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by Natalie Krebs 12.22.2015 53 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_policecameras_jonmedina2

Morning News and Stuff

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

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy holidays, Cincinnati! Remember to send me story tips or awkward family holiday photos .
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.21.2015 54 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
greg hartmann

Morning News and Stuff

Hartmann to step down early 2016; Sittenfeld slams Strickland on gun control; prez debates on a Saturday?

Good morning all. Let’s talk about news.

The announcement last week that a number of cycling advocacy groups and bike trail initiatives are going all-in on a 42-mile loop around the city was exciting for the city’s cyclists, to be sure. But how feasible is that plan, and what’s the time frame for it? As the Business Courier reports, that’s still somewhat up in the air. Boosters of the project say it will take money from the city, state and federal governments, as well as private giving, to fund the multi-million dollar loop. The proposal would link four independent proposals — the Wasson Way, Ohio River West, Mill Creek Greenway and Oasis trail — in a bid to maximize impact and extend bike trails into 32 Cincinnati neighborhoods. Boosters of the plan say 18 miles of the loop, including stretches along the Mill Creek, are already complete. Another 10 miles could be done by 2020, they say, stressing the proposal is a long-term effort.

• Here’s some big news that could change the dynamic of next year’s Hamilton County Commissioners race. The current head of that commission, Greg Hartmann, is expected to resign early in 2016, and Republicans intend to name Colerain Township Trustee Dennis Deters as his temporary replacement. Hartmann’s term ends next year, and he recently announced he would not seek reelection. That seemed to leave the door wide open for Democrat Denise Driehaus, who recently filed to run for the seat. But now the race will be a more heated contest as Driehaus runs against Deters, who will have the advantages of nearly a year in office by election time. The Republican’s brother is Joe Deters, current Hamilton County prosecutor, which will further boost his prospects come November. Driehaus also has strong name recognition, however, thanks to her stints in the State House and her brother, Steve Driehaus, who represented the Cincinnati area in Congress. It’s not uncommon for outgoing commissioners to bow out early, and as long as they do so 40 days before the election, state law dictates that their party gets to choose a temporary successor. Partisan control of the three-member county commission hangs in the balance. Currently, Republicans control the county’s governing body 2-1.

• Tomorrow, residents of Grant County in Kentucky will go to the polls to decide whether or not to formally end its status as a dry county where alcohol sales are prohibited. Supporters of the change say it’s about economic development and allowing establishments like hotels to offer services visitors want. Opponents, however, worry about increases in drunk drivers, alcoholism and whether the measure will change the general character of the community there. Grant County is a generally pretty conservative place — it’s home to the upcoming Ark Encounter Noah’s Ark theme park, for example. Currently, because of the laws in the county, only five establishments there serve alcohol. They’re all restaurants that seat more than 100 people and get 70 percent or more of their revenue from food. Supporters of the ballot initiative would like to extend alcohol sales to the county’s five cities while allowing the rest of the area to stay dry — making Grant a so-called “moist” county. Currently, 31 counties in Kentucky are dry, and another 53 are “moist.” 36, including Boone, Kenton and Campbell Counties making up Northern Kentucky, allow full alcohol sales.

• The upcoming 2016 Senate race is getting tough in Ohio, with Democrat candidate and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland getting slammed for his past opposition to gun control legislation. Primary challenger and current Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld’s campaign is hitting Strickland on ads the elder Democrat made while he was running for governor in 2010 touting his record on gun rights. That ad had Strickland holding a hunting rifle and slamming Kasich for voting for gun control legislation that Strickland opposed. In subsequent years, however, Strickland changed his tune and now says he supports gun control, especially in the wake of mass shootings like the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. But Sittenfeld, a staunch supporter of gun control efforts, says that his primary opponent’s record against gun control is long and clear.

As we’ve told you before, the 2016 race looks to be a pivotal one for both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats are scratching to regain control of that chamber after they lost it last year. Meanwhile, Republicans are looking to shore up their gains in what will likely be a challenging presidential election year when more Democratic voters turn out. Whoever wins between Sittenfeld and Strickland will go on to face incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who has raised millions for his reelection bid but remains vulnerable, according to some polls.

• Finally, I guess we should talk about Saturday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate, eh? First, a bit of commentary: It seems supremely unwise to hold said debate on a Saturday night right before the holidays, as people are scrambling to get to various pubs and restaurants to catch up with out-of-town friends and relatives home for the holidays. It’d be super-interesting to read more about why the Democratic National Committee made that decision, but I digress.

