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by Natalie Krebs 09.08.2015 31 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Harry Black

Morning News and Stuff

Black celebrates one year as city manager; marijuana could bring in billions; Kentucky clerk Davis to be released from jail

Hey, Cincy! I can only hope you're recovering a long weekend of sun and hot dogs. As you recover from your hangover and sunburns, you can catch up on today's headlines. 

City Manager Harry Black hits the one year mark working for the city today. To celebrate, Mayor John Cranley would like to give him a raise, but some council members are questioning if he should get one before he undergoes a review. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson has called for a formal review of Black's performance before pay increase is approved. Black currently makes $245,000 per year, and his contract states that an annual review should set up through the mayor and city council, though the only review done so far has been a in-person, verbal review by Mayor Cranley with no documentation for the press to review. Black has been criticized by some for being too aligned with Cranley. In the last year, Black has had to deal with the deaths of a police officer, firefighter and construction worker, a spike in shootings and a rocky relationship with Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and a significant restructuring of the city workforce.  

• So how much money would legalizing marijuana bring to Ohio? Numbers vary, according to the Enquirer, but they're in the billions. A task force headed by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters released a report in July estimating that if the ResponsibleOhio ballot initiative passes, retail sales could bring in $2.26 billion. But an estimate by New Frontier, an analytics firm in Washington D.C., put that number at $1.8 billion. So, we're not really sure. What we do know is that the super PAC is spending million on advertising campaigns to push through a constitutional amendment to legalize growth of the plant that would limit that growth to 10 commercial farms in the state. Individuals could purchase a license for $50 that would allow the growth of four plants, but without the ability to sell them. 

• Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis spent Labor Day weekend in jail for refusing to issue marriage license to same-sex couples, claiming it violates her religious beliefs. Her attorneys filed an appeal for her release yesterday, but in the meantime, Ohio governor and Republican presidential nominee John Kasich, who opposes same-sex marriage, says Davis should follow the law and issue the licenses. Davis has found supporters in other GOP candidates, though. Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee will join protesters today outside the jail where Davis is being held to demand her release. UPDATE: Davis was ordered released from jail by a federal judge this afternoon.

• The FBI is investigating a former Ohio State professor who mysteriously resigned and disappeared last March. Engineering Professor Rongxing Li had been the director of the OSU mapping and geographic information system laboratory and was known for his work with NASA on 2003 and 2009 exploration missions. The FBI has filed federal search warrants in Columbus to determine if Li was sharing defense secrets with the Chinese. In early 2014, Li submitted a $36.9 million proposal to do imaging work for a 2020 NASA mission to Mars where he was exposed to U.S. defense information he was prohibited from sharing with the Chinese. It has since come to light that Li has significant ties to a Chinese university.  

• Looking for a good lunch option this week? Try Park Vine in Over-the-Rhine. Starting today, they're trying out two new ways to help feed those in need — specifically the homeless. Modeled after an Asheville, North Carolina restaurant, Park Vine will offer a beans-and-rice dish on a sliding scale from $2 to $7 and will price other dishes at $7 or more to allow the restaurant to provide meals for those on a limited budget. Customers can also purchase a dish off the menu to set aside for someone else.

That's all for now! Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com with story tips!
by Staff 09.08.2015 31 days ago
Posted In: Leftovers, Brunch, Alcohol, Asian, Events, Food news at 09:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend

There's a new Toast Bar at Findlay Market; Taste of Belgium's Rookwood location; pumpkin-flavored stuff; Northside Yacht Club brunch and more

Each week CityBeat staffers, dining writers and the occasional intern tell you what they ate this weekend. We're not always proud — or trendy — but we definitely spend at least some money on food. 

