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by Nick Swartsell 04.12.2016 42 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_04-06_dennison1_nsedited

Documents: Dennison Owners Bought Building to Block Supportive Housing

In filings with Historic Conservation Board, Joseph family says it was protecting investments in the neighborhood

The owners of downtown’s Dennison building bought it in 2013 at least in part because of concerns about a proposed plan to turn it into affordable housing, documents filed with Cincinnati’s Historic Conservation Board reveal.

The revelation comes as Columbia REI, LLC, the owners of the Dennison, look to move forward with controversial plans to demolish the building, constructed in 1892 from designs by noted architect Samuel Hannaford.

The documents, which are downloadable here and were first reported by the Cincinnati Business Courier, show that Dennison owners Columbia Development Corp. — run by the Joseph Auto Group family — purchased the building from an affiliate of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation in August 2013 for $744,000, a price the developer negotiated. 3CDC had purchased the property from The Model Group the month prior for $1.3 million. Model itself purchased the property in 2010 for $700,000 to develop affordable housing with Talbert House. 3CDC has made no comment about the sale.

“This acquisition was necessary to protect the family’s investment in this block of downtown Cincinnati,” the documents, filed in response to conservation board questions, reads. “As media groups have confirmed, and as the family had become aware, 3CDC engaged The Model Group for the remodeling of this building into a facility to be owned, occupied, and used by The Talbert House, a halfway house providing housing for persons who have transitioned through the criminal justice system and incarceration. Since it was believed this type of use would have a damaging effect on their investment in particular and on the neighborhood in general, the family concluded it was necessary to acquire this property. The acquisition would then be a part of the assemblage of the parcels in this block to facilitation a major redevelopment."

Model Group and 3CDC’s plans involved redeveloping the building into 63 one bedroom, one bath units of affordable housing. Reports say the $10 million redevelopment, to which the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority pledged $3.3 million, would have been permanent supportive housing, which provides services and other support for those with disabilities or addiction issues transitioning out of homelessness.Those plans fell through, however.

Cincinnati is more affordable than many major cities, but is still experiencing the national trend of shortage in affordable housing. Rising rents and dwindling subsidized and otherwise affordable units of housing have put a squeeze on low-income individuals. A study by the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless found that in order to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment at the $769 average monthly rate in Hamilton County, a minimum-wage worker would have to work 73 hours a week. About 24 percent of renters in Cincinnati have incomes below the poverty level.

The Dennison was the last of more than 20 single-room occupancy hotels that dotted downtown; it charged around $90 a week. Another
single-room occupancy hotel once occupying the Metropole building was redeveloped into the 21c Museum Hotel in 2012.

The documents from Columbia at one point refer to the Dennison’s former use as a single-room occupancy hotel for low-income individuals as “a flophouse.”

Representatives for the Joseph family point out that the building had fallen into severe disrepair and was “disgraceful,” as the documents call it. Attorney Fran Barrett says the building is in disrepair and poses a danger to passersby, and that's a big reason to tear it down. Columbia seeks to redevelop the property and several adjoining properties into a headquarters for an as-yet undetermined Fortune 500 company. The group envisions “an attractive, Class-A office building” to occupy the 69,000 square foot site, according to Columbia attorney Fran Barrett.

Barrett argues that, though the building was designed by the firm of the noted architect, the Dennison is not one of Hannaford's noteworthy works. He compared Hannaford to Pete Rose and called the Dennison  a "broken-bat base hit," according to the Business Courier.

Columbia has been responsible for past demolitions of nearby buildings, and some of the sites of those former buildings are now parking lots, preservation advocates say.

The developer commissioned cost estimates for reusing the Dennison building — a part of the process of getting a demolition permit — and says that reuse of the building as apartments, condos, office space or a hotel is not economically feasible.

The city's Historic Conservation Board will discuss Columbia's demolition permit at its April 18 meeting.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.11.2016 42 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1

What's UC Doing to Reform its Police Department?

Efforts to end disparities in stops and arrests, hire more black officers underway

The University of Cincinnati is working on big changes to its police department but still has work ahead of it, a UCPD official said at a conference on police reform yesterday.

University of Cincinnati Police Department Director of Community Relations S. Gregory Baker called the July 19 UCPD shooting of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose “an atrocity” and told a crowd of about 50 that the university is pushing to get a more diverse police force, change training officers receive, add more front-line managers overseeing patrol officers and a number of other changes in the coming months.

Baker spoke at the first event of a five-night conference recognizing the 15th anniversary of civil unrest in Over-the-Rhine over the police shooting death of unarmed Timothy Thomas. Activist Iris Roley and other members of the Black United Front, which helped establish Cincinnati’s Collaborative Agreement in the wake of the unrest, organized the conference. Anti-poverty group the AMOS Project, the Hamilton County Office of Reentry, Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority and a number of other groups helped sponsor the conference, which is being held at the New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn.

Last night’s talk focused specifically on reform efforts underway at UC after UCPD officer Ray Tensing shot and killed
DuBose in Mount Auburn after a routine traffic stop for a missing front license plate. Tensing was indicted on murder charges, and UC has paid a $4.6 million settlement to DuBose’s family.