The debate seems to have merely solidified the three candidates’ statuses, as there were neither major flubs nor breakthrough moments for any of them. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton came across as the moderate and competent expert politician. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders continued to sound the notes of the populist rabble-rouser with a skeptical outlook on financial institutions and foreign wars. And former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley once again made a few good points and then promptly disappeared back into the woodwork. In that way, the debate sort of functioned the way these things are supposed to on paper: It gave interested voters a chance to see what the candidates say they’re all about, how they handle themselves under pressure, and which one most aligns with any particular person’s views on the issues. What it didn’t do was drum up much excitement or hype for the party’s candidates, something that seems to be the main point of these things in our rabid, vapid 24-hour-news-cycle world these days. That, coupled with recent Democratic Party infighting about campaign data, could well hobble Dems come election time. Though, admittedly, that’s still a fairly long way away.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.17.2015 58 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
todo_cincinnatibeerweek

Morning News and Stuff

Busy day as council approves OTR liquor districts, other measures; Cincy developments win big Ohio tax credits; the crowded race for Boehner's seat

Hey all! Time for your news run down. A lot of stuff happened in Cincinnati City Council yesterday, so we’ll focus on that.

First, let’s go to one of the bigger topics around town lately, a proposal Council passed yesterday that will split Over-the-Rhine’s current entertainment district into two separate districts and extend them north. Council’s go-ahead for that plan means the neighborhood will get twice as many liquor licenses as it had before. There were concerns about the plan, including some from community members worried that it would cause the neighborhood to become too rowdy or stoke the neighborhood's ongoing gentrification. Entrepreneurs on the other hand cheered the decision, saying it will allow new businesses to open and new jobs to be created, especially in the northern part of the neighborhood. Anyway, I made you a rough map of those districts so you can know if a new craft beer cocktail/artisanal tatertot place is headed your way. Blue is the original district and red and orange are the new districts. You're welcome.


• Council also wrangled, again, over the application of Community Development Block Grants from the federal government. Those grants diminish every year, and this year about $700,000 less is available for programs funded by those grants. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson objected to plans to cut funds to youth employment programs paid for with those grants, but eventually moved forward with the cuts on the condition that the city would try to plug the holes with money from its $19 million surplus.

• At the same meeting, Council approved a less-controversial measure designed to save nine historic mosaics that once occupied the now-demolished concourse at Union Terminal. Those mosaics, made in 1933 by Winold Reiss, are once again in a space that will soon no longer exist — a soon-to-be torn down terminal at CVG. The city and the airport board will split the cost of moving the murals, which will be relocated to the Duke Energy Convention Center.

• Finally, Council also approved adjustments to its downtown and OTR tax abatement plans, allowing developers in those neighborhoods to keep their tax abatements on the improvements to their property up to twice as long. The catch: those property owners have to double their contributions to a fund that will provide money for the coming streetcar.

• Outside of Council chambers, a couple local development projects got a big up yesterday when Ohio announced the recipients of the next round of state historic tax credits. Among the 18 (yep, 18) projects awarded the credits in the Cincinnati area: more than $700,000 in credits for a $7.4 million renovation project that will bring a 20-room boutique hotel to a historic building in OTR being developed by 3CDC, and $2 million in credits for a $20 million project called Paramount Square in Walnut Hill seeking to redevelop six historic buildings at the intersections of Gilbert Avenue and McMillan Street. Among those buildings is the iconic Paramount Building. That project is being undertaken by Model Group and the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and will create 44 market-rate apartments as well as commercial space.

• Finally, if you thought the GOP presidential primary race was crowded, check this out. Seventeen GOP candidates are lined up for former U.S. Rep. John Boehner’s congressional seat, along with a Democrat, a Libertarian and a Green Party candidate. The special election for Boehner’s seat, which he abruptly vacated last month after his tenure as House Speaker got pretty brutal, represents a unique opportunity for otherwise little-known candidates to take a step up in the political world. But candidates will have to vie for that opportunity on an accelerated basis: The Republican primary for that election is March 15.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 12.16.2015 59 days ago
Posted In: News at 03:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
blogpost3

Cincinnati women hold mixed-faith prayer vigil in response to Islamaphobia

Fountain Square vigil drew more than 200

At least 200 people gathered downtown on Fountain Square during their lunch hour today to take part in a multi-faith, women-led prayer service for peace in response to recent outbursts of Islamaphobia.

The event, co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati and Christ Church Cathedral, is a response by faith community in Cincinnati to the recent uptick in anti-Muslim sentiments across the country in the wake of the recent deadly attacks in San Bernardino, California and Paris. 

The event featured an all-female lineup of 13 faith leaders representing Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Espiscopalian, Hindu, Jewish, Morman, Sikh and Unitarian communities.

