The University of Cincinnati is working on big changes to its police department but still has work ahead of it, a UCPD official said at a conference on police reform yesterday.
University of Cincinnati Police Department Director of Community Relations S. Gregory Baker called the July 19 UCPD shooting of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose “an atrocity” and told a crowd of about 50 that the university is pushing to get a more diverse police force, change training officers receive, add more front-line managers overseeing patrol officers and a number of other changes in the coming months.
Baker spoke at the first event of a five-night conference recognizing the 15th anniversary of civil unrest in Over-the-Rhine over the police shooting death of unarmed Timothy Thomas. Activist Iris Roley and other members of the Black United Front, which helped establish Cincinnati’s Collaborative Agreement in the wake of the unrest, organized the conference. Anti-poverty group the AMOS Project, the Hamilton County Office of Reentry, Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority and a number of other groups helped sponsor the conference, which is being held at the New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn.
Last night’s talk focused specifically on reform efforts underway at UC after UCPD officer Ray Tensing shot and killed DuBose in Mount Auburn after a routine traffic stop for a missing front license plate. Tensing was indicted on murder charges, and UC has paid a $4.6 million settlement to DuBose’s family.
The incident, which sparked peaceful protests and national media attention, has also brought about efforts at deep change at the university, Baker says.
“Unfortunately, we had to arrive at this situation through a very tragic incident,” he said. “No amount of money will bring Mr. DuBose back, so really this reform is bigger than Mr. DuBose. We can’t pay for his life, and we don’t want this to ever happen again.”
One very specific upcoming piece of that puzzle, according to Baker: a report from independent police accountability firm Exiger that will examine department hiring practices, its diversity, its training procedures, use of force policies, traffic stops and arrests. That report will also detail suggestions for reform. It’s due out in June.
Another substantive reform that has already been implemented: The department now has sergeants supervising patrol officers, and officer behavior, stops and arrests are now being monitored for bias and racial disparities.
Those disparities have been huge. Baker says the university ramped up its police force in the years preceding the DuBose shooting, in response to a spike in crime around the university that started around 2008. The school ended up doubling the 35 officers it had in 2013 to 70 in just a year and a half. It’s now the third-largest law enforcement agency in the county behind the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.
With that increased enforcement came huge racial disparities. The student body on UC’s campus is only 8 percent black, though the neighborhoods surrounding it, especially to the west, have a much larger proportional black population. Increased police activity led to a disproportionate number of stops and arrests of blacks.
Traffic stops went up 300 percent to 2000 in 2015. Arrests also tripled.
But during this time, stops of white individuals actually decreased. Black stops went way up, however. Tickets written by Tensing in the year before he shot DuBose, went to blacks 81 percent of the time.
“Was it racist?” Baker asks about the disparities. “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…”
In the wake of the shooting, UCPD was ordered to roll back its involvement in the communities surrounding the school. Officers can now only stop a person if they are imminently threating someone or if an officer witnesses them committing a crime. Otherwise, university police must call the Cincinnati Police Department.
The department is still wrestling with what its role should be in those communities around the school, Baker says. It’s also working on gaining back trust within those communities.
The university has created a 19-member community advisor council that will weigh in on ongoing reform efforts. That council is made up of students, neighborhood residents around the university and faith leaders. Baker says it’s “very diverse.”
Other reforms are more general and are still materializing. Baker says the department is committed to increasing the number of officers of color on the force. He says that of the 72 officers currently serving in the UCPD, only one is black.
“We have to look at this one African American officer,” he said. “That’s just wrong. The police should reflect the diversity of the community. We have a problem with that at UC.”
There are still unanswered questions, however. When a CityBeat reporter asked about the other officers involved in the DuBose shooting who initially corroborated Tensing’s story in preliminary police reports, Baker shook his head.
“Those officers made statement within the urgency of the situation,” he said. “They blurted things out.” Baker pointed out they gave a more accurate accounting of events before the grand jury that indicted Tensing.
“They corrected their testimony to be consistent with the video tape,” he said. “They knew what was on the tape because they saw it themselves. That’s a very unsettled piece of this. They’re currently still working on the force.”