The incident, which sparked peaceful protests and national media attention, has also brought about efforts at deep change at the university, Baker says.

“Unfortunately, we had to arrive at this situation through a very tragic incident,” he said
. “No amount of money will bring Mr. DuBose back, so really this reform is bigger than Mr. DuBose. We can’t pay for his life, and we don’t want this to ever happen again.”

One very specific upcoming piece of that puzzle, according to Baker: a report from independent police accountability firm Exiger that will examine department hiring practices, its diversity, its training procedures, use of force policies, traffic stops and arrests. That report will also detail suggestions for reform. It’s due out in June.

Another substantive reform that has already been implemented: The department now has sergeants supervising patrol officers, and officer behavior, stops and arrests are now being monitored for bias and racial disparities.

Those disparities have been huge. Baker says the university ramped up its police force in the years preceding the
DuBose shooting, in response to a spike in crime around the university that started around 2008. The school ended up doubling the 35 officers it had in 2013 to 70 in just a year and a half. It’s now the third-largest law enforcement agency in the county behind the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

With that increased enforcement came huge racial disparities. The student body on UC’s campus is only 8 percent black, though the neighborhoods surrounding it, especially to the west, have a much larger proportional black population. Increased police activity led to a disproportionate number of stops and arrests of blacks.

Traffic stops went up 300 percent to 2000 in 2015. Arrests also tripled.  

But during this time, stops of white individuals actually decreased. Black stops went way up, however. Tickets written by Tensing in the year before he shot
DuBose, went to blacks 81 percent of the time.

“Was it racist?” Baker asks about the disparities. “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…”

In the wake of the shooting, UCPD was ordered to roll back its involvement in the communities surrounding the school. Officers can now only stop a person if they are imminently threating someone or if an officer witnesses them committing a crime. Otherwise, university police must call the Cincinnati Police Department.

The department is still wrestling with what its role should be in those communities around the school, Baker says. It’s also working on gaining back trust within those communities.

The university has created a 19-member community advisor council that will weigh in on ongoing reform efforts. That council is made up of students, neighborhood residents around the university and faith leaders. Baker says it’s “very diverse.”

Other reforms are more general and are still materializing. Baker says the department is committed to increasing the number of officers of color on the force. He says that of the 72 officers currently serving in the UCPD, only one is black.

“We have to look at this one African American officer,” he said. “That’s just wrong. The police should reflect the diversity of the community. We have a problem with that at UC.”

There are still unanswered questions, however. When a CityBeat reporter asked about the other officers involved in the
DuBose shooting who initially corroborated Tensing’s story in preliminary police reports, Baker shook his head.

“Those officers made statement within the urgency of the situation,” he said. “They blurted things out.” Baker pointed out they gave a more accurate accounting of events before the grand jury that indicted Tensing.

“They corrected their testimony to be consistent with the video tape,” he said. “They knew what was on the tape because they saw it themselves. That’s a very unsettled piece of this. They’re currently still working on the force.”

Baker, who spent 30 years working for the city of Cincinnati in public safety and community development before he came to UCPD in August, says he believes the department is making progress. He said the work the department is doing is vital, given concerns around crime, campus shootings and other public safety issues.

The crime issue will come up again during the five-day community-police relations conference, which also features film screenings, workshops and discussions on Cincinnati Police and the Collaborative Agreement. You can find the full schedule here.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.11.2016 43 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
paul ryan

Morning News and Stuff

Will Cincy get a unified effort to expand preschool?; LGBT groups want library to extend trans health benefits; could Paul Ryan run for prez?

Good morning all. It snowed this weekend. It’s nasty out right now. Insert T.S. Eliot “Wasteland” reference. Let’s not talk about it and just go straight to non-weather related news, shall we?

Cincinnati could get a unified effort to expand preschool offerings to more needy kids. At least, that possibility seems more likely after a gathering yesterday to discuss preschool funding effort Preschool Promise and Cincinnati Public Schools’ own operating levy, which also includes some preschool provisions. Many are worried that if the two efforts aren’t combined, voters confronted with two educationally related levies this November will sink one or both of them.

Representatives from CPS, Preschool Promise and the Cincinnati Business Committee spoke at the panel discussion, which was hosted by anti-poverty group the AMOS Project. All say they’re looking for a way to join forces. CPS’s levy would come in the form of property taxes, while Preschool Promise hasn’t officially announced an ask from taxpayers. But many believe a boost in the city’s earnings tax, which is paid by those who work in Cincinnati, would be the most likely potential funding source. Experts and Preschool Promise boosters cite studies showing that quality preschool can boost a child’s chances of rising out of poverty. Half of Cincinnati’s children live below the poverty line, making the city second worst in the country by that measure. Preschool Promise wants to extend the opportunity to attend preschool, either at CPS or through private preschools, to all of the city’s 9,000 3- and 4-year-olds.

• Cincinnati’s streetcar could start operating Sept. 1 if Cincinnati City Council approves a first-year budget for the transit project it will consider this week. Council’s Budget and Finance Committee will consider that $4.2 million budget drawn up by City Manager Harry Black today. More than $2 million in parking revenues from changes in parking fees in Over-the-Rhine and downtown, $677,000 in rider fares, $450,000 in naming rights, sponsorships and advertising and $11,000 in property tax receipts from reduced tax abatements in OTR and downtown will pay for the streetcar’s first year. Another crucial funding source will be $900,000 pledged by the Haile Foundation for the streetcar’s first year.