"For us to stand together on basically our town square, makes an incredible statement," says Shakila Ahmad, president of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in Westchester. "And I hope it makes a statement to cities across the country where mothers and sisters and daughters need to stand up for their children because this is impacting our kids in unbelievably horrible ways." 

Ahmad said she teamed up with Michelle Young of the American Jewish Community and several other faith leaders at another prayer service and decided they needed to do something about the recent rise in intolerance against the Muslim-American Community.  

Ahmad said once the prayer service was decided, they had Fountain Square booked within 15 minutes. 

For Young, the current backlash against Muslim-Americans was reminiscent of the way the Jewish community was treated at the beginning of Nazis rule of Germany.

Natalie Krebs

 

"I thought, this is how it must of felt in the beginning as a Jew in Germany in Berlin. Hate talk is not even responded to with love. We're just quiet, wondering if it's true," she says. 

The message of love and tolerance of diversity was reiterated by most speakers to a crowd of many races and religions. Some woman wore hijabs while other carried signs with Bible passages on them.  

"What I like about you is that I see the United States right here. Because I see a diverse crowd gathered together in peace and in harmony and love. This is the country I know. This is the country I was born into," said Reverend Sharon Dittmar of the First Unitarian Church in Cincinnati at the prayer service. 

Some also spoke of messages of unity among women and communities of faith. 

"For alone we may be only a small flame, but uniting together may we create a great light diminishing the blackness of despair, of bigotry and hatred bringing forth reconciliation, hope and understanding," said Rabbi Margaret Meyer, president of the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati to the crowd.

Natalie Krebs

 

Ahmad of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati says they focused on woman for the prayer service because women typically are loving and look out for each other and their children, but also to slash through another common stereotype held against the Islamic community. 

"In my own faith of Islam, women, contrary to what people think, have incredible respect and power," she says.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.16.2015 59 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
bike and dine

Morning News and Stuff

Bike groups to unveil 42-mile loop proposal today; DOJ considering federal investigation into Tamir Rice shooting; no breakout for Kasich in GOP debate

Hello all! Let’s talk about news today. There’s a lot of it, so I’ll refrain from my normal verbosity (you probably got enough long-windedness from the GOP presidential debate last night anyway) and just give you the facts.

• As a bike commuter, I’m intrigued. As a reporter who follows the trials and travails of building bike infrastructure in this city, I’m skeptical. But intrigued. A coalition of bike groups is unveiling Cincinnati Connects today, a plan that would link up various proposed or in-progress bike trails to create a 42-mile loop around the city. The groups involved include boosters of major bike trail proposals like Wasson Way and the Millcreek Greenway, along with Queen City Bike and others. Those trails, along with connectors, would need to be completed for the plan to come to fruition. But boosters say they have a much better chance at things like federal TIGER grants — which Wasson Way was recently passed over for — with this larger project. The group says 242,000 of the city’s 300,000 people would live within a mile of a bike trail should the project take off. But will it help me avoid getting flattened by that one guy who drives his SUV, like, 60 miles an hour down Highland Avenue as I bike to work in the mornings? Here’s hoping.

• Hamilton County has yet to set a trial date for Ray Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer who shot and killed unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose in Mount Auburn over the summer. At a pretrial hearing yesterday, prosecutors said they’re still in the evidence-gathering phase of their investigation, a statement that frustrated
DuBose’s mother, Audrey DuBose. The court did set another pretrial hearing for Feb. 11 next year. In the meantime, a settlement to a wrongful death civil suit brought by DuBose’s estate against UC could be near. That settlement could be worth millions. Tensing pulled over DuBose because he didn’t have a front license plate on his car. Though Tensing claimed DuBose tried to drive off and dragged the officer, footage from Tensing’s body camera appears to show that story is false.

• It’s baaaack. Thanks to a change of heart by a Cincinnati City Council member, the much-discussed Over-the-Rhine parking plan has new life after a mayoral veto sunk it earlier this year. At that time, Council had five votes in favor of the plan, which would block off 450 parking spots for residential permit holders. Those permits would cost $108 a year or $18 for low-income residents. Another 151 spots would be set aside for service workers in the neighborhood. Cranley didn’t like the idea, however, saying that people all over the city pay for the streets and thus have a right to park on them. Now, however, Councilman Charlie Winburn has been persuaded to switch sides and vote for the measure, giving Council a veto-proof majority. Winburn says he asked OTR community members about their biggest problems and that parking came up over and over again in those discussions.

• Speaking of Mr. Winburn, it looks like his road to running as the Republican candidate for the county commission seat vacated by outgoing chair Greg Hartmann just got easier. Winburn’s fellow council member, Christopher Smitherman, an independent, announced yesterday that he won’t seek the Republican nomination in that race. Smitherman cites more work he'd like to do on City Council as his reason for foregoing the race. That leaves Winburn the most likely choice to face Democrat Denise Driehaus, who formally filed paperwork for her candidacy earlier this week. Winburn has yet to do the same, but has expressed serious interest in the race.