Baker, who spent 30 years working for the city of Cincinnati in public safety and community development before he came to UCPD in August, says he believes the department is making progress. He said the work the department is doing is vital, given concerns around crime, campus shootings and other public safety issues.
The crime issue will come up again during the five-day community-police relations conference, which also features film screenings, workshops and discussions on Cincinnati Police and the Collaborative Agreement. You can find the full schedule here.
Good morning all. It snowed this weekend. It’s nasty out right now. Insert T.S. Eliot “Wasteland” reference. Let’s not talk about it and just go straight to non-weather related news, shall we?
Cincinnati could get a unified effort to expand preschool offerings to more needy kids. At least, that possibility seems more likely after a gathering yesterday to discuss preschool funding effort Preschool Promise and Cincinnati Public Schools’ own operating levy, which also includes some preschool provisions. Many are worried that if the two efforts aren’t combined, voters confronted with two educationally related levies this November will sink one or both of them.
Representatives from CPS, Preschool Promise and the Cincinnati Business Committee spoke at the panel discussion, which was hosted by anti-poverty group the AMOS Project. All say they’re looking for a way to join forces. CPS’s levy would come in the form of property taxes, while Preschool Promise hasn’t officially announced an ask from taxpayers. But many believe a boost in the city’s earnings tax, which is paid by those who work in Cincinnati, would be the most likely potential funding source. Experts and Preschool Promise boosters cite studies showing that quality preschool can boost a child’s chances of rising out of poverty. Half of Cincinnati’s children live below the poverty line, making the city second worst in the country by that measure. Preschool Promise wants to extend the opportunity to attend preschool, either at CPS or through private preschools, to all of the city’s 9,000 3- and 4-year-olds.
• Cincinnati’s streetcar could start operating Sept. 1 if Cincinnati City Council approves a first-year budget for the transit project it will consider this week. Council’s Budget and Finance Committee will consider that $4.2 million budget drawn up by City Manager Harry Black today. More than $2 million in parking revenues from changes in parking fees in Over-the-Rhine and downtown, $677,000 in rider fares, $450,000 in naming rights, sponsorships and advertising and $11,000 in property tax receipts from reduced tax abatements in OTR and downtown will pay for the streetcar’s first year. Another crucial funding source will be $900,000 pledged by the Haile Foundation for the streetcar’s first year.
• Councilman Chris Seelbach, officials with national LGBT group the Human Rights Campaign, transgender activist Paula Ison and others are pushing the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to extend medical benefits for transgender employees. One of those employees, Rachel Dovel, is seeking gender confirmation surgery, which the library’s insurance policy does not cover. Dovel has worked at the library for a decade. The library’s board of directors recently declined to change its employee insurance in response to a request from Dovel, and now attorneys representing her have brought up the possibility of legal action. The library board has said it hasn’t made any final decisions on the request and is researching the possible change. The city of Cincinnati provides such benefits to its employees, as do several of the city’s large corporations like Kroger and Macy’s. Seelbach and representatives from LGBT groups will hold a press conference tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. in front of the library’s Vine Street entrance to discuss the issue, according to a news release from Dovel’s attorneys.
• A week-long panel on the aftermath of the 2001 unrest and its legacy kicks off tonight at the New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn. The conference is hosted by activists and organizations responsible for the city's historic Collaborative Agreement. A presentation by law enforcement officials to give updates on developments in the Sam DuBose case will start at 6 p.m. The conference will also include film screenings, panel discussions and workshops throughout the week. Find out more details here. In the meantime, read CityBeat's story on the aftermath of 2001, which includes reams of data on policing, economics in the black community and demographic changes in Over-the-Rhine since the unrest there.
• Last week, we told you about efforts by Cincinnati City Council banning non-essential city-funded travel to North Carolina, which passed harsh laws allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT individuals on religious grounds. Now, the city of Dayton has also passed similar legislation, cutting off city-funded travel to that state and Mississippi, which has also passed similar laws. Dayton Mayor Nann Whaley last week issued a memo explaining that the move comes because the legislation in those states violates the inclusive values that Dayton represents. Other municipalities and local governments in Ohio have also passed similar travel bans, including Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located.