• Councilman Chris Seelbach, officials with national LGBT group the Human Rights Campaign, transgender activist Paula Ison and others are pushing the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to extend medical benefits for transgender employees. One of those employees, Rachel Dovel, is seeking gender confirmation surgery, which the library’s insurance policy does not cover. Dovel has worked at the library for a decade. The library’s board of directors recently declined to change its employee insurance in response to a request from Dovel, and now attorneys representing her have brought up the possibility of legal action. The library board has said it hasn’t made any final decisions on the request and is researching the possible change. The city of Cincinnati provides such benefits to its employees, as do several of the city’s large corporations like Kroger and Macy’s. Seelbach and representatives from LGBT groups will hold a press conference tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. in front of the library’s Vine Street entrance to discuss the issue, according to a news release from Dovel’s attorneys.

• A week-long panel on the aftermath of the 2001 unrest and its legacy kicks off tonight at the New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn. The conference is hosted by activists and organizations responsible for the city's historic Collaborative Agreement. A presentation by law enforcement officials to give updates on developments in the Sam DuBose case will start at 6 p.m. The conference will also include film screenings, panel discussions and workshops throughout the week. Find out more details here. In the meantime, read CityBeat's story on the aftermath of 2001, which includes reams of data on policing, economics in the black community and demographic changes in Over-the-Rhine since the unrest there.

• Last week, we told you about efforts by Cincinnati City Council banning non-essential city-funded travel to North Carolina, which passed harsh laws allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT individuals on religious grounds. Now, the city of Dayton has also passed similar legislation, cutting off city-funded travel to that state and Mississippi, which has also passed similar laws. Dayton Mayor Nann Whaley last week issued a memo explaining that the move comes because the legislation in those states violates the inclusive values that Dayton represents. Other municipalities and local governments in Ohio have also passed similar travel bans, including Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located.

• Well, it’s probably happening. Things look more and more likely to get live in Cleveland this summer as the Republican Party inches closer to a contested presidential primary convention there. Frontrunner Donald Trump has taken something of a nosedive, leaving it quite possible, even probable, that none of the GOP’s candidates will get the requisite 1,237 delegates needed to grab the party’s nomination outright. Trump took a beating in Wisconsin last week, narrowing considerably the path to the magic number for him. That’s good news — perhaps the only good news — for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is trailing a distant third behind Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. So what’s Kasich thinking? Here’s his contested convention strategy.

• Meanwhile, is there a dark horse waiting in this primary circus? Some people think so, and they also believe that horse has two first names and went to my alma mater. That’s right — Miami University alum and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s name continues to float around as a possible entrant into the nomination battle. Republicans would have to change a rule they set that keeps any candidate who has not won a majority of delegates in eight states from entering the nomination proceedings, but they could do that.

There are reasons to think he might — he’s been on international trips with U.S. allies, his staff released a campaign-like video featuring Ryan talking about uniting the country and he’s outwardly taking other steps to run what some call “a parallel campaign” to counter the angry messages Trump and Cruz have used to rise to prominence. The question is whether that campaign is purely to boost an alternative vision of the Republican Party — one that is still staunchly conservative but outwardly less hostile and destructive — or whether there is the seed of a convention challenge in the efforts. Time will tell.

 
 
by Steve Beynon 04.08.2016 45 days ago
Posted In: 2016 election at 04:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
clinton

Rumble for Democratic Nomination (Mostly) a Clean Fight

Until recently, the most heated the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination got consisted of disagreements with campaign finance and fighting over the word “progressive.” For the past year, Democrats have prided themselves with debating issues and not mangling each other like the Republicans.

However, the battle over the April 19 New York primaries have added a new layer of tension to the campaigns. The Empire State is Clinton territory — serving as one of the state’s senators from 2001 - 2009. But the Sanders campaign has launched a full assault, gathering an army of mostly young volunteers and holding massive rallies in Clinton’s backyard — aiming for a major upset.

Clinton still leads the insurgent campaign, according to the most recent Quinnipiac poll, but nowhere near the 40 points she was leading by in the same poll conducted in June. The Democratic frontrunner’s New York support has been bleeding for months. While a loss in New York would not spell doom for the former secretary of state, it would be a massive moral loss.

The delegate gain and upset would likely propel Sanders unlike any of his other victories in this election. The Vermont senator needs 56 percent of the remaining delegates to topple Clinton. However, that does not take superdelegates into account  — which Clinton has a virtual monopoly on.

Clinton lashed out against Sanders’ qualifications for the presidency, suggesting he may not be ready for the Oval Office while echoing some of her rhetoric in the past, labeling the Vermont senator as a one-issue candidate.

“He’s been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hasn't studied or understood,” Clinton said in an interview on Morning Joe. “What he has been saying about the core issue in his whole campaign doesn’t seem to be rooted in an understanding of either the law or the practical ways you get something done.”

While addressing supporters in Philadelphia, Sanders came back swinging in an unprecedented move.