• The U.S. Department of Justice will review a request by the family of Tamir Rice to remove grand jury deliberations from the jurisdiction of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty and conduct a federal investigation into the police shooting of Rice. That request came in the form of a letter to the DOJ in which attorneys for the family outlined what they say is misconduct by McGinty, including remarks made by McGinty to the press that the family had economic interests at heart in pursuing the case, the alleged disparaging of a defense expert witness and an alleged incident where a prosecutor stuck a toy gun in a defense expert witness’ face while he was testifying. Rice, 12, was playing with a toy gun on a playground when he was shot by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann. Dispatchers did not relay information to Loehmann from a 911 caller who stipulated that Rice was a child and that the gun he was holding was probably fake.

• The organizations that sponsor Ohio charter schools will get a new rating system after data rigging at the Ohio Department of Education earlier this year left low-performing online charters out of a statewide charter school performance evaluation. That scandal resulted in the dismissal of ODE’s School Choice Director David Hansen, who admitted to leaving the school data out of evaluations on charter school sponsors. Now, ODE is expecting to put in place a more rigorous 12-point scale that is weighted depending on school size. So if a charter sponsor has a small school that is failing but larger ones that are doing well, it won’t be penalized as much as it would be otherwise. Some have questioned this scale, however, saying students and parents at failing schools suffer no matter the school’s size. The new rating system is expected to be implemented early next year.

• So, the question on everyone’s mind. Did Ohio Gov. John Kasich break through in last night’s presidential debates? Not really. We did see a kinder, softer Kasich, however, as opposed to the sharp-elbowed interrupter who graced the stage at the last debate. Instead, he called out other candidates for fighting in what was perhaps the most contentious GOP debate yet. The tussling often centered around foreign policy and national security, and while Kasich wasn’t as abrasive as his last performance, he seemed to have a hard time getting a word in edgewise against frontrunners like Donald Trump and the recently emergent Sen. Ted Cruz. His campaign says Kasich has a busy schedule of appearances in early primary states that will bolster his profile among voters, but it’s clear time is running out to make the big splash Kasich will need to boost his flagging poll numbers and rise above the crowded GOP field.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 12.15.2015 60 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mikedewine

Morning News and Stuff

Report says streetcar might run at a deficit; federal judge issues restraining order against Mike DeWine's Planned Parenthood lawsuit; Pete Rose won't be reinstated by MLB

Good morning! Here are your morning headlines. 

• The streetcars are arriving one by one in Cincinnati, slowly parading around the city to get ready for their debut in the second half of 2016, but a new report released by the project's financial advisor says the cars might also be dragging in some money problems behind them. The report by Davenport and Co. says the city could be more than $1 million short during its first year. The company ran four different scenarios weighing all of the streetcars funding sources — fares, advertising, reduced tax incentives for developers, parking meters and a back-up of nearly $1 million from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation — and estimated deficits ranging from $830,000 to $1.4 million by 2017. They estimated a deficit between $495,000 and $2.4 million in 2021. Vice Mayor David Mann, a streetcar supporter, wasn't phased by the report, saying the city could handle the deficits the streetcar brings. 

• The city has released a plan to help end some of the city's food deserts. Right now certain parts of Avondale, Bond Hill, Evanston, Northside and Fairmount are among the neighborhoods that struggle the most to offer access to fresh foods. The city is launching the Grocery Attraction Pilot Program to try to fill in some of those grocery store holes in the city by offering incentives such as tax abatements and waiving the city's annual food permit fee for up to give year for new and future grocers operating in those areas. The Clifton Market in Clifton, the proposed Apple Street Market in Northside and grocery stores in Avondale would qualify for the program. Council's Neighborhoods Committee passed it on Monday, and it could go in front of Council for a full vote on Wednesday. In order to quality, the stores would have to hit certain benchmarks designated by the feds: at least 6,000 square feet, operate in an area where at least one-third of residents live more than a mile from a grocery store and where the census track shows a poverty rate of at least 20 percent or a family median income that is 80 percent or less of Cincinnati's average. 

• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine won't get his hands on Planned Parenthood for at least 28 days now, at least according to U.S. District Court Judge Edmund Sargus, who issued a temporary restraining order for the health clinic Monday. DeWine has asserted that Planned Parenthood clinics in Cincinnati and Columbus have improperly disposed of fetal parts and says the requirement that fetuses are disposed in a "humane" way might be "vague." DeWine hoped to sue to stop the clinics from disposing of fetal parts, but Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against his office and the Ohio Department of Health on Sunday. Planned Parenthood's Cincinnati-based attorney, Al Gerhardstein, said that the organization has been properly disposing of fetal parts for more than 40 years and that DeWine is now changing the rules on them. 