Ilene Ross: The BF and I had a super busy weekend in the kitchen putting up tomatoes and okra — he’s a wiz with the canning — but we did manage to get out for a bit. On Saturday morning we hit up Findlay Market for provisions and started with breakfast at the fairly new Toast Bar at the Blue Oven Bakery stand. Hearty slices of brioche or other types of bread are slathered thick with your choice of sweet or savory toppings. I chose peanut butter with honey and honey-roasted peanuts, and the BF went with everyone’s childhood favorite, cinnamon sugar. We paired our toast with lattes from Urbana Cafe. Delightful. Next, we stocked up with at-home eats: chicken thighs from Busch’s, smoked lamb sausage from Kroeger & Sons, Japanese eggplant and corn from Turner Farms, spices from Colonel De and general groceries from Madison’s. While we were selecting our groceries we overheard a Madison grandchild who works in the shop say to Mr. Madison, “’Such & such’ brought down the 50-cents for the eggs.” You don’t hear that sort of neighborly attitude at Kroger, which is exactly why we shop at Findlay.
On Monday afternoon we attended Morsels of MORTAR, an open house featuring tastings from four food entrepreneurs who have graduated from the business incubator program MORTAR Cincinnati. We tasted French fries from Fryed, vegan Jamaican cuisine from JameriSol, desserts from Jazzy-Sweeties, and cobbler from Aunt Flora. After the event we strolled to Brezel OTR, grabbed a couple of pretzels and headed over occupy a couple of Adirondack chairs at the bar in Washington Park. I highly recommend this delightful spot as a place to relax, unwind, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. Especially the joyful noise of the kids enjoying the fountain. It was an especially nice way to end our holiday weekend.

Emily Begley: It’s finally September, and that means pumpkin-flavored everything is perfectly acceptable. If you’ve never tried pumpkin pie-flavored vodka, go to the store tonight and pick up a bottle of Pinnacle’s. I mixed in a shot with diet cream soda, basically creating a cup of liquid pumpkin pie. (Ice is a must.) It was a great addition to our Labor Day feast, which included grilled sweet potatoes and portobello mushrooms.

Pama Mitchell: We had a good meal and good time at The Littlefield. They make an excellent, strong Manhattan. At $12 it’ll set you back, but one goes a long way. It’s served in a rocks glass over one large ice ball, which keeps the drink cool without diluting it. The dinner specials were all interesting, too. I chowed down on a lamb/beef burger with feta cheese and pickled onions, accompanied by “crunchy green beans” that thankfully weren’t fried (not with the rich burger) — just cooked very al dente. Companions had a pappardelle special (tomatoes, cheese, vegetarian) and the most virtuous among us opted for another special, an Asian-style entrée-sized shrimp salad. (He supplemented that by eating some of his wife’s pasta.)

Katie Holocher: I had a mad craving for Taste of Belgium's chicken and waffles, so my little family and I checked out the new Rookwood location. The chicken and waffle was of course, just as delicious as I remembered, plus I had a raspberry latte that su-eriously hit the spot. And while the wait was long (50 minutes), the staff was super nice and accommodating and our orders were out lickidy split. The whole treat was pretty sweet!

Anne Mitchell: We had our annual neighborhood picnic Sunday, and my friend and I made 100 hamburgers. It's a potluck, and the food is actually awesome. One of our neighbors is a food stylist, and brought an amazing big chafing dish of shrimp with dill butter. Seriously impressive. Washed it all down with Moerlein's Push Reel. Thanks, unions!

Casey Arnold: Saturday my parents took my boyfriend and me to dinner at Chuy's in Kenwood for our belated birthday dinners. We stumbled across the restaurant not too long ago after a day at the mall and were surprised how great the food was, especially because it's a chain restaurant. It was the perfect place for our varied tastes, from my meat-and-potatoes dad, gluten-free boyfriend, vegetarian self and I'll-try-anything-once-and-never-refuse-a-margarita mom. Sunday morning, after spending an evening dancing to Freddie Mercury tunes at Northside Yacht Club the night before, we returned the next afternoon for brunch. There's a simple buffet setup with the added bonus of running into friends every time we've been there. Our friend and co-owner Stuart mixed us some seriously delicious as well as some seriously ridiculous cocktails. My favorite was the Gatorpagne, just half gatorade and half champagne. 

Tony Johnson: I ate a black bean three-way, a cheese pizza with banana peppers from Dewey's and Reese's Pieces.