• Well, it’s probably happening. Things look more and more likely to get live in Cleveland this summer as the Republican Party inches closer to a contested presidential primary convention there. Frontrunner Donald Trump has taken something of a nosedive, leaving it quite possible, even probable, that none of the GOP’s candidates will get the requisite 1,237 delegates needed to grab the party’s nomination outright. Trump took a beating in Wisconsin last week, narrowing considerably the path to the magic number for him. That’s good news — perhaps the only good news — for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is trailing a distant third behind Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. So what’s Kasich thinking? Here’s his contested convention strategy.
• Meanwhile, is there a dark horse waiting in this primary circus? Some people think so, and they also believe that horse has two first names and went to my alma mater. That’s right — Miami University alum and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s name continues to float around as a possible entrant into the nomination battle. Republicans would have to change a rule they set that keeps any candidate who has not won a majority of delegates in eight states from entering the nomination proceedings, but they could do that.
There are reasons to think he might — he’s been on international trips with U.S. allies, his staff released a campaign-like video featuring Ryan talking about uniting the country and he’s outwardly taking other steps to run what some call “a parallel campaign” to counter the angry messages Trump and Cruz have used to rise to prominence. The question is whether that campaign is purely to boost an alternative vision of the Republican Party — one that is still staunchly conservative but outwardly less hostile and destructive — or whether there is the seed of a convention challenge in the efforts. Time will tell.
Yesterday we told you about a Cincinnati City Council move to ban non-essential city-funded travel to North Carolina in the aftermath of legislation there legalizing certain discrimination against members of the LGBT community. Council also wants to go further than that by turning their opposition into opportunity. The motion authored by Councilman Chris Seelbach and signed by fellow council members Wendell Young, Yvette Simpson, Kevin Flynn, Christopher Smitherman and Vice Mayor David Mann directs the city to work at attracting businesses leaving North Carolina due to its new law. Seelbach has also indicated he’ll amend the motion to include Mississippi, which recently passed similar “religious freedom” laws allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT individuals.
• One-hundred years ago this month, Cincinnati voters did something brave and nearly unthinkable: voting to build a massive, cutting-edge citywide transit project. Yes, I’m talking about the Cincinnati subway system. We all know the sad end to that story, but did you know the city continues to perform maintenance on the tunnels to keep them viable for future use? Or that less than 15 years ago, a regional transit plan went before voters that proposed utilizing the tunnels for light rail (called MetroMoves, it failed by a 2-1 margin, by the way). Anyway, the city’s phantom subway system got some national attention this week. As you might expect from national coverage of a local issue, the article has some big, kind of head-scratching inaccuracies, but it’s worth checking out all the same.
• A century later, it turns out we’re still trying to figure out transit, though some cities are moving faster than others. The Northern Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, the transit authority that serves Cleveland and the surrounding areas, for instance, recently announced a 20-year initiative to improve social equity through transit opportunities, especially for citizens without cars. That plan looks to right what the authority says have been lopsided spending priorities that privilege highway funding at the expense of transit for those who don’t own cars.
• Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black received some national recognition this week, making Government Technology magazine’s “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers” list. Black joins other government administrators from across the country on the list, which touts his efforts to bring big data analytics to Cincinnati City Hall. You can see the article about Black here.
• So, The Banks has been open for five years now. How is the massive development effort going? Things are still shaky, according to this report on the restaurant and bar scene at the riverfront development, but with big boosts on the horizon. The years-long, multi-million-dollar development effort has seen some high-profile closures over the past few years, including Toby Keith’s, Mahogany’s and others. That’s meant less rent coming in for the developer of those spaces, who argues that the county needs to revise its tax valuations on The Banks in response to the challenges. But General Electric’s new office space and the coming addition of 300 more apartments at The Banks could give the next spurt of energy the development needs to stabilize, and a new hotel slated to open next year could also provide a big boost.