“We have won seven out of eight of the recent primaries and caucuses, and she has been saying lately that I may be ‘not qualified’ to be president. Well, let me just say in response to secretary Clinton. I don’t believe she is qualified if she is through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest funds,” Sanders said.

This is the first time either Democratic candidate has suggested their challenger is “unqualified,” a phrase that caught a lot of media attention and folks questioning if Sanders is keeping true to his original promise of not being negative.

“I don’t think you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street with your super PAC. I don’t think you're qualified if you voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are qualified if you supported virtually every disastrous free trade agreement that have cost us millions of decent paying jobs.” Sanders added.

Clinton expressed her puzzlement over Sanders’ statement, saying, “I don’t know why he’s saying that, but I will take Bernie Sanders over Donald Trump or Ted Cruz anytime."

Ask virtually any Bernie Sanders supporter and one of the most respectful qualities they see in the Vermont senator is he has never ran a negative ad over the course of three decades in the political arena — despite losing about half-a-dozen elections over the years.

On the flipside, there’s undoubtedly a lot of frustration in the Sanders camp that the campaign largely holds back munitions it has against Clinton. For base liberals, Hillary Clinton is standing in the way of what they see as a real future for progressive politics. To a lot of his supporters, Sanders is a once-in-a-generation dream candidate, similar to the energy behind President Barack Obama when he first sought the presidency.

This has bubbled into a real desire that Sanders will finally take the gloves off and lash out against the Democratic frontrunner. However, if Sanders would attempt any knockout attack, it would be antithetical of the campaign’s values. It’s a rarity Sanders even names Hillary Clinton. In most speeches he refers to her as “my opponent” or indirectly jabs at her with his populist rhetoric.

Clinton’s campaign is likely equally frustrated. Lashing out against Sanders would risk further alienating his liberal followers, and Clinton’s mission this summer has to be uniting the party and courting Sanders supporters to combat the Republican nominee.

There’s a movement called “Bernie or Bust,” where Sanders supporters are refusing to turn out to the polls in November if he isn’t the Democratic nominee. With bulk of the electorate under 30 siding with Sanders, some of which very passionately, Clinton has had to be careful not to bruise up the Vermont senator. Also, any attack she lays out leads to the massive donations for the Sanders camp.

When Sanders said Clinton was “unqualified” at the Philadelphia rally, the crowd went wild. He finally fed that desire to throw a direct punch. It was the kind of red meat the Republican base has been spoiled with in the form of “Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco.” It is not unthinkable that supporters for any candidate on either side of the aisle craves some level of red meat — Democrats rarely get that service in any election.

In an election where the frontrunner for the opposing party defends the size of his genitalia on a debate stage, it is hard to imagine any realistic scenario in which either Democratic candidate goes too far.

After some blasted Sanders for his heated rhetoric, he ceased fire on the “unqualified” remarks. In a town hall Friday, Sanders said “of course” his Democratic rival is fit for the presidency. “On her worst day she would be an infinitely better president than either of the Republican candidates,” Sanders said.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.08.2016 46 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Harry Black

Morning News and Stuff

City could work at grabbing businesses fleeing North Carolina's anti-gay laws; Cincinnati subway turns 100, doesn't look a day over whatever age the Parthenon is; former Prez Bill Clinton argues with Black Lives Matter

Yesterday we told you about a Cincinnati City Council move to ban non-essential city-funded travel to North Carolina in the aftermath of legislation there legalizing certain discrimination against members of the LGBT community. Council also wants to go further than that by turning their opposition into opportunity. The motion authored by Councilman Chris Seelbach and signed by fellow council members Wendell Young, Yvette Simpson, Kevin Flynn, Christopher Smitherman and Vice Mayor David Mann directs the city to work at attracting businesses leaving North Carolina due to its new law. Seelbach has also indicated he’ll amend the motion to include Mississippi, which recently passed similar “religious freedom” laws allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT individuals.

• One-hundred years ago this month, Cincinnati voters did something brave and nearly unthinkable: voting to build a massive, cutting-edge citywide transit project. Yes, I’m talking about the Cincinnati subway system. We all know the sad end to that story, but did you know the city continues to perform maintenance on the tunnels to keep them viable for future use? Or that less than 15 years ago, a regional transit plan went before voters that proposed utilizing the tunnels for light rail (called MetroMoves, it failed by a 2-1 margin, by the way). Anyway, the city’s phantom subway system got some national attention this week. As you might expect from national coverage of a local issue, the article has some big, kind of head-scratching inaccuracies, but it’s worth checking out all the same.

• A century later, it turns out we’re still trying to figure out transit, though some cities are moving faster than others. The Northern Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, the transit authority that serves Cleveland and the surrounding areas, for instance, recently announced a 20-year initiative to improve social equity through transit opportunities, especially for citizens without cars. That plan looks to right what the authority says have been lopsided spending priorities that privilege highway funding at the expense of transit for those who don’t own cars.

• Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black received some national recognition this week, making Government Technology magazine’s “Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers” list. Black joins other government administrators from across the country on the list, which touts his efforts to bring big data analytics to Cincinnati City Hall. You can see the article about Black here.