• Along the same lines, several other Ohio Republican lawmakers have argued that aborted fetuses should be cremated and buried instead of disposed in a landfill. In a proposal that was started a month before DeWine's allegations, Sen. Joe Uecker (R-Miami Township), Reps. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) want to change the way the clinics dispose of fetal tissue and are proposing that a woman who has an abortion can choose on a form whether or not she prefers cremation or burial. The disposal method would be an alternative to the use of medical waste companies, which heat and sanitize the remains before dumping them in a landfill. The proposal comes after Indiana and Arkansas passed similar laws earlier this year.  

• It was a sad day for hometown hero Pete Rose yesterday. Major League Commissioner Rob Manfred informed the former Cincinnati Reds player verbally and in writing that he would not lift the permanent ban Major League Baseball placed on him 25 years ago. Rose has been banned since 1989 for betting on games while he was the Reds' manager.  

• It's been nearly a year since President Barack Obama made the big announcement that the U.S. and Cuba would begin repairing their broken relationship. The Dec. 17, 2014 announcement led to the opening of the doors of an American embassy in Havana and inspired new dreams of beach vacations for Americans, who were previously banned from going there for tourism. So how much has the country really changed in the last year? Well, U.S. businesses have only secured a few deals and Cuba remains a one-party state, but while business has been slow to take off, U.S. tourism has increased 40 percent. But the change has also led more Cubans to flee the country than in previous years. Since the big announcement last December, more than 43,000 Cuban migrants to the U.S, up from less than 25,000 in 2014.

Email any story tips to nkrebs@citybeat.com!
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.14.2015 61 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cincinnati-paul-brown-stadium

Morning News and Stuff

Planned Parenthood, Ohio AG fight over fetal tissue disposal; could city cut community development corp funding?; Bengals ask for study on possible stadium upgrades

Good morning all. Hope your weekend was grand and not too spoiled by the disastrous Bengals loss/Andy Dalton injury Sunday, or, if you’re a UC basketball fan, their loss yet again to XU in the Crosstown Shootout. Luckily, I’m only vaguely aware of sports so I was just dandy. Anyway, news time.

Planned Parenthood of Ohio is firing back against Attorney General Mike DeWine’s allegations that the women’s health organization has been using a company that disposes of fetal remains in landfills. DeWine announced that Ohio will pursue civil penalties against
Planned Parenthood over the allegations, which the AG says were discovered during an investigation into alleged sale of fetal remains for research. Donation of remains for research purposes is legal in other states, but illegal in Ohio, and the AG’s investigation found no evidence clinics in the state are engaged in the practice. However, DeWine announced that investigation did find three Planned Parenthood clinics, including one in Cincinnati, had contracted with a medical waste company that disposed of abortion remains in landfills, which he says violates a state law requiring such remains to be disposed of in a humane way. Planned Parenthood has called the allegations false and says the announcement is politically motivated. They’ve filed a federal lawsuit against the state for making the claims.

• A group of about 50 gun law reform advocates gathered in Northside Sunday to protest gun violence. National group Moms Demand Action organized the rally, which was one of many around the country aimed at highlighting the damage gun violence does to communities as well as pressuring politicians to pass tighter restrictions on the availability of firearms. One of the laws the group is protesting is House Bill 48, which would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns into daycare centers, college campuses, churches and some government buildings. That bill passed the Ohio House and is now being considered by the state Senate.

• City of Cincinnati administration has proposed a 36-percent cut in funds to neighborhood community development corporations, and the heads of those organizations are crying foul. In an editorial that ran yesterday in the Cincinnati Enquirer, CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati head Patricia Garry said the proposed cuts would “cripple” CDCs. The non-profit groups work to create economic development and shore up housing and commercial space in the city’s neighborhoods. They include the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Corporation, the Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation and a number of others, many of which signed the editorial by Gerry.

The groups rely on federal money from Community Development Block Grants and HOME programs that the city administers. Other programs receiving those funds from the city face much smaller cuts, Garry writes. Council’s Budget and Finance Committee will vote today on whether to slash funding to the CDCs. If it passes there, full council could vote on the cuts later this week. It's not the first time the city administration and Mayor John Cranley have sought to cut funds to CDCs, a move critics say is contradictory to his campaign promises to serve the city's neighborhoods first and foremost.