Jesse Fox: On Saturday, my band filmed a music video that included consumption of mass Budlight Ritas. I tend to gravitate to the Raz-Ber-Rita, but I had a couple Lemon-Ade-Ritas as well. Sunday and Monday I worked on the World Peace Yoga cookbook I am photographing for chef Mark Stroud. He made two incredible feasts to be photographed with models both days and we were all able to indulge once the photos were done. Sunday was a vegan take on the "all American picnic/barbecue" so lots of beans, potato salad, sloppy joes, etc. Monday was more of a thanksgiving-style cuisine and I think I ate my weight in Shepard's Pie. If I had to guess, I would say a weight gain of at least 10 pounds happened over the course of the past three days. Someone roll me to the gym, please.

by Rick Pender 09.04.2015 35 days ago
Posted In: Theater at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
seven guitars @ actors theater louisville 2015 (l-r) forrest mcclendon, j. alphonse nicholson_photo credit by bill brymer

Stage Door

Theater seasons starts movin’

There’s a lot more coming next week, once we get past Labor Day, but right now there’s just one theater locally with a production onstage. That’s the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts. Artistic Director Tim Perrino has been reminding everyone that just because Cincinnati Landmark Productions has opened the Incline Theatre, don’t think that the Covedale has shut down. In fact, it has an ambitious line-up of shows, and the opening production is already under way, A Chorus Line. I haven’t seen this production of it yet, but I will tell you that it’s a show that really lit my interest in musical theater. It was a Broadway hit back in 1975, and I saw a touring production of it in Cleveland in 1978. I had next to no income at the time — and tickets for subsequent performances were pretty well sold out anyway — but I told several friends that in a perfect world, I would have gone back to see it again. I had to wait a few years for that to happen, but this story of aspiring performers grabs me every time I see it. It’s the story of eager young dancers trying to get into the chorus of an upcoming Broadway production. The group is narrowed to 17, but the ultimate goal is four men and four women. The songs are rooted in each dancer’s personal story: Some are amusing, some are heart wrenching — all are painfully true. At the end, they all coalesce into “One (Singular Sensation),” a stunning finale that has all the individuals we’ve met together, dancing as one. It’s a wonderful metaphor about the passion to perform and to be part of a larger whole. A Chorus Line at the Covedale has performances this weekend and continues through Sept. 27. Tickets: 513-241-6550.

Last evening I drove to Louisville where Actors Theatre is opening its 2015-2016 season with a superb production of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, one of his “Century Cycle” plays chronicling African-American life in Pittsburgh across the decades of the 20th century. This one, set in the late 1940s, swirls around a promising young Blues singer, Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, who has been offered a recording contract just after his release from a 90-day stint in jail. The play opens with his funeral then circles back through scenes reminiscing about his life and six vividly different people who were close to him — three women and three men. The cast is powerful, and the minutely detailed setting, a desolate backyard in Pittsburgh’s Hill District (inspired by the art of African-American painter and collagist Romare Bearden) is a sight to behold. Seven Guitars blends humor, lyricism and tragedy. Although several of Wilson’s remarkable plays have been stage in Cincinnati, Seven Guitars — winner of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle award for best play in 1996 and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award — has not been produced locally. So you might want to make a run down I-71 to Louisville between now and Sept. 20 to see this. This production is definitely worth the trip. Tickets: 502-584-1205.

Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

by Staff 09.04.2015 35 days ago
Posted In: Holidays at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Your Weekend To Do List (9/4-9/6)

Fireworks, Freddie Mercury and other assorted Labor Day events.


Dig your savage soul with BARRENCE WHITFIELD & THE SAVAGES

Barrence Whitfield & the Savages have had more lives than a Buddhist cat. They recorded two brilliant albums in the early ’80s, broke up in 1986 and reunited in 2010, resulting in three exceptional albums — 2011’s Savage Kings (on Cincinnati’s Shake It label), 2013’s acclaimed Dig Thy Savage Soul and their latest, Under the Savage Sky (both on Bloodshot Records). Given this consistent output, it’s natural to wonder how the quality remains so high. “We just come up with great, interesting tunes,” Whitfield says. “We try to stick to the same formula like guys of the ’50s and ’60s; sometimes it’s all about peoples’ lives and things going on in everybody’s world.” Read more in this week's Sound Advice. See Barrence Whitfield & the Savages with All-Seeing Eyes Friday at MOTR Pub. More info/tickets: motrpub.com.