• So, The Banks has been open for five years now. How is the massive development effort going? Things are still shaky, according to this report on the restaurant and bar scene at the riverfront development, but with big boosts on the horizon. The years-long, multi-million-dollar development effort has seen some high-profile closures over the past few years, including Toby Keith’s, Mahogany’s and others. That’s meant less rent coming in for the developer of those spaces, who argues that the county needs to revise its tax valuations on The Banks in response to the challenges. But General Electric’s new office space and the coming addition of 300 more apartments at The Banks could give the next spurt of energy the development needs to stabilize, and a new hotel slated to open next year could also provide a big boost.

• Northern Kentucky University today is hosting an all-day conference on economic inequality. The event, put on by the International Peace and Justice Center, will explore work being done in the region to increase economic opportunities for communities around Cincinnati and will feature community organizers, academics, authors and more. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is free to the public.

• Finally, fault lines around race and economics continue to play a big role in the 2016 presidential primaries. Yesterday, former president Bill Clinton argued with Black Lives Matter activists in Philadelphia during a speech he gave promoting his wife, Democrat presidential primary contender Hillary Clinton.

The exchange is especially significant because Philly will be the site of the Democratic National Convention this summer. As activists protested him, Clinton defended his 1990s-era law enforcement reforms that many say increased mass incarceration, saying that the BLM activists in attendance were supporting criminals and murderers. Clinton himself has been apologetic about those reforms in the past, saying they “overshot the mark” in being tough on crime, contributing to high levels of incarceration for blacks.

At the event yesterday, Clinton also defended his wife’s statement during the 1990s calling some black youth “super predators,” a remark Hillary has apologized for on the presidential primary campaign trail. The testy exchange angered liberal activists and caused pundits to wonder if Clinton had made a big error for his wife’s campaign. But this piece in the Washington Post suggests it wasn’t an error at all, but a pivot in message for HRC’s campaign ahead of the general election, where she’ll need white voters in a fight against a Republican opponent. Ah, politics.

I’m out. Have a great weekend.

 
 
by Danny Cross 04.07.2016 47 days ago
Posted In: Media at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ire2

UC Students’ CityBeat Story Wins National Investigative Reporting Award

Investigation into athletic spending gone wild at public universities beats out major J-school projects from across the country

One of the nation’s premier journalism organizations today awarded 12 University of Cincinnati students its top prize for student investigative reporting among large universities.

Investigative Reporters and Editors, a 41-year-old nonprofit, chose “Robin Hood in Reverse” as the best piece of student investigative journalism among major universities in 2015. The finalists included a 27-person team from 19 universities chosen for the national News 21 initiative at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism.

CityBeat published the story on May 6, 2015. It was researched and written by a dozen UC students, mostly juniors and sophomores, as a class project last spring.

The students examined athletic and academic spending at Ohio’s eight largest universities. Using NCAA reports filed by each school, the class revealed individual students paid as much as $1,226 annually to subsidize soaring athletic department deficits at seven of the schools, including their own. Using a Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics database, the class showed academic spending per student dropped over the past decade at six schools.

One IRE contest judge praised the story for showing UC students were particularly hard hit, “unwittingly paying more than $1,000 a year” to cover athletic deficits while “spending-per-student on undergraduate education dropped almost 25 percent in recent years.”

The judge noted interviews with UC students brought home the impact of spending decisions, citing several in the story: “ ‘It seems to be a corruption in education,’ said one honor student. ‘I didn’t come to UC for sports. I came here for an education,’ said another student.”

Drawing on scholarly studies and interviews with experts, the student journalists disproved the widely held myth that a successful athletic program translates into an increase in applications and donations.

Dr. Jeffrey Blevins, chair of the UC Journalism Department, says the award demonstrates the progress his department has made since it was formed just four years ago.

“What impresses me most is that our student work is competing with the likes of some of the best journalism programs in the country — Columbia University, Northwestern University, Arizona State University and the University of Missouri,” Blevins says. “We are a scrappy bunch, but we are making our presence known on the national stage.”

In past years, IRE has awarded its top honor for student investigative reporting to some of the country’s most renowned journalism programs, including Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

The 12 UC undergraduates who researched and wrote the story are very much like the working-class students they wrote about. Many in the class were like Katie Coburn, then a sophomore who worked 35 to 40 hours a week at two jobs while taking 18 credit hours.

“I am a working-class student. I have a ton of loans, I pay my own rent, my utilities and my groceries,” Coburn says. “All this motivated me to work harder because I was passionate about the topic.”

UC Assistant Professor Craig Flournoy, who oversaw the project, says his students created a template any reporter could use to investigate the athletic spending arms race and its impact on academics.

“Focus on schools in the same state or athletic conference,” Flournoy says. “Use NCAA reports to track each school’s athletic deficits over time and how much a student pays to subsidize those deficits. Use the Knight Commission database to track each school’s academic spending per student over time.”

The online version of the story includes links to the Knight Commission database and academic research, along with databases and charts detailing the students’ findings.

Once the students had this data, they interviewed officials, faculty members, experts and students, many of whom were unaware that they were footing the bill for the deficits and directly impacted by cuts in academic spending.

“Their quotes were among the most powerful parts of the story,” Flournoy says.

Coburn says she was humbled by the award and grateful for the experience of working on the project.