• Oh, yeah, back to the Bengals for a minute. The team is asking the county to commission a study from independent experts comparing Paul Brown Stadium to other NFL stadiums across the country and recommend possible upgrades. The county will most likely end up footing the bill for a good portion of any recommended improvements, much the way it paid $7.5 million of the $10 million it cost to put in a new scoreboard last year and $3 million for stadium-wide WiFi. Bengals officials say the upgrades could be necessary to keep the stadium competitive with other NFL facilities. The request for a study on upgrades is stipulated in the Bengals’ contract with the county, a deal that has been very controversial. Outside observers have called it one of the worst deals for taxpayers in sports stadium history. The $450 million stadium, approved by voters in 1996, has left the county struggling with debt and forced to shift funds from other revenue sources to cover the overall stadium deal.

• West Chester-based AK Steel has announced big layoffs at a Kentucky production facility, where as many as 620 workers will be out of work for an indefinite period of time. The move won’t affect all of the 900 employees at the company’s Ashland, Kentucky plant, but the news is still a big blow for the community, where AK is a major employer. The company says market conditions and low steel prices will force reductions in production, causing the layoffs. AK’s administrative offices are in West Chester Township, and the company also runs a large production facility in Middletown. That location has been hiring as recently as this summer.

• Finally, did Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s recent attacks on Donald Trump help Ohio’s big queso in his quest for the GOP prez nomination? Probably not. As the mainstream of the Republican Party begins to repudiate Trump over his statements about halting all Muslims from entering the U.S., among other inflammatory remarks, Kasich wants some credit. He’s been saying these things for weeks, by gosh, and people should recognize that he was early among GOP presidential primary contenders to call out the Donald. But it’s not really playing out that way, which leaves Kasich looking like he’s just crying out for attention.

“People are now beginning to wake up and say that this dividing is not acceptable, but I’ve been saying it for weeks, before anybody else even thought to pay attention to it,” Kasich said to reporters in South Carolina last week. “I’m glad I started it.”

Hm. Sometimes, though, being an early adopter doesn’t necessarily make you more popular. Kasich’s poll numbers haven’t really budged since his tangles with Trump, and more recent criticisms of the real estate magnate seem to skip over any mention of Kasich altogether. The Ohio guv’s attacks on Trump come as he works frantically to woo GOP voters, who so far have relegated him to single-digit returns at the polls.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.11.2015 64 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

BOE report: 84 percent of polling locations experienced problems on election day; city officials look to end food deserts; prosecutors push back on calls for grand jury reform

Good morning all. It’s Friday. I’m ready for the weekend. You’re ready for the weekend. Let’s keep this news rundown brief today, k? Here's what I've seen floating around in the news and what I have written in my own reporter's notebook.

• The Hamilton County Board of Elections has released its report on last month’s rather rocky election day. The results, as you might expect, weren’t great. The report found that a crazy 84 percent of polling locations experienced difficulties that day. Those problems ranged from trouble with new electronic voting systems to poll worker errors and poll locations that closed earlier than the extended time ordered by a judge. The report is headed today to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who, let us remember, originally pinned voting difficulties solely on poll workers here in Hamilton County. Getting our polling situation worked out is a big deal, as Hamilton County was piloting a new voting system that will be extended to the rest of the state next year and because the county looks to be a pivotal battleground in perhaps the most important swing-state in the country for the next year’s presidential election. The BOE report recommends opening polls earlier and fixing bugs in voting software ahead of next year's elections.

• City of Cincinnati officials Wednesday unveiled a new plan to fight the city’s food deserts. The Grocery Attraction Pilot Program will provide financial incentives for the establishment of new grocery stores in neglected parts of the city and provide support for existing grocery stores in areas at risk of becoming food deserts. The federal government defines a food desert as an area where at least 20 percent of residents are below the federal poverty line and live more than a mile from a grocery store. Cincinnati has several such areas, including Avondale and tucked-away places like Millvale. Those incentives and support include tax abatements for stores that come into under-served communities and a waiver on the cost of food supply permits for five years. The city will front the cost of the permit inspection and provide faster, more flexible scheduling of those inspections for grocery stores in such areas. A proposed cooperative grocery in Northside, Apple Street Market, could be one of the stores eligible for that assistance. You can find out more about that project in our cover story about food co-ops and more about the city’s food access problem here.