AVP Cincinnati Open
Photo: Kohjiro Kinno
Suck in the end of summer at the AVP CINCINNATI OPEN
Get a sneak peek of Olympic-level athletes before the Summer 2016 games at the Association of Volleyball Professionals’ Cincinnati Open. The AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour is the nation’s foremost beach volleyball tournament, and Cincinnati is the sixth of seven stops. See the best U.S. players all weekend — Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross, Casey Patterson, Jake Gibb and more — with two special Sunday matches: The Bigg Dig Classic, which pits the women’s indoor varsity volleyball teams of the University of Cincinnati and Miami University against each other, and the Rakuten Card Cup exhibition match featuring Japanese volleyball ambassador and legend Koichi Nishimura. The event also includes live music, food and more beachy entertainment. Friday-Sunday. Free general admission; seating $10-$75. Lindner Family Tennis Center, 5460 Courseview Drive, Mason, avp.com. 

Country star Dierks Bentley
Photo: Nino Muñoz
Go Country with Dierks Bentley
Riser, the latest album from Dierks Bentley, is being lauded for its collection of mid-tempo tunes and ballads that finds the Country singer digging deeper emotionally than ever before — a direction inspired largely by the death of his father two years ago and the recent birth of his first son. For an artist who has been known for such energetic songs as “What Was I Thinking,” “Sideways” and “5-1-5-0,” the more restrained and contemplative material on Riser is a bit of a stylistic changeup. Read a full interview with Bentley here. Dierks Bentley plays Friday at Riverbend Music Center. Tickets/more info: riverbend.org.

The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die
Photo: Epitaph Records
Catch the last MIDPOINT INDIE SUMMER concert on Fountain Square
The free MidPoint Indie Summer shows on Fountain Square are ending with a bang, as diverse Connecticut-spawned rockers The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die play the last concert of the season this week. The band emerged in 2009 and boasts an expansive, unpredictable sound that incorporates numerous Rock and Indie genres, with dynamic arrangements that wander between hazy atmospherics and earth-shaking heaviness. The rotating collective will release its first album for the legendary Epitaph Records, Harmlessness, on Sept. 25. Local acts Edison, Moonbeau and Injecting Strangers round out the bill. 7 p.m. Friday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com. 

Sure, it’s Labor Day Weekend, and almost everyone in the Midwest will probably be grilling burgers on some type of lake. But if you like the odd and unique more than the traditional, fear not — it’s also Freddie Mercury’s birthday weekend, and Northside Yacht Club is throwing a party (with a free champagne toast) in honor of the greatest Glam Rock frontman who has ever lived. Sure, it’s Labor Day Weekend, and almost everyone in the Midwest will probably be grilling burgers on some type of lake. But if you like the odd and unique more than the traditional, fear not — it’s also Freddie Mercury’s birthday weekend, and Northside Yacht Club is throwing a party (with a free champagne toast) in honor of the greatest Glam Rock frontman who has ever lived. 9:05 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday. Donation at the door. Northside Yacht Club, 4227 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, facebook.com/northsideyachtclub.

Ohio Renaissance Festival
Photo: Will Thorpe Photography
Get thee a turkey leg at the OHIO RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL
The Ohio Renaissance Festival is back and bringing fall weekends filled with costumes, turkey legs, mulled mead, jousting, games, glass-blowing demonstrations, choirs, crafts and tarot readings inside a 30-acre, recreated 16th-century village. This weekend is opening weekend, so tickets for adults are buy-one-get-one, and kids under 12 get in free. Be sure to check the website for themed weekends (like Time Travelers Weekend Sept. 12; where’s your fez?) and different deals. Nerds of all kinds welcome — just remember that any medieval weapons you might bring need to be tied in a sheath at all times. 10:30 a.m.- 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (and Labor Day). Through Oct. 25. $21.95 adult; $9.95 child; $119.95 season pass. 10542 E. State Route 73, Waynesville, renfestival.com. 