“Great work comes from passion,” she says. “Through this class, I proved that with my passion for journalism, I can make an impact before I graduate, before I’m even considered a professional journalist. I am a student, but I can still make a difference. That is what I proved to myself.”

Along with Coburn, the students recognized for work on the story were Morgan Batanian, Fernanda Crescente, Taylor Jackson, Tyler Kuhnash, Camri Nelson, Taylor Hayden, Talis Linauts, Kayleigh Murch, Matt Nichols, Malia Pitts and Lauren Smith.

The full list of 2015 IRE awards winners can be found here.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.07.2016 47 days ago
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council to CPS: don't take CCAC building; Cranley spokesman leaving; Tensing lawyer granted access to DuBose medical records

Good morning all. Here’s your news today.

It was an eventful day yesterday at Cincinnati City Council. First up, Council weighed in on an ongoing controversy brewing in Clifton and unanimously passed a resolution telling Cincinnati Public Schools not to take back the building housing the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. CCAC occupies a historic former school building across from Clifton/Fairview German Language School. The arts nonprofit took over the building from CPS under an agreement that it would fix up the structure. It’s done that to the tune of $2 million. But now CPS is debating whether or not to exercise a clause in its contract with the CCAC that would let it turn the building back into a school. With its neighboring magnet school bursting at the seams, CPS has eyed renting space in the CCAC building. But the two organizations couldn’t agree on a rental price, and now CPS is at least considering taking the building back. Officials with the school district, however, say Council’s resolution is premature, and that negotiations are ongoing with the CCAC around how to resolve the issue.

• At the Council meeting, Mayor John Cranley revealed that his communications director, Kevin Osborne, would be leaving his post April 8. Osborne, a former reporter with CityBeat, WCPO and other local media, is taking a job as community relations director at the Greater Cincinnati Community Action Agency. Osborne has worked in the mayor’s office since 2014.

• Council also moved forward on a proposal banning non-essential city-funded travel to North Carolina, which recently passed legislation allowing discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community by businesses. Council sent the legislation to committee for further consideration. The ordinance, proposed by Councilman Chris Seelbach, seems likely to pass.

• Remember the big kerfuffle between local Democrats and state rep. primary candidate Ben Lindy, who wrote a law school paper other Democrats said was anti-union? Lindy last month lost in the primary race for a chance at the Ohio House 31st District seat to Brigid Kelly, but the controversy over his campaign is just now getting cleared up. Local unions recently seemed likely to boycott a major party fundraising dinner April 13 over the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s refusal to strip Lindy of his party rights — including access to voter data — over his academic work. But it seems bridges have been mended now. Organized labor will get more seats at the table, so to speak, on the party’s executive committee as part of a reconciliation between the party and the unions, according to party and union officials.

• An attorney for former UC police officer Ray Tensing will be granted access to the medical records of the unarmed black motorist Tensing shot. Stu Matthews requested Samuel DuBose’s records as part of his defense of Tensing, and Hamilton County Court Judge Megan Shanahan granted that request yesterday. Matthews says the records will reveal a medical condition DuBose was suffering from that will expose more about the fateful traffic stop where Tensing shot DuBose. Matthews did not reveal what that condition was or how it played into Tensing’s decision to shoot DuBose in the head after DuBose refused to exit his vehicle during the stop in Mount Auburn.

•A Fairborn Municipal Court judge has found that there is probable cause to charge with a misdemeanor the 911 caller in the police shooting death of John Crawford III in a Beavercreek Walmart in 2014. The judge ruled that Ronald T. Richie, the only person in the store to call 911 on Crawford, could face charges of raising false alarms, a first-degree misdemeanor. Richie called 911 and told operators that Crawford was walking around the store pointing a gun at other customers, including children. Video footage of the incident does not show this, however, instead revealing Crawford had the toy pellet gun slung over his shoulder. It's unclear what may happen next, but the judge has recommended the case be turned over to a prosecutor. Crawford died after Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams shot him twice while responding to the 911 call. A grand jury declined to indict Williams in the incident, though an investigation by the Department of Justice is ongoing.

• The Ohio American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, alleging he has unlawfully purged Ohio’s voting registry. At issue is a practice by the state that clears voters who haven’t voted in the past three elections from the state’s registry. Husted says that keeps deceased and out-of-state voters off the registry and prevents voter fraud, but the ACLU says numerous Ohio residents have approached them complaining they’ve been turned away from the polls due to the practice. The group claims that more than 40,000 voters in Cuyahoga County alone have been “unlawfully purged” from voter registries because they haven’t voted in every election. Husted says the practice aligns with state and federal laws, however.

• A political forecasting group at the University of Virginia Center for Politics has moved the race for U.S. Sen. Rob Portman's seat from "leans Republican" to "a toss-up." The group cites the name recognition held by Portman's Democratic challenger, former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, as well as his strength in Ohio's Appalachian counties, which Strickland once represented in the House of Representatives. While the forecast notes Portman's big fundraising lead over Strickland, it also says that favorable conditions in the state for Democrats' presidential candidate, presumably Hillary Clinton, could give Strickland the extra edge needed to scoot past incumbent Republican Portman in November.