• Northern Kentucky University today is hosting an all-day conference on economic inequality. The event, put on by the International Peace and Justice Center, will explore work being done in the region to increase economic opportunities for communities around Cincinnati and will feature community organizers, academics, authors and more. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is free to the public.
• Finally, fault lines around race and economics continue to play a big role in the 2016 presidential primaries. Yesterday, former president Bill Clinton argued with Black Lives Matter activists in Philadelphia during a speech he gave promoting his wife, Democrat presidential primary contender Hillary Clinton.
The exchange is especially significant because Philly will be the site of the Democratic National Convention this summer. As activists protested him, Clinton defended his 1990s-era law enforcement reforms that many say increased mass incarceration, saying that the BLM activists in attendance were supporting criminals and murderers. Clinton himself has been apologetic about those reforms in the past, saying they “overshot the mark” in being tough on crime, contributing to high levels of incarceration for blacks.
At the event yesterday, Clinton also defended his wife’s statement during the 1990s calling some black youth “super predators,” a remark Hillary has apologized for on the presidential primary campaign trail. The testy exchange angered liberal activists and caused pundits to wonder if Clinton had made a big error for his wife’s campaign. But this piece in the Washington Post suggests it wasn’t an error at all, but a pivot in message for HRC’s campaign ahead of the general election, where she’ll need white voters in a fight against a Republican opponent. Ah, politics.
I’m out. Have a great weekend.
• A political forecasting group at the University of Virginia Center for Politics has moved the race for U.S. Sen. Rob Portman's seat from "leans Republican" to "a toss-up." The group cites the name recognition held by Portman's Democratic challenger, former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, as well as his strength in Ohio's Appalachian counties, which Strickland once represented in the House of Representatives. While the forecast notes Portman's big fundraising lead over Strickland, it also says that favorable conditions in the state for Democrats' presidential candidate, presumably Hillary Clinton, could give Strickland the extra edge needed to scoot past incumbent Republican Portman in November.
• Finally, Ohio Gov. John Kasich yesterday gave his state of the state speech in Marietta. The address mostly focused on the state’s economic recovery and job growth. But Kasich, who remains a long-shot Republican presidential primary candidate, advanced few new policy proposals, instead playing it safe and touting his record. He did touch on the state’s drug addiction crisis, its looming changes to statehouse redistricting, problems with the state’s educational system and other challenges. Kasich also floated new tax cuts in the next state budget, though lawmakers seem lukewarm about the governor’s proposals.
Good morning all. Hope your Wednesday is going well. Let's talk news.
Tomorrow is the 15th anniversary of a tragic, but defining, moment in Cincinnati history — the police shooting of unarmed black 19-year-old Timothy Thomas in Over-the-Rhine and the subsequent unrest in that neighborhood and others. Today, we published a cover story taking stock of progress the city has made and the work left to do. You should pick up the issue and take a look.
Next week, community leaders, non-profit organizations and activists, some instrumental in the city’s historic Collaborative Agreement, are staging a five-day conference exploring the CA, policing in Cincinnati, future strategies for improving race relations and the concept of violence as a public health issue. The event is free to the public. Various events, from movie screenings to workshops and dialogues, will run April 11-16 at New Prospect Baptist Church, 1580 Summit Ave. You can register and find the entire schedule at www.communitypolicerelations.com
• Were you excited by news that Cincinnati is getting a bar where the beer is priced like stocks? I… only sort of understand the concept, but I heard some people were hyped on it. Those folks may have some more waiting to do, though. The state of Ohio has put the brakes on Queen City Exchange, which had plans to open on West Court Street this summer. The idea was that the beer would be priced dynamically, so that if you wanted a really popular brew, it would cost you more. This would probably work out well for me — I enjoy some weird beers — but I can’t imagine why you’d want this if you like popular brands. Anyway, Ohio liquor laws state that bar operators can only change their prices once a month. That’s not very dynamic, I guess, and certainly not at the pace the stock market changes. QCE’s owners are trying to work out the snag with the state now.