Watch drunk people talk about art at DRUNK ART HISTORY
If you’re a fan of the show Drunk History and have a soft spot for art history, you might have found the Holy Grail in Live-In Gallery’s second-annual Drunk Art History night. The gallery assigns participants a subject to research while imbibing, and they plan a live presentation for fellow partygoers. Audience members eat, drink and wax profound about their assigned art movement and/or artist — oftentimes in the form of mostly made-up art historical lectures, which tend to have more humorous than educational effects, but nonetheless get participants excited and invested in art historical narration. 7 p.m. Saturday. Free. Live-In Gallery, 2159 Central Ave., Brighton, facebook.com/liveingallery. 

Enjoy at staycation at SEE CINCNNATI
“See Cincinnati” is Washington Park’s Labor Day staycation destination featuring a series of concerts and tours highlighting the best of the Queen City. Musical acts Jess Lamb, Johnny Walker, Gospel singer Jonathan Dunn and more will play the park’s main stage, which will temporarily transform into The King Records Legacy Stage. And a series of tours will explore the best of the city’s local breweries, OTR’s most beloved murals, Findlay Market, iconic historical Cincinnati landmarks and, for the more morbid, sites of historical grisly crimes and murders. 3-10 p.m. Saturday. Free; tour prices and times vary. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.

Krohn Conservatory
Get really ready for fall at the KROHN CONSERVATORY
The Krohn Conservatory’s fall floral show — A Bevy of Blossoms and A Flock of Flowers — will be in bloom for two months this fall, starting Saturday. The show celebrates the best of fall flora with various displays, a full room of chrysanthemums, discussions and activities. Browse table displays of autumn plants and learn about the history of harvest, or create your own fall décor from real flowers and leaves. Enjoy themed days like a Fall Harvest Celebration, Fungus Fest and a Very Green Halloween. Details online. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Through Oct. 25. $4 adult; $2 children. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Drive, Eden Park, cincinnatiparks.com/krohn. 

'A Chorus Line'
Photo: Mikki Schaffner
Sing along with A CHORUS LINE at the Covedale Center
The dancers who back up Broadway productions are called “gypsies.” They lead anonymous lives, but they’re passionate, dedicated performers. They got their star turn in A Chorus Line, a 1975 show about a group of performers competing for spots in the company of a new production. The show was based on composites of real people, but it features some of Broadway’s greatest musical theater numbers. With songs by Marvin Hamlisch — especially “One Singular Sensation” — the show danced off with nine Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize. It ran on Broadway for more than two decades. It’s a great choice to open Covedale’s 2015-2016 season. Through Sept. 27. $21-$24. Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, 4990 Glendale Ave., Covedale, 513-241-6550, cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.

Rubber Duck Regatta
Photo: Provided
Throw a plastic bird in the Ohio River for a good cause with the RUBBER DUCK REGATTA

On your mark, get set … float! On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of yellow rubber ducks will race on the Ohio River before Riverfest. The 21st-annual Rubber Duck Regatta benefits the Freestore Foodbank’s efforts to end hunger in the Cincinnati area: Buy a duck, feed a child. First prize wins a new car. 3 p.m. Sunday. $5 duck, with bulk duck deals. Yeatman’s Cove, 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, rubberduckregatta.org.

Photo: Provided 

The fireworks aren't being broadcast on TV this year (WHAT?) so you better head to the actual RIVERFEST if you want to see them

It’s almost Labor Day, and here in Cincinnati that only means one thing: Riverfest featuring the WEBN (and now Western & Southern-branded) fireworks, the ultimate way to celebrate the end of summer. It’s a tradition that began more than 30 years ago when the radio station treated the Tristate to a fireworks display to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Now, nearly half a million people will watch the fireworks — choreographed by Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks — from both sides of the river after an all-day fest featuring live music, family fun zones and vendor booths. Make sure to stake your fireworks-watching spot out early — they go fast. Noon-10 p.m. Sunday. Free. Sawyer Point/Yeatman’s Cove, 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, riverfestcincinnati.com

by Nick Swartsell 09.04.2015 35 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Councilman Young pulls support for Chief Blackwell; records show officials colluded on Ohio charter data-rigging; Kim Davis in jail, Rowan County same-sex couples get licenses

Good morning all. Here’s the news today as we head into the long Labor Day weekend. I’ll be brief so we can all get there a little quicker, eh?