• City Manager Harry Black confirmed yesterday that the city did not list the job posting seeking a replacement for ousted former Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, nor did the city interview outside of CPD for the job. Black defended that decision yesterday at a press conference announcing the hiring of interim chief Eliot Isaac as Blackwell’s permanent replacement, saying that Eliot, a 25-year veteran of CPD, is the best candidate for the job. Though many called for a national search for a replacement, Cincinnati City Council members said they supported Isaac in his new role. Council Wednesday voted to boost the pay range for the chief position from $136,000 to $163,000, though the original proposal by city administration would have put the top-level salary at $180,000. Some members of Council balked at that raise. Supporters on Council and in the city administration said that the pay bump was needed to secure Isaac as the new chief. Opponents of the raise said the city should focus on providing better wages to the city’s hourly workers. Isaac faces one more hurdle before he’s good to go as chief — he’ll need to relocate into the city limits from his home in Forest Park. He’s indicated he’s willing to do so.

• The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority today held its State of Metro presentation and issued its report on the future of its bus service. Big changes for the coming year include a new transit center in Oakley, smaller buses running more routes in the city’s under-served areas and smartphone-enabled ticket buying options. The announcement that Metro will run smaller buses comes after a near-strike by the Amalgamated Transit Union, which initially balked at the suggestion because Metro wanted to use drivers who do not have commercial driver’s licenses and pay them less money than current Metro drivers. ATU and Metro reached an agreement the day before a strike vote earlier this month, and now Metro will use its regular drivers to drive the smaller buses. Officials with the bus service announced at the presentation that Metro has balanced its budget for 2016 without raising fares or reducing service.

• Finally, some county prosecutors in Ohio are resisting widespread calls to reform the state’s grand jury process, including Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser. The push for reform comes after several high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men across the state, including the death of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, John Crawford III in Beavercreek and Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati. Earlier this year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich convened a task force on community-police relations made up of state lawmakers, community leaders and law enforcement professionals to study the issue. Reforms increasing transparency in the often-secretive grand jury process was among the recommendations that task force suggested. Gmoser told a state committee charged with deciding upon reforms to the grand jury process that the current process works well, and that changes will only compromise the sensitive nature of grand jury proceedings, which are secretive in order to keep from leaking information and biasing a potential trial jury. 

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.10.2015 65 days ago
Posted In: News at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ghiz

Judge's Radio Show Comments Prompt New Hearing

Court says Judge Leslie Ghiz made inaccurate assertions about manslaughter case during appearance on 700 WLW

A Hamilton County Appeals Court has ordered a new hearing for a man convicted in the death of his girlfriend’s 1-year-old child. That order comes after Hamilton County Court Common Pleas Judge Leslie Ghiz made critical statements on a radio station the day after she sentenced the defendant last year.

Hamilton County Court Judge Peter J. Stautberg, writing on Wednesday to order the hearing for Daniel Hamberg, pointed out that Ghiz was in error when she claimed Hamberg had admitted to beating 13-month-old Cohen Barber and might have been biased against the defendant when she handed down his 11-year prison sentence and $20,000 fine.

“The trial court’s remarks at the sentencing hearing and on the radio show made plain that the court imposed the maximum prison sentence based not on the sentencing purposes and factors, but on its disregard for the opinions of the defense’s experts and the unfounded belief that the victim’s death had resulted from an intentional '“beat[ing],' ” Stautberg wrote.

Hamberg received the sentence from Ghiz last April after taking a plea deal on involuntary manslaughter charges for his role in Cohen Barber’s death in 2012. Hamberg says the child fell down the stairs and hit his head. Prosecuting attorneys in his trial last year, however, alleged Hamberg shook or beat Barber. Prosecutors initially sought murder, aggravated murder, felonious assault and endangering children charges for the defendant, but later offered the plea deal, citing difficulty in getting murder convictions in cases like Hamberg’s from juries who don’t want to believe an adult would kill a child.

Heather Noonan, the child’s mother, told authorities that Barber would often jump down the small stairset into the arms of waiting adults. Noonan’s family would later call for Hamberg’s conviction on murder charges, however.

While prosecutors said they had experts ready to testify that Barber was shaken, several medical experts for the defense testified that the child’s death was brought about by a single blow to the back of the head and subsequent swelling and seizures, not from a series of blows or shaking. That evidence seemed to back up Hamberg’s assertions that while he might have been negligent in looking after the child, he did not strike or shake him.

Hamberg is a veteran of the Marines disabled by injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan.

During his sentencing, Ghiz blasted Hamberg for killing the child, then said on the air with 700 WLW's Bill Cunningham the next day that the child’s death “came from a number of different things, but they can’t pinpoint exactly what it was… a lot of people know that as shaken baby syndrome. I don’t know that that was the case here. I think the kid was just beat.”

Ghiz also asserted that, “He admitted to it. I don’t care if he had been president of the United States, he’s perfectly capable of behaving in an appropriate manner, and beating a child and admitting to beating that child, and pleading to that is not OK.”