• Finally, Ohio Gov. John Kasich yesterday gave his state of the state speech in Marietta. The address mostly focused on the state’s economic recovery and job growth. But Kasich, who remains a long-shot Republican presidential primary candidate, advanced few new policy proposals, instead playing it safe and touting his record. He did touch on the state’s drug addiction crisis, its looming changes to statehouse redistricting, problems with the state’s educational system and other challenges. Kasich also floated new tax cuts in the next state budget, though lawmakers seem lukewarm about the governor’s proposals.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 04.06.2016 48 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Conference to explore policing, race 15 years after unrest; Ohio puts brakes on Cincy stock exchange bar; Kasich gives state of the state address

Good morning all. Hope your Wednesday is going well. Let's talk news.

Tomorrow is the 15th anniversary of a tragic, but defining, moment in Cincinnati history — the police shooting of unarmed black 19-year-old Timothy Thomas in Over-the-Rhine and the subsequent unrest in that neighborhood and others. Today, we published a cover story taking stock of progress the city has made and the work left to do. You should pick up the issue and take a look.

Next week, community leaders, non-profit organizations and activists, some instrumental in the city’s historic Collaborative Agreement, are staging a five-day conference exploring the CA, policing in Cincinnati, future strategies for improving race relations and the concept of violence as a public health issue. The event is free to the public. Various events, from movie screenings to workshops and dialogues, will run April 11-16 at New Prospect Baptist Church, 1580 Summit Ave. You can register and find the entire schedule at www.communitypolicerelations.com

• Were you excited by news that Cincinnati is getting a bar where the beer is priced like stocks? I… only sort of understand the concept, but I heard some people were hyped on it. Those folks may have some more waiting to do, though. The state of Ohio has put the brakes on Queen City Exchange, which had plans to open on West Court Street this summer. The idea was that the beer would be priced dynamically, so that if you wanted a really popular brew, it would cost you more. This would probably work out well for me — I enjoy some weird beers — but I can’t imagine why you’d want this if you like popular brands. Anyway, Ohio liquor laws state that bar operators can only change their prices once a month. That’s not very dynamic, I guess, and certainly not at the pace the stock market changes. QCE’s owners are trying to work out the snag with the state now.

• Cincinnati City Council’s next election is more than a year away, but one new contender has already started campaigning. Former U.S. Senate Democratic primary candidate Kelli Prather has announced she’s running for a Council seat. The West Price Hill resident came in third in the Senate primary behind current Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and the winner, former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. Prather did manage to rake in a decent 12.6 percent of the vote in the Senate primary, however — not bad given the fact it was her first political race. She runs a home healthcare business and is a survivor of domestic gun violence, both experiences she talked about on the campaign trail as influences on her progressive policy stances.

• If you needed any more evidence that body cameras are a vital part of modern policing, shedding light on what could otherwise be murky situations, here’s a graphic reminder. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters yesterday released body cam footage from the incident last week on I-75 where a knife-wielding man was shot and injured after lunging at an officer. In the video, Glendale Police Officer Josh Hilling pulls to the side of the highway and begins questioning Javier Aleman, who is walking along the median. When Hilling asks to pat Aleman down, Aleman draws a knife. Hilling shoots Aleman once in the abdomen, then pleads with him to drop the weapon for minutes as Aleman begs the officer to kill him. The standoff only ends when he collapses. Aleman, still hospitalized, is charged with attempted murder.

• Looks like underdog GOP presidential primary candidate John Kasich is taking some time off his full-time job running for president to moonlight at his part-time gig as governor of Ohio. Kasich today will give his annual State of the State address, where he’ll talk about the challenges and success Ohio has experienced this year. We wrote a lot about the state’s economic condition back in January, and that article might be a good primer as Kasich touts the Buckeye State’s economic recovery and miraculous job growth. Kasich will give his remarks in Marietta, one of the state’s first cities.

• Finally, let’s talk Wisconsin, where presidential primary front runners go to lose. Both Democrat favorite Hillary Clinton and Republican delegate leader Donald Trump took a beating there yesterday at the hands of upstarts U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, respectively. Sanders’ win in Wisconsin won’t do much to bridge the 200-plus delegate gap between him and Clinton, but it could give him the perception of momentum among voters in states like New York, where more delegates are at play. Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Cruz’s victory is another moment in Trump’s continued slow slide. The Donald is still on top, but the firebrand Senator from Texas is catching up quickly.

 
 
by Natalie Krebs 04.05.2016 49 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Construction set to begin on former Baldwin Piano Co. site; some Avondale residents to get free Wi-Fi; Trump explains how he will make Mexico pay for border wall

Hello all, here's the news today.

A few hundred Avondale residents will soon be getting free Wi-Fi. The Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation announced yesterday that it will partner with telecom company Powernet, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and developer The Community Builders, Inc. to offer Wi-Fi to residents living on Reading Road from Blair Avenue to South Fred Shuttlesworth Circle. The project is funded as part of the Choice Neighborhoods Grant from HUD, which was given to The Community Builders, Inc. in 2012. Powernet will install 15 access points along Reading Road that will give 250 families and businesses access to the network. The plan is part of the larger push for the revitalization of Avondale, one of the city's largest low-income neighborhoods.