Cincinnati City Councilman and former Cincinnati Police officer Wendell Young says Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell has become a distraction and should move on. Young has until recently made statements of support for the chief but now says the negative attention and “sniping” has “achieved its desired result” and undermined Blackwell as the head of the department. Young says he still thinks Blackwell has done a good job in his two years as chief, but political turmoil at the city and within CPD as well as a tough summer that saw officer Sonny Kim shot and a rise in gun violence have taken their toll. Young says it’s in the city’s best interest and Blackwell’s that he move on.

Others on Council, as well as community members, however, continue to stick by the chief. Young’s fellow Democratic council members Yvette Simpson, Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld have all made statements supporting Blackwell. He’s gotten a show of support outside City Hall, too — a Facebook group called “We’ve Got Blackwell’s Back” popped up yesterday and has garnered hundreds of followers. The support comes amid controversy, however, as rumors have swirled all summer about city leaders’ unhappiness with Blackwell and low morale at CPD. Cincinnati’s Fraternal Order of Police President Kathy Harrell has called a special Sept. 14 meeting to discuss those concerns, and some media outlets report that officers might take a vote of no confidence in Blackwell at that gathering.

• Some parents are fighting back against Cincinnati Public Schools' controversial decision to end first-come, first-served enrollment for the city’s sought-after magnet schools, forming a group called Cincinnatians for School Access to advocate for a return to that policy. CPS ended first-come, first-served last month, citing the nearly two-week camp outs district parents were undertaking in order to be first in line to enroll their children at schools like the Fairview-Clifton German Language School. The district says the first-come, first-served policy isn’t fair because some students don’t have parents who can afford to spend two weeks waiting in line to enroll. They’ve replaced the former system with a randomized lottery, at least for this year. But parents like those in CSA say that takes control out of parents’ hands. The new parent group is pushing to gain more members and convince CPS to reconsider the change.

• A couple quick business notes: First, I’m not much for fashion. Like, I think about it exactly never. If you’ve ever seen me walking to work, at City Hall covering Council, out on Saturday night or well, anywhere, really, you know this already. But I have to admit I have a weakness for cool sneakers, which makes me kinda excited about this news: Corporate, a mid-to-high-end sneaker boutique located in Hyde Park, is opening up a second store in Over-the-Rhine on Vine Street. The new location will focus less on athletic wear, owners say, and more on lifestyle-type gear. That’s great because I could use some new kicks and I really hate taking the bus to Hyde Park. But it’s also not-so-great because that’s on my walk home from work and I’m really worried about the toll all that temptation will take on my bank account.

• I think it’s pretty uncommon to celebrate your first birthday with a round of beers, but that’s the big plan for the one-year anniversary of Cincinnati Red Bike. The bike share company started Sept. 15 last year, and to celebrate they’ve partnered with the also recently opened Taft’s Ale House for a special brew commemorating the occasion. The two are just a block apart from each other in Over-the-Rhine, so the collaboration seemed like a natural way to have a party. Taft’s will create the Red Bike-themed brew, a low-alcohol lager (can’t be swerving on those rental bikes, after all) and host the big, bike-beer-birthday bash Sept. 15.

• An initial review of records detailing charter school accountability data flubs at the Ohio Department of Education is turning up some fairly disconcerting stuff. The state released 100,000 pages of records to media yesterday, some of which shows personnel at the ODE collaborating to goose charter school sponsor data by leaving out low-performing online charter schools. So far, the scandal around the data-fixing has revolved mostly around now-resigned ODE official David Hansen, husband of Gov. John Kasich's chief of staff Beth Hansen. But the emails and other documents released yesterday seem to show Hansen and other ODE officials discussed the data and how results might make charter school sponsors look better. Officials with the state say the records indicate that no one high up in the state's administration, including Kasich, was aware that the data-rigging was happening, though an analysis of the documents by journalists has yet to wrap up.