• Cincinnati City Council’s next election is more than a year away, but one new contender has already started campaigning. Former U.S. Senate Democratic primary candidate Kelli Prather has announced she’s running for a Council seat. The West Price Hill resident came in third in the Senate primary behind current Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and the winner, former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. Prather did manage to rake in a decent 12.6 percent of the vote in the Senate primary, however — not bad given the fact it was her first political race. She runs a home healthcare business and is a survivor of domestic gun violence, both experiences she talked about on the campaign trail as influences on her progressive policy stances.
• If you needed any more evidence that body cameras are a vital part of modern policing, shedding light on what could otherwise be murky situations, here’s a graphic reminder. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters yesterday released body cam footage from the incident last week on I-75 where a knife-wielding man was shot and injured after lunging at an officer. In the video, Glendale Police Officer Josh Hilling pulls to the side of the highway and begins questioning Javier Aleman, who is walking along the median. When Hilling asks to pat Aleman down, Aleman draws a knife. Hilling shoots Aleman once in the abdomen, then pleads with him to drop the weapon for minutes as Aleman begs the officer to kill him. The standoff only ends when he collapses. Aleman, still hospitalized, is charged with attempted murder.
• Looks like underdog GOP presidential primary candidate John Kasich is taking some time off his full-time job running for president to moonlight at his part-time gig as governor of Ohio. Kasich today will give his annual State of the State address, where he’ll talk about the challenges and success Ohio has experienced this year. We wrote a lot about the state’s economic condition back in January, and that article might be a good primer as Kasich touts the Buckeye State’s economic recovery and miraculous job growth. Kasich will give his remarks in Marietta, one of the state’s first cities.
• Finally, let’s talk Wisconsin, where presidential primary front runners go to lose. Both Democrat favorite Hillary Clinton and Republican delegate leader Donald Trump took a beating there yesterday at the hands of upstarts U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, respectively. Sanders’ win in Wisconsin won’t do much to bridge the 200-plus delegate gap between him and Clinton, but it could give him the perception of momentum among voters in states like New York, where more delegates are at play. Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Cruz’s victory is another moment in Trump’s continued slow slide. The Donald is still on top, but the firebrand Senator from Texas is catching up quickly.
Hello all, here's the news today.
A few hundred Avondale residents will soon be getting free Wi-Fi. The Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation announced yesterday that it will partner with telecom company Powernet, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and developer The Community Builders, Inc. to offer Wi-Fi to residents living on Reading Road from Blair Avenue to South Fred Shuttlesworth Circle. The project is funded as part of the Choice Neighborhoods Grant from HUD, which was given to The Community Builders, Inc. in 2012. Powernet will install 15 access points along Reading Road that will give 250 families and businesses access to the network. The plan is part of the larger push for the revitalization of Avondale, one of the city's largest low-income neighborhoods.
• Cincinnati is getting younger, better-educated and more economically stable, according to the biannual economic report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The report, which provides a quick look into the greater Cincinnati economy, found Cincinnati's average age is 37.3, just slightly under the national average of 37.9. It also found the local economy has better recovered from the great recession than the nation as a whole. It is 2 percent above its level before the recession while the nation's economy, on average, is still struggling to get back to its pre-recession level. Also, more of Cincy's adults now hold undergrad degrees. That number has risen 2.9 percent since 2009 and is now at 31.4 percent, which again is higher than the national average of 30.1 percent.
• A new Kentucky law expected to be signed by Gov. Matt Bevin will allow bourbon makers to sell their drinks "by the glass." Under the previous law, the bourbon makers were only able to offer tastes of their product to people who had purchased full tour tickets for their distilleries. Now they're able to offer cash bars for small samplings. Kentucky breweries will also benefit as they'll be allowed to sell at smaller events, like farmer's markets, without going through a distributor.
