is engaging in “voter suppression” by trying to dictate who leads the chapter.

• The state is investigating Newtown-based Evans Landscaping over allegations it has been abusing grants and other programs designed for minority-owned businesses. The company is also entangled in lawsuits around those allegations, which were filed by another company called Ergon Site Construction. An initial suit by Evans claims that Ergon owed the company $275,000 for work done on a contract. Ergon counter-sued, saying Evans was using the minority-owned Ergon to get minority contracts through the state and that the company kept state money meant for Ergon. In the midst of that fight, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Evans’ Newtown location Tuesday. Law enforcement officials would not comment on the reasons for the raid or whether it is related to fraud charges against Evans.

• So that was all super-heavy news. Here’s something less so. For $35 bucks, you can ride a zip line over The Banks. The zip line will go from an 80-foot platform in front  of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to a shorter platform near the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. It will be open starting Saturday at 11 a.m. and will go until 5 p.m. that day. The line will run Sunday and Monday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon and then again from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Who’s going to do this with me? It sounds awesome.

• There is a lot of worry in Cincinnati surrounding the recent wave of shootings, which have spiked significantly over last year’s low numbers. But Cincinnati isn’t the only city experiencing increases in violence, and as its homicide numbers remain steady, other cities are seeing sharp increases. Among them is Milwaukee, which has seen 80 murders so far this year — double the 39 it had this time last year. In Baltimore, which has also seen a big spike in gun violence and deaths, the increase has led to the dismissal of the city’s police commissioner. Other cities, including St. Louis and New Orleans, are also experiencing big increases in murders. But social scientists are quick to point out that these spikes seem smaller in context to recent history. Even today’s increased numbers, which are only happening in certain cities, are still much lower than violent crime’s peak in the early 1990s. Experts have a variety of explanations for the mini-surge in violence in Cincinnati and elsewhere. Crime always picks up some in the summer, law enforcement officials note. Also, violent gun crime and murders have been so low in some cities like New York, which clocked its lowest murder rate in 50 years last year, that any increase looks big. Other experts point to the influence of drugs, weak gun laws or other explanations for the increasing violence.

• Finally, lawmakers in South Carolina voted last night to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state house there. The move comes in the wake of the shooting deaths of nine black church goes in Charleston at the hands of white supremacist Dylann Roof. Roof displayed the flag prominently on his vehicle and elsewhere.

That’s it for me. Tweet. Email. Etc.