• This morning was another historic step for marriage equality as same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky were finally able to get marriage licenses there. The couples had been denied licenses despite the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this summer legalizing same-sex marriage across the country. County Clerk Kim Davis ceased issuing any marriage licenses at all, saying same-sex marriage violated her religious beliefs. Her refusal led to a court battle, which finally ended yesterday, when Davis was put in jail after being found in contempt of federal court. Couples in Rowan made their way through throngs of media, supporters and protesters to receive their licenses from deputy clerks early this morning.

• Finally, a little bit of national good news: Unemployment in the U.S. has fallen to a seven-and-a-half-year low at 5.1 percent. It’s not all great news, though. The country gained somewhat fewer jobs than expected, and wages didn’t rise much, either.

All right. I'm out. Have a great long weekend!

by Jac Kern 09.03.2015 35 days ago

I Just Can't Get Enough

Jac's roundup of pop culture news and Internet findings

The big pop news this week comes courtesy of the VMAs, which can best be summed up in Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award-winner Kanye West’s words: “I don’t understand it, bro!”

Host Miley Cyrus successfully freed her nipple on live TV (we all knew that was coming), called Snoop Dogg her “mammy” and ended the night with a performance of a new song about “smoking pot” (suspiciously, a term no one who actually smokes pot uses) from a surprise new self-released album that is available for free streaming. The only redeemable aspect of that final performance was the cast of 30 (mostly) RuPaul’s Drag Race stars dancing along — perhaps a preview of All Stars 2?

Kanye was awarded the VMA’s Video Vanguard honor by none other than Taylor Swift, who force-smiled her way through Kanye’s predictably chaotic speech as she pretended to be BFFs with also force-smiling Kim Kardashian in the audience.

Just like every other time Kanye opens his mouth to comment on his own shit, it was confusing as fuck. It started off sounding like he was about to apologize for the “Imma let you finish” moment, but took a few confusing winds down the roads into biblical territory (And Yeezus said, “…sometimes I feel like I died for the artist's opinion,”) and ended with the joking(?) announcement of a 2020 presidential run. Why wait, Kanye?

Elsewhere, Bieber flied and cried, fake beef was squashed and new fake beef created. And where was Rihanna? Bitch better have her VMA!

Apparently, despite being full of nudity, celebrities and OuTrAgEoUs moments, it was the least-watched VMAs ever. Isn’t that just how it works — everyone and their out-of-touch uncle are talking about the shitshow, but none of them actually watched it first-hand. Pretty accurate depiction of humans today.

Ohio was well-represented throughout the night — Twenty-One Pilots (of Columbus, Ohio) performed during the show with ASAP Rocky, Eric Nally of Foxy Shazam gained national attention with his Freddy Mercury-esque contribution to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ outdoor performance of “Downtown” and Walk the Moon kicked off pre-show. #ohioagainsttheworld

So we all know Serena Williams was in town for the Western & Southern Open just a few weeks ago, but besides kicking ass on the court (and sucking face at Sotto), she was also filming a Beats by Dre commercial here. Fun!


Labor Day weekend is upon us, which means fireworks, grill-outs and poolside fun there’s not a lot of good TV this week. Luckily, fall is right around the corner, and with the cool air and pumpkin spice mania comes ALL THE SHOWS. Check out our fall TV preview in this week’s television column.

Janet Jackson’s first tour in four years kicked off this week in Vancouver and — da fuq is she wearing?

Basic bitches of the world (myself first and foremost): Rejoice! Drinking at Target may soon become socially acceptable — and I’m not talking about the wine-in-a-coffee-cup trick you alchies pull. A Chicago Target is getting two liquor licenses — one to sell the hard stuff on shelves, and the other to sell wine, beer and cocktails in an on-site bar. ON-SITE BAR. For the love of god, please let this expand to all locations.

Christina Applegate is Meryl Streep.

by Nick Swartsell 09.03.2015 36 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
jeffrey blackwell

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read More

by Nick Swartsell 09.02.2015 37 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Tony Johnson 09.01.2015 37 days ago
at 03:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spoonful of Cinema: No Escape

No Escape is fine, I guess. It’s surprisingly better than I would have suspected, but I’m not recommending it. The action is tense but the story is flat. Its story is wildly boring and its perspective is probably xenophobic. Giving the filmmaking Dowdle brothers the benefit of the doubt as far as the xenophobic possibilities go, there’s still something wrong with this picture.