• Wisconsinites head to the polls today in what will surely add more fuel to the more recent heated round of this presidential nomination period. Wisconsin republicans will get to choose between Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is still in the race despite recent complaints from Trump and Cruz that he should drop out. Kasich told a crowd of about 300 supporters at a town hall yesterday in Long Island, N.Y., that despite the bullying from his opponents, he's not going anywhere. Kasich, who is currently in a distant third, says he thinks he's the only candidate who has a shot at beating Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the general election. Clinton is also campaigning hard in Wisconsin, where polls are showing it could be a tight race against Democratic rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Hey, hey all. It’s Friday. The weather’s rad. One of my favorite musicians is playing in Cincy tonight. So let’s get this news thing out of the way real quick and head toward the weekend ASAP, shall we?
You’ll be seeing a lot more of the space bus… err, Cincinnati streetcar soon. Four of the five cars are in town already, and the city plans to start running them two at a time along the transit project’s 3.6-mile route in order to rack up the required mileage necessary to meet Federal Transportation Administration testing requirements. The fifth car is due at the end of April, and officials believe they’ll be able run simulated service — all five cars running their daily routes without passengers — by August, with actual service beginning in September.
• Renovations to Music Hall have been a long time coming, but
now that they’re happening, are they unfolding in the best way? Some folks have
reservations about the plans for the Cincinnati landmark, including a planned removal
of 1,000 seats and acoustical adjustments in the hall’s Springer Auditorium.
The city owns the hall, and much of the funding for the renovations has come
from public sources. But there have been questions about the transparency and
public input into the planning process for the rehab work. Officials with
3CDC, which is overseeing that work, say public input has been taken into
account throughout the process. The kerfuffle comes ahead of the first major
public hearing on the renovation plans before the city’s Historic Conservation
Board, which was slated to take place April 4. However, that’s opening day,
something of a major holiday in the city, and the city has announced it will
move the meeting to a less busy date.
• Perhaps you heard about the bizarre incident on I-75 the other day in which a suspect for a murder in Maryland was shot and injured by police along a stretch of the highway going through Evendale. That incident has sparked a fight over public records between local media and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. Javier Pablo Aleman was walking along the median of the highway when he was approached by Glendale police officer Joshua Hilling, who searched Aleman’s belongings and found a large knife. A scuffle ensued between the two, during which Aleman was shot. Deters is refusing to release video footage of the incident taken by the officer’s body camera, saying an investigation is ongoing into the incident. However, an attorney for the Cincinnati Enquirer argues that the footage is public record and must be released immediately. We’ll keep you posted on this one.
• Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has ordered across-the-board cuts
for the state’s eight public universities and its community college system. Bevin
has ordered an immediate 4.5-percent cut for the schools as part of his plan to
cut the state’s budget. Those cuts will come out of quarterly transfers from
the state to the schools scheduled to take place today. The budget reductions
will then double to 9 percent in the upcoming 2016-2018 budget. The Kentucky
House of Representatives has resisted those cuts, while the state’s Senate has
backed Bevin in the education funding reductions. The budget fight comes as the
state looks for ways to shore up flagging funding for pension obligations.
• Finally, regular CityBeat readers know we’ve been pretty
skeptical of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his GOP presidential primary campaign.
But come on. There’s absolutely no wrong way to eat pizza.
The Big Queso is catching some heat for eating his 'za with a fork on the campaign trail in New York. Now, the Empire State, home of the pizza slice as big as your head that you have to fold like a beach blanket to eat, is the last place in the world you want to do that. But the man is eating pizza, perhaps the most relatable act he’s ever committed. I would hope that we, as Americans, could put aside our ideological differences and recognize this. Even New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, not exactly Kasich’s ideological brother, has come to our hapless governor’s aid, tweeting a photo of himself also eating pizza with a fork. Did Kasich just start an anti-fork-shaming movement? Primary results will tell.
Good morning all. It’s almost Friday! Which means it’s almost Monday, also known as Reds opening day, also known as the most important day in Cincinnati. I’m hyped. Anyway. Here’s your news today.