Cincinnati is getting younger, better-educated and more economically stable, according to the biannual economic report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The report, which provides a quick look into the greater Cincinnati economy, found Cincinnati's average age is 37.3, just slightly under the national average of 37.9. It also found the  local economy has better recovered from the great recession than the nation as a whole. It is 2 percent above its level before the recession while the nation's economy, on average, is still struggling to get back to its pre-recession level. Also, more of Cincy's adults now hold undergrad degrees. That number has risen 2.9 percent since 2009 and is now at 31.4 percent, which again is higher than the national average of 30.1 percent. 

• A new Kentucky law expected to be signed by Gov. Matt Bevin will allow bourbon makers to sell their drinks "by the glass." Under the previous law, the bourbon makers were only able to offer tastes of their product to people who had purchased full tour tickets for their distilleries. Now they're able to offer cash bars for small samplings. Kentucky breweries will also benefit as they'll be allowed to sell at smaller events, like farmer's markets, without going through a distributor.

• Wisconsinites head to the polls today in what will surely add more fuel to the more recent heated round of this presidential nomination period. Wisconsin republicans will get to choose between Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is still in the race despite recent complaints from Trump and Cruz that he should drop out. Kasich told a crowd of about 300 supporters at a town hall yesterday in Long Island, N.Y., that despite the bullying from his opponents, he's not going anywhere. Kasich, who is currently in a distant third, says he thinks he's the only candidate who has a shot at beating Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the general election. Clinton is also campaigning hard in Wisconsin, where polls are showing it could be a tight race against Democratic rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders

• You know how many are skeptical of Trump's plan to build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it? Well, he finally said how he's going to do it. Trump sent a two-page memo to the Washington Post saying he plans to cut off the estimated $25 billion Mexican immigrants send home yearly to attempt to force Mexico to give in and pay for the wall. Not surprisingly, economists and policy experts have had some reservations about the possible legal and political feasibility of the plan, which would put a large amount of executive pressure on one of the U.S.'s key diplomatic allies.
 
 
by Natalie Krebs 04.04.2016 50 days ago
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Cincy Planning Commission OKs riverfront apartment complex; Metropolitan Sewer District faces more allegations of shady contracts; Trump calls on Kasich to quit presidential race

Good morning, Cincinnati! Here are your morning headlines as you gear up for the Opening Day festivities. 

 Well, it's finally here. The giant citywide party that is the kickoff to the start of baseball season. It's my first time experiencing Cincinnati's famous Opening Day celebration, but judging from the amount of Reds fans I've already seen lined up on Race Street this morning, it's going to be a big baseball party. If you're not lucky enough to get to watch the Reds play the Philadelphia Phillies at the Great American Ball Park this afternoon, there are still many festivities well worth ditching school and work for. Some ideas of what to do can be found herehere and here

 The Cincinnati Planning Commission voted Sunday to allow an Atlanta-based developer to move one step closer to building a $90 million apartment complex near the riverfront. The Novare Group plans to build a 25-story apartment building featuring 352 rental units and 3,000-square-feet of retail space. The company says it would like to begin construction this summer to have the complex finished by winter 2017. But before any groundbreaking happens, the plan still has a few more hoops to jump through: The Novare Group will need to submit final development plans to the Planning Commission as well as the City Council for approval before it gets the green light.

 Cincinnati's Metropolitan Sewer District, similar to the Cincinnati Park Board, is facing allegations of bad contracts, questionable relationships and overspending by the Enquirer. An Enquirer investigation has asserted that MSD is paying contractors way too much for their work, and MSD officials have had little oversight over major projects like the $3 billion court-ordered sewer reconstruction project. City Manager Harry Black so far has responded to the Enquirer's requests for MSD public records by tightening their spending policies, drawing up a new ethics policy, launching an audit into the department and has started personally approving all of MSD's contracts. 

 Donald Trump has called for ultimate underdog, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to drop out of the presidential race. Trump is currently campaigning hard in Wisconsin, trying to rouse voters for the state's primary on Tuesday, and said Sunday that Kasich should just throw in the towel because it's impossible for him to secure the GOP nomination with his current delegate count. Kasich is far, far short of the necessary 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination. He has secured just 143 delegates, compared to Trump's count of 736 and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's count of 463. Trump said Kasich is doing little more than taking away delegate votes that could be going to him. Kasich's campaign responded by saying that none of the remaining GOP candidates have enough delegates to secure the nomination either. One of Kasich's spokespeople told the Associated Press that Trump should consider taking his own good advice and drop out of the race before the GOP convention in Cleveland this July. 

• Last weekend, during an interview on ABC, Kasich defended the many restrictions on abortion he's signed into law as Ohio governor. His comments come in the wake of the massive pushback Trump received for telling MSNBC that women seeking abortions should be punished if abortion is outlawed. Kasich said that lawmakers must be careful about passing abortion restrictions that don't cause a constitutional conflict and called for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in an attempt to appeal to social conservatives. Well, pro-choice critics say Kasich actually doesn't care about "constitutional conflicts" as the 16 restrictions on abortion providers Kasich has signed into law as governor have caused half of the state's clinics to close.
 
 

 

 

 
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