Star actor Owen Wilson isn’t the problem. Neither is star actress Lake Bell. Neither is star support Pierce Brosnan. Neither is the directing team of Drew and John Erick Dowdle. What’s wrong with No Escape is the uninspired writing team of Drew and John Erick Dowdle.

Unfortunately for the 40-something brothers out of St. Paul, Minn., their combined efforts behind the keyboard are far more tragic than the events we witness on camera. The filmmaking duo brings us Wilson as Jack Dwyer, a newly transferred employee of a large corporation. The international company has something to do with the water supply in an unnamed, apparently irrelevant Asian nation. And guess what? The native inhabitants of whatever country Jack is in don’t like the fact that a big, bad business is taking their water because things have apparently gotten worse since Americans began controlling the supply.

The well-armed revolt puts the Dwyer family in an unexpected scenario. The locals are violently rebellious, and they want American blood. Despite the film’s title, Jack and his wife Annie (Lake Bell) do everything in their power to bring themselves and their children to escape from the lethally unfortunate situation they have found themselves in.

The route of escape takes us from the inside of a hotel building to the top of a hotel building to the top of another building and down and through the unnamed city to the U.S. Embassy and to the Vietnam border. Along the way, British Intelligence Agent Hammond (Brosnan) assists the Dwyers. Hammond alludes to the fact that Western military intelligence operations are responsible for the mess in whatever country the Dwyers are escaping from. He helps the Dwyers and puts his life on the line out of some sense of guilt. It all adds up to a script that feels like its main mission is to apologize for its lack of any sort of brains and then shove us into a somewhat suspenseful moment.

But the cameras do the trick. Whether I like it or not, I found myself occasionally impressed with the stylistic delivery with which the Dowdle brothers prop up their mundane screenplay. It is a directorial display that gives heavy hints to their roots in horror films, from the pacing to the music to the title screen. The dialogue is mostly fluff, but the suspense is mostly well executed and even somewhat gripping. But it didn’t stop me from feeling uncomfortable with myself every time I caught myself enjoying a near-death experience of one of our on-screen protagonists. Just like the script seems to apologize for its non-story, I felt like I had to apologize to my brain for having some sort of fun watching it play out.

No Escape seems to be entirely the Dowdle Brothers’ creation, and with the paltry substance that they provide themselves to work with, they manage to satisfy us in some very basic ways. We don’t know if any of the Dwyers will make it or not until the very end. We don’t feel as though any of them are safe throughout, but we are also unsure of why we would really care if a main character were to bite the bullet. Of course, some level of tragedy is implied when we watch a anyone get shot or beat to death, but building up a struggling family with a weak script to serve as their infrastructure doesn’t do the Dowdles any favors.

The body count in No Escape is probably the most impressive thing about the movie. It echoes part of the appeal and much of the nonsensical aspects of 2008’s Taken. But instead of a man’s daughter being taken by foreign assailants, No Escape paints us a picture of a man who obliviously marches his family right into Hell’s gates, which are seemingly always located overseas. The fact that Jack’s ineptness in planning so sharply contrasts his ability to think on the fly in emergency scenarios is troubling. There’s no way someone — particularly someone so bright as the inventor Jack Dwyer — would relocate their family via global megacorporation job placement without looking into the company’s social standing in the impoverished, politically unstable region it inhabits. Right?

What we have here is not so much a disaster movie as it is a disastrous movie. No Escape is a fitting title for this predictably unexceptional, relatively low-budget Weinstein Company flick. Owen Wilson seems to have no escape from bad movies, despite his obvious talent exhibited in films like Bottle Rocket and Midnight In Paris. Lake Bell seems to have no escape from taking bland roles as “the-wife-of-so-and-so,” despite her directorial and creative talents. The Dowdle Brothers’ directorial talents galore have no escape from the toxic script that they penned themselves. And we the audience had no escape from No Escape. In the end, whether the Dwyers survive or not, everyone leaves the theater a loser.

Grade: D+

by Nick Swartsell 09.01.2015 37 days ago
Posted In: News at 03:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Planned Parenthood Sues Ohio Over Abortion Access

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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