University of Cincinnati’s top legal counsel is leaving her post, citing personal reasons. As the school’s top lawyer, UC’s Vice President for Legal Affairs Kenya Faulkner has overseen a tough legal year for the university, during which UC settled with the family of Samuel DuBose, who was shot and killed by UC police officer Ray Tensing, and settled a long-running and high-profile dispute with nonprofit Requiem Project around plans to renovate Over-the-Rhine’s Emery Theater. UC President Santa Ono praised Faulkner, who has been at the job for three years. The school’s now-outgoing top lawyer will continue to work with UC on efforts to diversify the university’s law school. UC’s deputy general counsel Karen Kovach will fill Faulkner’s role on an interim basis.
• Speaking of settling lawsuits, Hamilton County and the federal government have come to terms on a 10-year fight over accounting problems at the county’s Job and Family Services agency. The agreement will cost county taxpayers $22.5 million, but there’s actually some good news in that. An audit in 2006 by Ohio Job and Family Services officials estimated the county could be on the hook for $224 million due to a number of accounting problems. That was whittled down to $60 million during the proceeding court battle, and the final settlement knocks another two-thirds off that number. Meanwhile, the county has been stashing funds away to pay the expected settlement and now has $100 million to do so. That leaves more than $70 million in extra money, some of which could go to expanded services for children in Hamilton County.
• Hey, remember last year when the state passed that legislation allowing cities to designate open-container entertainment districts, and everyone here got all excited because they were going to make one for The Banks? What happened with that? The city’s still… thinking... about... it. While open container allowances are made on a temporary basis in the area for big events, you’re still not allowed to take your can of beer outside the bar you’re in at The Banks. The city has said it is continuing to work on the idea, but business owners and residents in the area say they feel like they’re not part of the process. Under the state law, Cincinnati can establish two permanent open container districts. Middletown and Toledo have already taken advantage of the law.
• President Barack Obama has commuted the sentences of three Cincinnati men he says have served their time for “low level” federal drug offenses. Alvin Cordell, Isadore Gennings and Tommy Howard will see their sentences expire between this summer and next spring. Overall, Obama commuted the sentences of 61 drug offenders who he said would be free today under current, less-harsh drug laws. Cordell received a life sentence under a now-eliminated “three strikes” law after he was convicted in 1996 of a third felony for his part in a marijuana and cocaine trafficking operation. Gennings was sentenced to 20 years in 2002 for his part in a plot to distribute cocaine and Howard was sentenced to 24 years for a drug trafficking crime.
• The boundary-breaking architect who designed the iconic home of Cincinnati's Contemporary Art Center has died. Zaha Hadid passed away yesterday after a heart attack at age 65. Hadid's design for the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts here has added a distinctive, complex edge to the city's downtown arts district. Hadid, born in Iraq, was a pioneering female architect whose success opened doors for women in the largely-male-dominated field. She completed major works around the world, including buildings in London and Hong Kong, and was the first woman to win architecture's prestigious Pritzker Prize.
• The Food and Drug Administration has adjusted rules around the prescription of abortion pill Mifeprex. Adjustments to FDA rules on dosage size and how late into a pregnancy the pills can be prescribed will make them more accessible and affordable, women’s health advocates say. Ohio is one of a handful of states that requires medical providers to follow the FDA guidelines. Pro-life groups here are unhappy about the rule change, but acknowledge that any efforts to challenge the standards in the Ohio General Assembly are unlikely to pass.
• Finally, Ohio Gov. John Kasich continues his GOP presidential primary afterlife, campaigning and biding his time for the party’s convention in July. In the meantime, Kasich, who has little support in polls and has won only one state in primary contests, is free to pretty much say and do as he wishes. Yesterday, for instance, he dropped a bomb that sounds like common sense to many sane people but which is absolute heresy to Republican primary voters.
The Big Queso said GOP pledges to repeal Obama’s signature healthcare law are a “stupid promise.” Kasich said the idea, which has been a centerpiece of so many tea party campaigns for Congress, is completely unfeasible while Obama is still president, and basically called statements made by many tea party-backed Republicans over the past few years “a big joke.” It’s unclear what Kasich’s strategy is in saying that, unless the strategy is to try and make primary opponent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s head explode.