The judge, who is a former Cincinnati City Council member, also shrugged off expert testimony that seems to back up Hamberg’s side of the story, saying that “you can get an expert to say anything.”

Ghiz handed down the maximum sentence, 11 years in prison, which Hamberg is currently serving. His attorneys appealed that sentence after Ghiz’s remarks, and now Hamberg will receive a new hearing regarding his sentence by another judge.

Stautberg was joined by Hamilton County Judge Sylvia Hendon in his call for a new trial. Judge Patrick DeWine dissented, citing procedural concerns he had with the court’s decision.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 12.10.2015 65 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
sherrod brown

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar funding again in question; city names Isaac new permanent police chief; Sen. Brown calls Ohio lawmakers "lunatics" for gun bill

Hey Cincy! Here’s the news today.

Happy holidays. If you like political drama, then the city’s streetcar is the gift that keeps on giving. The latest dustup comes over Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black’s memo to Mayor John Cranley and City Council late last week that questions whether the $4.2 million operating plan Council passed earlier this year will provide sufficient funds to run the streetcar. According to an not-yet-complete independent audit cited by Black, that plan could fall as much as $1.5 million short of the money needed to keep the 3.6-mile loop transit project running. That shortfall counts a $9 million overall financial pledge from The Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation to help fund operations of the streetcar in its first few years. The alarm comes from new independent projections about the operating costs and income of the streetcar when it starts running next year. The results of that audit have yet to be revealed, but preliminary numbers suggest the project might run between $750,000 to $1.5 million over budget. Hopefully, city officials, council members and media will wait until the full audit comes in before they start more interminable bickering about this shit. Oh, wait, too late.

• Cincinnati yesterday became the first city in the country to pass a ban on so-called conversion therapy, an often religiously based practice that attempts to turn LGBT people, often minors, straight. The legislation comes a year after transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide following bullying. Alcorn's parents took her to conversion therapy for a time. You can read more about the new legislation in our story published yesterday.

• The city today swore in its new police chief following the firing of Chief Jeffrey Blackwell earlier this year. Their pick? Interim police chief Eliot Isaac, who has been the only named candidate in the search for a new permanent head to the police department. City officials promised a national search for a new CPD leader following Blackwell’s ouster, though some have questioned whether that search was thorough enough and whether Isaac was intended to be the city’s pick the whole time. Yesterday, City Council wrangled over raising the pay grade for the police chief to $180,000 a year, which proponents said was a key bargaining chip in keeping Isaac chief on a permanent basis. Council ultimately passed a pay raise for the position, but Democrat Council members Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach balked at the raise, saying the city needs to focus on better pay for its rank-and-file workers.

• According to personal finance website Wallethub.com, which regularly cranks out interesting factoids about cities, Cincinnati is the eighth-best place in the country to celebrate New Year's Eve. That’s kind of a strange ranking to me, since New Year's is all about the parties you go to, and parties are all about who you know at them. But Wallethub found other ways to quantify the quality of New Year's Eve festivities, including price of NYE party tickets, forecasted precipitation, legality of fireworks and other metrics. Cincy came out pretty well all things being equal — just behind Portland, Ore. and just ahead of Las Vegas somehow. So if you have great friends in every major American city (or the money to fly 100 of your nearest and dearest to any of them), or, hell, if you don’t have any friends at all, this ranking should give you a great idea of where to go.

• A week or so ago, we told you about a bill the Ohio General Assembly is considering that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns into day care centers, college campuses and private airplanes, among other places. Now U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who represents Ohio, is making news with his reaction to that bill. The Democrat says Ohio lawmakers are “lunatics” for considering such a law, citing mass shootings as among the reasons he thinks the bill is a bad idea. One funny thing to emerge from the debate: Concealed weapons will still be forbidden at the State House. Republican lawmakers call that an oversight. They also say Brown should learn more about the 2nd Amendment before calling them crazy. And on and on the gun debate goes.

• Finally, here’s a bummer bit of information. For the first time in decades, Americans who are considered “middle class” are not a majority of the country’s population, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Pew’s data shows America’s middle class is receding quickly, now making up about 50 percent of the total population, a drop from 54 percent in 2001. Meanwhile, the ranks of the low-income and high-income are swelling, demonstrating the widening income gap in America. What’s more, an increasing amount of the earnings in America are heading toward that upper income group. In 1970, 62 percent of earnings went to the middle class. These days, it’s more like 43 percent. At the same time, high-income households are now taking home 49 percent of America’s aggregate income these days, up from 29 percent at the dawn of the 1970s. Pew considers “middle income” to be between 67 percent and 200 percent of America’s median household income, or between about $42,000 and $126,000 last year for a family of three.

I’m out. Later all.

 
 

 

 

 
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