Morning all. Today’s the day: Our enormous, 188-page, biggest-ever Best of Cincinnati issue just dropped with a resounding thud in newsstands throughout the region, and tonight we’re going to party like crazy to forget how hard we all worked on it and because our city is awesome. You’re invited, by the way. In the meantime, here’s the news today.
Local and statewide Democrat politicians gathered yesterday to announce a raft of city ordinances designed to shore up the middle class in Cincinnati, including a plan to raise the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour. That could give up to 20 percent of the city’s workforce a raise. Among those touting the new efforts were U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, State Sen. Cecil Thomas, State Reps. Denise Driehaus and Alicia Reece, Mayor John Cranley and Democrats on Cincinnati City Council. You can read all about the ordinances in our story here.
• Do you ever cruise down the enormous expanse that is Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and think to yourself that seven lanes of traffic just isn’t enough? The thoroughfare could get wider in Avondale and Corryville as a new I-71 interchange goes in, but some members of Cincinnati City Council are skeptical about the idea. Council’s transportation committee yesterday delayed voting on an ordinance that would have green-lighted a city Department of Transportation grant application for federal funds to add at least one extra lane to MLK. Democrat council members Yvette Simspon, Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young say they oppose the widening, and fellow Democrat David Mann is still undecided. Those opposed cite damage done by large thoroughfares and highways in many Cincinnati neighborhoods, saying they want to keep uptown’s current neighborhood feel intact.
• An long-running Over-the-Rhine mosque will move to the West End due to rent increases, its leaders say. Masjid AsSahaab has been on the 1200 block of Vine Street for more than a decade, but can’t keep pace with the rising price and changing character of the neighborhood, according to caretaker Abdul Amir Fealzadeh. Rent for the space went from $150 a month 10 years ago to $550 a month recently, he says. The mosque is currently working on fundraising efforts to fund a new building on Bank Street.
• Cincinnati’s streetcar got its first sponsorship yesterday as local company 4EG Entertainment Group signed a marketing deal with the transit project. 4EG signed a two-year deal with Advertising Vehicles, the firm contracted to sell marketing rights to the streetcar. Officials with 4EG said advertising on the streetcar was "an easy decisions" and that the ads show the company's support for the project while providing an opportunity to introduce the group's bars and restaurants to downtown residents and visitors. 4EG owns six bars on the streetcar route, including Igby's, Lachey's Bar, the Lackman, Low Spark, Righteous Room and Vestry. The company will run interior ads on all five cars when they come online this fall.
• Meanwhile, the city will sit out the next chance to snag a federal TIGER grant to expand the streetcar into uptown. Instead, the city will ask for money for the proposed Wasson Way bike trail, which would wind through the East Side before ending in Avondale, and for a new highway connector bridge between South Cumminsville and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.
The city applied for funding for both of those projects last year, though both failed to receive the grants. Council Democrats aren’t happy with the decision to forgo an ask for streetcar expansion planning. The five Democrat members of Council support beginning the planning process for the streetcar extension, but Mayor John Cranley, a streetcar opponent, would likely veto an ordinance asking the city to begin that process without a sixth vote. With grant application deadlines coming up April 29, the city has no plans to file an application around moving the expansion forward.
• Plans to redevelop the historic Baldwin buildings on Gilbert Avenue in Walnut Hills are taking shape, and they’re bigger than initially expected. The $100 million effort could include a pocket park on the property, two restaurants, extensive renovations to the building’s central tower, loft apartments and a number of other improvements. The project received $7 million in historic preservation tax credits from Ohio last year. The main building, called Grand Baldwin, once housed Baldwin Piano Company and will be the site of new apartments. Another building, called Baldwin 200, will remain office space but will also be renovated.
• Finally, we’ve been light on blurbs about the presidential primary race lately because, really, what can you say? It’s still a mess. But here’s an amusing bit of news for you. Former GOP presidential primary hopeful and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio recently misspelled “United States” in a letter to the Alaska GOP asking that the state party not release delegates he’s won before this summer’s GOP convention. Rubio’s typo reads “Untied States.” Untied indeed.